Posted by: James Wapotich | February 8, 2018

Backpacking Made Easy

backpacking class Santa Barbara Los Padres National Forest

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backpacking class Santa Barbara los padres national forest

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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, not in a classroom. 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 around 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. The richness of the natural world is what makes it worthwhile to invest the time and energy to head out into the backcountry, the exercise from carrying gear for many of us is secondary. Feeling a deeper sense of connection and immersion in the elements is the often the real payoff for being outdoors.

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 you can get out there and get started.

Backpacking Made Easy
Saturdays, March 24 – April 7

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 sharing circles that allows for learning on many levels.

Lay of the Land
March 24th 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 and how to navigate without a compass or GPS. Learn about the different gear options and how to choose equipment that suits you.

Nature Connection
March 31st 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. Learn how to feel at home in the woods. Practical skills include trail navigation, menu planning, personal care and basic first aid skills.

Pathfinding
April 7th 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 14-15

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 and interests 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 sierraboat@yahoo.com

Posted by: James Wapotich | February 8, 2018

Into the Mountains! Trails and Tales of the Santa Barbara Backcountry

Santa Barbara backcountry hiking backpacking los padres national forest trail rangers chumash vaqueros homesteads miners

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Into the Mountains! Trails and Tales of the Santa Barbara Backcountry

Free Slideshow Presentation with Q&A

Wednesday, February 28th, 7:30PM – doors open at 7PM
Farrand Hall – Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History
2559 Puesta del Sol, Santa Barbara, CA

This talk will highlight several historic trails that lead from Santa Barbara into our local backcountry. Trails that can still be visited today as part of a day hike or backpacking trip and connect with the San Rafael and Dick Smith WIlderness areas. Trails highlighted will include those used by the Chumash, early settlers, mercury miners, cowboys, and early rangers. 

Join local author James Wapotich as he shares images and stories from his hikes and backpacking trips along these historic trails. James has hiked many of the trails in our local backcountry. 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

This talk is sponsored by Santa Barbara Audubon Society, for information about their upcoming bird walks, fields trips, and other events go to www.santabarbaraaudubon.org.

Posted by: James Wapotich | February 5, 2018

Trail Quest: Yellow Banks, Santa Cruz Island

Visited Santa Cruz Island over the holiday break for a 3-day camping trip. On the second day made the hike over to Smugglers Cove and extended it over to Yellow Banks. Plenty of foxes to be seen on the island.

Article appears in section A of today’s edition of Santa Barbara News-Press.

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.

Santa Cruz Island fox climbing tree toyon Channel Islands National Park hike Scorpion Canyon

A Santa Cruz Island Fox feasting on toyon berries

Santa Cruz Island fox climbing tree toyon Channel Islands National Park hike Scorpion Canyon

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Smugglers Cove hike Santa Cruz Island Channel Islands National Park

Smugglers Cove

Yellow Banks hike Santa Cruz Island Channel Islands National Park

Yellow Banks is seen in the late afternoon light

Santa Cruz Island fox napping Channel Islands National Park

A Santa Cruz Island fox settling in for a nap

Scorpion Anchorage Santa Cruz Island Channel Islands National Park

Anacapa Island frames a view overlooking Scorpion Anchorage

 

Posted by: James Wapotich | January 24, 2018

Trail Quest: Gifford Ranch Trail

Hiked the Gifford Trail from Highway 166 to the old ranch site, and then made a large loop along the jeep roads that trace the east and west sides of Gifford Canyon. From the top of the loop there are great views out towards the Carrizo Plain, Caliente Peak, Cuyama Valley, and Sierra Madre Mountains. From the loop, I extended my hike over to Gillam Spring. Both the trough at the ranch site and at Gillam Spring have a steady trickle of water that could conceivably be filtered for drinking.

Article appears in section A of the January 22nd, 2018 edition of Santa Barbara News-Press.

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.

Caliente Peak Mountains Gifford Ranch Trail Cuyama Valley hike Los Padres National Forest

Caliente Peak and the Caliente Mountains are seen from the trail

Gifford Ranch Trail cattle chute hike los padres national forest cuyama valley

An old cattle chute is seen at the Gifford Ranch site

oak Gypsum Canyon Gifford Ranch Trail hike los padres national forest cuyama valley

An oak is seen along the trail in Gypsum Canyon

Posted by: James Wapotich | January 8, 2018

Trail Quest: Through smoke and fire

This week’s article is about fire, grief, and renewal, drawing on my own personal experience and perspective on loss and the power of nature.

“It may be that some little root of the sacred tree still lives. Nourish it then, that it may leaf and bloom, and fill with singing birds.” –Nicholas Black Elk

Article appears in section A of today’s edition of Santa Barbara News-Press.

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 | December 18, 2017

Trail Quest: Hans Christian Andersen Park

Made a loop through Hans Christian Andersen Park in Solvang. The park is shaped by the contours of Adobe Canyon and has two main trails, one on each side of the canyon or creek, that can be combined into a loop hike of about a mile. The 52-acre park has enough undeveloped open space to make for an interesting meander while visiting Solvang.

Article appears in section A of today’s edition of Santa Barbara News-Press.

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.

Hans Christian Andersen Park hike trail Solvang

Coast live oak and valley oak add to the scenery at Hans Christian Andersen Park

 

Posted by: James Wapotich | December 18, 2017

Trail Quest: Arlington Peak

Hiked to Arlington Peak a couple weeks ago and continued on to Cathedral and La Cumbre Peaks. The peak was named after the once famous Arlington Hotel, Santa Barbara’s first luxury hotel.

Article appears in section A of the December 4th, 2017 edition of Santa Barbara News-Press.

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.

Arlington Peak Dragon's Back Mission Canyon Cathedral La Cumbre hike trail Santa Barbara Los Padres National Forest

Arlington Peak and the Dragon’s Back are seen from the access road in Mission Canyon

White Mountain Santa Ynez Mountains Arlington Peak Cathedral La Cumbre Mission Canyon hike trail Santa Barbara Los Padres National Forest

White Mountain and the Santa Ynez Mountains are seen from the route to Arlington Peak

Arlington Peak Dragon's Back Cathedral La Cumbre hike trail Santa Barbara Los Padres National Forest

View towards Arlington Peak from the off-trail route

Cathedral Peak Arlington La Cumbre trail hike Santa Barbara Los Padres National Forest

The summit of Cathedral Peak is seen from the off-trail route

layout rebuilt arlington hotel santa barbara

Grounds and layout of the second, rebuilt Arlington Hotel, bordered by State, Victoria, Chapala, and Sola Streets.

 

Posted by: James Wapotich | November 27, 2017

Trail Quest: Nordhoff Peak

Hiked to Nordhoff Peak and the old lookout tower from Ojai via Pratt Trail. The trail was built in the early 1900s by Ranger George Bald and offers some great views across the Ojai Valley and out towards the Channel Islands. Currently there is no water at Valley View Camp.

Article appears in section A of today’s edition of Santa Barbara News-Press.

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.

Stewart Canyon Valley View Camp Pratt Trail hike ojai Los Padres National Forest Nordhoff Ridge

Upper Stewart Canyon is seen from Pratt Trail

Nordhoff Lookout Tower Camp ridge ojai hike jeep Los Padres National Forest

Nordhoff Tower

 

Posted by: James Wapotich | October 31, 2017

Trail Quest: Ellis Apiary

Hiked to Ellis Apiary a couple weeks ago with Sierra. We were fortunate to have a friend who owns property there and didn’t have to endure the lengthy walk along the road just to get to the beginning of the trail.

Piru Creek is flowing nicely and the intermittent use trail improves once you get near the old hydraulic gold-mining site. Not much to see at Ellis Apiary other than the “winged” stove, but the hike through remote canyon provides a rich sense of immersion and lots of great scenery.

Article appears in section A of the October 23rd, 2017 edition of Santa Barbara News-Press.

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.

Piru Creek Narrow Conglomerate stone Sespe Wilderness Los Padres National Forest hike

First set of narrows along Piru Creek several crossings above the confluence with Agua Blanca Creek

Piru Creek Sespe Wilderness Los Padres National Forest hike Cobblestone Mountain Trail

Piru Creek

Ellis Apiary Camp Cobblestone Mountain Trail Turtle Creek Sespe Wilderness Los Padres National Forest hike

“winged” stove at Ellis Apiary

Piru Canyon Sespe Wilderness Los Padres National Forest

Piru Canyon

Dogbane Piru Creek hike Sespe Wilderness Los Padres National Forest

Sierra cooling her feet near a patch of dogbane

 

Posted by: James Wapotich | October 30, 2017

Trail Quest: Elings Park

Located along Los Positas Road and Cliff Drive, Elings Park is the second largest park in Santa Barbara County after Cachuma Lake Recreation Area. The 230-acre park is less than 15 minutes from downtown Santa Barbara.

Elings is also the largest privately-funded park in the United States. The land is leased from the city and managed and maintained through private donations and user fees.

While a lot of people may be more familiar with Elings Park because of its tennis courts, baseball diamonds, soccer fields, and picnic areas, the park also has a fair amount of hiking trails.

Most of the trails are in the undeveloped southern portion of the park also known as Elings Park South. The network of trails lends itself well to hiking and mountain biking, and can be used to create a variety of loop routes that let you explore the park and the views it has to offer. Most of the trails are generally well-used and maintained.

Elings Park South hike trails Santa Barbara Mesa

The Santa Ynez Mountains frame a view in Elings Park South

A large loop through Elings Park South is about three miles. The hike can be extended into the more developed northern part of the park along Veterans Memorial Walk and through the various nearby picnic areas and overlooks, which add roughly another half-mile round-trip.

Starting from the parking area for Elings Park South, one can make a counter-clockwise loop around the park. The parking area is reached from Cliff Drive near Los Positas Road. The park is open from 7 a.m. to sunset, and a map showing some of the trails can found at http://www.elingspark.org. A Google satellite view of the park will also show the various routes.

From the parking area, head eastward as the trail makes a loop behind the fields of Monroe School. The route leads through a mix of native and non-native plants. Among the native plants are coyote bush, coastal sagebrush, lemonade berry, and coffee berry. Among the non-native plants are fennel and castor bean.

The trail then leads up the large hill that dominates the southern portion of the park, climbing a series of switchbacks. Gaining elevation, the views extend out across Cliff Drive towards Douglas Family Preserve and the Channel Islands.

The trail then crests the hill. As more trails begin to appear, stay to the right. The route leads towards Calle Andalucia, which is an alternate way to access the park, along with Calle Montilla and West Valerio Street.

Just past Calle Andalucia, there is stand of flannel bush, purple sage, and matilija poppies, which may have been planted, since most of the native habitat is either coastal sagebrush or oak woodland.

The trail then arrives at Calle Montilla and the top of the ridge. Here, the views open up across the city towards the Santa Ynez Mountains. At Calle Montilla is an unpaved access roads that follows the ridge, offering options for a shorter loop hike.

From the Calle Montilla entrance, the route descends down towards the more developed northern part of the park and arrives at the parking area at the end of Jerry Harwin Parkway. The parking area can also be accessed from Las Positas Road, as well as on foot or bike from the end of West Valerio Street.

From the parking area, it’s a short way down the road to the beginning of Sierra Club Trail for the return portion of the loop. Just before Sierra Club Trail and the playing fields is George Bliss Drive, which leads up to Veterans Memorial Walk and the picnic areas.

Terrace of Remembrance Veterans Walk Elings Park hike trail Santa Barbara

Terrace of Remembrance

Veterans Memorial Walk was completed in 1997, and honors the 98 servicemen from Santa Barbara County who died in the Vietnam War. The walk ends at the Terrace of Remembrance, which honors servicemen who died in all other conflicts and wars since the Civil War.

Past the Terrace of Remembrance, the path continues uphill to Godric Grove, which is one of the more scenic picnic areas. The nearby Wells Fargo Amphitheater also offers views out across the city.

From Godric Grove continue back along George Bliss Drive, taking in the various overlooks and picnic areas, and returning to Jerry Harwin Parkway.

The history of Elings Park dates back to 1965, when the city landfill at the site became full and was subsequently closed. Shortly afterwards, Jerry Harwin, chairman of the Santa Barbara Parks and Recreation Commission and other city officials began looking at how to convert the 97-acre site into a park for recreational use.

In 1977, the City Council approved the development of the site as a park, including the various proposed sports facilities. Several years later, the non-profit Las Positas Park Foundation was created and began fundraising to make the park a reality.

The park was officially opened in 1985, and named Los Positas Park. In 1991, it was renamed Las Positas Friendship Park.

In 1994, the park foundation agreed to purchase the adjoining 133 acres to the south from Society of Jesus, the Jesuit organization which owned the property. The land comprised what is now Elings Park South.

In 1999, Dr. Virgil Elings donated $1.5 million to complete the purchase and support park improvements. Elings was the co-founder of Goleta-based Digital Instruments. He had just recently taken up paragliding and was inspired to help the park purchase the land. His former wife, Betty Wells, later donated another $800,000. In recognition of the family’s support of the park, it was renamed Elings Park. The B.P. Moser Trust also donated $460,000 towards the purchase.

Today, the privately-funded park serves close to a quarter of a million visitors a year. Its recreational facilities include three baseball diamonds, two soccer fields, a BMX bike track, and six tennis courts. Godric Grove and several other areas can be rented for weddings. The park also has a program for off-leash dog use.

Through these various usage fees, along with grants and donations, the park foundation funds ongoing maintenance and improvement projects. In 2014, the park began charging an entrance fee on weekends to further support the park’s operating costs. Annual parking passes are also available.

Elings park south hike trail Santa Barbara

Coast live oak along the trail in Elings Park South

Continuing with the larger loop hike, Sierra Club Trail starts from Jerry Harwin Parkway and makes its way back to the top of Elings Park South. The trail quickly branches with the two routes connecting near the top.

Stay to the right at the first juncture. Here, Sierra Club Trail leads through a small stand of coast live oak. At the next juncture, also stay to the right, which leads to the far end of the unpaved access road along the ridge and arrives at Jim Vanyo overlook.

From here, follow the access road east, turning right again when it branches. The side road continues towards Moser Meadow and passes the beginning of the trails that trace the western edge of the park.

The overlook and circular stone bench at Moser Meadow provides views towards Arroyo Burro County Beach Park and the ocean, as well as any paragliders that may be taking off.

Near the overlook is the access road used by paragliders that connects back down to the parking area for Elings Park South. Paralleling the road are the high and low routes that loop around the southwestern corner of the park.

The low route descends down towards Las Positas Road and leads through the most diverse amount of native plants in the park. At the intersection of Las Positas Road and Cliff Drive, the route also offers opportunities to continue over to Arroyo Burro County Beach Peak and Douglas Family Preserve for additional hiking and loop opportunities.

The high route offers views out towards Arroyo Burro Open Space and the surrounding area, and is further from the sounds of Las Positas Road. The two routes eventually meet and continue back over to the parking area to complete the loop.

For more information about Elings Park and the recreational opportunities it has to offer, or to reserve a picnic area, make a donation, or become a volunteer go to http://www.elingspark.org.

This article originally appeared in section A of the October 9th, 2017 edition of Santa Barbara News-Press.

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