4/2/2011 Santa Paula Peak in Santa Paula, CA
Just had am amazing 14 mile day hike to Santa Paula peak with some amazing people and great hikers. It started out about 9am and we left the parking lot across the street from the local college on 10th st. We had 14 hikers including myself and I knew when I signed up for this hike that it was going to be tough as any 14 mile day hike is. The trail was described as “strenuous” and there will be some “bouldering and scrambling”. It didn’t let me down as this was one tough hike but so rewarding with good company that I couldn’t say no.
We hiked our way in with our day packs, hiking poles and such at 9am sharp and continued past the college and finally to the trail head. The trail was pretty overgrown and the poison oak was out in full force! I pointed out a patch of poison oak to a fellow hiker and told him to watch out and he said “if I see it that means that I already have it”. I grabbed some Mugwort growing nearby and rubbed some on my legs for protection. We hiked on to the first river crossing and the water was flowing pretty good. I knew that I was going to get wet I just didn’t know when or where down the trail.
As luck would have it I got wet right away. It came time to cross the river! I was wearing my “VibramFive Fingers” with socks. If anyone doesn’t know what these are just think gloves for your feet. They are designed for barefoot runners and hikers. I took the socks off and just put the shoes on. These shoes are fantastic in the water and grip on every rock, even the slipperyones. With these and my poles nothing is impassible. Little did I know that I would be crossing this river about another 13 or so more times. The “Five Fingers” will be put to the test today for sure I thought. We hiked down this “trail” and boulder hopped up river for miles about 9 miles by my count on this app I have on my Android phone called “My Tracks”. It uses GPS to track your trail/location/ride. I also use this app when I mountain bike to see total mileage/elevation gain/speed and so on. Its pretty accurate from I have read and can rival some other brands out there that cost a lot of money. Our destination was “Cienega Campground” an oasis amongst the trees and ferns. This was the most cared for campsite I have ever seen and it had everything from camp tools hanging from the tree to a huge picnic table to a BBQ oak pit to a huge fire ring to bench seats and tables. I was amazed as most of the time when you get to a “campground” you are lucky to even see where the fire ring was. This site was amazing! Totally flat and tree covered shaded areas all over the place. This site could easily hold 200 tents comfortably. There was a stream about 200 ft. from the campground too so that made for refilling up some water bladders easy. My feet were pretty sore after hiking this distance in and out of the river and through boulders and muddy terrain. I almost broke both my pinky toes on some rocks stubbing my feet. I had my boots and clean dry socks in my pack and decided that once we got to the campground I would change into them. I was glad I did as it gave my feet some time to rest at camp for lunch.
After eating lunch and some candy (Gummy Bears). I always have candy with me when hiking! I cant help it, I know its heavy but I don’t care! We left camp and continued out uphill battle (total of 4000 ft elevation gain today) to Santa Paula Peak 4957ft. It was a good hustle and after a couple of miles we arrived at the “T” junction to climb up to the summit. It was very foggy and the marine layer was very thick. We weren’t sure if there would be a view but I didn’t care. I didn’t come all of this way to not go all the way to the top especially when the summit was only about 1/4 of a mile more. I pressed on after some other hikers that were also going up. It was very steep and rocky. The trail reminded me that I was glad that I tied my boots very tight as there was so many loose rocks all over the trail. You can easily break or roll your ankle here so it was slow going. After about 20 minutes I reached the summit and let me tell you that I couldn’t have been happier. The view was spectacular and you could see other peaks in the distance like Topa Topa and Cobblestone peaks as well as others. We stayed at the top for a while and took pictures and I was able to make a quick call to my sweety to let her know that all was good and I would be coming home soon.
I started my decent to the trail end and it was about another 3-4 miles down. This was a “through hike” or “shuttle hike” as some call it. We parked cars at one end and hiked to the other. One the way down we battled more poison oak and ticks! I lost count after 40 and thank god none of those little buggers latched on. They are so hard to get off once they bite and burrow into your skin. We stopped on the trail for a minute to take special note that there was a rattlesnake in the bushes and we should proceed with extreme caution. I don’t mess with rattlesnakes! I leave them be and will back off and find another way sometimes. You can never be to careful with these guys. We made it back to where the cars were parked and everyone was congratulating one another on a hike well done as this one was a doosey! I want to say all total was about 14-15 miles but I wasn’t really counting. OK, I was but this was a great achievment and was my longest day hike ever. Us backpackers have a way of exaggerating our hikes from time to time. “We saw 8 bears and 14 crocodiles and hiked 20 miles today on this trip” isn’t too far off for some trip logs. Its always comical to me and definately makes for a great story.
All in all I had another amazing experience and will look forward to going back here again and again. It is only about a 1 3/4 hour drive from Lompoc and about just under an hour from Santa Barbara to the trail head.
Thank you to Jim, Tony, Diane, Pine Tar, Bill, Stain and all of the others that were there! You guys rock and let’s go again real soon
Here are some pics and a screen shot of the recorded trail from my gps on my Android phone
View Santa Paula Peak in a larger map