Lizard's Mouth Hike with the Sierra Club
By Robert Bernstein
My latest Sierra Club hike was to Lizard's Mouth. Lizard's Mouth is one of my favorite places to bring visitors who are not up for a full hike. Yet it is one of the most beautiful places to see locally!
Here are all my photos!
It is a bit like the Playground... with training wheels! Lots of rocks to climb on, but mostly easy climbs, or else there are alternate routes that are easy.
This outing was just for fun! Usually we do this as a cleanup. But every once in awhile I like to do this as a pure exploration. And this time we took a totally NEW route! I call it "Lizard's Mouth the Back Way" and about half the hike was new even for experienced Lizard's Mouth people!
We had a wonderful group of energetic hikers, including several new people: Silvia, Paul and Ting.
Here we started up from West Camino Cielo further back along the road than the usual start near the Winchester Gun Club. New hiker Silvia leads the group behind me.
We immediately encountered the first of many lizards. Very appropriate at Lizard's Mouth!
Immediately we are in an other-worldly rocky landscape.
UCSB Geography researcher Caixia waves as the group ascends a huge sheet of sandstone rock
We pause for the first of several group photos with Goleta and the Channel far below
Despite the rocky landscape, there are bush poppies
And manzanitas, complete with "little apples"
Hiker Vera tasted some and thought they tasted like apples. My sample tasted way too bitter!
In the distance we spotted a UCSB group who we encountered later in our exploration
Here you can see a cave that was new for our group and at the far right you can see a tiny tip that is the nose of the Lizard's Mouth
On our way to the cave we enjoyed more views
And encountered more lizards, including this one
Ananda and Paul climbed a skull-shaped rock
And there are still the "bones" of trees killed in past fires up here
We made our way to the "new" cave where we also encountered a family already there
Getting up into that cave is a bit tricky. It involves a climb and then crawling through a small hole. Here Ananda peeks back through that hole
Getting back down is even more tricky!
We admired some more sandstone rocks sculpted by water and wind.
Nearby we encountered the monument to Nicholas Markowitz. He was an innocent teen who was murdered because of a drug deal his brother was involved in that went bad. A lose-lose tragedy for all involved.
We made our way through some tight spaces
To find another cave that was new for most of the group. Of course, we could not resist climbing over, under and through it!
The inside was a spectacular example of the "Lizard's Mouth" erosion art
Caixia and I posed inside
Here we spotted a huge California Tiger Whiptail Lizard. Thanks to my Astronomical Unit friend Chuck McPartlin for the correct identification!
Linda spotted another blue belly lizard in an unusual color
In the distance we could see the UCSB group on the nose of the Lizard
We squeezed our way over to the main big cave
Sadly, this is an area where thoughtless people mark up the rocks, get drunk and smash glass bottles. It is the main focus of our annual clean-up. Very time consuming to remove all the glass shards and other trash.
We then ascended the long rock sheet that is the back of the Lizard
With a look back at that big main cave and the fallen rocks that form it
The UCSB group is finishing up on the Nose of the Lizard just in time for us to arrive
They kindly took group photos of us
Including precariously perched on the Nose of the Lizard!
A bird perched in its own precarious spot below
We then dropped below the Lizard's Mouth with Linda leading the group behind me
You can see the chalk left by the skilled free climbers, along with a new rainbow insignia
And then we get our first view of the actual Lizard's Mouth against a dramatic sky above!
One of the hikers spotted the first of two baby rattlesnakes! I believe Paul and Silvia spotted them.
Baby rattlesnakes are a bit more dangerous than adults. They are more likely to strike and they are more likely to inject a full load of venom. This one was content to stay coiled and watch us as we watched it.
We looked across the canyon at the rocky sheet up the other side. That was to be our final climb. But we kept remembering to look back for ever more unique views of Lizard's Mouth
We began that final ascent
And got some more distant views of the Lizard's Mouth
Some bright lichen as we encounter more burned trees
We look down the final ridge near the Gun Club that takes us down to West Camino Cielo
A final view of the Lizard's Mouth from afar and from above, offering a view of the Channel below
Just then we found the second of the baby rattlesnakes
This one was not content just to stay coiled as it took a defensive position, ready to strike
One more lizard
As we finished our descent on this wonderfully sculpted ridge
Our final descent down Highway 154 was interrupted by some kind of accident that seemed to involve a motorcycle over the uphill side of the highway. Emergency vehicles were already dealing with the situation. We were very fortunate that the road was not completely closed. After about a 15-20 minute delay we saw the rest of the motorcyclists emerge and we were allowed to pass.
As always, at http://www.santabarbarahikes.c