March 13, 2015
There is a barely visible dirt track leading up to a flat spot Julie and I always referred to as The Plateau THE PLATEAU. Back in our VW days we saw a well loved VW bus camping in this stellar spot. I immediately named it The Plateau THE PLATEAU and promised myself that someday I would camp here. And here I am. Instead of a VW bus I am trying out the Subaru Forester Zippy car bed first time. I arrived just in time to watch the sunset while polishing off a number 11 from Sam’s To Go. My plan is to get up early and start the long steep climb up to McKinley Mountain and San Rafael Peak.
Sunrise from The Plateau THE PLATEAU
Morning coffee on the zippy bed.
March 14, 2015
The car bed needs some re-vamping or as Melissa would say reconnoitering! It reminded me of family cross country trips where my bed was a board across the front and back seats. It works but it’s so close to the roof that I can hardly turn over. It feels a bit like a coffin and I’m not quite ready for that! I have the image of the car bed design in my head now I have to translate that to a workable project. Back to the drawing board…but FIRST there are trails to be HIKED!
I loved waking up on The Plateau THE PLATEAU…. I drank my coffee watching the morning light sweep across the sky. And now, now the trail is calling and I must go! UP UP UP!!
The trail goes up…..for the next 8 miles…..
The up hill climb was relentless, in fact I pretty much walked up hill for 8 hours today. The views, from the moment my boots hit the dirt outside my car door, were some of the best I’ve seen. Santa Ynez Valley, Lake Cachuma, ( more like a puddle) Channel Islands, Hurricane Deck and beyond. So much open and wild space. I liked looking down into the canyon where I hiked along Manzana Creek a few weekends ago. The first 8 miles of trail is a fire road so the path is nice and wide and clear. I entertained myself by watching the sweeping views, looking for wildflowers and watching the grasses blow in the breeze.
Santa Ynez Valley
Grasses for Melissa with Hurricane Deck in background
Manzana Narrows, Hurricane Deck
I met a man coming down off San Rafeal Mountain, the second highest mountain in Santa Barbara County , at 9:00 am….he left his car at 2am! He said the moon rise was amazing. He turned out to be the only person I saw all weekend. The first 5 miles peeled off easily but once I arrived at Hells Half Acre the climb turned hot, steep and arduous. I wondered if there were more names on maps referring to heaven or hell. I’m pretty sure hell won….but what I don’t know is why! ( oh, I think I will find out why tomorrow on the way back down through Hells Half Acre!)
Before Hells Half Acre
Hells Half Acre
Rock Formations along Hells Half Acre
I saw tons and tons of bear scat and scat from a VERY BIG cat, as in mountain lion. All of it was old but I did imagine the trail as a bear freeway traversing between Mckinley Spring and Mission Pine Spring. I stopped for lunch at Mckinley Spring Camp and poured cold delicious water over my head.
I had a hard time opening the spring box ( the tank behind the table.)
Once I passed McKinley Mountain the trail turned to single track winding through rock and conifer. This section of the trail was spared by the 2007 Zaca Fire….but around the next bend everything was wiped clean. The contrast was both startling and dramatic. I made it to San Rafael Peak 6,593 feet at 2:30. PHEW! I climbed 3,615 feet!
Remnants of the 2007 Zaca Fire.
View from San Rafael Peak
San Rafael Peak. Even Cruiser made it!
Walking along the Spine of San Rafael.
Looking north. Way, way way north the Sierra awaits.
On my 700 foot decent down to Mission Pine Springs I immediately became aware of the distinctive Sierra smell and could feel my body relaxing into familiarity and comfort. The rock formations and vanilla scented air begged for exploration and I took my time delighting in the smells and sounds around.
It feels, smells and looks like the Sierra!
This was my favorite part of the trail and one reason I would make that climb again!
That’s HUGE and I’m not talking about my foot!
One of the many enticing rock formations.
This looks like an eyeball! There were many “water basins” atop the sandstone rocks.
Mission Pine Spring camp was a welcome sight after a long hard day. I immediately filled my cup with cold spring water and had a celebratory fizzy drink. I explored the surrounding rock formations, watched an amazing sunset, ate a fabulous spaghetti dinner, sat by the fire and called it a night at 8:30!
Mission Pine Springs Camp. A well loved and cared for place. I love my tent spot!
The camp even had facilities!
March 15, 2015
I watched the orange glow of the sunrise fan across the sky from the warmth of my sleeping bag. It was perfect. On my return hike I spent a few hours exploring the sandstone rock formations looking for Rock Art. I followed dry creek beds and scrambled over, under and around dead manzanita bushes, I didn’t find any Rock Art but I scratched my legs and arms up and had a great time.
Between a rock and a hard place.
Love that color red!
From the top of Mckinley Peak. The Sierra are barely visible way off to the right…look for the white.
I saw this little guy on my way up Mckinley.
The descent back to the car was just as arduous as the ascent. It was HOT. And sadly because I didn’t fully take into account the amount of my exertion, I was HUNGRY. I had food, just not enough and so I rationed it on the way back. “….once I get to Hells Half Acre I’ll eat the rest of the trail mix…….When I see Santa Ynez Valley again I’ll eat the last two Cliff Bar Chews……When I reach the water tank I will eat the last two cookies………”
My pole is pointing at the trail WAY the hell down there…..(from San Rafael Peak)
I made it WAY the hell down there and am now pointing WAY the hell back UP there.
When I got to Hells Half Acre I was SO HOT I sat in the first shady place I could find….right on a pile of ants. For a few minutes I didn’t even care. When I reached the water tank, while eating my two remaining morsels of food, I saw my car two and half long miles below me. For the next hour and a half the car teased me as I came closer to it on one bend and then walked further away from it on the next bend. It reminded me of Pine Creek Pass in the Sierra where you can see your car, but it takes all day to hike to it.
I arrived back at the car at 5:00 pm, hot, hungry, tired, happy and pleased with myself for once again following the trail around just one more corner!