Romero to Buena Vista Hidden Benches Sierra Club Hike
By Robert Bernstein
DISCLAIMER: These photos do not represent appropriate distancing under current conditions. This hike was on March 1 before these orders went into effect. If you go out in nature now, please keep at least six feet from other hikers.
Our Sierra Club hike on March 1 went to the "secret benches" on the Buena Vista trail in Montecito. There had been a forecast of possible drizzle, but the weather turned out to be beautiful and clear! We had 18 people which was a perfect number. The trails are wide and can easily accommodate a big group like this.
Here are all of my photos from this outing.
I had not led this hike since January 2017, long before the fire and mudflow. I had no idea what to expect.
We started at the Romero Canyon trailhead in Montecito and plenty of other people were out hiking from this trailhead that day.
The first stream crossing was wider than before the mudflow, but Montecito Trails Foundation had made it quite easy to get across.
We soon came to the junction with the Buena Vista Trail. The challenge if you hike this alone is that when you come to this junction on the return it is easy to go "straight" which takes you uphill on the Romero Trail! You need to go right on the return trip.
The Buena Vista trail is a fire road and it is really, really steep! Most of the 700 foot elevation gain on this hike happens in about one half mile. That is a 30% grade, as steep as the steepest street in San Francisco!
The challenge comes on the way back down. Many of us brought poles. No one seemed to fall. It is hard to capture how steep it is, but this photo gives some idea:
I was pleasantly surprised that most of the trail was in good condition since the fire and mudflow. But there are areas that were quite eroded and that will need repairs.
Just before getting to the most hidden of the benches we came to these muddy paw prints. I have tried to track down a tracker who once led this hike for us in 2015, but I have not heard back from him on the identity of these animals.
We posed for a group photo with the coast and Carpinteria in the background:
We made our way up what used to be a very hidden trail to a very hidden bench. The little trail is not quite so hidden anymore:
As for the hidden bench, it was a memorial to Brad Darrach 1921-1997. Unfortunately, the bench was completely destroyed in the fire. Someone has kindly piled the remains of the bench in a neat pile. What we have now is a memorial to a memorial! Perhaps someday it will be rebuilt.
That spot offers a nice view back toward downtown Santa Barbara and the harbor:
We then headed back the way we came up. Stopping to see some flowers along the way.
We turned off of the main Buena Vista Trail to visit another hidden memorial bench. This one is in memory of Mark James Andros 1952-1961. We were pleased to see that the bench and the memorial plaque and photo of this child were all in perfect condition. We posed for a group photo here.
As we got back to the first stream crossing on the Romero Trail my wife Merlie spotted this beautiful little snake flicking its tongue out:
Big thanks to herpetologist Gary Nafis for identifying it as a Two-Striped Gartersnake.
All Sierra Club hikes are on indefinite hold for now. But I plan to post more photos from a backlog of recent hikes. By all means get out in nature. Just be careful to keep a safe distance from other humans!