Over the past few months, I’ve been getting up early and hiking the Cold Spring Trail, with the aim to summit Montecito Peak from the bottom. Previously, I climbed Montecito Peak from Camino Cielo, but my starting point was actually higher in elevation than the peak itself. I see the peak on my way home from work and as I am driving around town and always felt a little lazy having climbed it from the top. To my defense, that was my first hike in Santa Barbara and I wanted to get a lay of the land.
Previously each time I started out on the Cold Spring Trail, I would get to a certain point, look at the time and head back down. I had to get to work. One time, I got within a quarter mile of the top and had to turn around. I had a meeting. After five or six attempts, I decided to get this done.
I woke up at about 5:30AM and headed to the trail head. It was completely black. I searched my hiking kit. No flashlight or headlamp. How did this happen? This was my morning; my opportunity. Luckily, I have a flashlight app on my iPhone that uses the small LED normally used for flash photography. It illuminated the way on the trail quite nicely.
By this time, I was familiar with the trail, having hiked it several times and sometimes in pretty dark circumstances. After about 45 minutes, the sun started to rise and I could see through the greyness.
I made it to the fire road and I stopped for a breather, enjoying the view of the clouds below me. I was making good time, even though the darkness slowed me down a bit. A few hundred feet of climbing later, the sun started peeking out from behind the mountains to the east, bathing the clouds in a wonderful glow. I had to stop hiking for a bit and simply enjoy it. This was why I get up so early to hike. The view of the sun rising, surrounded by the fresh scent of chaparral, is something that’s hard to explain. Checking the clock, I hiked on.
The next part of the trail is rocky, so care is needed in order not to roll one’s ankles. I made it to the lone eucalyptus tree, a landmark for local hikers. Many people stop here and enjoy the view before heading back down. I, however, had other plans.
Before long, I was at the base of Montecito Peak. I knew I was in for a steep push and I wasn’t disappointed. Roughly 300′ in .15 miles, it’s a lung busting scramble on soft dirt leading to the top. But once you get to Montecito Peak, it’s amazing. Plenty of room to stretch out.
I looked at my clock. It will be a race downhill to make my 10AM meeting, as I still had to drop 3,337′ in elevation in 3.5 miles, drive home, get ready for work, and then drive to work. I tweeted my thoughts and my boss read the tweet and pushed back the meeting until 10:30AM. Supercool. It still might be close. I wasn’t sure precisely how long it would take to get back down. I had a quick breakfast, drank some water and started running down the trail, wherever possible.
It’s fun for me to see familiar landmarks fly by as I come down a mountain and this was no different. Once I got to the fire road, due to the excellent quality of the trail, I was able to pick up my speed and get down.
I made it to work at 10:05AM and I was early enough to grab some coffee and get settled before my meeting. My legs were tired, but my spirits were high.
It’s good to have goals.