Four More Little Santa Barbara Hikes
Back in the Santa Barbara area again. The main reason I went there last week was to visit Coronado Butterfly Preserve. As was the case a few weeks ago when I visited the Seal Sanctuary in Carpinteria, this is the time of year when Monarch butterflies gather in large numbers in certain, lucky areas, wintering sites. But I didn’t make it up to the Preserve last week and I really wanted to see those butterflies while I still could, so back up the coast I headed this week. I also hiked San Antonio Creek Trail, Ellwood Bluffs and Beach and Los Carneros County Park. I ended my day at Hammonds Meadow Trail and Butterfly Beach. Usually my little hike days aren’t particularly grueling but this day was different, an exhausting sun-up to sunset adventure which left me wasted but happy.
Trying to figure out the timing of these hikes was crucial as I didn’t want to arrive to early or late for the butterflies. My first hike was San Antonio Creek Trail. I began across the street from Tucker’s Grove Park as the front gate was still closed when I got there. I had to walk 0.3 miles to the trailhead, making this a four mile out and back hike.
Once I got on the trail it turned into a mellow creekside hike. I love this tree that has grown over the trail. Walking through feels like being held by a giant, black hand. Photo 4 shows sap that bubbled to the surface when the tree was burnt.
I packed up and drove to Coronado Butterfly Preserve, parking along the street on Coronado Drive. Take note, Coronado Drive is marked by a small street sign and easily missed. I walked up a hill and toward the big eucalyptus grove. Sadly it was here that my camera began to fail me. For years I’ve beat the hell out of it and it never really recovered from the soaking it endured on my Hidden Pond hike. The LCD screen was blank so I had to use the viewfinder, which on my particular camera doesn’t really line up with what the camera is truly pointing at. Thanks, Canon! Just kidding, my G12 has been a pleasure. Anyway, that was the one bummer of the day but it did affect the quality of my photos from this point forward. I was never sure exactly where to aim.
There’s something special about walking through a shady grove of trees – dark, protected and calm. I followed my nose and somehow came to the signed Ellwood Main Butterfly Grove. A trail loops around it. There was a large group of people on the left side so I headed to the right. I kept looking up but wasn’t seeing any butterflies, maybe one or two, here or there. I was getting nervous like maybe I wouldn’t know what to look for and just hike right past.
I came to a a small group of hikers standing in one spot. Looking up I was thrilled to catch a glimpse of the orange and black Monarchs.
Looking directly overhead I found two more smaller clumps (Photo 1). As I stood there with this small group of people, there was a minute or so when everyone stopped talking and just stared up at the dancing butterflies. It was so peaceful watching them float on the wind. A truly magical moment.
I exited the eucalyptus grove and made my toward the ocean. Photo 4 – An old man I met in the butterfly grove later approached me on the blufftop. He seemed quite convinced that I never have to die or feel pain if I believe as he believes. “It’s really gonna happen. I know it!”, he told me. I promised to read his pamphlet at a later time.
Photo 2 – Looking down the coast I could see Coal Oil Point where I hiked last week. I planned to hike up to the butterfly preserve from there but am glad I didn’t. It would have been difficult to find coming from that way.
I didn’t go all the way to the sand before I turned around. I had to stop at this weird eucalyptus, complete with bleeding sap, wrinkly skin and some sort of deformation, it looks like a snake that swallowed a large animal.
Back on the bluffs, I headed up the coast.
The rock on the beach had an odd pattern, curvy striations. I found it interesting how the rocks on the bluff seemed to follow the same pattern, fitting together with the rocks below like a jigsaw puzzle.
The trail ends well before the point, blocked by a golf course. At the turn there is another beach access which, this time, I took to the bottom. Some kind of structure once stood here. An interesting historical note, Ellwood Beach and its oil fields were the target of a Japanese submarine attack, the first of a handful of such attacks on the United States mainland during WWII by Japan, and the first attack on American soil since the War of 1812. I’m not sure where the shelling happened in relation to where I was on this day, but very close by, obviously.
I explored the tide pools for awhile but didn’t see much, just one little fish that darted under a rock when I approached. If you’re going to explore hear be very careful. This smooth rock is as slick as ice.
I returned to the top and looped around, back to the Butterfly Preserve. I visited the “spot” one last time before leaving. It was a little warmer by then and the butterflies were a bit more active. Here’s a video I took before heading out.
The property has some beautiful landscaping with lots of different trees.
I followed a marker that led to a bridge. This is the start of the loop around the modestly-sized Los Carneros Lake. Photo 3 – Looking back at the trees near Stow House Photo 4 – A primitive-looking shelter erected by the side of the trail.
Not a huge lake, but it has good character.
For my last stop I drove down the coast to Montecito. I parked and took a very quick jaunt down to Miramar Beach. I hiked back from the beach a few yards and began Hammonds Meadow Trail, which doesn’t really travel over a meadow at all, but rather runs between houses through a tunnel of heavy vegetation. I’ve seen this type of trail before in Montecito. I crossed a little bridge and then walked over to the sand. I was now at Hammonds Beach.
This could have been my final photo of the day but after speaking to a local I decided to drive over to Butterfly Beach. I had to do some quick research and driving to make it over in time for the sunset.
I parked along the road and made my way down to the beach. That’s the Biltmore Hotel ahead, I believe. There were numerous people camped out just to view the setting Sun. I parked myself against this seawall just in time for sunset.
And the never ending cycle of the cosmos continues.
Wonderful journey! Couldn’t ask for a better day.