When we woke up this morning, our tent was the driest it has been since we started the trip. I cannot even explain what a big difference a dry tent makes in breaking down camp. It is so much nicer!
As I mentioned, our home last night was Upper Oso Campground. I had originally planned to stay at Los Prietos campground, which looked really nice according to the details on Recreation.gov. I was a bit disappointed to find it was closed. The saving grace was that there are three other campgrounds within very close proximity to Los Prietos – Upper Oso is one of them. The campground was pretty empty (actually, all three campgrounds were pretty empty), but I had seen families and children running & playing at Upper Oso, so I felt like it was a nice, safe place to rest our heads. By the time we were ready to call it a night, there was only one other campsite occupied – a family with several small children. Charlie and I crawled into our tent and quickly fell asleep. At some ungodly hour, I woke up to the most horrifying noise I think I have ever heard. Lying in my sleeping bag, as still as could be, I tried to calm my heart and think rationally about what it could have been. I came up with three things: 1) a wild animal, 2) a child from the other campsite having night terrors (causing a night terror of my very own), or 3) the family had just been slaughtered by some psychopath and we were next. In the wee hours of the morning, rational thinking is not my strong suit. I did my best to keep my mind focused on option #1 while I quietly retrieved my bear spray and super-duper whistle. I’m still not entirely sure what it was, but I’m still alive (as is the other family), so I am pleased to say it was not option #3.
(**ETA: After sharing this story with several friends, I was told the horrible shrieking noise belonged to a fox. Apparently that’s what a fox says.**)
Upper Oso is situated down in a valley, so we were greeted with foggy mountain views to start the day. As we climbed back up to the highway the clouds broke and we had lovely views of the valley below.
I drove straight into Montecito to get right on the trail. Tangerine Falls was the goal. I’ve hiked this trail three times in the past, though never with Charlie, and I distinctly remember taking a wrong turn each time. Today was no different. The trailhead for Tangerine Falls is not clearly marked, so we started on the wrong trail. We were a half mile up the mountain before I called it and we turned around. Oops! No big deal, just an extra mile of hiking. 🙂 Once I found the correct trailhead, we made our way into the forest. Tangerine Falls trail is supposed to cross a stream a few times. And you know you’re on the right trail if you can still see the water pipe. Well, this trail has become so overgrown that it was very hard to follow in the beginning. We almost gave up before the first stream crossing! At this point, I was quite thankful for the mile we hiked on the wrong trail…at least we got some hiking in! One thing I have figured out, hiking alone (or, sans-dog) requires a lot less thought than hiking with my favorite trail pup…particularly on out & backs. Several of the spots on the trail that were giving us difficulty he could have easily gotten down (or, up), but they would have become an issue on the return trip. This just meant we (and, by we, I mean I) had to be a little more observant and creative with how we approached the trail.
After crossing the stream the first time, the trail was more apparent. We followed along the trail, carefully, trying to make it to the falls. The higher we climbed, the more narrow the trail became and the steeper the drop off was to our side. It would have been fine to continue on if Charlie had been safely and securely at home. But, with his clumsy 85lbs by my side, I became concerned about what would happen if he slipped. I had his leash attached to his harness, rather than his collar, due to that very concern…I didn’t want to strangle him if he slid away from me. The reality of the situation was that if he slid down the decline to the (nearly) dry creek bed, he’d probably emerge with a bruise or two, but otherwise injury free. I, however, probably would have thrown myself down the hill after him, trying to break his fall. Once at the bottom, there’s no way I could have gotten him back up the incline on my own. (Don’t worry, Mom. We wouldn’t have been trapped. We could’ve followed the dry creek bed back to the trailhead.) So, I made the decision to turn around before making it to the falls…or, where water would have fallen if California wasn’t experiencing such dyer drought conditions. I did see the “falls” from afar though. Good enough.
We made our way back to the car without issue. Amazing how the return trip is always so much easier to navigate! From the trail, we headed into Montecito to hang out and kill some time. My friend, Sandee, works in Santa Barbara and we had a lunch date planned. I had not seen Sandee since I worked in Santa Barbara a few years ago (and, this was my first time seeing someone I actually knew since leaving San Diego), so I was pretty excited about it. After a lunch of swapping stories, Sandee invited us to stay at her ranch. She has horses. This was an easy decision. 😉
I followed her the couple hours to her house, recognizing part of the drive from my old commute, and enjoying the coastal and farm views along the way. I received a tour, was introduced to her husband, Roger, and all of the animals, and generally relaxed in a way that I don’t think I have done in quite some time. Sandee and Roger are so warm and welcoming that I immediately felt at home! I’m looking forward to more time together and fun moments like this: