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Published: November 8th 2015
Our last few days in California were a bit hectic so I have some back tracking to do.
During the whole time we were here the region was hit by a terrific heatwave with temperatures regularly hitting the high 90's F with no rainfall to speak of. We'd been very restricted as to what walking trails we could actually hike - seeking shady ones mostly. The trouble is with tree lined shady paths you don't get the views.
One of our favorite paths that we'd intended to repeat was the Tunnel Trail which takes you for five and a half miles up to Le Cumbre Peak over 4000ft high. The path gives fantastic views of the coast line stretching both North and South. We'd done this path 3 years previously and knew that from the path there were also good views of neighbouring Arlington Peak another of our conquests. It really had been a conquest as the ridge was steep sandstone with no real path to follow just a continuous rock scramble.
Tuesday morning began slightly cooler than most so we decided we would do the Tunnel Trail but only as far as Mission Falls, two thirds of
the way up. It was doubtful there'd be any water in the falls, California has been in the grips of a drought for a few years now, but we'd be able to enjoy the views.
Soon after setting off the temperature started to rise and by the time we were parking the car it was into the low 80's F. As we walked we commented on how dry everything was. Brittle, dry wild flowers lined the path which had turned to thick dust, not a blade of grass to be seen just plenty of other tinder dry vegetation covering the mountain side. We did remark to each other that if a fire were to break out it would get out of control rapidly. But why would it? There were plenty of warnings around not to use matches, smoke or light Bar B Q's etc.
As we climbed, just as we'd remembered, we could see the rocky faces of Arlington Peak rising majestically beneath a clear blue sky and marvelled at how we'd actually been able to reach the peak back in 2012. Not a climb I want to repeat!
After a couple of hours climbing we arrived
at Mission Falls and after a short rock scramble came onto the lip itself - of course completely dry but a great place to eat our picnic lunch, brilliant views but nice and shady beneath the rock towering up to one side of us.
Feeling refreshed we headed back down the path to the car where we'd left a bottle of frozen water, It had long since melted in the car boot but was a welcome cool drink all the same.
We finished the day swimming in the pool back at our complex and soothing sore muscles in the jaccusi.
A few days later, early morning, we were pondering on what to do when a text message came through from Justin, our host. He'd noticed a fire on the mountain as he'd driven to work and as he knew we liked to hike the trails thought it best to warn us to kept away. The wind had been strong the day before and if it returned today things could get out of control.
We made the decision to go to Santa Claus beach instead. As we drove along the freeway - ocean to our right and
mountains to our left, I noticed two planes in the sky flying on what seemed to be a collision course, they passed each other then circled around again, then two helicopters arrived on the scene, that's when I realized they were checking out the fire, it appeared to be right behind Montecito Peak, another peak we conquered on past visits.
We parked up at the beach and noticed the wind was beginning to whip up again so turned our attention to the mountains, four planes were now circling around the area along with the helicopters, one flew very low and sprayed bright red fire retardant out onto the mountain followed by several loads of water from other planes.
We watched for a while as the planes dropped their loads then flew off for more. We decided to skip the beach and went in search of a better vantage point on Ortego Hill Road. Others were there watching and we got talking to a guy whose house was in the evacuation zone, he was watching anxiously through binoculars to see how things were progressing as news had been very sketchy. He let us use his binoculars and after watching
several more loads of the red retardant drop he began to feel confident the fire was under control. Earlier, through his binoculars, he'd seen bulldozers cutting back wide swaths of vegetation making fire breaks which was a good thing as it seemed the wind had well and truly whipped up again.
Later that night in the car park on the shopping complex, we saw dozens of fire trucks returning from the scene full of weary blackened - faced fire fighters, they told us the fire was still smoldering but under control and would be reviewed the next day. What a brilliant job they had done! The fire had been contained and had not destroyed anyone's property. I think the trail in that area will be closed for sometime though.
It looks like the end of our walking for this trip at least. We were fast approaching Halloween so there would be plenty to keep us occupied.
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