Posted by: James Wapotich | April 8, 2017

Backpacking Made Easy

backpacking class Santa Barbara wilderness trails hiking skills trail instruction

*

backpacking class Santa Barbara wilderness trails hiking skills trail instruction

*

Back by popular demand we will be offering a second session of Backpacking Made Easy.

Through this class, you will learn the basic skills and awareness to set out on our local trails and craft your own backpacking trips. Many of these skills can also be used for day hiking as well.

This class is unique in that it takes place on our local trails. As the best place to learn something is in the context in which it applies, in this case outdoors. You’re also probably interested in backpacking because you want to get out on the trails and experience nature more. 

In general, the class covers three main areas: wilderness navigation; nature connection; and gear/trip planning.

Our approach to wilderness navigation is also somewhat unique. You will learn route-finding and orienteering skills that are not dependent on having a GPS or compass. While we do use these tools on occasion, knowing how to navigate without them can help build the confidence to hike anywhere.

Nature connection is also a big part of our time out on the land. For many of us, the whole point of carrying gear out into the wild is to immerse ourselves in the elements and feel a deeper sense of connection with the natural world around us.

We will cover the gear basics and provide insights into how to evolve your own gear set. You don’t need to buy the latest gear in order to head out into the backcountry; what’s more important is to have the basics covered so that you can get out there and get started.

Backpacking Made Easy
April 29 – 13

Santa Barbara and Ojai are home to a variety of incredible backpacking destinations, and yet, often the biggest obstacle is simply having the knowledge and skills to get started.

Through this immersive workshop, you will learn the basic skills needed to comfortably explore and enjoy our local trails.

Hot springs, waterfalls, epic views, and unspoiled wilderness are just some of the rewards for those who are willing to make the journey.

Each class takes place outside, on one of our local trails, and provides a mix of hands on instruction, immersive exercises, and council sharing circles that allows for learning on many levels.

Lay of the Land
April 29th 9AM-3PM

Learn how to orient yourself to the local landscape, and begin learning the skills and awareness that will help you remove the word lost from your vocabulary. Become familiar with maps and creating your own mental maps. Learn about the different gear options and how to choose equipment that suits you.

Nature Connection
May 6th 9AM-3PM

Venturing out onto the land is even more enjoyable when we take time to develop a meaningful connection with it.

Learn to see the natural world around you as an ally, rather than an obstacle to overcome, and shift your hikes from feeling like endurance contests to journeys of discovery. And learn how to feel at home in the woods. Practical skills include trail navigation, menu planning, personal care and basic first aid skills.

Pathfinding
May 13th 9AM-3PM

Many of our local trails are overgrown, particularly those off the beaten path. Learn how to read the trails, practice route-finding, and develop your own sense of “body radar” to help you navigate in the wilderness. Practical skills include trip planning, campsite evaluation, water assessment, and camp set up.

Optional Free
Overnight Backpacking Trip
May 20-21

For those who are interested, we will help organize a free, optional backpacking trip. Here’s a chance to put all these great skills to use, and build on the material covered so far.

Length of the hike and destination for the overnight trip to be determined according to current conditions and the capabilities of the participants.

Guides:

James Wapotich is a Volunteer Wilderness Ranger with the Forest Service and the author of the Santa Barbara News-Press hiking column, Trail Quest. James leads guided hikes and has hiked many of the trails in our local backcountry.

Maya Shaw Gale is a mindfulness and nature-based Life-Coach and creator of Inner Nature/Outer Nature and Women in the Wild vision quest retreats. Maya has backpacked in the Sierras, Nepal, and our local backcountry.

Sierra Boatwright is a UC Certified California Naturalist, council facilitator, and nature connection guide, as well as an alumna of Pacific Crest Outward Bound School.

Workshop is $225 per person, or bring a friend and both 20% off.
Limit 12 students. Must be able to comfortably hike 3-4 miles.

To sign up or for more information please contact:

James (805) 729-4250 jwapotich@yahoo.com
Maya (805) 857-1789 mayashawgale@gmail.com
Sierra (805) 708-4058 seraphimasierra@yahoo.com

Posted by: James Wapotich | April 8, 2017

Exploring Channel Islands National Park

Channel Islands National Park Wilderness Hiking Speaker Series Santa Barbara

*

Exploring Channel Islands National Park

Free Slideshow Presentation with Q&A

Thursday, April 20th, 6:30PM
Faulkner Gallery – Santa Barbara Public Library
40 East Anapamu St., Santa Barbara, CA

Just off the coast, the Channel Islands represent a unique world unto themselves. With their diverse plants and animals, some of which are found nowhere else in the world, the islands have been referred to as the Galapagos of North America.

The islands within Channel Islands National Park include Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara, and all five offer hiking and camping opportunities.

Join local author James Wapotich as he shares images and stories from his hikes and backpacking trips on the Channel Islands. James has hiked on all five of the islands within the national park and is the author of the Santa Barbara News-Press hiking column, Trail Quest.

For more information call (805) 729-4250 or email jwapotich@yahoo.com

Wilderness Hiking Speaker Series

This talk is part of the new monthly Wilderness Hiking Speaker Series hosted by the Santa Barbara Public Library. The talks are the third Thursday of the month and feature topics related to hiking, backpacking, and our local natural history.

The next upcoming talk is Thursday, May 18th, featuring Lanny Kaufer speaking on the Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Santa Barbara Region. Lanny is celebrating his 41st year of leading Herb Walks in Ojai and Santa Barbara, and brings with him a wealth of knowledge about our local plants and their uses.

Posted by: James Wapotich | April 4, 2017

Trail Quest: Point Sal State Beach

Hiked to Point Sal State Beach recently. The hike is 10 miles roundtrip and the area features plants and some unique geology that are more reminiscent of the Channel Islands than the mainland. The article appears in section A of the April 3rd, 2017 edition of Santa Barbara News-Press..

Point Sal State Beach Santa Maria hike trail Casmalia Hills

Point Sal State Beach

Older articles can be seen by scrolling down or using the search feature in the upper right corner. Articles from the News-Press appear here a couple months after they appear in the paper.

Posted by: James Wapotich | March 27, 2017

Trail Quest: Potrero John Trail

Hiked to Potrero John Falls last weekend with local plant expert Lanny Kaufer. Lanny has been leading Herb Walks and Nature Hikes in Santa Barbara and Ojai for the past 41 years.

We sampled wild nettle, native thistle, as well as dried toyon berries. And of course took in the waterfall. The article describing our hike and some of the plants we saw, such as nettle, big cone spruce, wild tarragon, Great Basin sagebrush, and yerba santa appears in section A of today’s edition of Santa Barbara News-Press..

Lanny will be leading a nature hike along Potrero John Trail, Saturday, May 6th. He also has an upcoming Nature Hike to Rose Valley Falls, Sunday, April 9th. For a full list of events or to sign up for his newsletter and be in the know, go to https://herbwalks.com/.

Potrero John Falls waterfall Sespe Wilderness hike trail backpacking ojai los padres national forest

Potrero John Falls

Older articles can be seen by scrolling down or using the search feature in the upper right corner. Articles from the News-Press appear here a couple months after they appear in the paper.

Lanny Kaufer Herb Walks Ojai great basin sagebrush potrero john trail canyon los padres national forest sespe wilderness

Lanny studying an example of Great Basin sagebrush

Posted by: James Wapotich | March 20, 2017

Trail Quest: North Tunnel Trail

In January, Gibraltar Reservoir reached full capacity and began spilling over for the first time in six years. The arc-shaped dam was built in part against a large outcropping of sandstone where the river narrows. As water leaves the spillway it flows over the sandstone creating a waterfall comparable to those elsewhere in the backcountry.

The shortest route to the dam is from the Red Rock Trailhead at the end of Paradise Road. However, the same rains that have brought our creeks and waterfalls back to life, have also closed Paradise Road at the first crossing of the Santa Ynez River. The wide, flowing river has made the crossing impassable to vehicles.

Fortunately, there is an alternate route down to the dam from the top of the Santa Ynez Mountains that leads through Devil’s Canyon. The hike starts off along North Tunnel Trail and is about eight miles roundtrip.

Gibraltar Reservoir dam trail full los padres national forest

Gibraltar Reservoir between Gidney Cove and the Sunbird Quicksilver Mine

I had already been wanting to see the reservoir spilling over and getting to hike through Devil’s Canyon added to its appeal.

North Tunnel Trail is reached from Santa Barbara by taking Gibraltar Road to the top of the Santa Ynez Mountains, where it meets East Camino Cielo Road. Turn left onto East Camino Cielo and continue towards the first access road on the right. Parking is found along the beginning of the access road.

Sometimes referred to as Angostura Pass Road, the gated access road leads to the beginning of North Tunnel Trail and down to the dam. Past the locked gate, the views open up dramatically out across the Santa Ynez Valley towards the San Rafael Mountains. Here, the various summits from Figueroa Mountain to Madulce Peak can be seen. The burn area from the Rey Fire is also visible on the landscape.

The unpaved road then rounds a corner and Gibraltar Dam comes into view. Even from here, I can see the water flowing over the spillway. Just past the bend, is the beginning of North Tunnel Trail, which is hard to spot now that the trail sign is gone.

From the road, the trail continues down the backside of the Santa Ynez Mountains, leading through a mix of chaparral, including ceanothus, chamise, manzanita, scrub oak, and toyon. The trail is overgrown in places, but still easy to follow.

The trail is mostly exposed, however there is a patch of shade where the trail passes through a small stand of madrone. More common now to northern California, the tree is a remnant from the last ice age when our area was much cooler and wetter. Madrone is often found on the north side of the Santa Ynez Mountains, near the top.

The trail briefly shifts onto a small south-facing ridge. Here, the additional sunlight has created opportunities for yerba santa, white sage, and yucca to grow. Passing through the brush, I can see that the rain combined with warmer weather has also been exciting for the local ticks and brush several off me as I continue.

At about the two-mile mark, the trail arrives at a three-way intersection. Here, North Tunnel Trial ends. To the left Matias Trail continues over towards Arroyo Burro Road, and to the right Devil’s Canyon Trail continues towards Gibraltar Dam.

The trail descends into a side canyon, passing through several grassy areas dotted with coastal sagebrush and lined with shooting stars in bloom. Further down, blue dicks, or brodiaea, are also in bloom. On one of the flowers I spot a shy, yellow spider crab that maneuvers its way around the plant each time I try to get a closer look.

The trail becomes more shaded as it starts to follow the flowing creek in the canyon. There are no other footprints along the trail. Part of the charm of Devil’s Canyon is the sense of enclosure, cut off from the visual reference of the San Rafael Mountains or even the reservoir, it is a place unto itself.

Continuing through the canyon I can see bear sign, or scratches, on several of the trees, that add to the sense of remoteness.

The trail then arrives at the confluence of the side creek and the main creek through Devil’s Canyon. Here, alder trees line the watercourse, suggesting that this section of the creek flows year round. I continue downstream along the trail under a canopy of oaks.

Having seen Humboldt lilies along a couple other trails on the backside of the Santa Ynez Mountains, I’m hopeful that there are some growing in this canyon. I spot several along the trail, before stumbling across an unusual sight. Surrounding a single cluster of California bay laurel are more than a dozen lilies sprouting up near the trees.

After a number of creek crossings, the trail arrives at the unpaved access road that comes up from the Red Rock Trailhead. From here, the road follows Devil’s Canyon down to the confluence with the Santa Ynez River.

Supported by water from the overflowing reservoir, the river is striking in its fullness, covering completely the trail that leads to the other side. As I continue along the access road towards the dam, the spillway comes into full view. Here, water from the reservoir is pouring over the rock face forming a good size waterfall.

Completed in 1920, the dam was the first along the Santa Ynez River. Its original storage capacity was 14,500 acre feet of water. Over the years, sediment filled the reservoir reducing its capacity by almost half. In 1948, the height of the dam was raised 23 feet, bringing the reservoir back to roughly its originally capacity. Today, after almost 70 more years of sedimentation, the reservoir’s capacity is just 5,272 acre feet, which is why it didn’t take long to fill with water. In comparison, Lake Cachuma has a capacity of more than 190,000 acre feet.

From here, the access road continues above the dam and leads to an overlook that provides additional views of the spillway. Nearby, is a picnic table under a couple of pine trees, next to a quonset hut, that provides shaded views out across the reservoir.

Appreciating the shade, I take a quick lunch at the table and assess the time. I have enough daylight to hike over to Gidney Cove and back out, but not enough to visit the Sunbird quicksilver mine. I know my pace will improve along the access road and decide to revisit the topic at Gidney Cove.

The access road continues eastward another mile and then branches. Here, Angostura Pass Road continues to the top of Santa Ynez Mountains where it meets the trailhead. To the left, Gibraltar Trail continues around the reservoir, eventually meeting North Cold Spring Trail.

I continue along Gibraltar Trail, which follows an old access road around the cove towards the mine. The road makes a wide descending switchback, offering views out across the cove, before then heading towards Gidney Creek. The cove is remarkably placid and quiet, giving the area an almost eerie feeling. I don’t hear the creek until I’m almost upon it.

Continuing past the creek, the road starts to climb as it rounds the far side of the cove offering additional views of the reservoir. At the far side of the cove, I realize that I’m probably just a mile from the mine, and if I keep a steady pace I can make it to the mine and back and only have to hike the last hour in the dark.

As I continue along the road, several more sweeping views out across the reservoir come into view, including one more at the mine where the river flows into the reservoir.

Quicksilver was first mined at the site in the 1860s, and then on and off over the years as the demand and favorable pricing for quicksilver ebbed and flowed. Sunbird Mining Company was the last such venture, which started in the 1960s, and closed in the 1990s. A fence now surrounds the abandoned structure for safety.

After taking in the views, I hasten my return back to the trailhead.

This article originally appeared in Section A of the March 20th, 2017 edition of Santa Barbara News-Press.

Posted by: James Wapotich | March 20, 2017

Trail Quest: Rose Valley Falls

With all the great rain we’ve been receiving, now is a perfect time to tour some of the many waterfalls and cascades our local mountains have to offer.

I had already been wanting to revisit Rose Valley Falls in the mountains behind Ojai, but had been waiting for more water to bring them back to life. Said to the be the tallest waterfall in Ventura County, the two-tiered waterfall flows down the backside of Nordhoff Ridge.

The hike to the lower falls from Rose Valley Campground is less than a mile roundtrip. The trail is shaded with fairly easy terrain, which also makes it a great hike for kids.

The falls in the video in order are Lower Rose Valley, Upper Rose Valley, three cascades in a side creek along Lion Canyon Trail, West Fork Lion Falls, first cascade past East Fork Lion Camp, and just above that “Spruce Falls”.

The trail to the falls is also near Rose-Lion Connector Trail, which can be used to hike over to Lion Canyon, where there are two more smaller waterfalls. This longer hike is about 6.5 miles round trip and leads past two trails camps that provide opportunities for overnight backpacking trips.

To reach the trailhead from Santa Barbara, make your way to Ojai, and continue north on State Route 33. State Route 33 leads through North Fork Matilija Canyon and eventually climbs out of the canyon. Just as the road levels out, it arrives at the turnoff for Rose Valley Road.

Continue east on Rose Valley Road to the turnoff for Rose Valley Campground, which is at a four-way intersection. To the left, the road leads down to Lower Rose Lake. Straight ahead, Rose Valley Road continues towards Middle Lion Campground, as well as the Piedra Blanca Trailhead along Sespe River. To the right, the road continues to Rose Valley Campground.

Continuing towards to the campground, I pass Upper Rose Lake and can see the upper falls in the distance. I park along the road with the other cars at the beginning of Rose-Lion Connector Trail and walk a short way up the road to the campground.

Rose Valley Campground has nine sites each with a picnic table and fire ring. The sites are $20 per night through Parks Management, the new concessionaire. The sites are on a first come, first served basis.

The trail to the falls is at the far end of the campground and is in good shape. The trail leads through a mix of riparian and chaparral plants as it follows Rose Valley Creek. Along the route are several side trails down to the creek that lead to small pools and cascades.

The trail ends at the base of lower Rose Valley Falls. Here, the cascading water is spread out over a large rock face forming a number of rivulets. In the summer, there are often crimson columbines growing along the face of the lower falls.

In the short time I was there I watched a number of people attempt to reach the upper falls by scrambling up the unstable rocky slopes on either side of the lower falls. The people who had the most success were those who went back down the trail and found a route on the right hand side of the canyon. Several people have died and others have been injured trying to reach the upper waterfall, which makes it not worth attempting when there are easier places to visit in our backcountry.

Returning to the parking area, I continue next along Rose-Lion Connector Trail, which leads over to Lion Canyon where there are two smaller, but satisfying waterfalls to be found.

The connector trail crosses Rose Valley Creek just upstream from Upper Rose Lake, so I make a quick detour downstream to take in the views. The man-made lake captures water from the creek and its tributaries and is framed by Pine Mountain Ridge in the distance.

As the trail continues, it follows a side creek that also feeds the lake, passing several small ponds lined with willows, before transitioning into mostly chaparral. Here, the rains have helped transform the exposed and sparse feeling area into a renewed little canyon with an idyllic stream waiting to be rediscovered.

The trail eventually crests a small saddle and descends into Lion Canyon, following another flowing side creek on the way down to Lion Creek. Again, I’m given pause at how the addition of water to the landscape adds to the sense of vitality and expansiveness all around me, and makes each turn in the canyon seem more animated.

At about the 1.5-mile mark, the trail arrives at Lion Creek. The creek is flowing well, and I have to continue downstream a bit just to find a place to cross. The trail then meets Lion Canyon Trail. From here, it’s about a mile and a quarter down the canyon to Middle Lion Campground, which can be reached from Rose Valley Road.

As I continue up the canyon, my eye is drawn to the dense stands of willow that line the creek, their leaves and buds currently giving the plant a colorful gold and reddish appearance.

Along the trail I pass a small side creek on the left that forms a small pool next to the trail. Scrambling up the nearby rocks to get a better view of the creek, I can see a series of three small cascades in the rocky canyon below.

At about the two-mile mark, the trail arrives at a signed four-way intersection. Lion Canyon Trail continues straight ahead, eventually climbing out of the canyon and continuing up to Nordhoff Ridge. To the right is the side trail to West Fork Lion Camp, and to the left is the side trail to East Fork Lion Camp.

With the sky becoming more overcast, I decide to hike to West Fork Lion Camp first, knowing that I’ll probably spend more time in East Fork Lion Canyon. The side trail follows West Fork Lion Canyon upstream. As I continue, I’m surprised that there are no Humboldt lilies sprouting up along the trail. Last year there were close to 20 along the trail, so either they haven’t started yet or they’re taking a year off.

After roughly a half-mile, the side trail arrives at West Fork Lion Camp. The camp is right along the trail and features a grated stove and fire ring. Across the creek is another smaller campsite with a grated stove, and just downstream from that there’s an ice can stove in a small clearing.

Past the first campsite, the trail continues across the alder-lined creek and then starts to fade. From here, it’s a short hike upstream to the falls. The falls form a chute over an exposed outcropping of conglomerate rock. The cobblestone-looking material was originally deposited during the Cretaceous period as a mixture of loose rock and finer material that fused over time and was later uplifted with the mountains.

I pause here for a quick lunch. The air is cool and I’m glad I brought a down vest. The wool cap I found earlier along the trail proves helpful, but the sunglasses I found at West Fork Lion Camp…not as helpful.

Back at the four-way intersection, I next follow the side trail that leads up East Fork Lion Canyon, entering Sespe Wilderness. The trail crosses the creek several times, and with the higher water it proves challenging to keep my boots dry.

After roughly a half-mile, the side trail arrives at East Fork Lion Camp. The camp has two sites, each with a grated stove and fire ring. The larger, more spacious site is under two large big cone spruce. The site was originally called Spruce Falls Camp.

The trail continues past the camp, before arriving at the first cascade. Here too, the water is flowing over conglomerate rock, only instead of a single large outcropping, it’s a series of huge boulders made of conglomerate rock.

After a short bit of rock scrambling I arrive at the base of the falls, which prove to be the highlight of the day. Here, four separate channels in a row are flowing across a large rock face into a single pool. The water is crystal clear and the sights and sounds are so engaging that I regret not bringing camping gear to have more time to enjoy the canyon before heading home.

This article originally appeared in Section A of the March 13th, 2017 edition of Santa Barbara News-Press.

Posted by: James Wapotich | March 20, 2017

Trail Quest: Tangerine Falls

With all the great rain we’ve been getting, our waterfalls are finally flowing once again. And not just mere trickles like the past five or six years, but actual rushing, roaring water tumbling over rock walls and filling the canyons with energy.

The largest, and perhaps best, of the front country waterfalls is Tangerine Falls in Cold Spring Canyon. The waterfall has been largely non-existent since the drought but is now in full force and promises to continue flowing for some time.

The hike up to the falls is about three miles round trip and involves a fair amount of rock scrambling once off the main trail.

 

To get the trailhead from Highway 101, take Hot Springs Road exit, and continue north along Hot Springs Road to East Mountain Drive. Turn left onto East Mountain Drive and continue to where the road crosses Cold Spring Creek. Parking is found along the side of the road on both sides of the crossing.

Cold Spring Trail starts along the right side of the canyon, passing through mostly oaks with California bay laurel mixed in and chaparral plants coming down from the side of the canyon.

At about the quarter-mile mark, the trail branches, just below the confluence of Cold Spring and East Fork Cold Spring Creeks. To the right, Cold Spring Trail follows East Fork Cold Spring Creek upstream, before eventually climbing out of the canyon and continuing towards Montecito Peak and the top of the Santa Ynez Mountains. To the left, West Fork Cold Spring Trail crosses the creek and continues along the left side of the canyon, following Cold Spring Creek upstream towards the turnoff to Tangerine Falls.

Standing at this first crossing, I’m given pause. The water level requires more of a leap than I’m willing to make. I push upstream, following East Fork Cold Spring Creek, until I find a collection of boulders in the creek that I can hop across. I continue over the wedge of land separating the two creeks, squeezing past the poison oak with its glistening leaves. After finding a place to cross Cold Spring Creek, I tie back into West Fork Cold Spring Trail and continue up the canyon.

With so much water in the creek, I can already feel my excitement at seeing the falls.

The trail is well-shaded. passing through a mix of coast live oak and California bay laurel. From the trail, I can see sycamore and maple in the canyon below. The trail is in good shape, particularly given the recent rains. There are no major slides and no downed trees.

Already, there are some wildflowers in bloom. Milk maids with their white flowers line parts of the trail, as does non-native sour grass, or oxalis, with its yellow flowers.

Having become accustomed to the drought, it is only slowly sinking in that there is water continuously flowing along the length of the canyon. As I slow down to take in this new awareness, I can smell the moist earth beneath my feet and see the newly washed leaves on the trees and bushes. And I can imagine the rainwater making its way down to their roots, providing an infusion of relief from the drought.

As the trail rounds another corner in the canyon, Tangerine Falls comes into view. In the distance, I can see water tumbling over the rocks, forming an electric white line of energy coursing down the canyon.

The trail soon arrives at the turnoff for Tangerine Falls, which is now marked with a sign thanks to a recent project by the Boy Scouts, who installed signs along many of the front country trails east of Gibraltar Road.

The trail juncture is just above where West Fork Cold Spring Creek joins the main creek. To the left, West Fork Cold Spring Trail follows West Fork Cold Spring Creek and continues towards Gibraltar Road. To the right, the off-trail route to Tangerine Falls, crosses West Fork Cold Spring Creek and then continues up Cold Spring Creek, sometimes referred to as Middle Fork Cold Spring Creek.

The off-trail route to the falls is unmaintained and requires rock scrambling. As it continues along Cold Spring Creek, it quickly arrives at a second trail juncture, this one without a sign. The trail on the left, which is at a right angle to the creek, leads above the waterfall.

As I continue along the trail that follows the creek upstream to the falls, I notice a half-dozen Humboldt lilies. Having already seen a dozen so far, I start to count them. In all, there are close to 50 lilies sprouting up along the trail, recognizable with their green leaves growing in a ring around a fairly straight stalk.

Humboldt lilies are considered rare to endangered because of their limited distribution. However, where they do grow, there are sometimes several more plants nearby. They prefer partially shaded canyons and the north slopes of mountains. Humboldt lilies bloom in June, showing orange flowers with maroon spots; and when flowering, the plant can reach as much as eight feet in height.

The trail then crosses the creek. Here, a large outcropping of Coldwater sandstone on one side of the canyon provides a narrow channel for the water to race through, effectively providing the experience of following a cascading mountain stream.

Past the second crossing, the trail leads through a section lined with mostly California bay laurel, before arriving at another rock outcropping. Here, the informal route to the falls scrambles over the outcropping and arrives at a medium-sized cascade.

The canyon then narrows still further, as the use-route transitions into mostly rock scrambling. The route continues up the west side of the creek and is normally dry, even when the creek is flowing. However, because of the volume of water currently in the creek, a side channel is now flowing directly down the use-route, adding to the sense of literally climbing up the creek to the falls.

The use-route then moves past where the water is flowing in and soon arrives at an overlook that provides some impressive views up towards the falls in all their glory.

To get to the base of the falls, I scramble down into the creek and aim for the one place narrow enough to hop across, and then slowly make my way up the sloped rock face. I’ve scrambled up this surface before, but not when it’s completely wet. I make a point of taking my time, not wanting a free ride back down to the creek. At the base of the falls, the spray coming off the cascading water is so strong that it’s like standing in a light rain, so I retreat back behind a nearby rock to take in the views without getting soaked before working my way back down to the creek.

Tangerine Falls takes its name from the orange and rust-colored minerals that have built up on the face of the falls and in the creek, which gives the waterfall a slight orange cast. The effect is more evident when the water level is lower.

On the way out, because there’s still some daylight, I decide to hike up the trail that leads above the falls. The trail climbs away from the creek and follows the contours of the canyon up to the outcropping of Coldwater sandstone that defines Tangerine Falls. The trail does not provide access to the top of the falls, but does offer views down into the canyon, including out towards Tangerine Falls.

Just past the outcropping of sandstone, the trail rejoins the creek and continues through the upper canyon towards an old homestead site. This section of trail sees fewer visitors than the canyon below and feels more like backcountry trail. There are even scratch marks made by black bears on several of the trees.

Returning to the trailhead, I can’t help but think this is going to be a good year for backcountry adventuring and enjoying the natural splendor of our local mountains.

The article originally appeared in Section A of the March 6th, 2017 edition of Santa Barbara News-Press.

Posted by: James Wapotich | March 20, 2017

Trail Quest: Snowshoeing at Mount Pinos

Went Snowshoeing at Mount Pinos with my buddy Casey back in February (there’s likely still some decent snow there). From the main parking area, we made our way cross-country towards Inspiration Point and then tied into the trails over towards to Mount Pinos. From there we continued out to Sawmill Mountain before heading back.

Article appears in Section A of the February 20th, 2017 edition of Santa Barbara News-Press.

Snow-covered pines Mount Pinos Snowshoe southern california frazier park los padres national forest

Snow-covered pines at Mount Pinos

Mount Pinos snowshoe cross-country skiing Inspiration Point Trail Los Padres National Forest southern California

Scenery near Inspiration Point Trail

Older articles can be seen by scrolling down or using the search feature in the upper right corner. Articles from the News-Press appear here a couple months after they appear in the paper.

Tumamait Trail Mount Pinos Chumash Wilderness snowshoeing cross-country skill southern california los padres national forest

Scenery along Tumamait Trail

Posted by: James Wapotich | February 9, 2017

Backpacking Made Easy

Backpacking class instruction workshop Santa Barbara hiking trails Los Padres National Forest wilderness

*

Backpacking class instruction workshop Santa Barbara hiking trails Los Padres National Forest wilderness

*

Through this class, you will learn the basic skills and awareness to set out on our local trails and craft your own backpacking trips. Many of these skills can also be used for day hiking as well.

This class is unique in that it takes place on our local trails. As the best place to learn something is in the context in which it applies, in this case outdoors. You’re also probably interested in backpacking because you want to get out on the trails and experience nature more. 

Past participants have said: “James and Sierra make a perfect team. They made the richness of the backcountry accessible to me, even though I started with very little experience. They helped open me to a level of connection with nature I had never experienced.”

“The best part was the combination of practical skills and teaching with the nature connection, as the two together inspired the confidence that I can do this.”

In general, the class covers three main areas: wilderness navigation; nature connection; and gear/trip planning.

Our approach to wilderness navigation is also somewhat unique. You will learn route-finding and orienteering skills that are not dependent on having a GPS or compass. While we do use these tools on occasion, knowing how to navigate without them can help build the confidence to hike anywhere.

Nature connection is also a big part of our time out on the land. For many of us, the whole point of carrying gear out into the wild is to immerse ourselves in the elements and feel a deeper sense of connection with the natural world around us.

We will cover the gear basics and provide insights into how to evolve your own gear set. You don’t need to buy the latest gear in order to head out into the backcountry; what’s more important is to have the basics covered so that you can get out there and get started.

Backpacking Made Easy

March 11 – 25

Santa Barbara and Ojai are home to a variety of incredible backpacking destinations, and yet, often the biggest obstacle is simply having the knowledge and skills to get started.

Through this immersive workshop, you will learn the basic skills needed to comfortably explore and enjoy our local trails.

Hot springs, waterfalls, epic views, and unspoiled wilderness are just some of the rewards for those who are willing to make the journey.

Each class takes place outside, on one of our local trails, and provides a mix of hands on instruction, immersive exercises, and council sharing circles that allows for learning on many levels.

Lay of the Land
March 11th 9AM-3PM

Learn how to orient yourself to the local landscape, and begin learning the skills and awareness that will help you remove the word lost from your vocabulary. Become familiar with maps and creating your own mental maps. Learn about the different gear options and how to choose equipment that suits you.

Nature Connection
March 18th 9AM-3PM

Venturing out onto the land is even more enjoyable when we take time to develop a meaningful connection with it.

Learn to see the natural world around you as an ally, rather than an obstacle to overcome, and shift your hikes from feeling like endurance contests to journeys of discovery. And learn how to feel at home in the woods. Practical skills include trail navigation, menu planning, personal care and basic first aid skills.

Pathfinding
March 25th 9AM-3PM

Many of our local trails are overgrown, particularly those off the beaten path. Learn how to read the trails, practice route-finding, and develop your own sense of “body radar” to help you navigate in the wilderness. Practical skills include trip planning, campsite evaluation, water assessment, and camp set up.

Optional Free
Overnight Backpacking Trip
April 1-2

For those who are interested, we will help organize a free, optional backpacking trip. Here’s a chance to put all these great skills to use, and build on the material covered so far.

Length of the hike and destination for the overnight trip to be determined according to current conditions and the capabilities of the participants.

Guides:

James Wapotich is a Volunteer Wilderness Ranger with the Forest Service and the author of the Santa Barbara News-Press hiking column, Trail Quest. James leads guided hikes and has hiked many of the trails in our local backcountry.

Sierra Boatwright is a UC Certified California Naturalist, council facilitator, and nature connection guide. An alumna of Pacific Crest Outward Bound School, Sierra has backpacked in the Appalachians, Sierras, and our local backcountry.

Workshop is $225 per person, or bring a friend and both 20% off.
Limit 12 students. Must be able to comfortably hike 3-4 miles.

To sign up or for more information please contact:

James (805) 729-4250 jwapotich@yahoo.com
Sierra (805) 708-4058 seraphimasierra@yahoo.com

Posted by: James Wapotich | February 9, 2017

Hiking Santa Barbara’s Wilderness Trails

Hiking Backpacking Santa Barbara Wilderness Trails Los Padres National Forest

*

Hiking Santa Barbara’s Wilderness Trails

Free Slideshow Presentation with Q&A

Wednesday, March 1st, 7:00PM
Karpeles Manuscript Library
21 W. Anapamu St., Santa Barbara, CA

Santa Barbara County is home to more than a quarter million acres of designated wilderness. Within these wild lands are waterfalls, quiet meadows, homestead sites, and miles of trails to explore. This talk will highlight a number of backpacking and day hike routes through this rich and ever changing landscape that’s right next door to where we live.

Join local author James Wapotich as he shares images, stories, and trail conditions from his treks through our local backcountry. James has hiked many of the trails in the southern Los Padres National Forest. He is a Volunteer Wilderness Ranger with the Forest Service, and is the author of the Santa Barbara News-Press hiking column, Trail Quest.

For more information call (805) 729-4250 or email jwapotich@yahoo.com

Older Posts »

Categories