Gaviota Caves Exploratory Sierra Club Hike
By Robert Bernstein
My latest Sierra Club hike was to the Gaviota Caves. But not the usual route. A completely crazy, challenging route!
What a truly perfect group we had for this challenging hike! Nine people, all full of energy and enthusiasm and ready for the difficulties we would face! We started up the "normal" route headed to the caves that most people know.
Here is the long view of the area as we started from the parking lot near Gaviota State Beach
Here we were starting out on the paved access road
Plenty of invasive non-native thistle and mustard that were very colorful
There is now an informational sign and map when you get to the trailhead
The mustard is quite thick along that first trail up that first hill.
There used to be a more reasonable trail with switchbacks, but people have cut a trail that goes straight up in an absurdly steep slope.
We saw the first of many Bush Sunflowers
And the first of many views of the train trestle at Gaviota State Beach
We arrived at the top of the hill for a view of the Gaviota Pass and the canyon between the first ridge and the second ridge
We started up the trail above that first overlook
And soon saw this Jimson weed in bloom. Very beautiful but reputed to have powerful psychoactive effects.
We saw the first of several varieties of "Everlasting" flower
I think this is Golden Yarrow
And Indian Pink
We got clear views of the main caves we were heading up to
We were soon at the first cave which is the largest, with multiple chambers.
Above Paula's head you can see an Indian Pink growing right out of the rock!
And Webb made the death-defying climb onto the very top of the cave and stood in the window of a small chamber at the top
We continued up, headed for the big caves further up and we could see people standing on top of the famous Wind Cave
We started to see Cliff Aster
And more varieties of Everlasting
Soon we were at the next cave
We soon started up a steep shortcut to the Wind Cave with Ananda in the lead
I think this is Foothill Penstemon
Webb took an even more challenging route to the Wind Cave
We saw one of many lizards. This is a Western Fence Lizard, also known as a "blue belly"
More intriguing sandstone carving by nature
Here are some Blue Dicks
After that enjoyable rest we looked down that challenging ridge and made our way along
This turkey vulture soared above us
Webb sometimes scouted the way and got us back on the ridge when I mistakenly saw an animal path as the way!
As always, at http://www.santabarbarahikes.c