Tangerine Falls Overlook and Beyond

Tangerine Falls Overlook and Beyond title=
Tangerine Falls Overlook and Beyond
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By Robert Bernstein

Last Saturday I led a Sierra Club hike to the Overlook above Tangerine Falls and beyond. Tangerine Falls lies at the end of a canyon off of the West Fork Trail of Cold Spring Canyon in Montecito. I had not led this hike since July 2017, before the Thomas Fire and mudflow.

Here are my photos.

Here our group of 16 enthusiastic and energetic hikers lined up and gathered at the intersection to turn onto the West Fork Trail from the main Cold Spring Trail.

When we got to the unnamed fork that heads to Tangerine Falls we were greeted by this warning sign.

We soon branched off of the trail to the base of Tangerine Falls that is almost totally obliterated. We headed up a steep trail toward the Overlook. Here we got a view of the main West Fork Trail, including the original trail that was damaged in the 2005 floods.

We spotted these hikers far below on that trail.

As we neared the top of our trail and approached the Overlook, we got a good view of Tangerine Falls, the Overlook and the surrounding rock formation. It seemed there was not a drop of water in the Falls.

Looking down the canyon toward Montecito and the Santa Barbara Channel we got this beautiful view.

Beyond the Overlook is the stream that feeds the falls. About a mile up the stream was a little "homestead" that reputedly was created and occupied by the Romero family. This article explains what is known of this homestead and the Middle Fork Cold Spring Trail that leads there.

The main remaining remnant of the homestead is a small stone structure believed to be a root cellar.

But on the eve of leading this hike, Wednesday Sierra Club hike leader Bernard Mines warned me that someone else had scouted the trail behind the Overlook and said the trail to the homestead was totally gone. It turned out they were correct!

Everyone got to the Overlook above Tangerine Falls just fine. It is a steep trail that is slippery in places. Someone recently reinforced some slippery bits which is encouraging. Perhaps it will get more maintenance going forward.

I know I have said this about our hiking participants before, but our group this time really was wonderful! 14 of the 16 of us opted to continue into the unknown beyond the overlook for a somewhat challenging outing that ended up more challenging than I planned!

These 14 of the 16 people were eager to go ahead with bush whacking for over a half hour. Martin stayed up front with me as we made our way up the stream bed. At first it was fast going as there was no water in the stream bed. But then we were surprised by quite a bit of water. Even though there was not a drop coming down Tangerine Falls. It clearly goes back underground at some point.

Here the group made our way along the stream in single file, with Elizabeth following right behind Martin and me.

We were surprised to find this pair of sunglasses in the middle of nowhere with no trail! It could have washed down from high above during the mudflow or they could have been dropped by another hiker.

I had only one piece of data to follow. I had a record of the exact elevation gain to the homestead from the last time I led this hike. I have an inexpensive barometric altimeter. At this point we were at that correct altitude but no sign of the homestead. The group rested and had lunch while fellow Sierra Club hike leader Dale ran off to scout in search of the homestead.

Dale searched for awhile, but had no luck. Perhaps we can go back another time and make a more thorough search.

While we hung out there, one of the hikers found a chorus frog in the water. Aanjelae and Elizabeth each got photos. Here is one taken by Aanjelae.

Coming back downstream we enjoyed the colorful foliage. Dale is a horticulturist and said these are cottonwood trees.

This shows the "easy" part where the stream bed was dry.

Here was the last bit getting back up to the Overlook from the stream bed. I was bringing up the rear at this point.

At the Overlook, Karyn was eager to make a precarious pose for photo!

If you look at the left side of the photo you can see a fire far below. Here is a closer shot. Does anyone know what that was? This would have been around 1PM on Saturday December 11.

I was so focused on the challenges of leading this hike that I did not get as many photos as usual. Fortunately, Aanjelae is also a botanist and captured many excellent flower and plant photos (as well as the chorus frog photo) which I have posted here.

And here are Elizabeth's photos of the chorus frog.

I felt a bit disappointed. I had promised that the optional hike behind the Overlook would be a pleasant, easy stroll. It was definitely not that! And we never found the Root Cellar at the homestead. But this wonderful group kept a positive attitude and enjoyed it all!

If you are interested, here are my photos of this hike from July 2017 where we easily made it to the Root Cellar.

And you can see all of the local upcoming Sierra Club hikes here!

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Shasta Guy Dec 17, 2021 10:20 AM
Tangerine Falls Overlook and Beyond

What wonderful photos! We have such natural beauty to enjoy if we can just get away from WiFi for a couple hours. Thanks for sharing.

Channelfog Dec 17, 2021 12:38 PM
Tangerine Falls Overlook and Beyond

Thank you for sharing this as it was my favorite/closest hiking trail. One day I hope to hike this post slide version. Lovely fall foliage too.

sbrobert Dec 18, 2021 09:48 AM
Tangerine Falls Overlook and Beyond

Thank you SHASTA GUY, CHANNELFOG, ANON for the kind words. Yes, so good to get away from devices!

Thank you BADDAWG for the explanation about the fire. How bad was the damage? We saw a plume of white smoke indicating water had been put on it.

LEW RIFFLE thank you for the tree ID correction! Blame me for that! I think there were other colorful foliage trees that were cottonwoods and I got confused when looking at my photos later. Thank you!

sbrobert Dec 18, 2021 11:25 AM
Tangerine Falls Overlook and Beyond

Another fire, perhaps? I see this article that indicates the fire on Myrtle was at 4:16PM. What we saw was around 1:00PM on Saturday December 11.

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