Montecito Peak, Santa Ynez Mountains

San Ysidro Peak 1Montecito Peak, Santa Ynez Mountains

Numerous parked cars line the road at the trailhead when I arrive one September morning. Several people in different small groups linger about getting ready for a walk or returning therefrom. A few voices resonate in the canyon. I don’t like it. It’s not even a busy day, but I don’t like it.

I haven’t spent much time on Santa Barbara’s frontcountry trails in many years. Too many people, and the sight and sound of the city, which can be hard to escape on the frontside of the Santa Ynez Mountains though there are indeed quieter nooks to be found, tend to ruin the ambiance and mindset I’m typically after when I go out for a hike.

I’ve flown down the trails at white-knuckled dangerous speed on my mountain bike far more than I’ve ever hiked them and likely ever will hike them. My arrival at Cold Springs Trailhead this warm and sunny fall day reaffirms my existing aversion to the frontcountry trails.

San Ysidro Trail Los Padres National ForestEast Fork Cold Springs Trail through the oaks and sandstone.

San Ysidro Trail eucalyptusThe East Fork Cold Springs Trail eucalyptus. Maybe this tree was a volunteer, I don’t know, but it sure would have been nice if an oak tree was planted instead!

bag of dog shitI step from the pavement to the dirt eagerly looking forward to getting up the mountain. Having seldom walked the trail, having spent more time hopping cobblestones up the creek if’n I do visit Cold Springs Canyon on foot, I’m shocked at the numerous highly worn and wide use trails crisscrossing the mountainside. It seems every corner on a trail is routinely cut leading to new unstable paths and subsequent erosion. My antipathy grows, my irascible nature being stoked. It’s all too trampled and crowded for my likes.

A few minutes up the superhighway of a footpath and I come to a little bag sitting beside the trail. It’s somewhat common. I see it at the beach, too, and I’ve actually done it before myself, picked up after the dog and set the bag aside to grab on the return walk. Because who wants to tote a warm sack of it around?

Yet I have carried it before, too, which is no small item to note when you have a 170 pound Great Dane. Sometimes I’ve tied the bag to the end of a piece of driftwood to gain some distance and avoid the stream of stench wafting from it. Thirty or forty minutes or however long of kicking around a long beach at low tide walking the dog with my bindle of excrement. I can’t imagine it’s any more enjoyable carrying it up a mountain trail on a warm day.

Santa Ynez Mountains San Ysidro Trail A view of the Santa Ynez Mountains from the trail showing slopes carpeted in chaparral and the canyon bottom shaded by much lusher riparian canopy.

Holly-leaved cherries Prunus ilicifoliaHolly-leaved cherries are edible and have a thin layer of yellowish pulp that can be sweet and juicy. (Related Post: Holly-leaved cherries, called ‘akhtayukhash in Barbareno Chumash).

I understand why people bag it and set it aside. Though it may be temporary, to every person who then passes by it’s no different than any other piece of litter that spoils a scene. Reminds me of a time I came across dirty diapers at Red Rock on the Santa Ynez River. Not much different, both bags of crap lying around, just from different animals.

And so the majority of people are expected to tolerate the unsightly dropping of trash on trail so that one person can avoid the inconvenience of being a responsible and considerate pet owner. In economics this is referred to as a “negative externality,” or a cost affecting a person who did not choose to incur it.

For whatever reason on this day the bag of poop irked me more than usual and made me strike a deal with myself to not again be “that guy.” I have no moral authority here or interest in preaching, but think about it folks.

San Ysidro Peak TrailThe final length of trail to the top of Montecito Peak.

San Ysidro Peak view Santa BarbaraView of Santa Barbara and Pacific Ocean from Montecito Peak, the crest of Santa Cruz Island just visible above the marine layer in the channel.

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7 Responses to Montecito Peak, Santa Ynez Mountains

  1. I share your pain, my friends, which is why I rarely hike the front country any more.

  2. Dan Fenske says:

    Thanks for going there anyway. The views over the city below and the ocean are pretty appealing while in dense fog of the Willamette Valley in Oregon.

    • Jack Elliott says:

      Hey Dan. Thanks for dropping by. I love Oregon and would move there if it had decent surf without frigid water. It’s been 80 degrees down here for the last couple of days and severely dry; some cold fog sounds good right about now!

  3. I actually love that gentle, muted hum of the city. I hear it in a way that I never hear it when down in it and I love the way some element will pop up out of it for a moment, usually a dog barking or a siren. The city is distinctly separate in those moments.

    The bags of poop I cannot stand. I have seen them even when I was the only one on the trail. You give these people too much credit to say they’ll pick them up on the way back. I cannot stand the toilet paper either. I can’t even understand that one.

    • Jack Elliott says:

      Hey Valerie. I like the way you describe how “some element will pop up. . .” Very true, and I know exactly what you mean.

      Toilet paper, yeah, around these parts, where it is so typically dry, and of course especially this year, that stuff seems to last and last. Last year I was up on Pine Mountain walking the woods above the road and the campsites and the whole area was littered with TP either left atop the soil and pine needles or dug up by animals. And then there are those times, quite a few for me recently, where you find it right beside the trail.

  4. Augustus says:

    On a normal day at the Pit I pick up 4 to 6 bagged poops in the high tide line or up against the bluff. Along with my dogs 1 or 2. So I walk back looking like my dog can shit a brick when she only weighs 30 lbs. Most of these are intertwined in kelp or left for good. Semi buried in blown sand etc.. I will also grab the ones clearly in the open just so the walkers don’t forget them. It’s the least I can do and I hope other people will do the same. As for TP, ya ugly for sure . At least move off trail, dig a hole or something. But ya when you gotta go ya gotta go… just like a dog right.

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