Santa Barbara County High Point Trip Report

Big Pine Mountain (6,800+ ft)

Date: October 30, 2001
Author: Andy Martin

There are already several good trip reports available, so I'll just add some comments to what is already there.

1. Use Foothill Road to access Santa Barbara Canyon. Both DeLorme and the USGS 1:100,000 map show a main road heading southwest across a dry Cuyama River to gain entry to Santa Barbara Canyon. The 7.5 minute maps show an interesting story.

This road is shown as Big Pine Road (private) and has the strange property of completely vanishing when it exits one quad. In real life, I got DeLormed for half an hour while driving around farmers property in early twilight looking for the mystery road. Eventually I gave up and drove in on the paved Foothill Road. Maybe a Cuyama River flood took out the start of Big Pine Road?

2. Get an early start. I finally got on the bicycle at 8 AM. Given that I had to hustle to make it out by 6:30 PM, at last light, an earlier start would have been better for me, and cooler as well. Did bring a headlamp, though never used it.

3. Locked gate, road conditions. The road is blocked by a locked gate shown here, about a mile west of Willow campground. A sign here says no motor vehicles. Someone must have keys to the lock, as road from here all the way to major ridge crest at ~5,200 feet was well traveled and in great shape. Remainder of road (say 10 miles) is rougher, but still gets minimal traffic, and is OK for mountain bike coasting. I could do 6+ MPH coasting down hills, but had to be careful. A Honda could make it far on this road, maybe all the way to Big Pine, if driving was allowed and some shovel work done.

4. Mountain Bike tips. Those familiar with Mountain Bikes need read no further. Hikers might want to:

A. Practice some rough dirt road riding at home first, so you can work the kinks out.

B. Push bike up every grade. I find this prevents loose legs, loose ligaments, and loose ankles. Also, I don't know how to "rest step" on a bike.

C. Coast down every hill [duh]. Since road is almost always either climbing or dropping, you will get plenty of chances - sooner or later.

D. Carry a spare inner tube. Gave me peace of mind.

E. Get tire pressure under 40 pounds before heading out. Protects the posterior.

F. Set seat down to frame and raise handle bars. Since you will rarely be peddling, might as well get comfortable on the down-hills.

G. Wimps can use cord to lock rear brake lever partly on. Probably dangerous, but saves grip power for when you really need it (and you will).

H. Don't lose control and drive off steep downhill drops found along most of route [double duh].

5. The saving spring. Chokecherry Spring looked permanent. Was glad to have a filter, as water in tank looked pretty slimy, with big tadpoles swimming in it.

6. Heartbreak Hill. After finally cresting the long hill past Chokecherry Spring, you are at 6,200 feet, and faced with a 600-foot drop to 5,600 feet, and then can see the summit at 6,800. Being faced with 1,800 feet more of gain, after already having 3,000 feet under your belt, is a mighty unappealing prospect. I coasted down to Alamar Guard Station area, flopped under a pine tree, and tried to sleep for 20 minutes. Day was a bit humid and warm, which did not boost my pep. Did not see any Guard Station or water here, but did not look very hard.

Topo chart

7. The summit grind. Pushed bike to start of trail (the coast back was worth the effort) and hid it out of sight of road, and hid front tire a bit further. Did not see other hikers/bikers all day, so this paranoia was not needed. Staggered up trail (actually old overgrown jeep road) to summit, and tottered over to register, which is on a big rock, in western of the two 6,800-foot contour lobes, and on northernmost rock outcrop. Signed in, and then wandered over to a couple more outcrops in western lobe, and then to at least one big rock in eastern lobe. A very slight saddle is crossed between the lobes. Those with hand levels and pep can probably have some fun here trying to determine the true highpoint [intermediate stations will be needed]. They could also try to get out of the trees a bit and find a view. They could also spend some time leisurely reading the interesting register. Lots of familiar cohp names in it. For me this was a strictly business summit, and I trudged back downhill ASAP. It was around 3PM, and there were still 15 miles to go to get out.

8. Heading out. Pushed bike up miserable grades of 600 feet and later 200+ feet. Filtered and drank more water at spring. Raced the setting sun back to auto. Coasting down was enjoyable, too bad we can't do this both ways. Back at car a jeep arrived and they asked me if I biked the road often.

"Once in a lifetime is more than enough."