Hiking the Santa Cruz Trail

The reason I go backpacking is to disconnect from reality for a few days and get in touch with Mother Nature. Cooking over a fire, drinking from rivers, counting stars, and putting that whole hygiene thing on the back burner.

This is usually how my backpacking trips go, that is unless the Warriors are playing an elimination playoff game on the road!

On this three day trip, I was guilty a few times of checking my phone for service (to no avail) and boring (maybe annoying?) everyone else on the trip by talking basketball with my buddy Kai. I finally was able to settle into zen nature mode after 24 hours in the wilderness when I found a magical area with service and the “we won!” text messages started flooding in. The backpacking could begin.

My childhood friends, Kai and Nate, and I have logged some solid backpacking trips over the years. We always seem to pick the most grueling trails that push us to the edge of death by dehydration (slight exaggeration). These trips always end with us telling ourselves that next time we will find a “way chiller” hike.

Well it turns out for our Memorial Day weekend trip we chose another one of those “hike until you drop” type hikes. Oops. For some reason 3,000 feet up a mountain and 2,000+ feet down the other side in one day with little to no shade didn’t quite register to us.

Well, long story short, we made it and spent an amazing two nights on the Santa Cruz Trail in the Santa Barbara backcountry watching the sun set, traversing mountains, and getting to know a new group of people in which Nate and myself were the only “out-of-towners” (SB lingo…). A solid trip and another trail to check off the list.

A large backpacking group starts on the Santa Cruz trail near Santa Barbara.
The backpacking all-star squad, rolling 10 deep on the trail.
A large backpacking group starts on the Santa Cruz trail near Santa Barbara.
A large backpacking group starts on the Santa Cruz trail near Santa Barbara.
Group water break. 
Close up of rocks on a dirt trail in Santa Barbara.
Taking my time to get the artsy shots.
Santa Cruz trail in Santa Barbara.
A narrow trail winds around a cliff face.
Chem trails cover the sky.
We got bombarded by chem trails. 😦
A rolling grassy hill on the Santa Cruz trail.
Hours later, nearing the top. 
Dry flowers seen on the Santa Cruz trail.
A snake crosses the path on the Santa Cruz trail.
The first of three snake encounters that I had. Luckily I didn’t personally run into a rattler like some of the others. 
A carpenter bee extracts pollen from a white flower.
Reaching a saddle on the Santa Cruz trail.
Made it to the top! However, not even half way to camp.
Green mountains in Los Padres national forest.
Looking over on the other side of the mountain, much greener than the side we started on.
Nate Straus walks along a trail in Los Padres National Forest.
Tired hikers rest for shade on the Santa Cruz trail.
After being split up, the group reconvened above a water source.
Resting in the shade on the Santa Cruz trail.
Trying to get out of the sun. The heat got a little overwhelming on this shadeless portion of the trail.
A small stream runs through lush grass.
Finally, arriving at the stream.
Nate Straus filters water fro a stream.
Filling up on water and scrubbing dirt off our legs.
Kai Borer sets up a tent at Santa Cruz camp.
Tents arrange around a picnic bench at Santa Cruz camp.
Setting up camp for the first night at Santa Cruz Station.
Corn and sausages cooked in tin foil over a fire.
Corn and sausage for supper.
Hanging around the campfire.
Packing up and commencing the second day of the backpacking trip.
After a good night’s sleep, heading out of camp to our next destination, Happy Hollow, which was about another 3,000 foot climb back up the mountain.
Backpackers cross a stream in Los Padres National Forest.
Backpackers resting on the trail in Los Padres National Forest.
Dry, tall grass covers a mountain hillside.
A tick’s paradise.
A trough collects water from a spring.
Water fill-up.
Resting for lunch at a picnic bench.
Lunch break.
Resting on the backpacking trip.
Arriving at Happy Hollow in the evening, our camp site for the second night.
Enjoying the sunset from Los Padres National Forest.
Epic sunset watching session.
The sun dips below the horizon from Los Padres National Forest.

My timelapse of the sunset. A little disappointed in the readjusting focus and pulsating sun. But you get the gist of what we saw.

Morning at the campsite.
Waking up the next morning.
Happy hollow campground.
Packing up to head back to the cars.
Grass flattened from a tent.
The grass mattress was nice.
Hiking on a grassy hill in Los Padres National Forest.
The cool, coastal fog teasing us as we march on under the sun.
Hiking a ridge in Los Padres National Forest.
Kiara, please make this your FB cover photo. You’ll get so many likes.
Hikers weave through tall grass in Los Padres National Forest.
Friends take a group photo in the parking lot after the backpacking trip.
Made it back to the car around noon, which gave us enough time to go get some Mexican food and watch the Warriors win game 7!

6 thoughts on “Hiking the Santa Cruz Trail

  1. Beautifully depicted and described, Evan. Many thanks for taking us all along. You sure do pick the tough,, unrelenting hikes!



    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful photography and fine writing in your piece about hiking above Santa Barbara. I never much cared for too much company when I, so many years ago, hiked — through Yosemite, Olympic National Park, the pre-explosion Mount St. Helens-area and “the woods” surrounding my hometown, Longview, Wash. I’m wondering, how do you find solitude when you’re enjoying the companionship of friends? I do applaud you, Evan, not only for going on your adventures but also for sharing words and pictures with your blog followers. One other question: It’s been so long since I’ve gone hiking that I’m surely unaware of the latest advances in gear, techniques, etc. But I wonder, how do you drink from streams and rivers without getting giardia? Are there new procedures for quickly sterilizing fresh water to eliminate the bug?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Lee! I am glad that you liked it.

      We use water filters to drink from the streams. Everyone had their own things, ranging from pens that zap the bacteria with UV rays to more basic filters/pumps.


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