Playground Sierra Club Hike!
By Robert Bernstein
My Sierra Club Playground hike is always an unusual hike, but this time it was a bit more unusual than usual!
Here are all my photos!
First, the bad news. We had one person who misjudged his own limits and needed assistance getting out. The good news: We had a wonderful, generous and patient group of hikers who shaded him, gave him water and food and gave a hand over and over. Most important, they assured him we would stay with him all the way.
We try to avoid these situations as much as possible, but I am grateful to everyone who did so much to help in so many ways.
They were new to the Playground and it was a pleasure having them join us. They were especially helpful assisting the man in need.
At this point we had thirteen in our group. Here is everyone except Collin and Jessica
Soon after we entered the Playground we encountered exactly thirteen more people who were with UCSB Associated Students Environmental Affairs Board (EAB). They were out for a nature experience, but they were also unfamiliar with this challenging landscape. They were happy to tag along, too!
Here their leader makes a leap off a rock!
26 people I think ties our record for a Playground hike!
It made for a bit of a line in places where we had to walk single file
Before entering the big cave, we paused under the "Atlas Rock" where some of the group pretended to hold up the massive boulder and others just enjoyed the shade!
Then began a slow process of people filing into the upper chamber of the big cave
After all 26 of us entered the cave, it seemed the EAB people decided not to continue. They thanked us for showing them that far, but then they headed back. The whole hike was like this, with our numbers growing and shrinking and growing again! As long as everyone is getting the experience they want and not inconveniencing others I am OK with it!
For me, the highlight of the outing is what we found in the cave. I usually count on children to find bats in the cave, if there are any to be found. And I was grateful to Andrea and Hjordis for bringing their children (age 10 and 9) on the hike. They have been on the hikes before and everyone has a good time. But, this time the mothers and children changed their route and met us much later in the hike.
More good news: Despite losing the eagle eyes of the children, we saw not one bat. Not two bats. But at least four bats! And they weren't just stuck flat hidden away. They were hanging from the ceiling in full view! And each of them flew around at some point! Here are some of the bats!
This one really was posing looking straight at me!
We posed in the tallest cave chamber
Collin and Jessica posed in the skylight area of the cave
The final chambers of the cave have some tight squeezes and I always offer hikers a bypass route for those chambers. My wife Merlie and Donnis took the bypass and watched us from a window above:
But those of us who did the tight squeeze got to see a bonus bat!
I have never seen so many bats before in this place, and never saw them so active. I do hope people will take care to disturb them as little as possible. Bats are endangered in many parts of the US, so it is good to see they have found a refuge here.
We then made our way down to the hidden entrance of the Narrows
Which unfortunately has been vandalized with paint
But the stunning beauty of the Narrows remains
And we happily squeezed our way through!
Until we popped out at the bottom
Some flowers greeted us
We took a long lunch break at the bottom of the Narrows. Janice and Arvin took the hike a bit further by heading over to the "bird's nest" for their lunch break. They found a creative route that I am still not sure about!
We enjoyed relaxing with the spectacular view below. And watching Janice and Arvin pose for us in the distance!
After lunch we started making our way back up
as the "bird's nest" receded in the distance
We faced a seemingly insurmountable wall
But it actually offers at least two secret passages that lead to a beautiful vista of rounded sandstone forms
A dead yucca flower stands tall among these boulders
A lizard basks on a boulder
And these insects prepare for a new generation
As we neared the top of that climb...
.... we were greeted by the children smiling down on us from atop the back of the "mushroom rock"
We made our way around that massive rock on a rather precarious slope
And we took turns posing atop the front of the "mushroom rock" while Merlie rested below
The children joined us as we started back across the top ridge of the Playground
Stopping in the last cave on the loop
This pair of planes seemed to be doing an unusual maneuver together
One of the final challenges getting out is facing this difficult climb which Collin chose
But the rest of us chose two slightly less scary climbs instead
On the path out we saw ripe Toyon berries. These are edible if you are desperate for food, but they don't taste very good!
There are still signs of the July 2008 fire
But nothing like this moonscape right after the fire
Here you can see all of the Sierra Club hike listings. All are welcome! But please know your limits!