Avid Craigslisters, we headed to Santa Barbara to scoop a deal, and once there we decided to try a hike. We settled for 7 Falls/3 Pools. Of course, in true Pratt fashion, we took a wrong turn and ended climbing a rocky peak first. It was a great hike, with, ahem, pools and falls along the creek, and a great ascent to a peak that, I believe now, was actually Arlington Peak rather than Cathedral. The arrow shows where we were. Can someone shed some light?
The hike up to the creek is mostly on a fire road for about one mile. At the junction, follow the Jesusita Trail sign. When you reach the creek, turn right on the to go to 7 Falls. This is an easy 2 mile round trip. We did not go this way.
So our hike went like this: at the creek, we crossed and turned left. We followed this path. After some time, we got to a lookout rock and a junction, where we took a left. We kept climbing for a long time until it became quite steep. The trail was at this point almost vertical –see photos.
At the peak we continued to pass through very large boulders and got some great views of Santa Barbara and the Channel Islands. It is quite beautiful.
From that height, we could see 3 pools in the distance, so we decided to take a different way down and headed for the creek. So we went back on the trail, turned left at the lookout rock junction and slid down a slippery slope to the creek.
Once there, and because we ended up above the 7 falls, it was easy to reach the 3 pools. Each pool comes with its own beautiful waterfall.
We headed back on the creek, and after 10 minutes, we got to the 7 falls, each of which has a pool.
In order to keep going on the creek one has three alternatives: getting wet; bouldering around the pools; or climbing up and away from the creek, bypassing the falls. We chose a combination of the three: we took our shoes off and waded through the first pool; then I did a little pseudo-rock climbing around another pool while John looked for a way around. He found it, and, because my bouldering expertise was limited to, well, the previous 10 minutes, I followed him. That way we ended up at the bottom of the falls. From there, it was an easy walk back to the car.
To get to the trailhead, from the 101, take the Garden Street exit; turn right on Los Olivos Street and go past the Mission (a worthwhile side stop if you appreciate California history). From there, stay on Los Olivos, which becomes Mission Canyon Road. Turn right on Foothill Road, then left to get back on Mission Canyon. At the fork on the road, take Tunnel Road on the left. While you drive up Tunnel Rd. the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden is on your right. This another great place to visit and one of our favorite activities when family visits. Park at the end of Tunnel Road on the side of the road. Walk up Tunnel until on the right you will see a fire road. The total hike was approximately 2 miles to the peak (with an elevation gain of 3000 ft.), 1.5 miles to the end of the hike at 3 pools, and another 2.5 miles back to the car. The entire hike took us 4 hours.
I have some observations about this hike: because of the 2009 brush fire the trail to the peak was very exposed with no shade, and the climb was quite strenuous and difficult at times. Twice we slid on our butts down slippery terrain and this also was hard. My last observation is that the trail should be called 7 pools and 3 falls; why it is the other way around escapes my understanding.
November 24, 2011
We had time for just a short hike and we decided to head south for a change, to the Circle X Ranch and the Grotto in Malibu. To get there just turn on Yerba Buena Road and after 5.5 miles you will find the Ranch. There is parking and a ranger station, and the trailhead is well marked.
The difference between the hikes we normally take and this one is that this one starts downhill to get to the creek, and then it is uphill on the way back. All I could think about on the way down is how hard it was going to be on the way out. Surprisingly, it wasn’t so bad.
This time of the year –we went in mid-October- water in the stream was scarce, but the weather was splendid. On the scary side, however, we saw a cannibal snake. Since its mouth was full, we weren’t too worried about it biting us.
There are several signs directing you to the Grotto. When the creek joins the trail, we found giant boulders which have a rough concrete-like look and feel.
When it looks like the trail ends atop another enormous rock, you are right above the Grotto. We found the trail by climbing behind a boulder on the right to continue the hike and get down to the Grotto. This was not easy; we had to hop up and down rocks and the squeeze through small crevices.
The Grotto itself is a cave where the creek runs from, and a large boulder in front of it. In the spring, there is a waterfall coming from inside the cave. In the dry season we were able to climb all the way inside and see the water sliding down the wall. We had lunch there and started our uphill climb back. Luckily, my worries proved unfounded and the ascent was not too difficult.
The hike took us a total of two hours for the approximately 3.5 miles roundtrip.
Although we missed the waterfall, the beautiful day made up for it, and we had a pleasant fall hike.
October 24, 2011
Although not our usual hike, this was no walk on the beach. Difficult at times, especially during the high tide, it afforded us of the most spectacular views of the California Coast in our 20 plus years in this area.
We started from Jalama Beach, which is located south of Vandenberg Air Force Base. Just before Lompoc on Highway 1, take winding Jalama Beach Road to the campsite. Although many websites assured us that day use parking would cost us $5, it was double that in October 2011. From the campsite just start walking south on the beach. Mind the tide, as a high tide will cut your hike short. We set off two hours after the high tide mark and we had plenty of time to get back. On the way south, we had to walk next to the cliffs behind seawalls in order to keep our feet dry, but on the way back, the beach was much wider and we returned with ease four hours later.
With the seemingly endless cliffs on one side and the ocean on the other, we made our way down the beach past surfers and sunbathers. There was abundant kelp, both in the water and stacked on the sand in heaping pile of stink, which the gulls seemed to love. Cormorants waited on the beach to fly away whenever we got close and pelicans flew in formation overhead. After approximately 2 miles, there was no one left to be seen and we felt that we owned the landscape. We stopped seeing any foot tracks after 3 miles and the beach became solitary. How solitary? Well, we did find a couple skinny-dipping! Sorry, we did not take pictures.
We continued on our walk until a cliff that jutted into the waves stopped our progress. We had lunch and back-tracked a little to find a way inland to reach the top of the cliffs (this is about 5.5 miles into the hike). There is a Not Trespassing sign and we didn’t go beyond it, but we had to walk on the ice plants next to the edge.
ere is where we saw a deer family scrambling away from the edge of the cliff. I was too slow with the camera and missed the photo, but we were highly surprised by their presence.
After a while the trail required us to go past a few cows. Although I definitely was not scared at first, the fixed stare the cows gave me and the possibility of a fat trespassing fine convinced us that we had reached the end of our trail. Also convincing was John’s assertion that they were actually bulls.
On the way back, we found a few turkey vultures feasting on a seal carcass, with smaller birds waiting for scraps. Walking at a normal pace, we made it before the tide came back in, and we congratulated ourselves for being time to enjoy one of the World-Famous Jalama Burgers!
October 1, 2011
After hiking the dramatic Matilija Falls, we were looking for a mellower and shorter hike, and we found one very close: Matilija Upper North Fork. This is the smaller creek that joins Matilija from the North, and ends where the creek meets the fire road leading to the falls.
To get there, follow the 33 Freeway from the 101 to Maricopa Highway, then right after the quarry, turn left on Matilija Canyon Road. Drive to the end and park off the road. Then walk through the gate to the trail head, which is on the right.
There are several good campsites on this trail -the signs and guides say four total- and John and I will definitely try camping overnight here one day.
This is a pleasant trail, with little more than 1300 ft. gradual elevation gain and frequent creek crossings. Most of the hike happens under a canopy of trees and with the creek within view. The path is mostly single line, which we like as opposed to a wide fire road.
The creek carries water year-round, and in late August there was enough water on the creek to make it fun but not too much as to make the crossings difficult. Swimming holes abound, and although not deep enough to jump, they offer needed cooling.
There are no waterfalls on this trail, just a nice and easy creek side walk, plenty of nice lunch spots and excellent views.
The trail ends at a seasonally open road off Highway 33, but, since we did not have a car waiting for us on the other end, we decided to turn back at what we think is the next to last campsite, Upper Matilija, 5.5 miles from the gate. This is a great site, with large trees offering shade, close enough to the creek and large enough to accommodate a big group. It took us about 2 hours to get to the third campsite and another 2 hours to get back to the car.
September 4, 2011
California has plans to close 70 parks starting September 2011. One of those parks is local –to us- McGrath State Beach, a campground at the mouth of the Santa Clara River which offers beachside camping, a salt and fresh water marsh, great bird watching opportunities and the convenience of being close to both Oxnard and Ventura.
We have camped and picnicked at McGrath a few times, but, thinking that it might close, we decided to take a short hike around the park for old times’ sake.
Finding the park is very easy. From the 101 take the Seaward exit and head down toward Harbor Blvd. McGrath State Beach is located on the right, well-signaled, after the Santa Clara River bridge. Parking inside the park is $10 for day use.
The park offers a river walk and miles of beach hiking. The Nature Trail, leading to the estuary, is wood-decked for the most part and ending in an estuary which provides great bird watching opportunities.
Go back to the trail head and turn right towards the beach to make a loop around the campground and l find a lake on the beach, which also attracts birds such as blue heron and owls.
Part of the beach is seasonally closed to protect the nesting area of the California Least Tern and Snowy Plover.
Although not a long or difficult hike, McGrath offers a quick escape into nature for locals and visitors alike.
August 31, 2011
So the trail is not in Southern California, much less Ventura County, but when we traveled to the Grand Canyon last month, we could not resist a short hike into the canyon. John and I have been talking about a rim-to-rim hike sometime in the future, and we could use it as practice.
Our trip took us from Ventura to Las Vegas for a weekend (well, of course!), then to the Antelope corkscrew canyons (not technically a hike, but recommended; we boarded a 4X4 in Page, AZ, and rode on the river bottom to the mouth of the canyon, across which we walked for one hour.)
Back in the car, the next stop was Horseshoe Bend, on the Colorado River: another short hike, another dramatic view. Four more hours and we were in a cabin on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. From there, we drove to the South Rim and took on the incredible views. Although it was a long drive, the road is an amazing experience, with temperatures fluctuating from 60°F (16°C) to more than 110°F (43°C), and colorful cliffs running along the highway.
While on the North Rim, we decided to take a short hike to Redwall Bridge, 2188 feet (667 m) below the rim and a 6-mile (9.6 km) hike round trip.
The North Kaibab trailhead is located two miles (3.21 km) from the visitor center. Make sure you have water, as the only water stop between the rim and the bridge is at Supai Tunnel, two miles down the trail, and the temperature in early August was close to 95° F (35°C) .
The top portion of the trail runs through the Kaibab Forest, a shaded path winding down. It is impressive to note the different colors and rock formations that pass by as you hike. Cream colored rock gives way to red, brown, and then red again, as can be seen from the rim.
At the 1.5 mile mark (2.4 km), we stopped at the Coconino Overlook, where we could see the Redwall Bridge in the distance –see arrow in the photo. Getting there would prove easier than getting out of the canyon.
Here I have to mention that mules use this same trail, so be careful, wait for them to pass (on the inside of the trail) and obey the mule wrangler. We met a mule team, but by far the worst thing was the smell of mule urine every half mile or so.
The way to Supai Tunnel –where there is a clean bathroom and water fountain- was easy enough. Of course, we were going downhill. After the tunnel, the vegetation almost disappears, the red stone engulfs the canyon and the heat can really be felt. The beauty is indescribable.
After a little more than one hour after we started, we had reached the bridge, where we met a group coming from Roaring Springs.
Because we had part of the family waiting for us on the rim, we had to head back. The ascent was, as expected, much harder, and at times I wondered if I could lie down on the red sand and convince the helicopters flying back and forth above the trail that I needed rescuing. However, we made it and, two hours after we stood on the bridge, we were driving into the Kaibab Forest on the way to Flagstaff.
Will we be trying the rim-to-rim hike in the near future? Of course! We just have to score a Phantom Ranch reservation because, hey, I need a hot shower after a hike.
June 27, 2011
Continuing with our visits to Ojai, CA, we returned to Rose Valley Falls with some relatives. This is our second visit, the first on March, 2011, when we reached both levels, the lower falls –a relaxed and pleasant trail- and the upper falls –more difficult to find and complicated to follow. In this occasion, we only made it to the first level.
To get there, from the 101 freeway in Ventura, take the 33 toward Ojai; turn on Maricopa Highway, and after 15 miles, turn on the Sespe creek turnout. After 2 miles, on the right, is a road leading to the falls. It’s not very well marked, so pay attention. At the end, there is a parking lot and campground, and the trail starts on your left.
The lower falls is suitable for families, with a gradual slope surrounded by trees along the creek. One can descend to the creek halfway and walk by the water. My aunt and uncle, who are 65 years old, had no problem making it, and even walking along the creek for a while.
The lower falls had some water in June, and some more in March, although not a vast amount. They are, however, beautiful, with maidenhair ferns growing off the rock and water droplets dripping from the leaves. See the March and June photos to compare the flow of water.
In March we also reached the upper falls. First we tried to climb on the left side of the lower falls, and after an arduous climb we reached the top of a rock from where we had a great view of the falls, but no trail could be seen to the foot of the falls, so we went back to the creek.
Approximately 50 feet before the lower falls, on the right, a trail goes up. It’s not very clear and we could not easily see it. Taking this trail, the path becomes sandy and hard to climb, but finally we reached another path on the left and from there, the trail leads to the creek again. This trail is not maintained and quite difficult in some areas, but it is worth it; the falls is very high and, although not very full, very striking.