Day 3 (April 2, 2017 – Los Angeles, California): “The Weekend We Didn’t Want To End”
It was 6:15am when I awoke, which was a few minutes after I heard the alarm from my watch. Julie had left the window open overnight and to my surprise, the morning wasn’t nearly as chilly as it was yesterday. This was even as the sun was not out yet.
Anyways after having another round of kefir from our cooler as well as a hard-boiled egg and some chicken leftovers from Whole Foods from Friday night, I was back in the car at 7:05am and ready to take on Tangerine Falls. Once again, Julie and Tahia stayed in the room to sleep in a bit so I was going solo for the third time this weekend. In fact, Julie and Tahia didn’t visit any of the waterfalls in the Santa Barbara area though I knew that Tangerine Falls would not be a hike I’d feel comfortable taking Tahia on.
Once again, with the hikes being close to the Hyatt Centric, I made it to the familiar trailhead at 7:20am. Unlike the last time, there appeared to be evidence of landslides or rock slides that had hit the trailhead area, but they were enough cleared to allow for trailhead parking. Even though there were already a half-dozen or more cars here, I didn’t have to drive to the spillover parking further to the southeast of the actual trailhead like last time.
At first, I took the first trail that was sloping upwards, but then I knew something was off when that trail immediately switchbacked higher up to the right. So I went back down and saw that there was another trail ascending past a pair of trash cans before continuing more or less along Cold Springs Creek.
It was only a few minutes when I encountered a trail junction that was unsigned. I knew I had to cross Cold Springs Creek at one point in the hike so I went ahead and went left at this junction. It led to a somewhat non-trivial crossing before scrambling up the other side up an eroded gully. This seemed a bit rougher than I had remembered from the last time so maybe the rains from this Winter might have changed the landscape, I thought.
But when I got to the other side, I saw some signage saying something to the effect that I was now on the West Fork Cold Springs Trail. In fact, this sign was close enough to the road on the other side of the ford, which I thought was strange. Should I have parked here instead of on the other side of the fork?
Anyways, so I continued hiking further in the upstream direction on this trail, which seemed a bit more overgrown than I had remembered it. Then, the trail eventually went back across Cold Springs Creek. Immediately, I thought this couldn’t be right. Did I cross the creek for no reason?
And as I was making this apparently unnecessary crossing to get back to the original side, I made a misstep and next thing I knew, both boots were wet as well as my wool socks! So much for hiking comfortably in dry conditions. At this point, I knew my feet would be miserable as now I’d be pretty much squishing my way to the falls and back.
Finally at 7:40am, I reached the more obvious junction near a signpost and bench where the West Fork Cold Springs Trail veered to the left and crossed Cold Springs Creek. Now this was what I remembered from last time. Sure enough, the creek crossing was pretty trivial, and as I got to the other side and continued on, I noticed a tiny cascade spilling over one of the giant boulders strewn about the creek.
Now, the trail followed some water pipes, which I also remembered from last time. The trail continued climbing as it rose higher above Cold Springs Creek, and I’d eventually start to see Tangerine Falls still in shadow in the distance. It looked like it had average to a little below-average flow from this distant vantage point, but I still pushed on knowing that I had to update the writeup and experience from 2009 as I wasn’t sure if that visit was more of a fluke or if this was more of a typical experience considering I now had a sample size of two.
At 8am, I encountered a wooden pole right at a fork in the trail. I didn’t recall if we had to go through this the last time, but knowing that Tangerine Falls was to my right, I figured that I mind as well follow the fork in the trail to the right, which descended back down towards Cold Springs Creek. I never bothered to see where the trail on the left continued on to, but I wasn’t going to find out on this visit.
Once I got back to the bottom, I saw the familiar dry creek crossing as Cold Springs Creek was flowing at a confluence further downstream. Right on the other side was a steep scramble going up an embankment, but there was also a trail to my right following the dry creek for a few paces before crossing it and going up a more obvious trail. I opted to do the latter, which led me right to the flowing Cold Springs Creek. Was I supposed to stream scramble at this point? I didn’t remember having to do that this soon in the hike.
I saw a line of boulders above an eroded embankment so I made the steep scramble up there at 8:05am, and lo and behold, I saw a water pipe and a more obvious trail. After following this trail for a minute or two, I saw that the water pipes kept going forward but the trail switchbacked to my left. Not thinking anything of it, I continued following the trail to my left. But as I was blindly following this ascending trail, it got steeper and more slippery due to loose gravel and the angle of the slope.
By now, I was well above Cold Springs Creek and I was into the sun, where I could get an angled view back towards the ocean through the canyon opening as well as some wires above crossing the canyon as well. I knew then that this wasn’t the proper trail and so I quickly made it back down to the shade and the water pipes eventually getting there at 8:20am (making this a 15-minute detour).
Once I returned to the trail, it then became obvious to me that the pipes were flanking the thinner trail further along Cold Springs Creek. So I continued along this trail fairly quickly passing by a fallen tree obstacle or two before the trail (and the pipes) then continued across the creek with an attractive cascade spilling alongside the continuation of the trail. Since it seemed like I was the only one here, I heard the ribbit of frogs though I didn’t see any.
After having crossed the creek, the trail then continued alongside the creek before it made a real steep climb up a root-exposed embankment. This climb required the use of my hands. After this climb, the trail then continued on before crossing back over the creek in a more trivial crossing. Then, the trail eventually disappeared at a rock ledge next to the creek.
I remembered this part from the last time. I also noticed that as I looked up, I could see a glimpse of part of the main Tangerine Falls. So I knew that I had to keep forward along the rock ledge before dropping down into the creek and following the edges of the creek alongside the rock wall before climbing hand-over-feet past the next obstacle just next to another small cascade.
Beyond this obstacle, the “trail” pretty much followed a faint course that involved even more steep scrambling hand-over-feet amongst some giant boulders. This somehow seemed a bit more rough and steeper than I had remembered it some 8 years ago or so, but I knew this was another one of those parts where I was glad I didn’t bring Tahia on this hike.
Anyways just as I was continuing up the steep ascent, there was a couple that was making their way down carefully. I guess I wasn’t the first to get to the falls on this morning. While briefly chatting with this middle-aged couple, they said they had too see the Tangerine Falls for themselves as this creek was said to not be flowing in over five years.
After parting ways, I continued up where I then first scrambled down to a familiar pool and lower cascade with a somewhat full view of the main drop of Tangerine Falls above me without the tree blocking the way. Unlike the last time I was here, there were no hangliders or paragliders circling the top of the falls. It was also very early enough in the morning that the falls remained in shadow while the morning sun was somewhat against me.
Next, I then scrambled further up the “path” before getting to a precarious ledge where the last time I was here, it was hijacked by a large hiking group so I was never really able to get a clean view of the falls from this spot until now. Again, it was too bad that the 8:55am morning sun was pretty much against me as I was looking straight into the falls, and I figured that Tangerine Falls was one of those spots where it was probably best seen from late morning to early afternoon or something when the sun would be behind me instead of against me off to the side.
Well, I wasn’t going to linger around here for too much longer so I had my apple, a water break, and I even saw a guy scrambling with his dog to get to a real precarious spot right beneath the main drop of Tangerine Falls. I kept thinking to myself that this was one place where it was pretty easy to get hurt with a misstep or a bad choice in route.
Eventually at about 9:10am, I had my fill of this place and started heading down the steep “trail”. As I was doing this, I noticed a couple of couples making their way up. So I guess despite the obstacles that this trail presented, it was still popular.
As I continued further down the trail as it got progressively easier, I noticed a couple with one guy carrying a baby in the familiar Poco Plus carrier that I used to use when Tahia was younger. I warned them about the baby going on a bit of a ride at the end, but this couple seemed like they knew what they were signing up for on this hike as I suspected that they were locals.
Eventually at 10am, I’d make it back to the car with a very smelly shirt and very smelly hiking boots. Along the way, I must have passed another dozen or so hiking groups, which testified at just how popular Tangerine Falls was despite its difficulties and hazards. Anyways, 20 minutes later, I made it back to the Hyatt Centric, where Julie and Tahia were still in the room.
While Julie was continuing to pack and get ready for the drive home, I took Tahia to the swimming pool so she could play a bit. We did this for the next hour as she was busy splashing and doing belly flops at the shallow end of the pool.
Eventually at about 11:20am, we loaded up the car, and we decided that we should drive over to the Stearns Pier to have a lunch. I was worried about not finding parking on the pier itself but I never would have imagined that there would be public parking on a pier! But it turned out that someone was vacating a spot just as we were pulling up and so we luckily scored a spot and parked at 11:35am.
We made a beeline towards the end of the pier where Julie went to a takeout window for the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company. That was where we picked up a local rock crab, a seafood cioppino, and coconut shrimp. Again, they didn’t have the local Santa Barabara sea urchin so I guess we’ll have to try this next time we’re in the area (whenever that will be). But in any case, we were trying to keep warm despite the sunny weather while enjoying the views from the pier.
It was quite a beautiful day, and looking back from the water towards Santa Barbara was quite picturesque as the mountains backing the city rose sharply behind and provided a nice backdrop to the lovely Spanish-influenced cultural town.
At about 12:50pm, we returned to the car and decided that we should drive back to downtown Santa Barbara to indulge our sweet tooth a bit. Julie wanted to go back to the Lilac Patisserie since we didn’t have a reaction to her dessert from yesterday. Meanwhile, Tahia and I wanted another go at having McConnell’s Ice Cream.
At about 1:05pm, we made it back to downtown Santa Barbara, where we parked in Lot 9 and immediately started walking towards the Lilac Patisserie along State Street. Unlike yesterday afternoon, the ambience seemed a bit quieter and less festive as we suspected most of the visitors were probably on their way home to Los Angeles today.
At the patisserie, Julie picked up the same cakes as yesterday (a flourless and gluten free chocolate cake as well as a sugarless one). They ran out of the gluten free chocolate chip cookies though, which was a bummer.
Then, we walked back over to McConnell’s which once again had a line, but it was quite a bit smaller than yesterday’s. And so we’d spend the next hour enjoying our desserts (Tahia even got her own waffle cone with vanilla bean). And eventually by 2:25pm, we were back in the car finally ready to leave Santa Barbara for good.
The drive out of Santa Barbara was unsurprisingly sluggish as the 101 Freeway was notoriously slow from here all the way through Los Angeles. It would start picking up speed as we finally made it past Carpinteria, but then it wasn’t long before I then took the Hwy 150 past Lake Casitas towards Ojai and the Maricopa Highway 33. I never took this road before, but I figured that it was better to do this than face more traffic on the 101 Freeway before going north on the Hwy 33.
Once we were on the Hwy 33, the road then wound its way towards Rose Valley. Julie said she never recalled the road being this curvy, but with me having been here a couple of weeks ago with Mom, I knew it was a non-trivial drive. Eventually at 3:45pm, we’d arrive at the familiar Rose Valley Campground where there were quite a few cars parked near Campsite 4 by the trailhead.
It took some time for both Tahia and Julie to get ready for the hike, which would be the first hike they’d participate in all weekend long. We tried to put my smelly boots and socks outside in the sun to try to speed up the drying, but even putting my hands on the boots made my hands smell, which attested to just how foul they were from being wet for a prolonged period of time.
Anyways, the falls looked pretty much like it did two weeks ago when Mom and I were here. The upper drop of Rose Valley Falls was still lightly flowing, which Julie and Tahia noticed. As we were doing this hike, Julie and Tahia had no trouble in both of the minor stream crossings before the trail continued gently climbing past some intermediate mini waterfalls before finally getting back to the base of the familiar mossy waterfall.
Upon seeing the falls, Julie said she must have confused Rose Valley Falls with Nojoqui Falls because she thought the trail was supposed to be paved. In any case, we spent some time at the falls though I came prepared with the GoPro, except the GoPro wouldn’t turn on as somehow the battery was drained without me turning it on!
So while there were kids going in and out of the cave behind the Rose Valley Falls, eventually Tahia overcame her fear of the darkness and went in there herself. I then followed soon thereafter though I had to risk wetting the DSLR since the GoPro wasn’t working. I also brought my flashlight, which was still working after all these years.
When I got in the cave, I took a few photos and I tried to take an awkward movie, but it didn’t work out. After squeezing my way through while having Tahia help me hold the camera and bag while I tried to crawl through the narrow spaces, I then got back to the other side of the falls, where Tahia made her own way back down to Julie while I took the time to document the falls some more before rejoining them.
At that point, we then headed back to the parked car and got there at around 4:55pm. The flies or gnats buzzing around the trailhead were quite annoying, but at least we all had fun outdooring as a family for the first time this weekend. Now, it was time to face the traffic, which I was so not looking forward to.
Along the drive back towards the 101 Freeway at Ventura, we then stopped by an Urban Plates in Thousand Oaks for our last dinner for the weekend. We got there at 6:20pm and wanted to savor the dinner as it really felt like the kind of weekend where we didn’t want it to end. Anyways, we had ourselves the familiar steak with chimichurri sauce as well as some chicken. With Tahia being good eating her dinner this time around, we let her have one of the big chocolate chip cookies.
The thing we noticed all weekend long was that we were having success with Julie not breaking out. She was even able to eat stuff that we previously thought were taboo as far as her gut was concerned. But now we were clearly seeing that it was more of a digestion issue and so as long as she took the supplements to facilitate digestion, it seemed like she could more or less function normally. It’s still a condition that needed to be managed, but now we were finding out that we could indeed pull off road trips and maybe even an international trip as long as she had the supplements to help her break down her food until her digestive system was back on track.
Indeed, that was good news for the upcoming trips taking place later this month.
At 7:30pm, we were finally back in the car, and after facing the expected traffic along the 101 Freeway, we’d finally make it back home at 8:55pm. There was no more time to do anything else but shower, brush teeth, and sleep as it felt like we really made the most of this spontaneous weekend – a weekend that we didn’t want to end…