After spending years reading Jerry Schad’s essential Afoot and Afield in San Diego County, I moved to Santa Barbara and, with my feet firmly in the warm sand at the beach, stared at the gorgeous mountains to the north, and started planning how I was going to get know them as well as I did the San Diego mountains.
I scoured the internet and bought a few books from REI, but what I found was mostly information about hiking in the Santa Barbara front country on very popular trails. I was looking for more. I found some deeper, likely dated, information from the Sierra Club’s Hundred Peaks Section, but it was not in an easily digestible format and I missed the context behind my new hiking backyard.
About 10 months after moving to Santa Barbara, as I was searching the internet for my usual hiking beta, I came across the site for Craig Carey, and was highly entertained by his blog series, The Dungeons of Maptitude. I liked his style.
While browsing his site, I found out that he had just released a book called Hiking and Backpacking in Santa Barbara and Ventura. I was very excited. Scanning the the table of contents, I quickly realized that this was the book that I had been looking for. I immediately drove down to REI and picked up a copy and started reading it.
I found it immediately engaging, delving into the history of the Los Padres National Forest. The entertaining writing style I read on Craig’s website was also evident in the book.
However, I was in a hurry. I needed to find a backpacking spot suitable for a specific group of people. I reached out to Craig via his website and was pleasantly surprised when he returned my email quickly. He gave me a recommendation, which proved to be an excellent one. We took a beautiful hike to Sheep Camp via Mount Pinos, having a great time.
Following Craig’s blog, I found out he was going to be at the Santa Barbara REI for a book signing. I grabbed my already well-read copy and headed down. I waited for the other people to chat away and approached him with my copy of Hiking and Backpacking in Santa Barbara and Ventura. I thanked him for the backpacking recommendation and we chatted a bit about hiking in San Diego vs. Santa Barbara.
We started chatting via email. I let him know that I enjoyed the many musical references in the section headers in the book and he challenged me to find even more. Several months later, I reached out and asked if he’d like to go for a hike together. After chatting about various locations (I kept leaning towards peaks, of course), we settled on going to Chief Peak and Nordhoff Peak. Since he was recovering from a bad cold, we decided to take it easy. I had a great time and it was clear that he knew practically everything there was to know about Los Padres National Forest.
We continued our email conversations and he invited me on an exploratory trip through the Matilija drainage in a not-very-successful attempt to get anywhere near White Ledge Peak. I had a blast and met some of Craig’s long-time friends.
A few months after that, I saw him walking down the street in Santa Barbara while I waited in traffic and we shouted greetings to each other. I’ve also shared a beer with him on several occasions, one time it wasn’t even after a hike!
I offer this context of my friendship with Craig because he is a person with an excellent sense of humor who has a deep passion for the outdoors and the Los Padres National Forest in general. His personality, love for the wilderness, and his extensive knowledge of the area history, plants and animals come across in the book. I find myself looking for a quick answer in the book and end up reading it for 45 minutes. Even passages I’ve read before.
I will repeat the title of this blog post: If you go Hiking and Backpacking in Santa Barbara and Ventura, get this book.