Every now and again a cruise liner takes over the little city of Santa Barbara. Almost doubling SB’s population upon arrival, the ship means not driving down Cabrillo Street and avoiding the first 6 blocks of state street for the day : P
Another great activity to partake in while you are in Santa Barbara is going on a horseback ride at Circle Bar-B Stables located 3.5 miles inland from Refugio Beach. Just take the Refugio exit of the 101 and take a right. Follow the road through the beautiful landscape filled with orange and avocado trees and into the woods. Be Careful, the road is narrow and the locals don’t care (lol). I’ve encountered many speedy drivers coming at me on this road and some of them are not very friendly. Once you arrive at the stables Jack, a true cowboy to the bone, will get you set up to ride with one of the other Cowboys. There are a couple options ranging from 1.5 – 4 hours rides, and even a sunset beach ride. The guides are very well trained and take good care of you. The horses are also very healthy and happy, getting to roam freely on a huge property every evening. After returning from the ride, you can cruise back to the 101 towards Santa Barbara and stop for a nice lunch at the El Capitan Campground, or, if you really want to get that country feel, make your way to the Cold Springs Tavern for a cold beer and great eatin’.
Although this was not the best winter for surf so far, a nice swell has been hitting the California coast over the last few days. Here is a couple of shots taken at El Capitan, located about 20 minutes north-east from Santa Barbara. The spot features a killer right and if you go down the beach around the point, you will find a nice left as well as another right. Enjoy !
This is just to the north of El Capitan and often the better of the breaks along this stretch of the coast. You will have to park somewhere along the freeway which i still haven’t figured out if it legal or tolerated until a cop in a bad mood drives by.
My equipment limits me somewhat as far as surf photography goes, but with the high-resolution even a wider shot can be cropped to look closer.
I love the reflections you get when shooting into the sun. Turned out real nice on this shot of a surfer heading down the line, seemingly towards nothing but a bright silver light.
The conditions caused lots of sick calls to work and every shredder who is able to walk made their way down to the beach.
THE COLD SPRINGS TAVERN
After checking out the Painted caves, you can continue on the road you are on through the actual town of Painted Cave at the top of the mountain. Keep following the road and when you get tot he T make a left. This road will then bring you back up to the 154. When you hit the 154 make a right and continue about 1/2 a mile. There is only one place you can turn left at before you hit the Cold Springs Canyon Bridge. Make a left onto Stagecoach Road following it towards the right. There is a sign there showing the eight way to go.
Once you navigate a few more sharp turns with an amazing view of the bridge on your right, you will find the tavern tucked back in the corner of the canyon. The building was originally built in 1886 as a stop for Stage Coaches traveling across the Santa Ynez Mountain Range, often exchanging horses or repairing buggies to make it the rest of the way over the mountains. The structures have not been changed and only been repaired when necessary, bringing you back in time the minute you step foots onto the property. Now on a Tuesday, the place doesn’t look that exciting, but if you make you way up here on a Sat or Sun in the summer time, you are in for a fun time, as well as a heaven for people watching. The mixture of culture and personalities is matched by few other places in the world. The tavern is a stop on almost every bike tour heading along the California coast so you are likely to see about 100 or so motorcycles upon arrival. There is always someone revving up a motor, or showing off their rides in some other hot shot way. Along with the bikers are the international tourists, US Travelers, city folks, farmers locals and every other kind of person you can imagine. The place usually has a live band, often something folky or into the classic rock direction to entertain drunken dancers, occasionally joined by someone whose liquid courage has encouraged them to try and take over the microphone. The bad part is, you dont want to be driving on the 154 when all these people are leaving … Bring a DD.
Along with the booze which are flowing freely, the weekend bring THE TRI-TIP SANDWICH. It’s the best one iv’e ever had. Along with the fresh bun and hefty serving of meat comes an array of sauces, my favorite being the wasabi mayo. They are 8 bucks but well worth it. 1 will fill you up, but given that you might end up being here all day, i’ve gone through 2 or 3.
If you are making this trip on a weekday, you will likely find the place quiet and empty, perfect for a romantic meal or a family outing in their highly acclaimed restaurant, which serves a variety of game and the kind of comfort food you would hope to find when dining in a ~130 year old tavern in the middle of the woods. Trust me, its amazing !
The main entrance to the restaurant is located in the center of the image. There is another separate building to the left, which opens as a bar on the weekends. click on the photo to see their website.
This is the old Buggy Shop where you can get repairs done and switch out your cavallos
The old jail doesn’t look like much, but then again, there was no where to run anyway.
The Cold Springs Tavern located about 30 minutes our of Santa Barbara, Right at the peak of Highway 154 which connects Santa Barbara to the Santa Ynez Valley, and eventually leads back to hwy, 101. If you are someone driving up the CA coast, i highly recommend taking this route vs. going straight along the shore on the 101. Yes, the beach views are nice, but there some hidden treasures in these mountains that you won’t likely find anywhere else.
THE PAINTED CAVES
The first optional stop is the old Cave paintings left behind by the Chumash Indians that had history in the area dating back 13,000 years before the Spanish arrived. This was first discovered when the Potter Hotel in Santa Barbara mysteriously burnt down. After removing the rubble, the Spanish discovered bones and artifacts, some of which were later dated back to that time. If you take Painted Cave, you should have a very confident driver. The road is extremely narrow, and although well paved most of the way is better traveled with anything that has a V6 and up. No smart cars or little Hondas here. The road leads you up the mountain, including some great spots to take a photo of the Channel Islands and look out over SB. Continuing on you will pass some private properties (imagine that drive to get a gallon of milk … ), and after about 10 minutes you will see a sign on the left hand side, right beside some large stone structures and boulders. You can pull over on the left side, usually no one is there anyway. You can read up on the sign, and follow the path just a few steps up where you will see some iron bars closing off the cave. You will need to let you eyes adjust for a second but you will see the paintings on the ceiling of the cave. They are very well preserved for how old they are, about 500 years. You can see some hooligans got to the cave before we could close it off to vandals, but most, is untouched.
Here’s a foggy morning at the Painted Cave… Spooky.
TO BE CONTINUED …
GAVIOTA HOT SPRING
So you are in Santa Barbara and you’ve just finished a day of wine tasting, what better way to continue the great day into the night then by taking a small hike to a hidden jacuzzi. Although if you choose to take the longer hike to the spring, this can easily be more like a half day trip, you can also take the .5 mile uphill trail that leads straight to the Hot Spring. The first time i came here i was really disappointed at first because i failed to walk up to where the actual pool was, stopping at the pit of mud and sulfur that lies just below it. The smell was morbid and it didn’t look as though anyone would dare bath in these waters. After checking around a bit further I saw the pool up above eye level, just a few steps uphill. The water is almost pitch black, and looks like oil at first glance. On one side, the “tub” is engulfed by a HUGE Poison Oak Bush, so if you are alergic, i don’t recommend getting into the water, because even though i wasn’t burnt, i felt a little itchy after getting out of the water. There is bound to be some sort of the chemical that cause the rashes on those of us who are allergic, dissolved into the pool. But i was on a mission to get into the spring so i did. It wasn’t hot, which is rather unappealing when you think about the amount of other people that may have sat in these bathtub like lukewarm waters. I am sure that bacteria were in a frenzy and i can only hope that sulfur is some sort of an antibacterial agent. After being in the water for about 5 minutes i was done. I decided to shoot some photos, the original reason that i came here with some acquaintances. Although it wasn’t my shoot my friend didn’t mind me shooting off a few and seeing what i saw. They turned out pretty cool and he was able to get in the pool a little himself.
Overall i give this 3 out of 5 stars. The reason is that the tub just isn’t hot enough to make the steep uphill walk to it worth doing on a full-moon lit night, the setting which is most romanticized by hot spring fans. If you are going more for the hiking, then its definitely a cool spot to check out. The longer trail take you all the way around the mountain making for a good 5 mile, varied terrain hike. At some part you can’t even see the path, or maybe we lost the main path, but we were able to cut some brush out of the way with the machete we had brought. I recommend you do so too, just in case you want to clear the way for the fellow coming behind you.
The Gaviota Hot Springs, plural although there is only one pool that is accessible, lies in the mountains just off the intersection of 101 and 1. If you are coming on the 101 north you just get off of the 1, go right and follow it back along the freeway until you see a small parking lot with a collections box that asks for your honesty and $2 bucks for maintaining the path. I’m positive that a lot of people just ignore this, but I usually pay it because i feel like it is the least i can do to give back to the land i am enjoying.
Wow. Today was one of the most beautiful days I’ve had here since moving to Santa Barbara two years ago. Although it was on and off, the mountains were reflecting sunlight from the “thick” layer snow that fell during the storm on Figueroa Mountain. A thick layer of snow here means anything over a half a foot. And that about maxes out our yearly total. No snowboarding here.By about 4pm most of the snow had evaporated, which given the climate of this area, is pretty good amount of time for nature to give you the chance to enjoy the scenery. There’s nothing quite like a sun-lit vineyard with a stormy backdrop and snow on the mountains. With the weather constantly changing there was a new surprise waiting as we left each vineyard, ranging from hail to rain to wind gusts that blew the guests hair into a frenzy.
The photos here are from Kalyra Vineyard and Bridlewood Estates Vineyard in Santa Ynez, California.
Kalyra Vineyard is owned by an Australian Wine maker who is most known for his Port style wines. Although they serve a variety of other delicious wines, the dessert wines are what stand out here to me.
Bridlewood Estates (above), has recently been acquired by Gallo, the wine mafia. Although I won’t get a near a bottle of gallo’s name brand wine, they do own a few really good estates, including this one. Favorite here include they flavor profiled Syrah, especial the smokey “Dusty Trails” and the BIG “Six Gun”. I pretty much like everything on their current taste list including a stainless-steel fermented Chardonnay that is Fresh and Crispy, great for any Summertime BBQ. The Viogner is floral on the nose but has a dry taste and finish making this a great one for poultry and fish. They also grow the online Estate Zinfandel in Santa Ynez, on a nice south-facing hill that gets enough sunshine to grow this hot-climate grape. And i gotta say its not bad. Although i’m going to stick to the jammy Paso Robles Zin’s, it’s tasty and lighter.
Kalyra Vineyard (below) is owned by an Australian Wine maker who is most known for his Port style wines. Although they serve a variety of other delicious wines, the dessert wines are what stand out here to me.
If you want to learn more about wine and the Central Coast Growing Region, have someone from Captain Jacks Tours take you around the area. The company has some great guides for different tours including, Santa Ynez and Santa Rita Wine Tours, Coastal and Harbor Kayaking as well as Horseback Rides into the mountains by day and along the beach at sunset time. Maybe I’ll see you on one of the many great tours offered,