Posted by: James Wapotich | December 28, 2018

Trail Quest: Cow Canyon, Santa Rosa Island

Lobo Canyon Santa Rosa Island hike trail Channel Islands National Park

Lobo Canyon

Santa Rosa is the second largest of the four islands off our coast. The island covers 83 square miles, and unlike Santa Cruz Island, is entirely within Channel Island National Park, providing the largest area overall within the park to explore.

In addition to the campground in Water Canyon, Santa Rosa Island also offers backcountry beach camping. From August 15 to September 15, the beaches along the south shore between East Point and South Point are open to dispersed camping. From September 16 to December 31, all beaches are open except those along the eastern shore between Carrington Point and East Point, Lobo Canyon, and around Sandy Point.

Backcountry beach camping is not for everyone, there are no designated campsites, no restrooms or picnic tables, and no campfires allowed on the island, only portable cook stoves. There is little shade on the island and reliable water is found in only nine of the creeks; conditions along the coast can also be windy.

Camping is permitted on the beach above the high tide line, and so it’s important to check the tides before going, as well as check in the with the rangers beforehand to learn about current conditions.

Reservations are required and available through Recreation.gov. Backpackers will also need to familiarize themselves with the rules and regulations regarding backcountry beach camping, which can be found at, www.nps.gov/chis, along with other information about the islands. A helpful map to carry is National Geographic’s Trails Illustrated map of Channel Islands National Park.

In spite of the challenges, experienced backpackers in good shape often find the rewards of exploring the island’s remote beaches and traversing its expansive landscape worth the effort.

The nearest destination for backpacking on the north shore is Cow Canyon, which is about five miles from the landing pier. The route leads through scenic Lobo Canyon.

The easiest way to reach the island is through Islands Packers, www.islandpackers.com , which offers trips to all five of the islands within the national park. The boat ride is about 2.5 hours.

From the landing pier, continue to the top of the access road, and take the road immediately on the right. The unpaved ranch road leads past some of the old ranch buildings and the research station, arriving at the signed beginning of Smith Highway.

From here, Smith Highway crosses Windmill Creek, before than climbing away from the coast passing through mostly non-native grassland dotted with coyote brush, lemonade berry, and patches of island poppy. As the road continues it offers views back towards the landing pier, Bechers Bay, and out towards western Santa Cruz Island.

At the 1.25-mile mark, the trail arrives at the turnoff to Carrington Point. The hike out to the point and back is about six miles roundtrip. The trail follows a ranch road for the first three-quarters of a mile where it meets another ranch road that leads back down towards the landing pier.

From this intersection, the road out to the point passes through a gate, becoming more of a single-track trail. As it continues the diversity of plants increases; along the route are lupine, goldenbush, island poppy, morning glory, and the rare, endangered island paintbrush.

The trail ends overlooking the point. From here, an off-trail route leads steeply down to the ocean.

In 1994, a nearly complete pygmy mammoth skeleton was found in an ancient dune near Carrington Point. During the last ice age, when the sea level was 300-400 feet lower, the four islands off our coast were part of a larger, single island called Santarosae. This super island covered roughly four times the land area of the islands today.

20,000 years ago the climate of southern California was cooler and wetter and the islands were more forested. It’s believed that Columbian mammoths on the mainland were drawn to Santarosae by the smell of vegetation.

Excellent swimmers, mammoths with their buoyant mass and snorkel-like trunk, could easily cross the four to five-mile distance from the mainland to Santarosae. Modern elephants, descendants of mammoths, have been known to swim as much as 23 miles across open water.

Once on the island, as their numbers increased and resources grew more scarce, natural selection favored smaller-sized mammoths that required less food and water. The lack of mainland predators, unable to make the swim, also made being large less advantageous. In comparison to their fore-bearers, pygmy mammoths shrank over time from 14 feet tall to 6 feet tall, and from 20,000 pounds down to 2,000 pounds.

It’s still not clear why pygmy mammoths went extinct, but their die off coincides with the mass extinction of much of North America’s megafauna, including the saber-toothed tiger, horse, sloth, and short-faced bear, along with the mammoth and mastodon on the mainland.

The oldest human remains on the islands date back to 13,000 years ago at Arlington Springs on Santa Rosa Island and roughly coincides with youngest mammoth remains; however, there is currently no direct evidence that humans hunted mammoths on the islands.

Pygmy mammoths remains have been found on Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and western Santa Cruz Islands.

Other animals that once lived on the islands include flightless ducks, a species of puffin, ornate shrews, and giant island deer mice.

Today, aside from a handful of horses from the ranching era allowed to roam free, the land mammals still living on the island are Santa Rosa Island fox, spotted skunk, and deer mouse.

From the turnoff to Carrington Point, Smith Highway continues west another 1.75 miles towards Lobo Canyon. The transition at the edge of the canyon is striking, 150 years of ranching history has reduced much of the island to non-native grassland dotted with chaparral plants, but here, in Lobo Canyon is a glimpse of what more of the island used to look like.

The road descends into the canyon arriving at the signed beginning of the trail down to the ocean. Across the road, under the oaks, are two picnic tables.

A number of the plants found in Lobo Canyon and on the island were used by the Chumash. Near the picnic tables are several elderberry bushes. Wood from elderberry can be used to make flutes and clapper sticks, as well as hand drills and hearth boards for making fire by friction.

As the trail continues down the canyon, it passes through toyon, island oak, and coast live oak. Berries from toyon can be toasted on a hot rock or dried in the sun, and later eaten. Wood from toyon can be used to make a variety of tools, including arrows, harpoons, and digging sticks.

Acorns from the oaks, can be shelled, with the inner kernel ground up and leached to remove the bitter tannin. The acorn meal can be made into a mush that was a staple of the Chumash, who would mix in seeds and berries to enhance the flavor.

Fruit from coastal prickly pear can be eaten and its red juice used as a paint pigment.

Flowing through the canyon is an intermittent year-round creek, one of nine on the island. The other canyons with fairly reliable water are Cow, Soledad, Arlington, La Jolla Vieja, Wreck, San Augustin, Old Ranch House, and Water Canyons.

The creek in Lobo Canyon supports a number of riparian plants including cattail, horsetail, willow, and cottonwood; and in contrast to other parts of the island feels almost forested. Other plants growing in the canyon include wild blackberry, poison oak, and mugwort, as well as, island buckwheat, giant coreopsis, and dudleya.

The canyon itself is carved from tuffaceous sandstone and siltstone, and the wind and water-sculptured rocks add to the sense of being in another world.

The trail then arrives at the mouth of the canyon and a scenic pocket beach. From here, continue west along the bluffs another half-mile to reach Cow Canyon.

Where Cow Canyon meets the ocean it flows over the bluff forming a small waterfall and pocket beach. The beach can be accessed from the western side. If the route down to the beach is unsafe then camping in an open area above the beach is an option.

Water can be found in the creek, and on my visit, recent rain helped improve both the flow and flavor of the water. A fairy reliable sandstone pool of water can be found in the main canyon about a quarter of a mile up the canyon, just past the confluence with a side creek. Water from the island should be filtered.

An alternate route from Cow Canyon back to Smith Highway is to follow the ridgeline between Cow and Lobo Canyons. An old jeep route at one time followed the ridgeline all the way to the top of Black Mountain.

This article originally appeared in section A of the December 24th, 2018 edition of Santa Barbara News-Press

Lobo Canyon trail hike Santa Rosa Island Channel Islands National Park

Lobo Canyon

Carrington Point trail hike Santa Rosa Island Channel Islands National Park

Carrington Point

Posted by: James Wapotich | December 13, 2018

Trail Quest: Pelican Bay, Santa Cruz Island

Pelican Bay Trail Western Santa Cruz Island hiking Nature Conservancy

Scenery along the trail to Pelican Bay

Currently working on a series of articles on the Channel Islands. During the last ice age, roughly 20,000 years ago, the sea level was 300-400 feet lower, and the four islands off our coast – Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel – were part of one larger, single island called Santarosae. During the last glacial maximum Southern California was wetter and cooler, more akin to Northern California today. The islands were more forested and featured a diverse understory. As the climate became warmer, oaks and chaparral became more dominant, however relict plants from those cooler and wetter times can still be found on the islands, including along the hike to Pelican Bay.

This week’s article is the third of three covering Santa Cruz Island. The next article in the series will cover the hike out to Lobo and Cow Canyons on Santa Rosa Island.

Article appears in section A of the December 10th, 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.

Tinker's Cove Pelican Bay hike trail western Santa Cruz Island Nature Conservancy

Tinker’s Cove

Island scrub jay Santa Cruz island

Island scrub jay

Posted by: James Wapotich | November 19, 2018

Trail Quest: Del Norte Camp, Santa Cruz Island

Eastern Santa Cruz Island Red Mountain Diablo Peak hiking backpacking Channel Islands national park

Looking west, Red Mountain and Diablo Peak are seen in the distance from the trail

Currently working on a series of articles on the Channel Islands. During the last ice age, roughly 20,000 years ago, the sea level was 300-400 feet lower, and the four islands off our coast – Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel – were part of one larger, single island called Santarosae. Between 11,000 and 9,000 years ago, Santarosae was gradually broken into the four smaller islands we know today. The series will trace an imagined traverse across Santarosae east to west.

This week’s article is the second of three covering Santa Cruz Island and describes backpacking from Scorpion Anchorage over to Prisoner’s Harbor. The next article in the series will cover the hike out to Pelican Bay.

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 | November 5, 2018

Trail Quest: Montañon Peak, Santa Cruz Island

Montañon Ridge Peak hike eastern Santa Cruz Island trail Channel Islands National Park

Montañon Ridge is seen from the trail

Currently working on a series of articles on the Channel Islands. During the last ice age, roughly 20,000 years ago, the sea level was 300-400 feet lower, and the four islands off our coast – Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel – were part of one larger, single island called Santarosae. Between 11,000 and 9,000 years ago, Santarosae was gradually broken into the four smaller islands we know today. The series will trace an imagined traverse across Santarosae east to west.

This week’s article is the first of three covering Santa Cruz Island and describes the hike to the top of Montañon Peak, which overlooks the eastern end of the island. The next article in the series will describe backpacking from Scorpion Anchorage over to Prisoner’s Harbor.

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.

This article also represents the 300th Trail Quest article, since I first started writing the column, eight years ago. If you’d like to see that very first article, go to Trail Quest: Aliso Canyon.

Posted by: James Wapotich | October 31, 2018

Trail Quest: Anacapa Island

Anacapa Island Santarosae ice age Channel Island National Park

The eastern end of Anacapa Island is seen from offshore

Starting a new series of articles on the Channel Islands. During the last ice age, when the sea level was 300-400 feet lower, the four islands off our coast – Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel – were part of one larger, single island called Santarosae. The series will trace an imagined traverse across Santarosae starting with what is now Anacapa.

The first article appears in section A of the October 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.

Posted by: James Wapotich | October 31, 2018

Trail Quest: Lizard’s Mouth and the Goddard sites

Lizard's Mouth hike climb trail West Camino Cielo Los Padres National Forest

Lizard’s Mouth

Recently visited Lizard’s Mouth and checked out the Goddard sites along West Camino Cielo.

Dwight Goddard was the author of The Buddhist Bible, and helped to bring Buddhism into mainstream Western culture. Published in 1932, Goddard’s book would later go on to inspire Jack Kerouac 21 years later and his book The Dharma Bums, which helped introduce Buddhism to the Beat Generation. In 1934, Goddard had hoped to start a Buddhist-style monastery on his property along West Camino Cielo, but the venture was short-lived due to lack of participants. Goddard later donated the land to the forest service to be used as a picnic area.

The picnic area on the south side of the road was removed during the 1970s, but remnants from the Goddard residence on the north side of the road can still be found.

Article appears in section A of the October 1st, 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.

Cedar growing at the old Goddard site

Posted by: James Wapotich | September 28, 2018

Navigating Wilderness

Navigating Wilderness skills class map reading route finding edible and medicinal plants tracks tracking hiking backpacking Mike Kresky Lanny Kaufer

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Navigating Wilderness skills class map reading route finding edible and medicinal plants tracks tracking hiking backpacking Mike Kresky Lanny Kaufer

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Navigating Wilderness
Saturdays, Oct. 27-Nov. 17

Learn from local experts how to read the landscape and trails, and become more familiar with the native plants and animals of our area through this immersive class.

The Santa Barbara and Ojai backcountry offers more than 500,000 acres of designated wilderness and hundreds of miles of trails to explore, and yet often the biggest obstacle to venturing out on the land or going deeper into nature is simply having the skills and confidence to get started.

Through this immersive four Saturday workshop, you will learn how to read the landscape and trails; become more familiar with the edible and medical plants of our region; learn about the animals of our area and how to recognize their tracks; and build skills and awareness that allow you to feel more at home in the woods.

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.

Reading the Landscape
October 27th, 9AM-2PM

Learn how to orient yourself to the local landscape, read the topography, and create your own mental maps. Discover how to navigate the backcountry without the use of a compass or GPS; and learn to remove the word lost from your vocabulary.

Edible and Medicinal Plants
November 3rd, 9AM-2PM

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

Join local plant expert Lanny Kaufer as we learn about the edible and medicinal plants in our area. Many of these plants were first used by the Chumash and have a rich ethnobotanical history.

Plants are great teachers of how to adapt to a particular place and move with the seasons. Learn how to recognize a number of our native plants; where to find them; and their different uses.

Animal Tracks and Tracking
November 10th, 9AM-2PM

Our backcountry is home to a rich variety of animals that often goes unseen by us. Join local tracker and naturalist Mike Kresky as we learn about these animals and their relationship to the land. Learn how to recognize some of the common tracks of our local mammals, birds, and even reptiles.

Tuning into the wildlife around us can deepen our awareness of place and through our senses connect us to the aliveness of the natural world.

Routefinding
November 17th, 9AM-2PM

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. We will work with how to create a trail narrative and interpret the landscape, and begin to see nature as an ally and how to hone and trust your senses.

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. He leads guided hikes and has hiked many of the trails in our local backcountry.

Lanny Kaufer regularly leads Herb Walks and Nature Hikes in Ojai and Santa Barbara and recently celebrated his 40th year of teaching people about edible and medicinal plants. He has studied with William LeSassier and has led herb walks with the late Chumash plant expert Juanita Centeno and Dr. Jim Adams of the USC School of Pharmacy. www.herbwalks.com

Mike Kresky is an accomplished naturalist and wildlife tracker. He co-authored the field guide Animal Tracks and Scat of California and has completed the intensive Kamana Naturalist Training Program. He leads workshops on tracking and has explored much of the local backcountry.

All four Saturday classes take place on our local trails.

To sign up or for more information, please contact:
James (805) 729-4250 jwapotich@yahoo.com

Workshop is $175 per person, or bring a friend and both $150 each.
Must be able to comfortably hike 2-3 miles

Posted by: James Wapotich | September 26, 2018

Historic Mines & Trails of the Santa Barbara Backcountry

Historic Mines and trails of the Santa Barbara backcountry quicksilver sunbird chromite white rock barite white elephant mine moraga limestone lithographic los padres national forest

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Historic Mines & Trails of the Santa Barbara Backcountry

Free Slideshow Presentation with Q&A

Thursday, October 18th, 6:30PM
Faulkner Gallery – Santa Barbara Public Library
40 East Anapamu St., Santa Barbara, CA

While not necessarily rich in gold and silver, our local mountains have other minerals and resources that were valuable enough for prospectors to search for them and miners to build trails to access them in the remote wilderness behind Santa Barbara.

This talk will highlight a half-dozen historic mines and trails, ranging from Quicksilver Mines along the Santa Ynez River, to Chromite, Barite, and Lithographic Limestone mines in the San Rafael Mountains. Places that can still be visited today as part of a day hike or backpacking trip.

Join local author James Wapotich as he shares images and stories from his hikes along these historic routes. 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 part of the ongoing 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 talk in the series is Thursday, November 15th, When the Animals Were People – storytelling with Chumash elder Julie Tumamait.

Posted by: James Wapotich | September 21, 2018

Trail Quest: Antimony and Eagle Rest Peaks

Hiked to Antimony and Eagle Rest Peaks a couple weeks ago. The trail to the saddle near Antimony Peak follows an old jeep road and is in good condition overall with some loose granite covering the trail on the ascent up to the saddle. The relatively short off-trail route east to summit is well-marked with cairns. Great views from the peak stretching east out towards the Tehachapi Mountains, north towards Frazier Mountain and Mount Pinos, and south towards Eagle Rest Peak, framed by the Southern San Joaquin Valley.

From the saddle, the old jeep road continues north and then north east a quarter-mile down to where the miners’ cabins were located.

Also, from the saddle, the off-trail route to Eagle Rest Peak continues north-northwest, following the ridgeline down to the peak. The route is fairly well-marked with cairns and, in some places, flagging. The wear pattern of the trail is remarkably consistent and in that regard is generally easy to follow. The full hike to both peaks is a somewhat strenuous roller-coaster of a hike, involving 2,900 feet of combined elevation loss and 2,400 feet of combined elevation gain on the hike out; the numbers are then reversed on the return hike. The final ascent to Eagle Rest Peak requires some rock scrambling, but also offers some great views of the surrounding area.

Article appears in section A of the September 17th, 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.

Antimony Peak San Emigdio Mountains jeep road trail hike los padres national forest

Antimony Peak in the early morning light

Eagle Rest Peak hike trail San Emigdio Mountain San Joaquin Valley Los Padres National Forest

Eagle Rest Peak with the southern San Joaquin Valley in the distance

Eagle Rest Peak trail hike San Emigdio Mountains Los Padres National Forest

Scenery along the trail to Eagle Rest Peak looking east

Eagle Rest Peak hike trail san emigdio mountains los padres national forest

Scenery along the trail to Eagle Rest Peak looking west

Eagle Rest Peak trail hike san emigdio mountains los padres national forest

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Posted by: James Wapotich | September 4, 2018

Trail Quest: McGill Trail and the Perseids

Camped at McGill Campground at the height of the Perseid meteor shower. Stayed up late to watch the meteors and then hiked McGill Trail the next day.

McGill Trail leads through mostly Jeffrey pines with a mixed understory of snowberry and whitethorn ceanothus and other plants along the trail. The trail offers some great views out across Cuddy Valley towards Frazier Mountain, as well as out across Tecuya Ridge and the San Emigdio Mountains towards the San Joaquin Valley and southernmost Sierra Nevada. Also made a hike to Mount Pinos.

The Perseids are an annual meteor shower that peaks in August. They are definitely worth catching. Mount Pinos lends itself well as an ideal location for viewing meteor showers and the night sky in general because of the often clear skies and low light pollution.

The next upcoming meteor shower that is equally promising is the Geminids, which will peak at 4:30 a.m., Friday, December 14, with good viewing Thursday night starting shortly before midnight when the moon sets.

Article appears in section A of the September 3rd, 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.

McGill Trail hike San Emigdio Mountains Tecuya Ridge Mount Pinos Los Padres National Foreest

The San Emigdio Mountains frame a view from McGill Trail

Jeffrey pines McGill Trail hike San Emigdio Mountains Tecuya Ridge Mount Pinos Los Padres National Foreest

Jeffrey pines are seen along McGill Trail

 

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