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Today, we enjoyed the third week of our Explore Santa Barbara County adventures. Another homeschooling family joined us for the early part of the trek to Seven Falls/Three Ponds in the Santa Barbara County Front Country. This hike was a LOT tougher than we'd anticipated, but the reward at the top end was WELL worth the struggle, the heat, and the bruised knees (mine and V's). For a "two- to three-mile round trip," this seemed incredibly long! Still, what a fantastic adventure we had! (Three hours up; 1.5 hours back; two hours at the ponds.)
First, I caught a very large garter snake which we enjoyed for a few minutes with Argus and Donna who, it turns out, knows a LOT about MANY different animals.
Then we missed the well-worn turnoff that's only about 100 feet past the end of the pavement (weeds have grown to cover the sign - but STILL the trail is VERY well worn and should have been a giveaway). So we managed to follow the VERY steep main trail to (???) quite a way before it occurred to me that NONE of this felt right. (Up a steep, hot, dry hill to get to the creek?!) We backtracked and quickly spotted the trail.
The walk up the creek was tougher than expected in spots, because of the smaller rocks; the big boulders were much easier to navigate until...
Seven Falls. The water was stagnant or completely dry (in the shallower pools). I underestimated the climbing skills needed on this part of the CREEK walk. The traverse steps were too far apart for even the long-legged 8-year-old (who, by the way, is a better climber than I). We watched a couple of small groups struggle up the "stair steps," then started our descent. That's when we spotted...
the bypass trail! Not easy. Not clear of poison oak, but CERTAINLY a way around!
Found one more really tough climbing spot (for short people), but helped each other out and finally found our way to our reward - FANTASTICALLY clear, cool pools - three of 'em in great repair. I was pleased to find little trash in the area. (We carried out two beer cans, a water bottle and rice crispy bar wrapper - none of which we'd carried in.) The water was a great reward, and the people we met along the way were friendly, helpful and relaxed. WONDERFUL!
On our way down, we stopped at some of the lower, tiny pools to checkout the California Newts. Should have been wearing gloves. (They offer a neurotoxin in their land phase, and in smaller amounts in their aquatic phase.) But we did the next best thing and washed our hands as soon as we let them go.
I would not suggest this trek for anyone under age 12 unless the kids are used to hiking (mine are VERY used to hiking), adventurous, and their parents are VERY interested in expending a LOT of energy helping them. Even carrying them in a pack would be tough due to the climbing involved and the low, overhanging branches. (I had to crawl at points, and still broke dry twigs with my small day pack.)
What will tomorrow hold?
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