I was with the family in Santa Barbara, spending the night on our way to LA
for Thanksgiving. We'd eaten dinner with my brother who lives in town before
checking into the Hotel Milo afterwards. Once the wife and daughter were
comfortably ensconced in our room, I asked, "Hey, do you mind if I go on a
night hike?" They looked askance before responding, "You don't expect us to go
with you, do you?" Of course not, that would be silly. And hiking at night is
often a silly proposition, usually reserved for private property summits that
I'm too afraid to try in the daytime. But tonight was a full moon and I thought
it would be fun to drive up to Camino Cielo above the Santa Barbara skyline to
hike a few easy summits that I had planned to do when I was last here a month
earlier. All of them are part of the Los Padres NF, no trespassing necessary,
and though it was rather cold (about 34F), I was bundled up accordingly and it
was great fun.
This was the easternmost of the three I visited. I started from the end of
East Camino Cielo's pavement at Romero Saddle, traveling an easy-to-follow
trail along the crest of the Santa Ynez Range. The rough trail appears to be
used by motorcycles (though I don't think legally) and mountain bikes (legally).
It was only about 1.5mi to the summit, but the trail and various branches
continue for many more miles in different direction. Given more time, it
would make for an enjoyable all-day hike out and back along the ridge. I could
see coastal lights from Oxnard to Santa Barbara
while offshore more than a
dozen oil rigs are brightly lit. With the bright moon overhead, even the larger
of the Channel Islands could be seen far to the south. Inland to the north,
stretch the softly lit mountains of the San Rafael and Dick Smith Wildernesses.
It was easy to see the light-colored trail by moonlight, making it fairly safe
even at jogging speed on the downhills.
This summit can be reached via a short but interesting scramble from the west,
about 1/2mi in length. The summit is a rocky perch with swell views in all
directions, particularly of the Santa Barbara city lights. I played around with
the red LED on my headlamp to "paint" the nearby rocks for the long exposure
photo I took. Perhaps a little less painting would work better...
This was the most interesting peak, but not for the views (which were limited).
I had indentified it ahead of time simply as Peak 3,825ft which I gathered from
LoJ, and from the satellite view had seen what looked like a thin trail
starting up from Gibralter Rd, southeast of the summit. As I drove back down
Gibralter from Camino Cielo, I went slowly by where I thought I might find
the start. I paused in the road and got out to check as I passed by,
quickly noting an unsigned trail starting up. I parked the car off to
the side (very little room next to the trail where I stopped, but better spots
not far up and down the road) and started up. It was already about 10:30p and
figured I'd better hustle if I was going to get back by the expected midnight
return. It turns out this is part of an informal trail network that has been
constructed in the area, where "constructed" really means clipping brush and
adding a few ducks. Later I found that this trail is more locally known with
that I wish I'd seen beforehand. It shows an even easier access trail
starting from the junction of Gibralter and Camino Cielo just north of the
summit. The trails leads to a place called the Rock Garden on
the south side of White Mtn, home to a bunch of interesting sandstone boulders
with caves and other features. A spur trail goes to the summit where I found a
nice wooden sign
designating the summit as White Mountain. I got off the main
trail about halfway up and spent some time in the brush on the east side of
the summit. After getting tantalizingly close I had given up and started back
down when I discovered the correct trail branch and zipped up to the summit.
So many interesting things to discover in the hills around Santa Barbara - I'm
already looking forward to my next opportunity to return for more fun...