Posted by: James Wapotich | March 20, 2017

Trail Quest: North Tunnel Trail

With Paradise Road still closed at First Crossing, I hiked down to Gibraltar Dam from East Camino Cielo via North Tunnel and Devil’s Canyon Trail. The reservoir has been spilling since late January. From the dam I continued over to the Sunbird Quicksilver Mine.

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

Gibraltar Reservoir dam trail full los padres national forest

Gibraltar Reservoir between Gidney Cove and the Sunbird Quicksilver Mine

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 20, 2017

Trail Quest: Rose Valley Falls

Hiked to Rose Valley Falls, and then extended the hike by visiting the falls above East and West Fork Lion Camps. Great water out there.

Article appears in Section A of the February 136th, 2017 edition of Santa Barbara News-Press.

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”.

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 20, 2017

Trail Quest: Tangerine Falls

Hiked up to Tangerine Falls shortly after the big rain in February.
 
Article appears in Section A of the March 6th, 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.

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

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

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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. 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

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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

Posted by: James Wapotich | February 7, 2017

Trail Quest: Hiking above Seven Falls

Hiked above Seven Falls weekend before last. A nice off trail scramble to see the famous series of pools and cascades, as well as the lesser known three pools above Seven Falls. All the falls are flowing, however the waterslide at the uppermost of the three pools is currently unusable due to the pool being silted up; the water is not even knee deep at the very base of the slide.

 

Article appears in Section A of the February 6th, 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.

Posted by: James Wapotich | February 1, 2017

Trail Quest: Wildlife camera tracking with David Lee

I’ve been looking at getting a couple of wildlife cameras to take with me into the backcountry and stumbled upon David Lee’s camera tracking class. David is a local wildlife biologist who’s been putting wildlife cameras at various locations in the Ventura/Ojai area such as the Ventura Hills and Ventura River Preserve. Over the past four years he’s captured images of everything from coyotes, bobcat, bears, mountain lions, foxes and deer to various birds and even ringtails with his cameras.

David’s next class will be Thursday, March 2nd, at the Carpinteria Public Library, for more details or to see some of his photos and videos go to www.venturawildlifeguru.net.

Article appears in Section A of the January 30th, 2017 edition of Santa Barbara News-Press.

Grey Fox David Lee wildlife camera tracking trapping Ventura River Preserve Ojai Valley Land Conservancy

Grey fox photographed at Ventura River Preserve, image courtesy David Lee

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.

ringtail cat david lee wildlife camera tracking trapping ventura river preserve Ojai Valley land conservancy

Ringtail photographed at Ventura River Preserve, image courtesy David Lee

David Lee wildlife camera tracking trapping Big Rock Preserve Ventura River

David Lee installing a wildlife camera along the Ventura River at Big Rock Preserve

Posted by: James Wapotich | January 23, 2017

Trail Quest: Refugio to Gaviota, Part 2

The Gaviota Coast extends west from Goleta towards Point Conception. The largely undeveloped stretch of coastline provides numerous opportunities to explore some of southern California’s more remote and scenic beaches.

Along the Gaviota Coast are three state beaches that provide direct access to the coast, as well as camping and other recreational opportunities. Heading west from Goleta they are El Capitan, Refugio, and Gaviota.

When the tides are low enough it’s possible to hike between the different state beaches. The hike from Refugio to Gaviota is about 9.5 miles one way and is best done as a shuttle hike. The area can also be explored by starting at either end and hiking as far as the tides permit before turning back.

Gaviota Coast beach walk hike low tide Refugio Arroyo Hondo

Scenery along the Gaviota Coast

To get to Refugio from Santa Barbara, take Highway 101 west. Continue past the exit for El Capitan State Beach to the exit for Refugio State Beach. To reach Gaviota State Park, continue further up the coast. Currently, the turn off for Gaviota is closed and you will need to continue to the exit for State Route 1 and double back. Parking is found at both Refugio and Gaviota and is $10 per day for day use.

From Refugio, head down to the beach, and continue west around the point that defines the cove at Refugio. The point is one of the more narrow sections along the hike and serves as good indicator whether the rest of the route is passable. Ideally, you’ll want to time your hike to be midway at the lowest point of the tide. A minus low tide is best in that it affords one the best opportunity to complete the hike at a reasonable pace.

About a mile from Refugio, the route leads around another point and the views open up dramatically to the west. From here, one can spot in the distance the train trestle at Arroyo Hondo.

At about the 4.5-mile mark, roughly midway through the hike, one arrives at Arroyo Hondo. Here, the beach is also narrow, but improves as you continue towards Gaviota. Behind the trestle is the arch bridge that served as the original route for Highway 101 across the canyon. The bridge can visited from the nearby Vista Point along Highway 101. From the Vista Point, there is also an informal access down to the beach.

The exposed rocks along the coast at Arroyo Hondo offer some of the best tide pooling along the hike. Here, one can find sea anemones, mussels, limpets, chitons, black turban snails, and a fair amount of starfish.

The long beach walk also affords an opportunity to observe our local shorebirds. Overhead, California brown pelicans regularly flyby in formation. At the water’s edge are long-billed curlews and sanderlings foraging, and of course plenty of seagulls. Depending on what’s washed ashore, one can also find turkey vultures scavenging along the beach.

As the hike continues west, its rounds a number of points on the way to Gaviota. While most of the canyons and points seem to alternate, Cañada de Molina, about 1.5 miles west of Arroyo Hondo, is unique in that the sycamore-lined creek flows out almost at the point.

At about the 7-mile mark from Refugio, the coast rounds another point and Gaviota Pier comes into view. As the hike continues, it arrives at Cañada San Onofre, which is recognizable by the freestanding outcropping of Monterey shale that can be seen at the mouth of the creek.

The coast rounds one final point, before arriving at the mouths of Cañada Alcatraz and Cañada del Cementerio. The two creeks meet the ocean next one another, and both have unique and somewhat forgotten histories.

In 1897, Alcatraz Asphalt Company built a plant and pier at the site to process asphalt. The company’s owner, William F. Crocker, part of the San Francisco banking family, had leased the oil rights to Sisquoc Ranch, where the asphalt was located near La Brea Creek. Two pipelines were built between the sites, one that carried liquid asphalt to the coast, and another that carried naphtha to the mine, which was used to liquify asphalt. Four years later operations ceased when cheaper sources of asphalt were developed in Carpinteria and where UCSB is now.

When oil was discovered south of Santa Maria in the early 1900s, the site was converted to an oil refinery. It was owned by various oil companies over the years, and later served as a marine terminal. Tanks at the site can be seen from the freeway near Mariposa Reina.

Just west of Cañada Alcatraz is Cañada del Cementerio. In 1774, the De Anza expedition, following the route established by Portolà five years earlier, passed through the area. Here, they found a deserted Chumash village and its cemetery, and named the site El Cementerio.

In December 1900, the canyon become our own local version of Promontory Summit when the railroad along the coast was finally completed. For years there existed an unserviced section between Santa Margarita and Ellwood known as “The Gap”. Due to terrain and the resistance of some landowners it wasn’t until 1900 the Southern Pacific line was completed, providing direct service between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

About a mile past Cañada Alcatraz, one arrives at Gaviota. On August 24th, 1769, the Portolà expedition camped here while on their way to Monterey. When they arrived, there was a Chumash village of about 300 people called Onomyo, which the Spanish named San Luis Rey de Francia. It’s said that when a soldier looking for firewood shot a seagull the site became known as Gaviota, Spanish for seagull.

Serving as a scout in the expedition, José Francisco Ortega, later help found the Santa Barbara Presidio and served as its first commandant from 1782-1784. In 1795, Ortega retired from military service. The previous year he had been awarded a land grant from the Spanish Crown, which he named Rancho Nuestra Señora del Refugio, Our Lady of Refuge.

The grant covered 26,529 acres from Refugio to Cojo Bay, and inland into the Santa Ynez Mountains. Over the years, the grant was broken up and sold off by his heirs.

During the 1850s, the Hollister and Dibblee families acquired most of land that was part of Ortega’s original land grant, as well as Rancho San Julian to the northwest.

William Welles Hollister, moved to California in the early 1850s, and established a successful sheep ranching operation in Monterey County. After he sold the operation, he moved to Santa Barbara County, where he began purchasing land, including property in Tecolote Canyon, which he named Glen Annie, after his wife, Hannah Annie James Hollister. The road leading to their ranch is now known as Hollister Avenue.

Albert and his brothers Thomas and Henry Dibblee arrived in Santa Barbara County around the same time as Hollister and also began purchasing land.

Seeing mutual advantage, the Hollisters and Dibblees formed a partnership. Together they ran one of the largest sheep ranching operations in the state, controlling close to 140,000 acres of land in Santa Barbra County.

As part of their ranching operation along the coast they built a wharf at Gaviota in 1874, near where the current pier is now. The pier was later destroyed during a storm in 1912.

Over the years, the facilities at Gaviota were expanded to include a stage coach station, inn, and general store that also served as a post office. When the railroad arrived, the site became a railway station.

In the late 1880s, the Hollisters and Dibblees dissolved their partnership and divided up their holdings.

In 1926, the county of Santa Barbara purchased 8.8 acres of land around the beach for a county park, and in 1951, built a new pier. The pier suffered storm damage in 2014, and is currently closed.

In 1952, the county deeded the park to the State of California, but maintained the campground under a lease until 1969. In 1964, the state acquired additional land expanding the park into the Santa Ynez Mountains, and three years later purchased the land around Las Cruces.

Today, Gaviota State Park encompasses 2,787 acres and has over 30 miles of trails. The site features 39 campsites, although currently the park is only open for day use; the campsites are scheduled to reopen in March. For more information about the park go to http://www.parks.ca.gov.

This article originally appeared in Section A of the January 23rd, 2017 edition of Santa Barbara News-Press.

Posted by: James Wapotich | January 17, 2017

Trail Quest: Refugio to Gaviota, Part 1

The Gaviota Coast from Goleta out towards Point Conception is one of the more scenic sections of coastline in our area. It is rich with history and offers numerous opportunities for long, quite beach walks. The coastline runs parallel to the Santa Ynez Mountains, and the different canyons and contours create a variety of points and coves to explore.

The are three state beaches along the coast that provide direct access to the beach, as well as camping and other recreational opportunities. Heading west from Goleta, the first is El Capitán, followed by Refugio, and then Gaviota. When the tides are low enough it’s possible to hike between the different sites.

The hike from Refugio to Gaviota is about 9.5 miles. The easiest way to set up the hike is as a shuttle trip and the best time to go is when there’s a minus low tide. One can also start at either end and hike as far as the tide permits and then turn back. It’s best to time your hike so the lowest point of the tide is roughly midway through your hike.

Refugio State Beach Tajiguas Gaviota Coast hike Santa Barbara Goleta

View looking west near Tajiguas Beach

To get to Refugio State Beach from Santa Barbara, take Highway 101 north and continue past El Capitán State Beach. Take the exit for Refugio State Beach and continue into the park. Day use at the park is $10.

The first people along the coast were the Chumash, with sites dating as far back as 13,000 years ago. The Chumash had a number of villages along the Gaviota Coast at different points in their history. The village of Qasil was located along Refugio Creek, near where the state park is now.

The village likely served as a trading port between the islands and the interior, with Chumash tomols, or wooden plank canoes, carrying goods back and forth between Santa Cruz Island. From Qasil there was a trail over the mountains to the villages in the Santa Ynez Valley. There was also a trade route along the coast to Mikiw and Kuya’mu in Dos Pueblos Canyon. Another route likely went up the coast to Osomyo, where Gaviota State Park is now.

In 1542, Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo was the first European to sail up the coast of California, stopping at the Channel Islands. However, the first overland expedition wasn’t until 1769, when Gaspar de Portolà set out to establish an overland route to Monterey. The expedition had already traveled from Baja California to reach San Diego and continued north through what is now southern California passing through Santa Barbara and along the Gaviota Coast on the way to Monterey.

Tajiguas Beach Gaviota Coast Refugio walk hike Santa Barbara Goleta

Tajiguas Beach

In the expedition, serving as scout, was José Francisco Ortega, who had been recruited by Portolà. Ortega was a Spaniard living in Baja California. A former soldier, he was serving as the mayor of a mining community when Portolà asked him to re-enlist.

Ortega was one of the first Europeans to see San Francisco Bay, and later founded the Presidio in Santa Barbara in 1782, serving as its first commandant. In 1795, he retired from the military.

The previous year the Spanish Crown had awarded him a land grant, which he named Rancho Nuestra Señora del Refugio, Our Lady of Refuge. The grant extended along the coast from Refugio to Cojo Bay, and inland into the Santa Ynez Mountains, covering 26,529 acres. Ortega built his home near Refugio Creek. When he passed away in 1798, his descendants inherited the grant.

In addition to cattle and farming, it’s said that one of the main activities of the ranch was smuggling. Prior to Mexico’s independence from Spain, only Spanish ships had permission to trade along the coast. Ships from other nations wanting to engage in trade needed to find secluded places and willing participants for their commerce. Refugio Bay proved an ideal location, and with the limited supply of goods available legally, the Ortegas became one of the wealthiest families in California.

In 1818, Hippolyte Bouchard, a privateer in the service of the newly independent Argentine Republic, sailed to Monterey, where he looted and burned the city. Bouchard had heard of Ortega’s wealth and continued down the coast to take it. However, the Ortega’s had been tipped off of his arrival, hid their valuables, and fled over the mountains to Mission Santa Ynez. Finding little to take, Bouchard burned the Ortega’s home and killed their livestock. When the Ortegas rebuilt their adobe it was further inland.

Over the years, the original land grant was broken up and sold. In the early 1900s, the land at Refugio Creek was acquired by Stephen and Jessie Rutherford.

During the 1920s, with automobiles becoming more common and people visiting the coast, the Rutherfords saw a business opportunity. They built cabins for rent and a store at the beach, and also planted the long row of palms trees still seen there today.

In 1950, the Rutherfords sold the land to the State of California, and 13 years later it became a state beach.

Today, Refugio State Beach has 69 reservable campsites, including three group sites, as well as picnic areas and a convenience store. Reservations can be made at http://www.parks.ca.gov.

For the beach hike, head west along the coast, rounding the point that defines the cove at Refugio. The rocky point is one of the narrowest along the hike, and a good indicator of whether the rest of the route is passable. The coast near Arroyo Hondo, roughly halfway, is another narrow point between Refugio and Gaviota. By starting 2-3 hours before the tide is at its lowest and keeping a reasonable pace, it is possible to make it all the way to Gaviota.

The main rock type along the coast is Monterey shale, and through one section, with a little imagination the large pieces of eroded rock can look like fallen Roman columns. Amongst the crevices of these rocks one can find numerous striped shore crabs hiding out.

The low tide also offers an opportunity to see some of the marine life that is often hidden by the water. Along the hike it’s possible to see mussels, limpets, chitons, and sea anemones on the exposed rocks.

After about a mile, the hike rounds a point and the views open up dramatically to the west. The scenery extends along the coast and is framed by the Santa Ynez Mountains. In the distance one can spot the train trestle at Arroyo Hondo.

About a mile later, one arrives at Tajiguas Creek. The creek passes under the freeway and railroad through a cement tunnel, and so the main landmark here is a large, lone eucalyptus tree next to the beach. On August 23, 1769, Portola’s expedition camped along Tajiguas Creek on their way up the coast.

Another mile further is Arroyo Quemada, which is easier to identify. Here, the canyon is more open and one can see houses overlooking the beach. Please respect private property.

Continuing along the coast, the beach begins to narrow as it approaches Arroyo Hondo, however there is a long cement retaining wall that can be used if the tides are against you.

At about the 4.5-mile mark from Refugio, one arrives at Arroyo Hondo. Across the canyon is a large railroad trestle, as well as the bridge that served as the original route for Highway 101. The bridge can also be visited from the Vista Point along Highway 101. There is an informal access from the Vista Point down to the beach.

Arroyo Hondo was the last parcel of land from the original Nuestra Señora del Refugio grant to pass from the Ortega family. The property was sold in 1908 to the Hollister family. In 2001, the Hollisters sold the land to the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County, which now manages it.

From here, it’s another five miles to Gaviota State Park. The route becomes even more scenic and a little easier in terms of the tides. There are still some rocky points, but overall they’re not as narrow as the area near Arroyo Hondo and the point at Refugio.

This article originally appeared in Section A of the January 16th, 2017 edition of Santa Barbara News-Press.

striped thin-line shore crab gaviota coast refugio state beach walk hike

A striped or thin-lined shore crab watches from the rocks

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