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.
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)