22 June 2017

Montecito Peak

Los Padres National Forest

Trailhead location. (See previous Cold Springs East Fork or Montecito Peak trips for maps.)

The local Sierra Club chapter has a weekly conditioning hike every Wednesday evening, inviting all who feel capable of a 6-10 mile hike to meet at the Mission at 6:30 PM. For around the solstice, we have been doing a couple special hikes. Last week, we climbed up the use trail from Jesusita Trail to Cathedral Peak, then continued on to La Cumbre at the top. It would not have been a good trip for a new attendee. This week is a party up on top of Montecito Peak. It would be much more appropriate for a new comer and similar to one hiker's first hike ten years before. I request heading up along the creek rather than the old guerrilla trail and no one else has an opinion, so that is what we do. It is a half mile longer, but keeps us out of the hot sun longer. It also offers some flowers to help celebrate the start of summer.

soft blue within white
A single iris in the canyon, but it is at a perfect moment.

Linda up the trail
Hiking on in the evening canyon shade.

four purple petals
Just a little farewell to spring.

Coming along the canyon means getting to see how the flooding changed the trail, too. Rainfall one evening was over 7 inches down where the houses yield to wilder mountain and a foot up around the top. Most of the trail seems fine, but the crossings have a completely different face. The first by a pool completely washed out leaving the trail to migrate upstream a little. The second through some hard rock has changed from awkward to difficult.

rocks beside a puddle
The path the trail followed across the creek is now a long pool beside some rocks with one end blocked by a branch no one bothered to move yet.

carved rocks
A hard layer of rocks leads to carved cascades. The parts that get sun have become quite mucky with algae.

steep rocks down
The hard layer crossing has become harder. The dirt ramp that reduced the step down and helped show that the trail is crossing has washed away.

After the second crossing, the trail starts to climb. When it gets high above the upstream portion of the creek, the sound of water below vanishes. Swinging back, the sound returns, but ultimately I am going upstream and the sound of water is lost for the rest of the hike. But there are still flowers.

climbing penstemon
The climbing penstemon is hanging out over the trail in many spots.

tea house
Tea house in the lowering sun.

sunlight in the far grasses
Far up the canyon, light plays on the hills around Camino Cielo.

The trail hits the road where far too many hikers seem to think it ends. It is just a couple hundred feet more to where it splits off again to travel up to the top and then back down the other side. Thin mists are hanging over the cities, but it sure is a little warm up here. The air moves a little more than down in the canyon, but not much.

Carpinteria with a light fog
Thin mist to the east, but the Santa Monicas are still visible.

Oh, and there are still more flowers.

Mariposa lily
The first of the mariposa lilies is a delightfully hairy affair make ragged by insects, with a few still hanging out.

Turkish rugging
A brief lining of the trail by Turkish rugging.

tuft of yellow
Tufts of yellow not much bigger than the platforms of purple nearby.

buckwheat flowers
The buckwheat tufts are still soft and floral and attracting visitors.

mariposa lily surrounded by Indian pink
Soon there are more mariposa lilies, like this one surrounded by Indian pink.

lilies in the grass along the rocky trail
Then there are even more mariposa lilies lining the well used and rocky trail.

white sage flowers
The white sage is being particularly showy this year.

I am probably taking way too much time playing with my camera on the hike up. It is already getting dark as I get to the pair of stunted eucalyptus trees. Everyone else is probably already on the top.

tiny hundred year old trees
Planted quite some time ago and never getting very big, the eucalyptus trees serve as a landmark (and have even been the victims of a yarn bomb) and the 2.5 mile mark.

city at night
The lights are coming out in the city.

Above, the trail twists back and forth upward a short way. I keep my eyes on a single pine that stands out in on the hillside of brush only 4 feet high. The trail never gets close, leaving the tree mysterious. Once it has climbed above that pine, the trail gets to traveling along the mountain again. It is a long and fairly flat section where I can make some speed. It seems shorter than usual, but there is no denying the split in the trail ahead. I take the steep use trail on the right carefully up to the low saddle above, then up further up the wide and steep eroded mess to the peak. My preferred trail heads off to the right after a couple twinings and is getting a bit of poison oak on it. It climbs up over the very top of the peak to the lookout point just the other side where everyone else is gathered and tonight comes with a couple of tiny gopher snakes.

gopher snake
The larger gopher snake found right at the top is probably just over a foot long and still thinner than my smallest finger.

There is food and drink and song and hanging out all night for those that want it. Most head down again in the night. The evening never really cools off although there is sometimes a very light breeze. The city still only has thin streamers of fog over it even quite late. But with the dawn, and still no need of any sleeves up here, a blanket of fog has moved in. The sliver of moon rising needs to be photographed, but the long exposure required needs some good hold. Luckily there is an excellent rock situated well for such an endeavor.

thin moon sliver rising
The moon hanging over Old Man Mountain seemed to have glow nearly all the way around the edge at first, but has less now and will quickly vanish in the brightening sky.

blanket of fog
The cities have vanished and the distant Santa Monicas have become an island.

Getting on the rock was awkward, but there is a better trail a little way around it. Or so it seems until the buzzing starts. Suddenly, sliding inevitably down the last few inches of this rock toward a buzzing sound is very near the top of my list of places I do not want to be. It is quickly surpassed by standing on the dirt next to the buzzing sound that I still have not located. There is a certain amount of screaming. Fortunately, standing on the dirt gives me something to push against to obey the one, overriding desire to be AWAY, which means back up the rock right now. Unfortunately, since my hands are more interested in not dropping a heavy camera on the buzzing source than grabbing the handholds at the top, this just causes a repeat of sliding inevitably down a rock towards a buzzing sound. Happily, it is not a foolish stand-your-ground sort of snake. I finally spot the last few inches of tail and rattle as it is on the move along the little trail toward a smaller rock with a nice overhang. It seems unhurried as it holds the rattle high and shakes it furiously. The buzzing continues, muffled, as it tucks in under the rock while I finally collect myself back at the top of my own rock before taking the original route back to the dirt top. My feet were not much further up the rock while I took photographs from it, quite possibly about a foot from the resting snake.

Cold Spring East Fork
The trail as it continues up to Camino Cielo.

The snake under the rock gives a few more muffled buzzes when it hears conversation nearby. At least that means we still know where not to be before heading down into the fog.

scarlet larkspur
Part of a huge clump of scarlet larkspur.

white larkspur
Across the trail from most of the scarlet larkspur is a single plant in white.

wooly blue curls
Plenty of woolly blue curls in the upper reaches.

eucalyptus leaves
Back to the eucalyptus.

a few of hundreds
Just a few of the yucca flowers on a giant stalk.

It gets much cooler as I get close to the fog, even while still above any tendrils of the stuff. Once in it, it just gets nicer. With everything so hot inland, one really cannot beat the coast.

©2017 Valerie Norton
Posted 23 Jun 2017

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