“Fortunately, the task of preparing this volume has been carried on by those who have had the feeling that a piece of work must be done, but who also have had a purpose to make it reveal beauty and exude the historical atmosphere of the region with which it is concerned.”

—Santa Barbara: A Guide to the Channel City and Its Environs (1941)

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Goatfell Peak, Isle of Arran, Scotland

Goatfell Peak hikeGoatfell Peak by silhouette from Brodick Bay.

Goatfell Peak hillwalk Scotland hikeA view of Brodick Bay from the stony trail up to Goatfell Peak.

IMG_2785Goatfell summit looking across at Cir Mhor or the “Great Comb.” (Properly pronounced here.)

Scotland hillwalking hiking Goatfell Peak Isle ArranBlasted by a piercing wind, jacket and pants inflated and puffy, we admire a wee wrinkle of hills.

“Take a wrinkle of hills, add a shower of rain. Blast regularly with a piercing wind, cover now and again with a soft blanket of snow. Thaw, melt, wave sunlight weakly for an hour or two, and start all over again and you have hillwalking in Scotland.”

-Scottish Mountaineering Club

Goatfell Peak Isle Arran Scotland hillwalking hikesMicah and Chloe, center-frame, walking downhill on the hillwalk down from Goatfell Peak. Micah is the frontman for the popular band, Iration.

1.) A humorously understated Scottish phrase meaning, to most ordinary people, a death march.

Goatfell Peak Isle of Arran Scotland hiking hillwalk

Hillwalking should not to be confused with what many Americans refer to as hiking or what in practice often means for a Yank a short stroll through a forest along a gentle meandering path.

Hiking? That? Bah. Yer aff yer heid, ye eejit. That’s no’ a real hillwalk! (You’re out of your mind, you idiot. That’s not a real hike!)

Goatfell Peak Glen Rosa hillwalk Scotland hikingLooking over the course of the trail from just below Goatfell Summit. The trail weaves through the boulders and on along the ridgeline, up the lesser peaks and down into the saddles between. Then down to a final saddle at the foot of Cir Mhor before dropping into the top of Glen Rosa.

Goatfell Peak Glen Rosa hillwalk Scotland hikesA view of Glen Rosa below.

“Stephen and Adrian keep calling it ‘the hill,’ but that ain’t no hill I’ve ever seen. It’s a behemoth, an endless range of behemoths, one mountain giving way to a moor, giving way to another mountain, then more, then more.

There might be a hill somewhere in there but it’s probably between mountains after a five-mile up-hill walk.

It’s a daunting hike. The climb gradual, then steep. The footing ranging from rocky to spongy and wet mile after mile. Me, trying to look cool, make it seem like this is nothing unusual, but really I’m dying.

-Anthony Bourdain on hillwalking in Scotland, “Parts Unknown: Glasgow” (CNN)

Goatfell Peak Isle Arran Scotland

My uncle once remarked dismissively about how most people seem to think hiking means an easy walk along a well-trod, wide-open canyon trail. “That ain’t hiking,” he insisted with the wave of a hand missing half an index finger.

In his opinion hiking is necessarily strenuous and should even many times involve a fair ration of bushwhacking, a key element in any real hike.

“How was Cuba,” I asked him a few months ago after he had just returned from a trip. “It’s still there,” he replied. He might appreciate the Scottish take on hiking, see some humor in it as I do.

Goatfell Peak Scotland Islae of Arran hillwalk hikes

In Scotland a day spent trudging over ten miles, slogging and scrambling up and over and down a craggy granite summit, is just a walk over a hill, lad. That’s no’ a hike, ye eejit!

Wikipedia  claims hikes over mountains in Scotland are called hillwalking “especially when they include climbing a summit.” Summiting a peak, a mere walk up a hill.

Glen Rosa hillwalk Isle Arran Scotland hikingHaving descended from Goatfell to the bottomlands of Glen Rosa with trout in the stream.

Glen Rosa Isle Arran Scotland

How fitting that an understated language as such comes from a region of historically ruthless and rugged people. As Bourdain notes in the aforementioned episode:

“Until the 19th century, the Scottish Highlands were seen by many as a mysterious, hostile and dangerous land, populated, when populated at all, by scary ass barbarians, descendants of the terrifying Picts, tribes so ferocious, so extravagant in their violence and toughness, that even the Roman legions decided not to mess with them, and instead built a wall, hoping to keep them out and away from civilized society.”

Now that I’ve blown way out of proportion a difference between American and British parlance, made a mountain out of a molehill, let us move on.

Related Post:

Petroglyphs, Isle of Arran, Scotland

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Ranger Peak Trail

Figueroa Mountain hiking OakTree Fog

“There was no telling of the sun, save for the one cold, dim, and even light that lay on every corner of the land and made no shadow, and the silence was close by and all around . . .”

N. Scott Momaday, House Made Of Dawn

I traipsed no more than one hundred measly yards up the trail before coming to an old and gnarled deciduous oak tree. I couldn’t walk by it. I had to sit a spell for no particular reason, other than it looked like a fine place for sittin’ in the gloomy morning silence on a freshly moistened mountainside.

I muttered to myself, admiring the quietude, the unignorable pressing silence that enveloped the land and made my ears hum. A lack of noise as much a character of the forest as the plants, the animals and the rocks and hills. A silence that worked like salve for my soul.

“This is all I needed,” I told myself. Solitude and silence in the mountains. That was what I had been after. The trail was incidental. A random pick of no real import other than it offered an abstract vehicle with which to effect escape.

Figueroa Mountain hike oak fog

I am notoriously indecisive when it comes to choosing a place to get my hike on. I typically shun anything to do with planning apart from the last minute morning scramble to assemble necessary gear, which is strewn about the garage where it appears a bomb has been detonated, and scattered throughout various places of my much more tidily kept house.

I don’t keep a checklist of places to “bag.” It’s mostly about the journey for me, not the destination. The forest, then, represents an inexhaustible supply of experiences and content to write about, rather than a limited number of named places graphically denoted with symbols on maps.

If you’re only out to stomp your way to the destination at the end of each trail, then you’ll soon find you’ve exhausted the supply and have little elsewhere to go. I don’t have that problem. I walk by foot a journey of the mind.

I drove up San Marcos Pass wondering where to go. It didn’t much matter so long as it was out of the city. And into the mountains. That’s good enough for me.

Figueroa Mountain Ranger Peak TrailA hankering had taken hold of my mind since the first fall of recent rains and I desperately needed to get out into the wet hills. I turned off the pass and onto a byway only to then abort the idea, and turn around and continue on down the highway to somewhere else, yet still not sure exactly where I was headed.

I finally ended up at the trailhead to Ranger Peak Trail (Hike Los Padres – Ranger Peak Trail). I reckoned the day at hand made for choice conditions to ascend the southern slope of Figueroa Mountain by way of the well-trod and open trail. The footpath can be brutally hot during summer months, but with the shifting low cloud cover and intermittent rain showers, this winter day seemed like an opportune time for the hike.

Figueroa Mountain hikes Ranger Peak TrailLooking up at Ranger Peak.

About two miles up the trail, which took an inordinately long time to walk due to constant daydreaming and various wanderings, I sat to cook some noodle soup and brew a cup of coffee. Clouds rolled in thick and dissipated, obscuring the mountain in a gauzy shroud and then vanishing wispily to reveal sweeping long views of the countryside.

I glanced up the slope and caught sight of a deer skylined above me and peering down at me with pricked ears. It watched me for several minutes before wandering off.


Figueroa Mountain Ranger Peak Trail hikesLight showers began drizzling from the clouds shortly before I reached the top of the peak. The sight and sound of falling rain, the rich fragrances wafting from a wetted earth, wild herbs, grasses and scrub and the moody ambiance of a cloudy winter day on Figueroa Mountain. After four years of record drought, a hike through water falling from the sky was a gloriously sensual and invigorating experience.

Taking their cue to action, rain beetles were soon flying about everywhere winding loops and meanders through the raindrops and low over the grassy slopes in search of mates. The muddy spots of the trail recorded the tracks of resident mammals including bobcat.

Figueroa Mountain Ranger Peak Trail hiking Los PadresFigueroa Mountain hiking Ranger Peak TrailTrail through the trees.

After a brief rest atop the peak I turned back, a strange loner cloaked in olive drab pants and a black hooded rain jacket, stomping by several people without a glance, oblivious to their surroundings and caught by surprise as I strode out of the trees just feet away from them.

A little further on two other fellas came into view, having taken the easy way and parked on the road adjacent the peak summit rather than my nine mile round trip hike. I took pleasure in turning east away from them and imagining their thoughts, as this dark clothed stranger before them suddenly turned to disappear into the rainy gloom of a deepening late afternoon, along a mysterious trail they probably did not know much about. “Where the hell’s that guy going?” I imagined them wondering.

The answer, of course, was simply, “away from you and the city you’re from.” The destination wasn’t important.

Figueroa Mountain Ranger Peak Trail hike Los PadresThe view from Ranger Peak looking into the San Rafael Wilderness backcountry.

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San Marcos Foothills Rainbow

RainbowA rainbow over San Marcos Foothills Nature Preserve Tuesday afternoon.

As of this writing, San Marcos Pass Station atop the Santa Ynez Mountains is reporting that 3.88 inches of rain have fallen in the last 48 hours.

This marks the most significant rainfall event in over twelve months for this patch of the drought-parched Los Padres National Forest.

Mother Nature celebrated late Tuesday afternoon with a full rainbow spanning San Marcos Potrero.

Related Post:

Deluge and Drought in Santa Barbara CountyCachuma Lake drought

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Miner’s Rock Cabin at Eagle Cliff (1890)

Eagle Cliff Mine hike Joshua Tree National ParkThe hike to Eagle Cliff Cabin.

The cabin was originally built and occupied by miners sometime after 1890 at the site of Eagle Cliff mine, which is located in Joshua Tree National Park. The makeshift shelter was cobbled together in a naturally occurring hollow of one of the ubiquitous granite outcrops in the area.

The floor plan is roughly similar to the letter “p” with a longish entrance ending in a small room with a single window. Off one edge of the room opposite the window is a remarkable natural addition in the form of a low room with a gravely floor perhaps used as sleeping quarters.

Eagle Cliff Mine Joshua TreeLooking at the rock pile under which the miner’s cabin is hidden, concealed behind desert scrub.

Eagle Cliff Mine rock cabin Joshua Tree National ParkLook a little closer through the trees and it comes into view.

Eagle Cliff Mine hike Joshua TreeA look inside showing the same window. A stove can be seen frame right with an opened rusty tin can on top and a stone and mortar chimney.

Eagle Mine rock cabin Joshua Tree National Park

The nook that would make a decent bedroom. It is fairly spacious despite how it appears here in this poor photo.

Eagle Cliff Cabin Joshua Tree National ParkStone work in the short walk between the windowed room and the cabin front door.

Eagle Cliff Mine rock cabin Joshua TreeThe view standing beside the rock work in the previous photo and looking out through what was the door to the cabin.

Eagle Cliff rock cabin Joshua TreeThe approach to the front door, the windowed room just inside the shadowy cave.

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Coldwater Camp, San Rafael Wilderness

Coldwater Camp San Rafael Wilderness Los Padres Santa Barbara hikesColdwater Camp lies in a meadow under a large oak tree along Lower Manzana Creek Trail, and is rimmed by hills. A detailed profile of the camp can be seen at Hike Los Padres – Coldwater Camp.

The camp was presumably named due to the usual availability of water in the creek nearby during most conditions, when the rest of the area is dry. This remarkable feature of the land must have been appreciated by the pioneering Pratt family who staked a claim in the area.

In the vicinity of Coldwater Camp, with a clue or two, one might find the initials of the Pratt’s stepson, Eddie Fields, who carved them into a tree near the site of the family’s homestead some 100 years ago.

Coldwater Camp San Rafael Wilderness

Coldwater Camp San Rafael Wilderness Santa Barbara

Coldwater Camp San Rafael Wildnerness hikes Santa BarbaraAnother site is hidden here center frame under the trees, somewhat on the opposite end of the meadow. The same sign is seen here as in the first photo above.

Coldwater Camp San Rafael Wildernes Santa Barbara hikes

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