Playground Sierra Club Hike Fun!
by Robert Bernstein
What a delightful group of nine for our wonderful Playground hike on Sunday!
Here are my many photos and a video!
Hike regular Ananda brought Matthew along and they dared to go places beyond my comfort level! We had several other new energetic and eager hikers: Jim, Liz, Kathy, Jonathan, Steve and Beverly!
A highlight of the hike was Liz picking up a baby gopher snake and posing for some photos and a video! Here is the short video:
UCSB herpetologist Sam Sweet kindly identified the gopher snake as a regional variety sometimes called the San Diego Gopher Snake. He said it was about a year old. Here is more information about this snake that is harmless to humans but is good at eating lots of rodents.
One thing that made this hike unusual was the thick fog we were immersed in about half the time. When we entered the Playground there was no way to see more than a few feet at a time. That made it impossible to give my usual orientation. It also made it a bit of a challenge to find my way! I was able to fulfill my promise "we will get lost"!
Here was a foggy moment where Ananda and Matthew ventured to the "bird's nest" at the bottom of the Playground as the rest of us ate lunch. At times they completely disappeared in the fog
I started the hike by having everyone climb onto a spot that is an overlook of the whole Playground. This involves a crawl and then a rock climb that is a bit of a challenge. This is important to be sure everyone is up for what lies ahead. This time everyone passed the crawl and climb with no problem! Here Kathy led the way behind me
A photo opportunity I always like to offer early in the hike is a chance to "hold up" the "Atlas Rock". Here French Festival creator Steve Hoegerman did it with just one finger!
The Cave in the middle of The Playground has many chambers. Sometimes we see bats, but this time we saw none. Here we posed in the largest chamber
Exiting The Cave requires a tight squeeze. Ananda and Matthew paused at the exit for a photo
The Narrows is perhaps the most famous part of The Playground and is one of the hardest parts to find. Here Liz paused in a wider section of The Narrows
The final section of The Narrows requires a serious squeeze and a drop at the same time. Kathy was all smiles as she made the squeeze!
We saw many wildflowers on this hike. Here we saw the succulent Dudleya in bloom near the bottom of The Narrows
Quite a few sticky monkey flowers like these all around The Playground
And an abundance of blooming bush poppies!
Here the fog broke for a nice view down to Goleta and the Airport with Liz, Kathy, Jim, Steve and Beverly
Heading back along the top ridge has its challenges and offers dramatic views. The Cube Rock looks like something ominously placed there by space aliens
After that we took our last break in a cave that looks tiny from the outside, but can hold even the largest group I have brought on this hike
Near where Liz picked up the baby gopher snake I spotted this baby rattlesnake all coiled up. It was not bothering anyone. Folklore claims the babies are more dangerous than the adults, but a search indicates this is probably not true. Best to avoid being bitten by young or old! Always watch where you are going. And always look before you place your hand when climbing on rocks!
On the walk out from The Playground, Beverly (who is a Channel Islands naturalist) demonstrated the spores on the back of this fern. By making an imprint on her pants leg.
Beverly also identified this mysterious cluster of fruits. They are the fruit of the manzanita. Indeed, they are "little apples". But I had never seen them clustered together like this. Usually they are randomly scattered all over the plants.
Here was our parting view from The Playground during a nice break in the fog! You can see the top area of The Playground that most people know and love. For me, the most fun parts are the hidden parts below!
Here you can see all of the upcoming Sierra Club hike listings.