A Ramble through Aliso and Oso Canyons

I went for a walk up Aliso Canyon and on over the ridge into Oso Canyon. I parked at the Aliso Canyon trailhead rather than the Oso Canyon trailhead. That added about four miles to my walk, but I wanted the exercise and needed the distance to help satiate my appetite for hiking.

And I didn’t feel like the hassle of haggling with the Adventure Pass gatekeeper at First Crossing, where Paradise Road first meets the Santa Ynez River. I didn’t have the patience to endure the rigmarole necessary to avoid being extorted by some corporate stooge based on an unjustified notion of prior restraint.

The Adventure Pass, recently ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, has always, since its inception, been required for parked vehicles. Though that alone is offensive and I have never accepted it from day one, having collected around 30 unpaid tickets, the pass was not, by it’s own standard, established as a toll required to merely drive on a road. But that is exactly what the gate keepers at First Crossing have always tried to claim by virtue of stopping the free flow of traffic in order to collect a fee or verify one’s possession of a so-called Adventure Pass (Talk about cheapening the word ‘adventure’ to the point of meaninglessness!). I have never tolerated it. It’s unfortunate so many other people have accepted the fee or submitted to it and done so for so long.

Every time I’ve passed through the gate over the years since it was established as a check point I tell the person working the kiosk they have no legal basis to force me to pay anything. And, as it always goes, after several minutes of telling them kindly, yet forcefully, that I will not pay or show them squat, and listening patiently to their uninformed asinine comments, because they are used to willing approval or thoughtless submission to their demands rather than informed resistance, I drive on through. They usually write my license plate number down, at which point I tell them my name and where I’m going, and that if they have a problem they can tell the ranger to come find me and I’ll talk to them. I call BS. I win every time and they back down or they go through the motions but never follow through on their (empty) threats.

It was a hot day in the Santa Barbara backcountry, but a mite cooler than earlier in the week. Taking a peek at the Oso Canyon trailhead register on the hike up, I noticed a friend of the Condor Trail (CT on Facebook) had noted that she cut short a hike to Little Pine a few days before because it was over 110 degrees. That would indeed make for a punishing trudge up the south-facing slope of Little Pine!

On my way back down Oso Canyon in late afternoon I had overheated, due to my stubborn refusal to take needed long breaks in the shade through out the hot day. Knowing the necessity of cooling the human machine, but refusing to lay around in the heat of the dry hills even if shaded, I pushed myself on a forced march down to summer’s last remaining tiny pool in the creek below Nineteen Oaks Camp.

There I stripped down and lowered myself into the pool exhaling bubbles until I sunk to the bottom. I sat chest deep for some time letting the cool water suck the heat out of my body until my skin tensed up into goosebumps. Just enough water was trickling into the pool to keep it from being stagnant and to keep its surface free of pond scum and moss, but it stank with the musty odor of decomposing organic matter and moist, crusty hard mineral deposits.

Having lowered my body temperature, I felt refreshed and was able to actually enjoy the short hike out of several miles. I reached my truck as the last traces of daylight faded to the black of night. I somehow avoided being given yet another Adventure Pass ticket to add to my decade-old collection.

Aliso Canyon Trail

Aliso Canyon Trail

Sage, oats and sandstone as seen when dropping into lower Oso Canyon

A view of Oso Canyon looking east

Looking up Oso Canyon at Little Pine Mountain.

The dry basin of the lower vernal pool.

The dry basin of the upper vernal pool.

Aerial view of the canyon terrain.

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2 Responses to A Ramble through Aliso and Oso Canyons

  1. Great stuff, I’ve been meaning to visit these pools you have pictured. In the book “California’s Back Country – Mountains and Trails of Santa Barbara County” by Dick Smith and Frank Van Schaick, they mention these “spring fed pools” with turtles abounding and have a black and white picture similar to your image of the upper pool, when it was full. Very cool to see a recent shot.

    • Jack Elliott says:

      Hey James. Yeah, I’ve read that book and seen that section of it, but I don’t think they are exactly spring fed as it says. It seems they’re more like runoff fed and vernal.

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