“Our favorite route to the main ridge was by a way called the Cold Springs Trail …. Beyond the apparent summit you found always other summits yet to be climbed. And all at once, like thrusting your shoulders out of a hatchway, you looked over the top. Then came the remarks. Some swore softly; some uttered appreciative ejaculation; some shouted aloud; some gasped; one man uttered three times the word ‘Oh,’-once breathlessly, Oh! once in awakening appreciation, Oh! once in wild enthusiasm, OH! Then invariably they fell silent and looked.
It left you breathless, wonder-stricken, awed. You could do nothing but look, and look, and look again, tongue-tied by the impossibility of doing justice to what you felt. And in the far distance, finally, your soul, grown big in a moment, came to rest on the great precipices and pines of the greatest mountains of all, close under the sky.
In a little….the change had come to you, a change definite and enduring, which left your inner processes forever different from what they had been….And often, perhaps a little wistfully….we spoke of how fine it would be to ride down into that land of mystery and enchantment, to penetrate one after the other the canons dimly outlined in the shadows cast by the westering sun….to see for ourselves what lay beyond.“
Stewart Edward White-The Mountains, 1904
Cool Emerald Green Waters
The words “cold springs” conjures visions of emerald green pools and enchanting waterfalls. I think of warm rocks on which I can rest after a quick dip into the refreshing waters, the cascading water splashing over the rocks deep into the summer months. It makes me think of when I was a kid and my friends and I would explore every little creek, in search of the next great adventure.
If there is a canyon where the water runs clearer or lasts longer into the season you must tell me where it is. Here, near the mountain crest, the upper walls of the Cold Springs canyons are formed by steep walls of shale. When it rains, the shaly clays absorb large quantities of water, slowly letting it percolate through the many layers until it reaches the canyon bottoms weeks-and even months-after the storms have passed.
But there is more to hiking in this canyon than the cool springs. The crest trail still leads to views which are as impressive as those seen by Stewart Edward White in 1904. Though the coastal area has changed considerably, once you reach Camino Cielo and gaze out over the back country you will find a land little changed since the Chumash roamed through it.
Thanks to the efforts of a few unknown trail builders there are also several new routes which lead up into Mission Canyon. On the east side it is now possible to make your trip up past the sandstone pools a loop hike and a route around the west side of Tangerine Falls has also been opened up, providing access to the canyon above it. The trip up to the top of Montecito Peak is still one of the culminating experiences. No matter what your destination, you will find Cold Springs to be one of the very special places in these mountains.