Special Private Mountain Tour Hike with the Humanist Society

I recently wrote about our Humanist Society hike to Mission Ridge. I mentioned that there was a couple on that hike, Cathy and Jim, who kindly offered to give us a private tour of their property in the mountains. They indeed did this for us and here are my many photos!

This is roughly in the area below Knapp’s Castle, on the ocean side of the mountains. Scheduling was a bit of a challenge. They wanted to show off the area as soon as possible after the heavy rains, when everything would be lush and the water would be flowing.

But I was a bit nervous about the stream crossings, so we waited a few days after a big storm before making it all happen!

We gathered near their home, which is nestled among magnificent oak trees:

Most of the way we were on trails that were created by Cathy and Jim. And it was quite an impressive network of trails they have created and maintained! But there were a few spots where trails are not possible, crossing sheets of rock. Including this bit right at the beginning:

We soon spotted this shooting star flower.

Cathy posed on this trail that passed through some manzanita trees. With so many fires in our mountains in recent years, it was a treat to see some mature manzanitas that have not been destroyed by fire.

It was wonderful to see so much water and so much lush vegetation.

This did also make for some challenging stream crossings, but Cathy and Jim had done their best to place rocks to make it as easy as possible.

I was in awe of the places where they had cut rocks to make the path.

This manzanita managed to grow out of one of the rocks!

Here is another natural rock garden.

Many of us posed at this overlook above the Painted Cave area with a view out to a bit of Goleta farms, UCSB and the Channel Islands.

Our host Jim was in the back with a black and red hat, next to Cathy.

As we climbed higher we could look down at the Laurel Springs area. This used to be owned by Jane Fonda, where she brought disadvantaged kids up for summer camp. Back then, it was all open and I would sometimes bring visitors in. Not anymore. Just left of center you can see the windmill that is left over from when Jane Fonda owned it.

This was the view looking back up the mountain toward East Camino Cielo. Toward where Knapp’s Castle is or was. It is not clear anymore whether the public can access it now.

As we descended in a large loop we saw some ripe toyon berries. Toyon berries are edible, but they are not very tasty!

Here Jim led the way down through the chaparral.

This was a notice to hunters that their property is off limits for hunting.

These mushrooms were thriving after all the rain!

Another stream crossing facilitated by some strategically placed rocks by Cathy and Jim.

My fearless wife Merlie had no trouble with this last crossing, but some others found alternate routes!

Back near their house was perhaps the best part of the trip: A raging waterfall! Merlie got this nice photo of several of us near the waterfall.

And here is a short video I made of the waterfall:

After enjoying this delightful spot, it was a short walk back along the creek to where we started.

We are very grateful to Cathy and Jim for hosting this tour of their wonderful land on their carefully maintained trails!

You can see the schedule of all of our local Humanist Society hikes and other events here on Meetup. Everyone is welcome!


Robert Bernstein


Written by sbrobert

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