Barger Peak

Fri, Oct 21, 2016
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profile

I was in Santa Barbara for a VB tournament my daughter's high school team was playing in. My van had been converted from cozy camper for one to team shuttle bus, one of three used to drive the 13 members between San Jose and Santa Barbara and then from the hotel to one of two high schools in the area where games were being played. Their first match was scheduled for 2:30p which gave me most of the morning to get some exercise in. I'd brought my road bike so I would be able to leave the van for my wife to drive for shopping/beach/brunch trips as needed/requested for the team, none of which interested me much. I had in mind a visit to Barger Peak, an officially unnamed summit in the Santa Ynez Mountains that form the backdrop for Santa Barbara and the surrounding coastal communities. I had gotten some beta about a use trail from the south off the Arroyo Burro Trail that would cut through to the summit of this chapparal-covered peak, and thought with a combination of biking and hiking I could make the round trip effort in 4-5hrs.

It was around 7:30a when I left the hotel near State Street, riding north through town in the early morning hour. A heat wave had brought temperatures close to 90F to the area since Tuesday and today was expected to be similar. I had a quart of Gatorade with me that proved a little inadequate, but I made do. I was hoping to ride to the end of N. Ontare Rd where it looked from the satellite view that I could pick up the Arroyo Burro Trail, but little did I know about the complexities of Santa Barbara public access issues. It seems that developments high in the hills had cut off access to the Arroyo Burro Trail and the highest roads I hoped to ride were private and gated. The city had successfully sued the landowners for an easement to this historic trail which can be accessed from Franklin Park and the Jesusita Trail at SR192. Signs then direct hikers along the route through private property and roadways to the edge of the Los Padres National Forest where a set of transmission towers run across the foothills. Not knowing this ahead of time, I ended up dumping my bike out of sight behind a wall of old construction debris, scrambling down through poison oak and brush to the dry San Roque Creek where I then picked up the Jesusita Trail on the other side. From there I hiked the trail to the junction with the Arroyo Burro and through the private lands as described above. Once at the transmission towers, the fire road ends and the single track trail resumes through forest lands.

I followed the trail for several miles as it climbs up the south side of Barger Peak before starting to traverse northwest into Barger Canyon. For the last half mile I was keeping a close watch at the brush on the right side of the trail, looking for a cairn or opening to mark the use trail I was looking for. Though unmarked and easy to miss, I eventually found it further west than I had been expecting. The clipped trail climbs steeply through heavy brush, eventually landing on a class 3 east-west ridgeline that rises higher towards the summit. This was an unexpected but fun bit of scrambling on a sandstone ridgeline. If one is uncomfortable on class 3 terrain, there is no optional trail bypassing the ridge on either side. Eventually the trail resumes where the rock peters out, continuing to the brushy summit where you can take your pick of several rock outcrops vying for the highpoint. I found no register as described in the beta I'd gotten from George of Santa Barbara in 2014, but then I didn't really look very hard. By now it was 10:45a and I was feeling a bit pressed for time. I snapped a few photos looking east to Catherdral Peak, south overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and west along the Santa Ynez spine.

As I was descending back down the use trail and along the class 3 ridge, I was getting periodic texts from my wife who was wondering if I was going to make it back in time and other various inquiries. Each time, I had to stop, take off my gloves, pull out my readers, dust off the phone's glass and try and read her latest message in the bright sunlight. After three or four of these I just called her (who knew phones could do this?) and explained how each text was simply delaying me further - no more texts after that. I ran out of Gatorade at the same time I returned to the bike, riding the last half hour back to town and the hotel a bit thirsty. I got back almost exactly at 1p, enough time for a shower, change of clothes and something to quench my thirst. Now time to go watch volleyball...

Continued...


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Anonymous comments on 02/06/17:
Hey, pretty cool to see you found the current trail and made the summit. After the fire there was a use path straight up the southwest face to the rectangular false summit block, but it was too sloggy and the 3rd class ridge was too fun, so we shifted the trail over there. (Prior to the fire, we would go straight up the south face from the arch---that was rough with the old growth.) FYI: The register is in a plastic ammo can tucked under the highest block---if it were a rattler it would've bit you, judging from your pics. (George's previous register had disintegrated.) Also, there's a trail on the north side linking to Camino Cielo which makes for a nice loop or an add-on if you're doing a multi-peaks hike.
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