13-February to 14-February 2009:
I think it was almost eight or nine years ago since the last time Julie and I spent any bit of time in the Santa Barbara area for Valentine's Day. Back then, we weren't waterfallers and we basically spent the time doing what most people do on this Hallmark occasion - you know, flowers, dinner, Bed & Breakfast, and just killing time by the beach and in their downtown area.
But this time, we decided to go for some waterfalls that have always haunted us since they were tantalizingly close enough to us, but we always had something that kept us from going to "Sandy Barber" whether it was our fear that the falls wouldn't be flowing, we were busy doing something else, whatever... So this time, we committed to this little bit of an excursion by paying for an accommodation (not cheap) a little over a week ago. Back then, the weather called for cloudy skies, but as the week progressed, it called for rain on the days we'd be there.
Doesn't it always seem like something is conspiring to keep us from seeing the best waterfalls here?
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Day 1: FROM POURING RAIN TO VERY CLEAR SKIES
I took the day off from work so we could celebrate our little Valentine's Day excursion a day earlier. But it didn't help that I felt like I was coming down with a cold. Still, we made bookings earlier and we weren't going to cancel on that now.
The strange timing of our trip was due to the fact that we knew that if we waited until Saturday to do everything, then we'd be subject to skyrocket accommodation and restaurant prices (with Saturday being Valentine's Day). And, well, we weren't up for spending more money than we needed to.
So at 9:55am, we left our home. We figured by waiting until then instead of leaving earlier in the morning, we'd avoid most of the traffic. So we took Julie's car, which had over 225,000 miles on it but was pretty reliable over the years, and decided not to hire a car. Clouds were already overhead and it seemed true that the rain's coming as predicted.
So as we were making the drive out of LA, I planned in my head to go for a different waterfall instead of Tangerine Falls
, which was the ultimate goal of this trip. I hoped that by tomorrow morning, the weather'd calm down enough to try that one. I entertained the thought of doing San Ysidro Falls, but that was a fairly lengthy hike and to do it in what was predicted to be pouring rain wasn't appealing. So instead, I suggested to Julie we do Nojoqui Falls
and then stroll around nearby Solvang with an umbrella if need be.
I had never been to Solvang before so I looked forward to seeing what this Danish town was all about.
By around 11:30am, we were well out of LA county and approaching Santa Barbara County. And as the forecast predicted, it was pouring rain between Oxnard and Santa Barbara. In fact, it was pouring so much that apparently there was a traffic accident somewhere in Santa Barbara and traffic was at a standstill for about 20 minutes before we could proceed.
We knew this was too early to drop off our bags in Carpinteria (where we were spending the night) so we kept on going to Nojoqui Falls
After the traffic break ended, we eventually got through Santa Barbara along the US101 and then something strange started to happen. The weather started to become noticeably calmer the further north we went. In fact, it became partly cloudy skies and even lots of sun and blue skies were showing up!
This apparent break in the weather revealed some hint of snow on the neighboring Santa Ynez Mountains. I don't think I had ever seen a combination of snow and ocean in one scene in California
ever! Talk about strange weather!
By 12:55pm, we finally made it to the well-signed car park for Nojoqui Park. From there, we proceeded to put on our jackets and go on the 10 minute walk to the falls.
There were already four cars that were here before us so even on this "weekday," it seemed the falls were indeed popular.
The walk itself was quite lovely and quiet. The trail was surrounded by lush trees dripping with the passing rain. There were some puddles on the ground and some parts were a tad muddy, but the walk was mostly developed and no drama came of it.
By the time we got to the falls itself, we waited for the four people before us to leave and we ended up having the falls to ourselves. That enabled us to snap photos and enjoy the silence of the scene broken only by the sound of the falling water of Nojoqui Falls
We managed to have the falls to ourselves for the better part of 20 or 30 minutes before another troop of people started to come. So that was our que to leave and at this point, we were starved as we hadn't had lunch yet.
It was almost 2pm when we got back to the car and we wasted no time heading straight for Solvang, arriving some 20 minutes later.
We ended up eating at some pancake joint called Paula's Pancakes. Rain was coming down again as we got into the restaurant, but we didn't care. We just wanted to eat something and their pancakes topped with fruits seemed to be the thing to fill us up.
After the quick lunch, we strolled further into the Danish town. It was a bit strange seeing a mix of giant American cars whizzing along the main street with some charming Danish architecture fronting shops, restaurants, and even pubs.
For some reason, I thought about our time in Norway
even though Solvang was more about Denmark. But perhaps it was because I recalled some local Norwegians telling me that the Danish language was probably closer to Norwegian than Swedish. And that was probably what triggered my little mental reverie.
By now, the sun was coming out even though it was bitterly cold.
We initially thought Solvang only consisted of this strip on the main street, but we noticed a windmill to the southeast corner of town and we headed towards that.
That ended up revealing a charming little pedestrian-friendly downtown area with more shops, more people walking about, and of course, more windmills.
Since dinner wasn't that far away, we had to discipline ourselves not to fall for waffle cone ice creams, which we remembered was so delicious in Norway
and was sure not to disappoint in a Danish-themed town. We ended up refraining.
One thing that really did catch our eye while strolling through town was the number of shops that were closed. Apparently, the economy has hit this town pretty hard and even some of the buildings with large windmills were closed with "For Lease" signs on them.
By 3:40pm, we returned to the car. And an hour later, we arrived at the Best Western Carpinteria. By now, the weather had pretty much cleared up completely and the skies were crisp, cool, and when night time arrived, stars were easily seen overhead.
We ended up eating at a local joint called Clementine's just down the street. And while the dinner was more reasonably priced than anything in Santa Barbara (at least that was our assumption), the portions were rather large and we stuffed ourselves. In hindsight, we should've shared the food to save both our stomachs and some money.
They say you're supposed to feed a cold, but I don't think this was quite what was in mind.
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Day 2: THE ADVENTURE IS ON
At 8:15am, we left the motel. The morning was very cold, but the skies were very blue and there wasn't a cloud in sight!
It turned out that a second, more intense storm that was supposed to show up today ended up being delayed and probably won't show up until Sunday night now.
That was good for us because today we were going for the goal of this trip, which was Tangerine Falls
. I figured with the injection of yesterdays short but intense rain storm, the falls ought to be a little better than disappointing.
By 8:40am, we arrived at the car park for the Cold Springs Trail. There were already quite a few cars here and it was a good thing we got as early as a start as we did because we could tell there were going to be a lot more cars here as the day wore on.
We were worried about break-ins as we noticed some broken glass on the ground, but we were hoping this place was popular enough to get enough traffic to even make thieves think a little more about whether to risk getting caught in the act.
As we left the car and headed to the trailhead, Julie and I noticed the assuring sound of rushing water in the creek below. That was definitely a good sign that the falls ought to be flowing.
A few minutes into the hike, we noticed a sign at a fork in the trail. We weren't quite sure which way to go, but a quick glance at our trail instructions told us that we should follow that sign and cross the creek.
That put us on another trail with water pipes following it. Both of us noticed this and wondered whether this stream provides enough water for such diversion measures. Maybe it's a good sign that we can hear the creek and these diversion pipes are here because that'd mean there should be more water at the start of these pipes.
A few minutes further, we could already get attractive views of the ocean from the trail. That further added to the allure of the scenery here.
Shortly after seeing a sign that was full of graffiti on it (not sure whether they were gangsta tagging markings or were disagreements with what was stated on the sign about protected land), we took an unsigned fork as instructed by our directions and headed into an even more primitive trail.
At first we had gotten lost as the trail seemed to disappear and poison ivy was everywhere. We had to be careful not to rub them with exposed skin. But fortunately after a little backtracking, we found the turn that we missed. And onwards we went being reassured with more sightings of water pipes.
At 9:35am, we got to a tricky stream crossing with graffiti on neighboring rocks. The graffiti didn't look like the usual gangsta type and was instead more hippie-like. Perhaps they were there just to assure would-be local adventure-seekers that they're going the right way.
As we proceeded further into the canyon, the water pipes started to disappear. And shortly thereafter, the trail also disappeared.
At this point, we weren't sure where to proceed and we started having doubts about whether we were going the right way or not.
And so the adventure was on!
Boy were we glad we decided not to do this hike in the pouring rain yesterday! That would've been unwise and downright dangerous!
After spending a few minutes backtracking to make sure we had gone the right way, we finally just decided to persist and continue scrambling over some rocks with some poison ivy exposure. Eventually, we saw more faint "trails" that ultimately led up some steep gullies with even more boulder scrambles.
But with the sight of part of the falls just up ahead of us through the foliage, we knew we were close. So we scrambled further with this added motivation.
Finally at 10:45am, we made it to one viewpoint of Tangerine Falls
. This one was below the falls itself and in front of one of the smaller cascades below it. Here, we got a frontal view of the falls, and we decided to just chill out here for a bit.
The falls was backed by deep blue skies. We knew there should be an ocean view looking the other way, but our spot had too much vegetation and you had to be higher above to get that view. Julie figured it wasn't worth it and we made up our minds not to bother.
Keeping us there longer were some hangliders hovering over the top of the falls. I don't think I had ever photographed a waterfall with hangliders in it, but there it was! Unusual indeed!
As we were preparing to leave, we noticed another group of hikers that made it here. They seemed like locals and they actually continued going further up. I figured they must be going to that overlook we should've been at in the first place. So we followed them.
And by the time we made it up to the overlook, it was a bit crowded and they had already staked the claim to that tight spot. So we took what photos we could of the place and then headed back to the car park at around 11:10am.
At least we got a lovely ocean view from here even though it wasn't in the peace and quiet that we would've liked. I guess you snooze, you lose.
Going down wasn't easy, but it was mostly uneventful except we might have counted at least seven or eight other groups of people going the other way heading to the falls. I guess we were the first ones of the day to get here.
When we got closer to the main trail, we passed by a very large group of people listening intently to a ranger and even taking notes. They didn't seemed dressed for an outdoor excursion, and we figured they're probably from UC Santa Barbara.
When we got back to the car park at 12:05pm, we noticed heaps of cars now. There were even some people partially parked on the street!
The trio of UCSB vans confirmed our suspicions that some kind of educational stuff was going on here.
Anyways, we were glad we got to experience the falls with a little bit of peace and solitude when we did. Now, it was lunch time.
So we decided to head back to Carpinteria and go for a stroll in town and on the beach. There was some popular burger joint there called Spots so we had ourselves a burger and a fish taco with chili fries there.
It wasn't anything extraordinary, but it was clear the location was what made this place.
The beach scene was relaxing. There weren't many people braving the icy cold water with strong waves, but the cool air and sunny skies made this one of the more pleasant daydreaming moments that I could remember.
By 1:40pm, we had to bid "Sandy Barber" farewell, walked back to Julie's car, and we headed home. With all the traffic in LA, we didn't make it back until about 3:45pm, but it was still a relaxing nearly two-day getaway nontheless.
I wonder what we'll do on next year's Valentine's Day Weekend?
Have a waterfall travel story you'd like to share?
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