15 October 2017

Three Pools behind Seven Falls

Santa Barbara front country

Click for map.

I was wanting to go up the canyon again but also thinking it is more of a social hike when I noticed it was also about the be lead by the local Sierra Club. Perfect! I can just show up and wander up with them. I was a little worried that it might still be a red flag day. It was Friday evening and those of us who noticed had an extra mile to hike up the road while those of us who did not came back to find the CHP had plastered warning stickers on everything a little after 7PM. The sign warns of towing, so it could have been worse. Today is not so bad except for the usual crowds. I get lucky because everyone is passing up the spot on the end because it looks too small. I go ahead and try it with the dinky car and it fits with a few feet to spare to let the Florida plates in front of me get out. Others are stuck walking a half mile up anyway, mostly because the turnout that is big enough to take cars head in is entirely parked parallel. Ah, life at the Tunnel Trailhead.

Of course, since Tunnel Trail is actually Tunnel Road, but behind a gate, we still have most of another mile on pavement before we get to some dirt. We turn left on the catway to get up to the start of Jesusita and finally a little bit of trail. We are only on it to the bottom of the creek when we turn off the official routes and start in on the heavily trafficked use trails.

dry rocks sitting white in the shade
Mission Creek is so dry. There has not even been a lasting mud puddle for a while.

We should have one more coming who said he would "catch up" after going to park. We wait a while (well, I wait a while) but eventually the leader says he has too many people to keep waiting. I am fairly sure that is not how hiking with a group works, but the mistake was probably made at the start when we let someone try to catch up. Now everyone else has gone on ahead and our missing hiker, who at least does know the local trail system, will not get to come up to the pools because that is the part he does not know. Looking back over the trail as we climb, I still do not see him.

big rocks overhead
The canyon is quite full of big rocks.

We keep to the spine of the ridge for a short way, then take the flatter trail at a junction near a lookout rock. The other trail can be taken to climb all the way up to the peak above. We have a much daintier destination. The level trail drops and climbs in short, steep spurts as it decides it should have more character. Much of it seems to be chipped from the rocks although there is not supposed to be a built trail here. There are some mildly precarious moments as we cross above the Seven Falls and then drop into the creek. I had sort of wanted to try coming directly up the falls, but that was not the plan for today.

Old Mission Stud. theol. & phil. 1903
Graffiti in the canyon. There are supposed to be three of these, one on La Cumbre Peak and one in the hills above Flores Flats. There is not much patina in the letters, but there is not much on the rock either and the letters are a different color than Tim's addition.

We continue up, mostly in the rocky creek. There are some big rocks to get over along the way, but nothing that requires climbing until the one that does. It is the other reason I sort of wanted to be with people when wandering up this canyon again. It probably is not quite high enough to break anything except in a very unlucky landing. Still, I was very uncomfortable on it coming down last time. The first step is a carved flat spot, so permanent help has been provided anyway.

rock bottom creek
Just pushing the way up the creek.

Above the rock, there's a bit more clambering over rocks. They seem a little bigger, but still easy enough to get over and around. We come to another climb, this one with a cable hanging over it. The kids at the front are working hard at getting up it. They are probably up to date on their tetanus shots. The others are looking on in worry. I announce I will be taking the trail and wander around the side on a very well established path. On the other end, there are more cables. They are held in place by a partial burial in the creek bed. There is no clue where they came from or why they are so fortuitously placed, but they do not look like they were placed here on purpose. A little further, and there is something magical.

pool and water slide
A strip of water coming down to fill the first pool. This first one in not all that much.

Water! It pours down a rock that looks like it might be usable as a rock slide, at least if wearing some very durable shorts. The pool at the bottom does not look so good. It really would not be deep enough. We are headed up further anyway. Some go right up the central rocks and some take the trail.

pool and canyon side
At the top of the slide is a second pool by a rocky outcrop.

washed out view down the canyon
Looking back down the canyon over that pool.

Bharat up a rock
A nice chair, but he is a little worried about getting down.

We have a short stretch of creek and a little climb to one last pool. This one is the real deal. Some of the water from above is pouring into it, far more than it seems could be evaporating, but it is a couple feet below any exit. A couple garter snakes are withing looking rather trapped.

a green space with water
Water creates green spaces.

two snakes holding onto the rock
The two snakes. The large one seems to have found a bit of grass to hold onto but the small one just gets short rests gripping to the rough rock as well as it can.

disturbed moss
Bear scratches in the moss on the far side.

A large stick has been collected to attempt to save the snakes. Hopefully a nice, passive saving where the stick is placed to give them a usable route out of the water and everybody steps back to let them do their thing. I head up further to check out a little more of the creek. I am sure there was more than one good, deep pool in this collection.

gentle slopes of water carved sandstone
The cattails seem to only have a shallow, long pool.

small pool with bees drinking nearby
Another pool in the making, but the bees drinking nearby give away that it has a long time to go.

shallow pool with rocks coming up in the middle
A little further and another climb comes to more cattails in a shallow pool. At first it looks like it could be filled in, but the rocks popping up in the middle suggest not much.

I do not get far. The call after me as I climb up that there is nothing of interest up there, at least for a while, is uninspiring. Personally, I would like to investigate far up the main canyon, past where most the trails will have turned off to a tributary. Today, I look around the first 100 feet or so. It is nice as a place with free flowing water that seems to have more lateral freedom than usual. The area is rather wide and flat. It is also devoid of pools, so if that is your interest, there is nothing to bring you up here.

gentle U ness
Folks settling in for a bit of lunch.

I get back in time to witness the very active rescue of the second snake. The big stick is being wielded from within the pool since they could not be reached from the edges. It is grabbed and delivered to the edge where, as it is trying to figure out what its world has become, the three kids close in on it in a semicircle blocking all exit except back into the pool. One has a grass lasso to capture it like a lizard and take it to a safer spot. This step probably would work out well, being gentle enough, except that after he tightens it down, the snake just slides right out again. Rather than back up and let it make its own way after this failure, they continue to stand around it, hoping it will... understand that they are not a threat and just go past? I am really not sure what they are expecting it to do. It starts to slide back to the pool and one uses a quick stomp to try to scare it back toward safety... and all those legs. It tries again and... stomp! But it lands right back in the pool, the only way that looked remotely safe from its point of view. They do step back to let the stick swing one more time, this time sending it far enough that gathering children will probably not cause a problem. I wonder how stunned it must be as it floats in the stream where it lands. Eventually it starts to move very slowly, trying to attract no attention. It gets another bit of help, slightly more gentle this time. The one in the pool somehow manages to get out under his own power. I am just glad I did not see whatever horrors happened with the larger snake as everyone disperses to nice spots for lunch. At least they are better off than when they started.

deep pothole
The pool from above. It is a beautiful and deep pothole. With the water so low, it has been declared too hard to get out of by the one person who successfully did.

a bit of a face in the rocks
Pondering the rock high in a hole. And the rest of it.

After a short bit, we head on down again. There is some worry from others about getting down that rock, but a lot of help is offered to every participant and they all manage to feel safe enough as they go. As I am standing on the big ledge, it strikes me that its edge looks like a very good handle. With the large dimple there and a little short term use of my minimal upper arm strength I could just... and I am down much more easily than I got up. The trouble is, I doubt I could reverse the route.

embedded clams
Since this is all uplifted ocean floor, we get some really good stripes of shells.

one human on the rock
Modeling the rock climb after all of us have safely returned to flat ground.

rocky trail
A segment of unofficial trail as it climbs a little on the way down.

We stop by the lookout rock on our way past to see what it shows. The bottom two waterfalls are visible in their bone dry state. In the other direction, there is a bit of ocean and island to be seen.

power lines crossing the sky in front of the island
A view from up the trail from the lookout rock of misty islands.

rock sticking up and out from the brush
Arriving at the lookout rock, which is a bit like a stone plank.

rounded bottom V canyon
The last few of the Seven Falls.

rocky peak
Looking up at Arlington, where the other unsanctioned trail branching from here goes.

We head down the rest of the way to the creek bottom without incident in spite of the general desire of some spots to slide. It seems very hot as we stride back down to our cars. There are plenty of spaces at the top as we get there, but it turns out to just be luck of timing and not due to the heat. Most of them fill up before I can get my shoes changed.

©2017 Valerie Norton
Posted 17 October 2017

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