Up & Down: Sierra Madres to Santa Barbara

Snow on the Sierra Madres (Photo by John Wiley)

The repeating “water cycle” can be interesting. Say you start with this snow we saw lingering atop the Sierra Madre a few minutes’ flight from SBA a week ago.

I think of “solid state” water like that, as cold and sometimes (ice) hard. Then there’s comfortable, soft liquid water (usually just called “water”) flowing over this hard rock and actually cutting grooves in it below a Highway 154 bend.

Flowing water on Highway 154 (Photo by John Wiley)

Rain water falling there had brought down mud, gravel and new boulders but the strong flow in this channel had already cleared some of that away.

Over at Tangerine Falls, the water has carved a deep pool in solid rock at the bottom.

Tangerine Falls (Photo by John Wiley)

A lot of the water trickling down from melting snow or falling from the sky as snow or rain brings bright colors to the land in leaves and flowers. Other droplets soak deep down into the ground where they may stay quietly for a very long time. Some water reaches all the way to the ocean, staying for many years leaping in storms or diving deep, and possibly traveling the world.

Santa Barbara/Goleta coast (Photo by John Wiley)

Eventually all those influences of gravity yield, when water enters its gas state and rises again into the air to wander. You can see that actually happening in the pic above, as blue or white haze in the air. Will that water eventually leave the air again, perhaps atop that mountain – or our heads?

John Wiley

Written by John Wiley

John Wiley is a local pilot and longtime contributor to edhat.

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    • Thanks Ando! Great having a name for such a magnificent secret place. It’s about a mile East of the Painted Cave turnoff and below 154 near the small unmarked road to newish homes on the upper side of 154. Quite a steep ravine that doesn’t seem to have a name despite there being water down in those pools every time we’ve seen it from the air. Even running water at the depths of our last drought. Any idea how it got the name Tier Drop? I guess because there are distinct different pools and grooves in the rock at different levels? I get the sense maybe you’ve been there.

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