High above Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez River

I took a drive into the Los Padres National Forest above Santa Barbara yesterday, hoping to escape the June Gloom and check out a possible hiking trip that would include a visit to the Gibraltar Reservoir and dam. Driving CA 154 west from its junction with US 101, the road climbs quickly into the mountains, allowing one to escape the low cloud cover rather quickly.

The first photo looks out over Santa Barbara and the Pacific Ocean. Visible are the clouds characterized as June Gloom, and in the distance, the peaks of Santa Rosa island just barely make an appearance.

The second photo looks over the Santa Ynez River as it flows from Gibraltar Dam towards the Pacific. Since the flow is controlled (Gibraltar Reservoir provides drinking water for Santa Barbara), much of the river basin below the dam is a recreation area and includes swimming holes, campsites, and hiking trails.

Both photos were taken from East Camino Cielo, which runs along a ridge high in the Los Padres. In the second photo, Paradise Road, which provides access to the dam and recreation area, is visible in the valley below. While Paradise Road does follow one canyon wall or another for much of its time, it also crosses the Santa Ynez in several places; rather than building many small bridges, the roadway is designed to be overflowed by the river, leading to several steeply-sloped, single-lane sections along the route.

I’ll certainly be back to hike out to Gibraltar Dam, but just driving through the Los Padres yesterday was satisfaction enough.

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