Out of Manzana, Back to the Beach

Our campsite at Manzana NarrowsSaturday morning I woke up around 8:00 am. There wasn’t a lot of light shining on/through our tent, so I wondered if it was a typical coastal overcast morning. Dave was still sleeping, but I figured we should try to motivate, since it seems to take us a couple of hours to get ready, have breakfast, clean up, and pack everything up.

I woke Dave up, and got dressed and propelled myself out of the tent. I discovered, happily, that it was a clear sunny day with blue skies – the sun just hadn’t made it around the hills and trees surrounding our camp. As I waited for Dave to get up and get dressed, I started getting the breakfast together. We boiled water for tea, and drank that with our Pop Tarts. Then we cleaned everything up, pumped some water from the creek (which was right next to our campsite – very scenic), packed everything into our packs, and hit the trail around 10 am, after taking a few photos of the campsite.

It turns out that my complaint from the day before – that the trail was nothing but uphill – was fairly accurate. This made for a much more pleasant hike back – downhill is almost always (as I have said before) better than uphill.

The trail had crossed the creek back and forth quite a number of times through miles 5-7 (which of course meant that when we went from Manzana Camp to Manzana Narrows and then back again in the space of an hour, we hopped across the creek so many times, we lost count). It was pleasant to do so in the first leg of this morning’s hike. After about 45 minutes of hiking, we stopped at one crossing (which had a large rock in the middle of it, wide enough to seat two people) to pump some water, enjoy the sun, and play with the water a little bit.

Perhaps five minutes later, as we headed along the trail again, I suddenly saw the hind end of an animal ahead of us on the trail, disappearing around a small bend. I stopped and said, “Dave – wildlife!” We took a few steps forward and realized that it was a small brown mountain lion, with a ringed tail. It acknowledged our presence and continued up the trail, glancing back once or twice, annoyed that we were still there. It disappeared into the bushes before Dave could get a photo.

While we were slightly disappointed to not have any visual record of our encounter with the mountain lion, it seemed preferable to the alternative. It’s good to have stories of wildlife that don’t involve some kind of injury or property damage. *smile*

Now, the previous day had gone by without us having any conversations with other human beings. We passed a couple of guys when we arrived at Fish Camp, but I’m not sure we said as much as “Hi”. We managed to avoid any conversation with the loud guys in the group of 10.

Today, though, everyone we passed on the trail was chatty. Right after we saw the mountain lion, we were passed on the trail by two guys, wanting to know if there were lots of people headed for the Narrows. We told them what little we knew. Later, there were two couples also heading that direction on the trail, asking the same questions. I guess it makes sense for it to be busier on a Saturday. But this trail still had considerably fewer visitors than the trail we hiked in the High Sierra.

Dry river bed along Manzana Narrows trailWe stopped around noon for lunch, at the dry river bed right before Fish Camp. We ate in the shade, and the breeze picked up, so that we were actually starting to get a bit chilly sitting still. We enjoyed our peanut butter and bread, though Dave didn’t quite enjoy the dried fruit I had included for lunch. I took a few photos and then we continued along the trail.

The rest of the hike went pretty quickly, other than being (once again, but this time at least it wasn’t a surprise) hot and dry. We suddenly found ourselves back at the fork where we had first doubted ourselves yesterday – having come through the trail to the right, which we hadn’t chosen the day before. We were pretty confused about this, but at least we felt good that it didn’t, apparently, make a difference which path we chose yesterday. The weird part was that we completely missed the Lost Valley Camp, where we ate lunch yesterday. We were confused, but we were glad to see that we only had about a mile (a flat mile!) left to go.

We enjoyed the shade, the water, the manzanita trees, and the fall colors and smell. We came to the final place where the trail crossed the creek, and were suddenly back at the car. It was not quite 2 pm, which was just what we’d aimed for.

After piling all our gear back into the car, we took the slow, windy road back out of the wilderness, past all the horse ranches, and back out on to the highway.

The next step in the plan was to meet our friends Brett and Suzy at a campground near the beach, but we didn’t know at which campground they managed to get a spot. We checked our voice mail and found that they’d managed to get a space at the Gaviota State Beach. Rather than going back to Santa Barbara, Dave pointed out that it would be quicker to take Hwy 246 to the 101 and take that south to Gaviota.

Quicker wasn’t exactly the right word, as it turned out, but it was certainly more interesting. Between highways 154 and 101, Hwy 246 goes through a few cute tiny towns. This means, of course, that we averaged 30 mph on this road. However, we got a chance to see Solvang, which was completely adorable. A little Disneyesque, perhaps, but it seems like it would be a fun place to spend a day or a weekend. It’s entirely Danish-themed, down to places such as the “Little Mermaid Inn”, with lots of cute little shops, restaurants, inns, etc. It was a good find.

Sunset at Gaviota State BeachOf course what we wanted was a couple of Pepsis and a place where we could get some cash, so we were really looking for something more like a chain supermarket. And – voila! We arrived in Buellton, where we were offered an Albertsons and a Longs Drugs, as well as Starbucks, McDonalds… civilization at last.

When we got out of the car to walk into Albertsons, we discovered that the “walking” part was more difficult than we realized. So we added “ibuprofen” to our shopping list. *smile*

After our little shopping excursion, it was only minutes down the 101 to get to Gaviota State Beach. Brett and Suzy were still hiking, so we set up our tent, and they got there a few minutes later. We spent the rest of the evening hanging out, watching the sunset from the pier, and enjoying some wine and Brett’s pasta with meatballs. It was very relaxing after our 14 miles of hiking. Check out the rest of Dave’s photos from Gaviota – they’re pretty cool.

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