Looking 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.
A 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.
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.
Overlooking 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)
Twin Arches, Gaviota Crags (from afar)
Twin Arches, Gaviota Crags (up close)
Great stuff, Jack. I hope you are compiling and cataloging all your blogs. Sounds like a great book to me. Thanks for sharing with us all.
Great spot. Thanks for not giving explicit directions. I first went up there 10 years ago (it was a bit more unforgiving before the fire). FYI: I have a photo of the canyon from 1910 and you can see the arch. I’m curious how old that one bit of graffito is, though…
Hey Jeff. It’s clear by the weathered state of the sandstone within the arch that it’s existed for quite some time, but also appears to have calved off a large slab that increased its size sometime relatively recently.
That old photo you mention doesn’t happen to show the old Barger “Castle” does it?
I am a Barger and a recent addition to Santa Barbara and would like to know how this all came to be named after a Barger ? who why etc