Sierra Club Mission Ridge Hike
By Robert Bernstein
Mission Ridge is the most difficult Sierra Club hike that I lead, due to the distance, elevation gain and primitive trail. It may be easy for some, but it is not for everyone! When I led this hike recently we had another challenge: A forecast for rain. This kept some hikers away. But the people who showed up were wonderful!
Here are my photos of this fun outing that I only lead in the winter. It is just too hot for most of the year!
Despite the rain, it was still a challenge to find parking on Tunnel Road. This is an ongoing problem that needs real government leadership. This has become the most difficult part of leading this hike.
As we headed up Tunnel Trail it was raining lightly. I carried an umbrella, but I still did not want to risk getting my camera wet. As we neared the turnoff to Mission Ridge, I took this photo across the canyon toward Arlington Peak. I love this shot because it shows the continuity of the Arlington Peak rock formation with the formation in the right foreground along Tunnel Trail.
Just as we approached the turnoff the rain stopped and I got this photo of most of our group, all with smiles!Unfortunately, even though the rain had stopped, the air must have been near saturation. The flash on the camera blew up with a huge loud explosion. The camera worked, but my fill flash was finished. The camera would have to be sent back East for repair afterwards.
Here was the view back toward downtown Santa Barbara and the Harbor, looking across the Edison service road and the scenic overlook point below.As we climbed the steep trail to get onto Mission Ridge we passed over these fascinating concentric oval formations. Are there any geologists reading this who can explain these? Here is one, but you can see others in my photo set.The ascent is steep and Alejandra was a bit nervous. But encouragement from fellow hike leader Dale and the rest of us got her to forge ahead with determination! The trick that worked for her: Just focus on the rock in front of you and don't get distracted by what lies further ahead or off to the side. Just keep moving! She even grew impatient with my pace and took off to the top!For me it is always a treat to see ferns and moss in our local mountains as our area is so dry. But there are tiny shaded ecosystems like this where they can thrive, even among the rocks.
I have been leading this hike for decades and we rarely saw anyone else up there in the past. We were quite surprised to encounter a number of people either on the ridge or trying to find it. I don't do smart phones, but apparently there are genius "apps" that are now directing people across this ridge with no warning that it is not a regular trail. Argh!
But this young couple visiting from out of town was enjoying the challenge, even though it was not what they had planned for!Here newcomer Thomas (rear) and long time hiker Jeff (foreground) posed near our lunch spot at the top. Thomas is new in the area, but he is exploring with eagerness and energy!After lunch we crossed the ridge, heading east toward the top of Edison Road. The trail is usually very slippery with dry pebbles that are like ball bearings. But the light rain actually made it less slippery. Here we posed for a shot that shows the precariousness of the ridge walk, while also showing the dramatic beauty!Here was the final descent toward Edison Road. It is still painful for me to see these beautiful manzanitas that were destroyed by fire over a dozen years ago.There is a "secret" labyrinth beyond the top of the Edison Road that is very easy to miss. Here some of the group walked the labyrinth!
As we descended Edison Road, I took the group on a detour to show them the "secret" connector trail down to Rattlesnake Trail. Most hike leaders are now using that trail to avoid the frustrations of parking on Tunnel Road.
Unfortunately, that loop is not nearly as beautiful in my opinion. This hidden trail to that connector used to continue all the way down to the "official" overlook on Edison Road. But it was totally overgrown and we had to backtrack. This wonderful group kept their smiles on despite this glitch in my plans! Here Alex is just behind me as we backtracked, with Thomas and the others behind him.To be clear: The connector from Rattlesnake Trail to Edison Road is still open. It is just the segment from there over to the overlook that is impassible now.
Here was the view back up to the rock face that peaks at our lunch spot.And here is a cute heart of stones that someone has made at the overlook.I have two rules when I dance and when I lead hikes:
1) No one is injured
2) Everyone is smiling at the end
I think we passed the test!
You can see the schedule of all of our local Sierra Club Santa Barbara Group hikes through Meetup here. Everyone is welcome! If you are a member of Meetup you can receive free notifications of future hikes!