Los Padres National Forest
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Distance: 6.65 Miles
Duration: 4 hours, 49 minutes
Our hike at Rattlesnake Canyon was to be our final hike during our week long trip to Santa Barbara and it ended up being our longest outing. We parked on the street along Las Canoas Road, adjacent to Skofield Park.
We headed north through the canyon and encountered more people than we were expecting. It was a Saturday, but we thought the rougher terrain would mean fewer people. The path was the most technical we had encountered than any of our other hikes this week. It was not really hard, but the rocky, twisting, uneven terrain did require more careful foot placement than the more level paths we had become more accustomed to during the week.
Despite the dry conditions and dusty creekbed for some of its length, the creek here and there managed to maintain a flow of water in spots. Some of the small waterfalls even provided some nice background noise in spots.
Looking at maps online, our plan was to hike an ambitious balloon loop that would deposit us along a high ridge even higher than nearby Inspiration Point. At the point in our hiking map marked "Turnaround" we found the trail that was supposed to run along that ridge was practically impassible. There was a trail of sorts there but the effort required to continue pushing through the brush would have been exhausting. We elected to drop back down to the "real" trail and continue back the way we came up.
Though we did not make it to the top of the ridge the views at this turnaround spot proved to be every bit as inspirational as those at the nearby hotspot. We could actually see Inspiration Point beneath us from this higher vantage point.
Doubling back was a little confusing at times since it was not always clear which forks we should take. In many cases we had not noticed that some other trail segment had merged into ours. We followed a few folks who seemed to know what they were doing and made it back to the trailhead without any issues.
At no time did we see any Rattlesnakes in the canyon. We had no complaints about that false advertising. :-)
Leisurely walk along a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Douglas Family Preserve
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Distance: 2.03 Miles
Duration: 1 hour, 8 minutes
We combined our hike here today with a more tourist-centered visit to the Santa Barbara Mission. We were unsure about the parking situation at the dead end streets that approach the park from an adjoining neighborhood. So we opted to park at the Arroyo Burro Beach parking lot.
This decision required us to hike up a trail segment to get to the top of the sandy bluff that makes up the park. This segment might add about 100 feet of elevation gain to an otherwise flat hike. We stopped and admired a perched hawk with another visitor until the raptor decided it had had enough of our attention.
The trails at the top of the bluff consists of a very wide, sandy trail that encircles the perimeter of the park. However, there are numerous side trails and interconnecting trails to go along with the them. We opted to just stick with the main loop.
The preserve is dog heaven and much of the park allows for off leash dogs. It seems we might have been in the minority lacking any canine companion.
There are nice views of the Pacific Ocean along the park's southern trail segment, particularly those further west. From that vantage point you can also see Headry's Beach and/or Arroyo Burro Beach below.
It looks like street parking in the neighborhoods leading into the park would not have been an issue at all. So that might be an option if you want to avoid ascending the bluff.
We were getting hungry so we wrapped up our walk after logging just over two miles. We enjoyed a seafood lunch at the Boathouse at Hendry's Beach, which we could see from the bluff during our hike.
Scorpion Canyon Loop on Santa Cruz Island
Channel Islands National Park - Santa Cruz Island
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Distance: 5.47 Miles
Duration: 3 hours, 33 minutes
Visiting Santa Cruz Island requires a 1 hour boat ride (each way) out of Ventura. On our trip out to the island the conditions were a bit choppy and some of the passengers onboard had a rough time of it. We both managed out OK.
When the boat pulls up to the dock at the island, passengers listen to short orientation before they are free to go their own way. One really needs to make sure to make it back to the dock for their return trip to the mainland or else they'll be stranded overnight!
There are several buildings here, remnants of the extensive agricultural operations that took place on the island. There are plenty of quite interesting displays showing what life was like for the workers here.
Given our expected hiking speed and the time we had on the island we opted to do the Scorpion Canyon Loop for our hike. We were told that doing this loop in a clockwise direction meant a more gradual, even ascent and steeper descents to come later. We opted for this so we started off ascending from the trailhead onto Smuggler's Road.
After getting to the top of the bluff overlooking the dock the trail turns inland. It continues to gather elevation though at a slower rate and one is struck by the mountain peaks in the distance. This is a large island. And the peaks here are just the prominances on the eastern half of the island. The highest peaks on the western half are even higher.
There is almost no tree cover on the island other that at the trailhead and near the primitive campgrounds. Plenty of sunscreen is highly recommended.
At the trail junction with the Montanon Ridge Trail we decided to head uphill some more along that trail to look for a shady spot to have lunch. We eventually found a small tree with enough shade for both of us to enjoy our meal without being cooked by the Sun. Afterwards we descended back to the junction and continued our loop on the Scorpion Canyon Loop Trail.
Descending into Scorpion Canyon is where we pay back the gradual ascent earlier with a steeper descent now. The footing is a bit dicey in spots though neither of us fell. The trail descends all the way to a dry creekbed and then turns to follow the creek "downstream" to the east. It will eventually pass by the primitive campgrounds mentioned earlier and head back to the anchorage at the start of our hike.
At the campground we saw one of the island's key species, the Channel Island Fox. This diminutive critter looks like a cross between a red fox and a house cat. On this day we saw three of them and none seemed too disturbed by humans. They just ignored us as they went about their business looking for their next meal, sometimes coming within a few feet of us. We were not approached by them for food, so that's a good sign that visitors are not doing stupid things that would endanger them in the long run.
The one hour boat ride back to the mainland was quite a bit calmer than the ride out. The other great thing about the return trip was the swarm of dolphins. I'd never seem so many in my life. In fact, I think I saw more dolphins on that one trip than I've seen in the entirety of my life combined.
Several pods of dolphins flocked to the boat to leap out of the water and swim along the wake created by the boats speed. Just when one pod dispursed another would come in from a different direction and join the fun. Our photos and video of it don't do it justice. It was amazing.
In the end we spent 3.5 hours on the trail and logged five and a half miles. Looking on the map it's humbling just how little of the NPS' eastern sliver on the island we actually visited.
Iconic Ocean view overlooking Santa Barbara at Inspiration Point
Los Padres National Forest
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Distance: 4.69 Miles
Duration: 2 hours, 50 minutes
Inspiration Point is one of the iconic views over Santa Barbara, so we wanted to hike this one once we started planning our trip to the area. The fact that its trailhead was about a mile from our AirBnB was an added benefit. We parked at the end of Tunnel Road. Because it was the middle of the week finding a spot was not a problem. Your mileage may vary on the weekend.
Right from the start we could tell that lots of locals use the trail. Many knew each other even if they were not hiking together and all were very friendly. They picked up trash or dog poop, though there was not much of either. They care about this trail.
The trail is actually a continuation of Tunnel Road that's closed off to traffic. So the surface starts off with a paved road. A utility placement, perhaps related to water delivery, marks the end of the paved part of the trail. It transitions to something like a jeep trail. When coming across a prominent information kiosk the trail will transition to rougher single track.
There is some signage, but not at every possible junction. I saw in a writeup elsewhere that recommends following the general rule of "veer left". Except at the very top the rule holds. If you come to a trail fork, take the left option. It just works.
Black flies were a bit of a nuissance at times, but mostly for me. They didn't seem as interested in my wife. Are they trying to tell me something?
When you get to the top you'll come to a four way intersection. Here's where the veer left rule should be ignored. Go straight to get to Inspiration Point. From the trailhead, it's about 2 miles to get to this spot. From here you'll great views over Santa Barbara below and the Channel Islands offshore further afield.
Inspiration Point is aptly named. However, we found an even better vantage point nearby that we might call Inspiration Point+. Going back to the four way intersection turn right onto the service trail for the powerlines nearby. After a short distance, look for a narrow trail opening to the right. It looks like a tight fit, but it does open up a bit and becomes even easier as you go. It only takes about a tenth of a mile to get to another vantage point that provides even better views. From the rocky perch at the end you'll have a panorama of about 180 degrees.
We doubled back down the mountain along the same route and clocked in at 4.69 miles.
Walking and exploring amidst the native flora
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
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Distance: 2.84 Miles
Duration: 2 hours, 50 minutes
Coppertone and I decided to start out our week-long vacation in Santa Barbara at the botanic garden. Situated in the hills above the city, the garden provides views stretching from the mountains to the north to the Channel Islands offshore to the south.
The staff are friendly and helpful. They can suggest routes to hike the main points in the garden and provide some background on the plants that grow here. The garden is broken up into segments representing different environments such as Desert, Meadow, Wooded Dell and Canyon. The garden is the first in North America to focus exclusively on native plants.
We're not sure exactly how many miles of trails there are here. There are loads of side trails and loops that meander off of the garden's main paths. It would be tough to ensure you walked each and every possible trail segment, though wandering is part of the fun here.
Many of the paths are paved. Those that aren't are typically easy crushed granite or well compacted dirt.
On of the areas highlighted by a greeter at the entrance was the backcountry "off-leash" childrens' area. At first, that sounded dreadful to us. But our midweek visit meant there were not too many people and even fewer kids. It turned out to be a good decision to check out the area. The trails are great and the child friendly features were a great hit with us both. We walked through the hedge maze, climbed the castle, did the small ropes course and more. We didn't feel like kids again, but it was close.
Dropping by in October, we missed the main blooming season. So we did not see a riot of color we might expect see at other times of the year. Nevertheless, there were a few bloomers still on display and the greenery itself was also soothing.
We managed almost 3 miles before calling it quits, but not because we ran out of trail segments to walk. There was much more. Rather, it was getting to be lunch time and we were hungry.