“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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Chumash Swordfish Pictograph

Chumash Indian swordfish pictograph rock artA Chumash Indian rock art painting depicting a swordfish.

Chumash rock art pictograph swordfishThe rock holding the swordfish.

Chumash Rock Art Pictograph Shaman Swordfish Dancer Water SkeeterA pictograph found in a cave adjacent the boulder holding the swordfish.

Chumash CupulesA boulder found just outside the cave holding the pictograph shown in the previous photo.

Chumash Indian painted cave mortars cupules

Oak Woodland ChaparralA view from the cave. Once out from underneath the riparian zone, the shady canopy of coast live oak trees shrouding the creek, it is an entirely different world, an exposed hot landscape covered in scrub brush and annual grasses.

Chumash Bedrock Mortars Swordfish Rock Art Pictograph Bedrock mortars near pictograph site.

Chumash Bedrock Mortar Grinding StoneThe bedrock mortar stone shown in previous photo seen again here.

Riparian habitat near Chumash Rock Art SiteRiparian environment near rock art site running along the foot of the rocky slope.

Chumash Village Wigwam Thatched HutReplicas of Chumash tule-thatched huts at a nearby re-creation of a village.

Chumash Village Thatched Tule Hut

thatched tule hut Ventura River MouthA thatched tule hut somebody built along the Ventura River mouth a couple of years ago.

Construction of a Chumash house frame using willow poles, Ventura County Fair 1923.Building a replica of a Chumash thatched hut at the Ventura County Fair in 1923.

Finished Chumash house, thatched with tules, Ventura County Fair 1923

 Related Post:

Swordfish Cave, Earliest Chumash Rock Art On California’s Central Coast

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Gabe Surfing Sandbar, Hurricane Marie 8-27-14

Gabe Venturelli making it look easy. Good to see a friend, a Santa Barbara local, getting it like not many people do. In the middle of summer, no less. Pacific love.

“Look at this shot of Sandbar yesterday,” my wife says to me this afternoon, and holds out her iPhone to reveal a video of an epic wave featured on some surfer magazine page on Facebook entitled, “An Endless Barrel at Sandspit.” Such are the times, cell phones and social media, and, well, blogs like this. Much hated by many, but that’s reality these days.

“Wow. Oh man,” I reply, thoroughly envious of whomever it was that picked off the reeling grinder showing on the tiny screen.

“You’re not pissed off you missed that are you?” she asks knowing me all too well.

I refrain from answering her directly and after a brief pause, which effectively meant, “Hell yeah I’m pissed!” I continue the conversation with: “I drove by there yesterday late morning during high tide.”

I had a brief moment to check the surf at that time. I knew it wouldn’t be as good as when the tide dropped, nowhere near as good, but I had to lay eyes on the scene as soon as I had a chance anyway. It was a rare swell event.

“It was unreal!” I continue. “There were four SUKs out there!” SUK being a pejorative for SUP, which means Stand Up Paddleboard. “I’ve never seen anything like it. Just ridiculous!”

Frame grabs from video by Tony Modugno:

Gabe Venturelli Sandbar Hurricane Marie 8-27-14 (1) Gabe Venturelli Sandbar Hurricane Marie 8-27-14 (2) Gabe Venturelli Sandbar Hurricane Marie 8-27-14(3) Gabe Venturelli Sandbar Hurricane Marie 8-27-14 (4) Gabe Venturelli Sandbar Hurricane Marie 8-27-14 (5) Gabe Venturelli Sandbar Hurricane Marie 8-27-14 (6)Gabe Venturelli Sandbar Hurricane Marie 8-27-14
Late in the afternoon, that is the yesterday featured in the video my wife had shown me, not having felt like battling the mob I knew would show up at low tide Sandbar on an epic south swell, and not having wanted to try and elbow my way into waves amid the frenzy of wave-starved surfers, I had opted to go elsewhere.

I certainly did not score anything remotely close to what’s seen in the video, but my afternoon was made sweet and memorable nonetheless with some clean and green long walls at a break that rarely works in summer. The last time I had surfed there in summer was in the mid-nineties, after wakening one morning at a friend’s house along Gaviota to the sound of meaty shorepound slamming the beach, and the air laden with ocean mist. It was a rare treat to surf there once again in summer.

Gabe Venturelli Sandbar Hurricane Marie 8-27-14(1)

I see an old friend I grew up with at the beach today after having seen the video. He mentions that he saw Gabe, a mutual friend, at Sandbar on that glorious aforementioned yesterday. That he got one of the best waves he’s ever seen, saw it from the wharf across the harbor channel. He says he later saw it on video on the Web. Could it be? I wonder to myself. Naw. Couldn’t be. What are the odds?

I return home later and check the Web and sure enough, Gabe immortalized. I hadn’t recognized his style the first time I saw the video. “That was Gabe, that video you showed me,” I tell my wife. She knows him, too. “Wow!” she says. “You always said he was a good surfer.”

“Yeah. He’s really good.”

Related Post:

8@20 WNW 286°

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Barger Canyon Arch

Barger Arch Santa Barbara HikingLooking through Barger Arch toward Santa Barbara.

A coast live oak tree obscured for most of my life this frontside feature of the Santa Ynez Mountains. Arroyo Burro Trail, which cuts the mountainside nearby, was one of the first trails I explored as a boy. Riding my bike to Stevens Park and hiking up San Roque Canyon. My house sat beneath Barger Peak, just a few miles as the condor flies from the arch.

In later years we’d hike up Northridge Road, a steep length of skin-stripping asphalt below the trail and arch, and bomb it on skateboards wearing down the chosen Powell IIIs until they lost their bulky cubic form, turned into long thin cylinders and eventually got core-rot, could no longer bear the torque and ripped apart. We walked up La Vista Road innumerable times, also beneath the arch, and flew down it on skateboards testing our humble high-speed skills against gravity and pushing luck.

We wandered on foot the empty ridgeline above Northridge and connected it to Arroyo Burro Trail and down into upper San Roque Canyon. Now there are a couple of estates perched on that ridge overlooking Santa Barbara making such walks legally impossible.

We hiked, bushwhacked and crawled our way over and through the various folds of Barger Canyon. Thoughtlessly rode motorcycles across private land therein and were run into the hillside by an irate Robert A.

Barger Canyon Arch Santa Ynez Mountains Santa Barbara HikesA frontal view of the arch showing the burnt branches of the oak tree.

Yet in all that time, through the years, in all those hours of unsupervised and unstructured recreation, crisscrossing the foothills of this particular section of the Santa Ynez Mountains, I never knew the arch in Barger Canyon existed.

Perhaps, though, it did not exist as it does today. Maybe it was smaller or even nonexistent. Standing beneath it now one can clearly see how a massive chunk of sandstone fell at some point from the outcrop thus creating the arch, if not entirely, then as it currently stands.

Barger Arch Santa Ynez Mountains Los Padres National ForestSitting under the arch.

Then the Jesusita Fire stripped bare the mountain slope in 2009 defoliating the oak tree and exposing the arch as I had never seen it. A new feature was suddenly and dramatically revealed.

And along with it so too came the revelation that there was, amazingly, even this close to the city in a place in full view from areas all over town, and somewhere I grew up roaming, still some frontiers to explore, still some of the unknown to discover, still surprises and new experiences to be had, even in the nearest portions of Los Padres National Forest.

Barger Arch Santa Barbara HikesView through the arch.

Santa Barbara Hope Ranch Laguna Blanca dry droughtOverlooking a dry Laguna Blanca, living up to its Spanish name due to the drought, with Barger Canyon arch noted by red dot. (Laguna Blanca Lake)

Related Posts:

Twin Arches, Gaviota Crags (from afar)

Twin Arches, Gaviota Crags (up close)

Finding Frontier In The Forest Conquered

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Chumash Rock Art, a Pool of Water and a Chipmunk

Chumash rock art pictograph painted cavesA Chumash pictograph with inset showing a recreation of the design.

A seasonal creek flows by this Indian rock art site in Santa Barbara County and there is a spring not far from the paintings. When flowing the creek cascades several feet over an exposed outcrop of bedrock and into a small pool near the painted alcove. On the face of the outcrop where the waterfall flows there is a cavity in the rock that catches and holds water for far longer than the pool below the falls.

I checked this natural tank in mid-July out of an interest in seeing, during the current severe drought, how long it will hold water through the summer. It was still holding a decent amount despite no rain in over three months, the last precipitation amounting in total to about one inch which fell on the first and second of April. As of August 8, the tank still held water, remarkably clean looking water, and was a magnet for honey bees seeking moisture.

water hole tank Chumash Pictograph Rock Art site Santa Barbara

The small protected tank.

I sat beside the small puddle watching polliwogs wiggle around. A week earlier I had scooped up and saved twenty or so of those same tadpoles from a tiny volume of water, nearly dried up, which was held in a cavity on the same rock, just above the puddle where they now swam.

I sat wondering if the longstanding puddle ever served as a precious source of stored water for the Chumash. There is the spring lower down the creek, but in such a dry landscape, during a record drought, any bit of water catches my attention and seems remarkable.

I had been sitting there for ten minutes or so when I suddenly noticed a chipmunk clinging precariously to the rock just above the waterline. It was wet and shaking and had his face pressed against the rock. It looked like it was going to fall into the water at any moment.

My camera flash caused it to do so and I watched it for a couple of seconds frantically trying to swim, fatigued, its puny body vertical in the water, barely able to keep its nose above the surface. It was unable to claw its way back up onto the rock despite its desperate bid for life and after bobbing there for a moment its head dipped below the waterline. I could see it wasn’t going to make it.

water hole

I jumped off the rock and snatched a stick from the ground and thrust it into the water. Should have seen how fast and how solidly the little thing grabbed the wood. I brought the stick out of the water and slowly set it beside me. The chipmunk just sat there clinging to it.

I reached into my pack to grab a few raw almonds, thinking to leave them there for it to nibble as I left, but realized I had taken out my trail snacks and left them in the car. It was getting close to sunset, and as the chipmunk sat there shivering, I wondered if it would live through the night or succumb to hypothermia in its wet and weakened condition.

In making an effort to carefully carry the chipmunk on the stick up to a patch of sunshine, he jumped off and scampered through the brush. He found his way up to the exposed bedrock shelves, which were still soaking up the day’s last remaining rays of direct sunlight.

As soon as he left the shadows and hit the sunny rock he froze and collapsed like a lizard on a hot stone on a cold day. I laid my palm flat on the stone beside me which had already fallen into the shadows and it was exceptionally warm to the touch. The heat radiating from the bedrock must have felt awesomely good to the poor little cold bugger, which had just spent who knows how many hours or maybe days trying to avoid drowning.

chipmunkClinging on for dear life.

chipmunk rescueThe moment of rescue.

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Hiking Every Season In All Conditions

Sespe Wilderness Cedar Creek hikeBryan route finding off-trail in Sespe Wilderness.

“I came to know that country, not in the way a traveler knows the landmarks he sees in the distance, but more truly and intimately, in every season, from a thousand points of view.”

N. Scott Momaday, The Way To Rainy Mountain (1976)

“If I think about one lifetime, maybe we have eighty years if we’re lucky. That’s not many seasons to be out. If we only come out during one season we’ve missed out on three quarters of a lifetime.”

Ray Mears

I have heard talk of a “hiking season” in the southern Los Padres National Forest, as if walking is akin to hunting and only legally permitted for a short time during a select period of each year.

The reasoning, I presume, is that summertime temperatures in the backcountry tend to be hot, in the nineties and upwards of one hundred. The land and creeks and rivers are dry or stagnant. The forest is swarming with pesky nostril and eyeball loving flies and campfires are prohibited. These conditions differ greatly from spring when the streams tend to flow, the temperatures are mild, the flies have yet to emerge and a rippin’ good fire can be freely kindled.

Self imposed limitations, however, necessarily result in limited experiences, and in turn a narrow understanding of the land, its plants and animals. It may also, perhaps, result in a more limited appreciation for the forest than might otherwise be afforded the person who visits the woods during all seasons and conditions.

Sespe Wilderness Cedar Creek TrailCedar Creek Trail, Sespe Wilderness

A mountain field carpeted in poppies and lupine for a few weeks during the mild temperatures of April is a remarkable sight, but it is all the more striking and incredible when one knows what the field looks like in August during 100 degree heat. (Seasonal Change In Wildflower Fields of Figueroa Mountain)

The dynamic and lively sound of a rushing creek filling a canyon is likely not appreciated as much by those who have never heard the same canyon dead silent during late summer when the creek has gone dry.

I wish to know the forest and everything there within during all seasons, when it’s hot and when it’s cold, when it’s dry and when it’s wet or frozen, when skies are blue and when they are cloudy, when it is not raining and again when it is pouring, when the days are long and when they are short, when the shadows are long in early morning and late afternoon and when they are short at midday.

For during each span of time a world of difference can be found resulting in a greatly varied collection of experiences which all hold in themselves their own unmatched value, and when the various pieces are combined the puzzle is put together and the picture complete.

Cuyama BadlandThe Cuyama Badlands. One of the wildest and least trod stretches of land in all the southern Los Padres National Forest.

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