White Rock Trail

I’ve hiked here once before, Figueroa Mountain Recreation Area, on nearby Davy Brown Trail. This is a beautiful place, wild and rugged in it’s own way. The only reason I don’t hike here often is because of the long drive, so I savior the experience when I do. My day was exhausting but rewarding.

Driving Directions: In Santa Barbara, take the State Street/CA-154 exit. Drive north on CA-154 for 29.4 miles to Figueroa Mountain Road on the right. Drive first through pasture land and then into the mountains. The road, narrow, icy, full of blind curves and bereft of guardrails, should not be driven with eyes closed. It’s not that bad, actually, just a bit slow going.  Continue a bit beyond 16 miles, at a crest in the road on a horseshoe bend. On the left is a large pullout and a gated dirt road – East Pinery Road. Park in the pullout.

        A foreshadowing; snow on the side of the road.

   Lake Cachuma in the twilight

              

As I neared the trailhead, snow blanketed the road. The night before I checked the weather forecast for Los Olivos, 16 miles west and 3,500 feet below. A high of 59 degrees and sunny. I was dealing with snow and ice. I was immediately pushed out of my comfort zone.

            I came to a large turnout with a gated road on the left, which fit the description of East Pinery Road. I stepped out of my car into near-freezing temperatures, slapped on my spikes and headed down a road of crunching snow.

Although the snow was dotted with footprints, I didn’t run into a single hiker all day.

            A quarter mile down East Pinery Road I came to the trailhead for White Rock Trail, on the right.

Distant ridges and peaks, foreign to my eye, stretched across the landscape.

              

 

            Ice on the ground, frozen with a weird kaleidescope effect.

              

There are some great looking boulders perched on nearby hillside.

The lower one looks like a head.

                  

          I reached an abandoned chrome mine. Left behind is assorted junk, now colored rust red.  After the Sun goes down and no human is watching, they all come to life.

        Photo 1 – A rare trail marker (I think it was the only one actually on the trail) helped guide me.  Photo 2 – As I lost elevation the snow disappeared, replaced by muddy stretches and hard frozen ground.

              

   The rocks again, from a different perspective.  The tops have eroded into bizarre toadstool shapes.

            Soon I reached the bottom of the canyon.  In the shade the grass was frosty white.

              

I passed the site of a second abandoned chrome mine. The only trace I could see was the ruins of an old car.

                  

   There are many little water crossings at the bottom. Most are narrow enough to hop from side to side.

                  

   At three miles I reached a paved road and the end of the trail. My plan was to head north down Susnet Valley Road for 0.8 miles and pick up another trail, loop around through Munch Canyon and then back up to the top.  Photo 5 – Sunset Valley Road, visible in the lower right, continues down into the canyon a few more miles.

   I reached the next trail, and a view of an awesome looking rocky peak.

                  

   The trail was overgrown and moderately difficult to follow.  At times it would vanish but I kept moving forward and it would reappear. I continued for about a half a mile. I came to a point where I couldn’t see a trail.  I’m sure had I gone on I probably found the trail again, but I was running into a lot of those moments, when the trail disappeared behind thick brush or under long, green grass. I followed my gut and turned back here.

              

I reached Sunset Valley Road again. I had a choice – hike 0.8 miles back up to White Rock Trail and retrace my original 3 mile route, or continue past the trail another 0.7 miles to Cachuma Saddle, and then take Figueroa Mountain Road 3.2 miles. I decided to stick with the roads, for the sake of variety and, to be honest, the thought of hiking uphill on mud for two miles also played a factor.

            A paved road, yes, but still a pleasant hike with great scenery.

            I soon reached Cachuma Saddle, where the roads intersect. There is a large parking lot there. I sat on a log and ate lunch.  I then began the climb curvy Figueroa Mountain Road. While not overly steep, it’s mostly uphill from here.

View from Figueroa Mountain Rd.

        A tiny community of trailers below, and a secret stash of VW buses tucked into the hillside.

            Photo 3 – Looking back down the road. A few cars and trucks drove by, but it’s deserted and quiet here and I always had ample time and space to pull off the road.

Looking south

              

In the distance I spotted two antenna clustered peaks on the same ridge.  They are, I believe, Broadcast Peak, on the left, and Santa Ynez Peak.

              

Photo 1 – I was getting tired. I hoped the high point ahead was where I would find my warm, dry car.  Photo 2 – When I reached the snow again I was just a few minutes from the top.

Good day. Next week I’ll hike somewhere a bit closer.

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