Rocky Pine Ridge in Dramatic Fog

Rocky Pine Ridge in Dramatic Fog title=
Rocky Pine Ridge in Dramatic Fog
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By Robert Bernstein

Rocky Pine Ridge is one of my favorite places to bring visitors who are up for a hike that does not involve a lot of elevation gain. It can be fairly easy or it can be quite a challenging rock scramble, depending how far we go. I recently led this for the Sierra Club on a day with billowing fog. Very dramatic! Here are my many photos!

Here was our first view of the ridge with an extraordinary formation of clouds behind it.
Here some of our large group posed in the dense vegetation with that backdrop. After the fires a dozen years ago some vegetation has grown back, but it will be decades before the magnificent manzanitas recover.Here is one of the few magnificent manzanitas that has survived.An early stop on this outing involves having people try to open the secret door that seems to slam shut behind you! Here husband and wife UCSB math professors Dai (with camera) and Wei give it their best! Dai and Wei also brought several of their students on the hike who you will see in the other photos.Endless sculptures of sandstone are a big attraction here.Some people call this area "The Rock Garden" and you can see why as the group makes its way.This scene makes me very sad. This was a magnificent pine tree that managed to grow up and around this massive boulder. Only to be fatally wounded by the fire. It took several years for it to die, helped along by drought. Fire is not a natural part of our chaparral ecosystem. And the Climate Crisis is making things worse every year.There is a tunnel that makes another great photo opportunity. If you look at the full set of photos you can see a variety of poses as people come through! Here is Rodger Sorrow who some may know from the adult education classes at City College. He leads outings that also involve a stop for meditation.This is another favorite photo-op. The down and up narrows!Soon after that, my wife Merlie is in front of the group on the final steep descent to the "official" end of the hike.Aaanjelae poses here with a beautiful rock formation as the rest of the group descends in the background.I say "official" end in quotes because I usually offer an optional extension of the hike for those who are more adventurous. The trail is fairly primitive, but it completely ends at this point. After that, it is possible to get out to the very end of the ridge, but it is all rock scrambling. In the past it was possible to take a low route past the official end. But so many trees have died and fallen into that passageway that it is completely blocked now.

So, I offered to lead the hike a new way that I had never done before. Amazingly, most of the group was up for it even with that warning!

Here you can see the group following behind me across the rocks, all spread out!I was very happy to see this lone pine was still surviving, growing right out from the rock!Each of us staked out a lunch spot at the very end of the ridge. Which felt like the very edge of the world in the fog! Here Diana and Carla are clearly on top of the world!I was pleased to have a photo looking back along the ridge with me balanced at the end!Those who did not venture to the end of the ridge were patiently waiting for us when we returned to the official end point. Here we posed for a group photo.As we headed out we were treated to a view of a hang glider soaring over the ridge. There is a good updraft there and they can often stay along the ridge for as long as they want!You can see the schedule of all of our local Sierra Club Santa Barbara Group hikes here. Everyone is welcome!

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Shasta Guy Nov 16, 2021 11:23 PM
Rocky Pine Ridge in Dramatic Fog

The pines on Rocky Ridge (and other locations on the ridge behind town) are Coulter Pines. Los Padres Forest Watch has a post on them complete with a photo from this hike:

Fire is quite important for their life cycle. I knew about their massive cones, and I my younger days I harvested a couple so I could roast their delicious nuts. I wanted to see how the nuts compared to those of the Digger Pines up in Northern California. To do so I put the cones in the oven for them to open up to get the nuts. Intense fire is one of the ways those trees can propagate by releasing the seeds from the cones. Disrupting the natural role of fire in California for the last century because of the 100% fire suppression policy is having catastrophic consequences for many forest habitats in the state. It will take longer than our lifetimes to get the forests have a healthy relationship with fire again, but instead we’ll probably keep up the 100% suppression policy anyway.

sbrobert Nov 16, 2021 05:56 PM
Rocky Pine Ridge in Dramatic Fog

Fire indeed is destructive to chaparral. I cite this excellent article in the Independent from 2008, following a series of destructive fires.

Those gorgeous manzanitas can take a century to come back to their full glory.

Thank you for the kind words SHASTA GUY!

CanyonKid Nov 16, 2021 08:15 AM
Rocky Pine Ridge in Dramatic Fog

"Fire is not a natural part of our chaparral ecosystem"


From the USFS Pacific Southwest Site:

"Chaparral vegetation is well adapted to fire and regenerates readily after fire, either through sprouting from stem bases (lignotubers) or from soil-stored seed. Although mature chaparral consists mainly of shrubs, herbaceous plants are the dominant vegetation during the first few years after fire. Many of these "fire-followers" are annuals, the seeds of which have lain dormant in the soil since shortly after the last fire. Germination is stimulated by heat or by chemicals in smoke or charred wood."

a-1637145134 Nov 17, 2021 02:32 AM
Rocky Pine Ridge in Dramatic Fog

Fire may be useful rather than necessary to chaparral?
I googled "is fire necessary for chaparral growth"
Started with this:

a-1637144865 Nov 17, 2021 02:27 AM
Rocky Pine Ridge in Dramatic Fog

I wondered about that statement too, Robert. Doesn't it depend on the intensity of fire? I'd have to read a lot about this but it's not my focus at this time. Thanks CanyonKid for discussing this.

Shasta Guy Nov 15, 2021 09:19 PM
Rocky Pine Ridge in Dramatic Fog

Lots of hiking memories from that ridge, thanks for your photos Robert. So much fun stuff packed in one spot!

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