Monday, February 19, 2007

Above Malibu and Montecito

Malibu and Point Dume with Santa Catalina floating on the horizonLast weekend we took a mini road trip. Day One was to Westwood to visit son Kellen at UCLA, where we watched the UCLA basketball team win another one. The next morning leaving Westwood, we drove west on Wilshire Blvd. and picked up the somewhat hidden ramp that leads down to the coast and hooks up with the Pacific Coast Highway (known in these parts as PCH, or simply Highway 1). From Santa Monica, PCH hugs the coastline in a lazy loop out towards Point Dume, a landmark in Malibu. Around Point Dume the Santa Monica Mountains go straight down to the ocean, leaving a small bit of land for the road. Here, several roads lead up the many canyons into the mountains, giving day hikers ocean vistas. On a clear day, the view is spectacular.
The Channel Islands (Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands) are visible from the bluff-side trailWe drove through Malibu to Encinal Canyon Road. Our destination was a day hike that would give us great views, be not too arduous and 2 or 3 hours long. We consulted John McKinney’s Walking Southern California: A Day Hiker’s Guide to choose this Malibu area hike. The road snakes up a canyon and at about 4 miles we turned into the Charmlee Natural Area, a nature preserve run by the city of Malibu. The Ocean Vista Trail is an apt-named series of trails that traverse meadows, shady oak groves, and a fabulous bluff offering inspiring views of the Pacific, Catalina Island, and the Channel Islands off the coast of Ventura and Santa Barbara. The trails are fairly level. We saw no other hikers and briefly shared the trail with a lone woman on horseback. The steady breeze and Santa Ana temperatures gave us a sparkling day that felt like summer.
Interesting rock formations and scattered oak trees above MalibuWe continued up Pacific Coast Highway past Point Mugu to Oxnard, Ventura, and headed to Santa Barbara, where we used to live while Paul was in graduate school at UCSB. My heart tugs at the immediacy of the coastal beauty here: the islands are in your face right off the coast (as shown in the photo below) and the mountains are so near that they seem much higher than their 3,000-plus foot peaks.
Santa Cruz Island view from Shoreline Park in Santa BarbaraThe day following our Malibu trek, we took to the mountains above Santa Barbara (dubbed the “front range”). From Montecito, we started at the Cold Spring trailhead and took the McMenemy Trail fork to Montecito Overlook (majestic, indeed). From Montecito Overlook you can see (northwest) up the coast to Goleta and beyond. Looking south you see Santa Cruz Island, one of the Channel Islands that dot the coast off Santa Barbara. Looking southeast gives you more coastline towards Ventura and its range of mountains. Ventura, Oxnard and Point Mugu from Montecito Overlook

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