Peak 3,269ft P300

Jun 16, 2018
Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile

It was the end of my daughter's first year at college and I had driven down in the early morning from San Jose to collect her and her stuff from UCSB. She had been keen when I suggested a hike the day before, but by the time we had driven up to East Camino Cielo on the crest of the Santa Ynez Range she was already falling asleep. Coastal clouds had the ridgeline steeped in fog and there would be no views today, no sunshine and little to hold Jackie's interest. I left her in the car to catch up on her sleep, telling her I'd be back in an hour, at most. It would be almost 2.5hrs before I returned.

I was after an obscure, unnamed summit less than half a mile from the road as the crow flies. I knew it would be a brushy affair, but how hard could it be with such a short distance? Plenty, it turns out. The starting point is also the upper end of the Arroyo Burro Trail which originates down in the city of Santa Barbara. I had been on this trail starting from the city a year and half earlier on a hike to nearby Barger Peak. The topo maps shows a trail forking off from the Arroyo Burro and going over the north shoulder of Peak 3,269ft which might make things considerably easier. However, today I could find no sign of the Arroyo Burro Trail from Camino Cielo, let alone a spur trail, and I resigned myself to the cross-country effort from the start.

Things started easily at first, with sandy stretches of what looked like animal trails snaking through the brush as I descended from the crest. The openings grew thinner but still allowed passage by stepping over obstacles and pushing aside the brush as I made my way to down to the lowpoint along the route in a gully on the north side of the peak. From there, things grew progressively worse as I found myself going up into the thickening chaparral, tunneling through the stuff that was well over head level, looking for rabbit paths and any sort of "trail" I could find. About a third of the way up I happened to notice some cuts on one of the manzanita bushes. A check of the GPSr showed me to be crossing the spur trail I had hoped to use. A careful study of the surrounding terrain showed me that, yes, there used to be a trail here at one time, but it had long passed its expiration date and there was no help it could offer me today. It was very slow going in the dry underbrush as I spent time breaking off dead branches to partially clear a path and at least make it easier for the return. This was about as heavy a bushwhack as I could ever recall doing and I was most thankful that Jackie had decided not to join me on this one or she would have been looking for a new father. I was also happy to find little poison oak on the route. There was some here and there, but not the denser stuff that would have had me turning tail almost from the beginning. I persevered up the slope, leaving a partial tunnel in my wake, eventually cresting on the first of several small rock outcrops, some of them little class 3 scrambling exercises. I went as far as the last obvious rock outcrop, the one noted on LoJ and the topo map as the summit, though I suspect (from looking at the elevation profile of the GPX track) that the highest point was to the north when I first reached the summit ridge. The fog was pervasive, and without a horizon for reference it was difficult to ascertain a highpoint just from visual reckoning. Satisified that I had reached all the possible highpoints, I reversed my route to head back. My tunnel of destruction was not as obvious as I had hoped and I needed to regularly check my GPSr to ensure I was following the track. I noticed my arms and legs getting bloodied by the regular poking of the branches. I minded these less, giving more attention to my head and particularly my eyes to keep them from harm's way, all the while sliding down on my butt, twisting my body in odd contortions to get through various branch obstacles, and generally getting down and dirty. All great fun, mind you.

By the time I finally returned to the Jeep, almost 2.5hrs had past and I was a little worried that Jackie would have become concerned by my long absence. As it turns out, she pretty much slept the entire time and had little idea just how long I had been gone. I had also felt a bit guilty because I had parked us just outside the Glass Factory, a designated shooting area within the Los Padres National Forest. Gunfire could be heard when we parked and pretty much the whole time I was hiking. Jackie can't stand guns and they seem to really piss her off, but she was so tired that she slept through all of it and was bothered not a whit. After changing into some fresh clothes, it was time to head home to San Jose...

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