East Camino Cielo snakes along the Santa Ynez Mountains in Santa Barbara. Up here, there are great views of the ocean and, to the north, Lake Cachuma.
Along this road lies a short trail to Knapp’s Castle, originally built as a mountain lodge in the 1900s by George Owen Knapp. In 1940, the mansion was purchased by Francis Holden to live in with opera singer Lotte Lehmann. A few weeks later, however, it burned down in a forest fire. The stone ruins remain today.
A rope swing transforms the place into a playground!
Morning rays of light hitting the Santa Ynez Mountains
This is a fairly popular place to watch sunrise/sunset, so it was a bit crowded when I arrived (despite my empty photos). Made it a little less spooky!
For Halloween 2015, K and I drove out early to Anza Borrego Desert to catch the sunrise, went back west for a 6-mile hike (Iron Mountain), and finished out the day by swimming in the ocean at La Jolla in the evening. It was one of those hot Octobers in SoCal, when the ocean was still that warm!
That shimmering on the desert floor? That’s the Salton Sea.
We hiked our breakfast in. Bacon and eggs on the camp stove! Free Coleman advertising.
As you can tell, the sun got brighter and stronger and increasingly blinding! Time to break from the land of cacti.
From the desert to the mountains to the ocean…in one day! San Diego.
Inspiration Point is a nice little 3.75-mile hike (via the Tunnel Trail) in the Santa Ynez Mountains of Santy B. On clear days (most days), you can see the Channel Islands as you look to the south.
The viewpoint (of inspiration!) is at 1,800 feet, and the trail gains a total of 800 as you go along.
It’s a very popular hike, so it can be a little congested (with music-blasting types :O), but not so much if it threatens to rain. After heavy rains, there’s plenty of evidence of micro mudslides and rockslides, particularly at the sandstone walls.
There are connector trails along the way to an area called Seven Falls, but it was so devastatingly dry while I was there that there were definitely no falls.
Gaviota Peak is awesomely situated among juxtaposed mountains and ocean, about a 20 minute’s drive from where I used to live in Santy B. The turnoff for it is right near the famous Gaviota tunnel, featured in the The Graduate.
I have driven through this tunnel many times, always appreciating the characteristic bare rocky peaks of Santa Barbara County.
The trail heads up the north side with views of sloping hills and agriculture, and loops back down through rocky mountains and ocean views.
The color of the hills changes drastically with the seasons. The hills are pretty brown here in October, but in Spring they turn bright green after the rains. And yellow with mustard!
The trail is about a 6-mile loop and also features wind caves! A stop in Solvang for pastries makes for a perfect weekend morning expedition.
If you are super adventurous, there are reportedly hot springs near the trailhead, though I haven’t checked them out!
The grad school gang got back together again for some camping, hiking, and hot springs fun in October 2015. There were some cold nights and some pretty sad views of the drought impacts on Huntington Lake, but warm and sunny times with friends. The lake is nestled in the Sierra National Forest, south of the Kaiser Wilderness.
Looking south towards the eastern edge of Huntington Lake
Matching our autumnal experience of the bare lake bed
We hiked up to College Rock on the north side of the lake, about a 5 mile R/T. The rock took some tricky scrambles to get up to, and it sure was windy at the top! We could see some storms hit the other peaks and a bit of snow, so we booked it downhill after that.
Hiking to College Rock
Not pictured: a dreamy evening stroll around the dry lake bed, attempts to cross little rivulets using wood and rocks, trekking to Mono Hot Springs for some warm baths (with little red worms), boys skipping rocks and spending much time trying to jump and balance on a tall tree stump :)
This was one of the first hikes I did near my new home! An easy trail near Nipomo, CA (1.7 miles, out & back, flat).
Oso Flaco means Skinny Bear. An interesting history…
The name originates from a 1769 Gaspar de Portola expedition through the area. On the shores of what is now Oso Flaco lake, the men shot and killed a skinny bear for food. The next day, several men in the expedition died. It was fabled that the local Chumash had been in competition with the bear for food, and so fed it tainted food.
Unfortunately, Oso Flaco Lake is also super polluted. The fish have among the highest levels in the state of DDT, which makes sense as the surrounding area (Santa Maria, Nipomo) is a huge producer of agriculture.
The trail is part of the beautiful Oceano Dunes. it leads straight to a beautiful beach.
Santa Barbara Harbor
Catching up on adventures past, I lived in Santa Barbara for a year! aka SANTY B. As part of my joint degree program in geography, I spent a year studying and researching at UCSB. These are some shots from when I had just moved in and was starting to get my bearings.
Up in the foothills
Lake Los Carneros, great spot for watching birds
The best part about living in Santa Barbara was proximity to the ocean and mountains. I didn’t appreciate the tar at the beaches (very sticky – remove with oil!), but the sunsets and runs were breathtaking always.
Ellwood Beach, my personal favorite
I spent most of my weekends hiking while I was here, so there will be many mountains to come in the posts!
Sorry, no mountain lion photos. But, allow me to set the scene. It’s high summer in Arizona. Heading from the GC to Flagstaff after a hoooot morning and afternoon, you can suddenly feel the mugginess. The monsoon is rolling in!
It’s getting darker!
Suddenly, a huge tan mass with a long thick tail pads across the road in front of us and drops down into the bushes.
Was it? It must have been!
Only mountain lion sighting thus far (phew) :D