One of the reasons I chose to visit Santa Barbara on my way to Los Angeles was its physical location. Not only is it on the Pacific Ocean with a great beach, but it sits at the foot of a beautiful mountain range. After doing some research on hiking in the area, I decided to do a day hike on the Tunnel Trail, a popular 4-mile trek up the mountains.
I packed my gear for the day and biked to the trail. It was quite a workout just getting there – the trail started partway up the mountains so I had to bike up some pretty steep inclines. After I parked and locked my bike at the trailhead, it was just me and the California wilderness. Unlike the wilderness on the northern Pacific coast which is covered in thick tall trees, the California region is virtually desert, with a few trees but mostly shrubs and rock. For a hiker, this means the trails are much more open; instead of having to wait to get to the top of the mountain to get the view, the scenery is present for the entire hike, making it even more rewarding. Unfortunately, the downside to this is a lack of shade, and the sun was certainly in full force that day.
The hike was fantastic! As I wound up the mountain along ridges and up rocks, I could see the city fall away below me and mountains that seemed big from the ground were all of a sudden nothing but little bumps. After a few hours I reached the top of the trail at about 3800ft. and I enjoyed the sub that I had brought along with me. The hike down was just as great, and just as I reached the bottom I also reached the bottom of my 2L water supply I’d brought – phew!
Unfortunately I did not wear sunscreen that day and quite quickly paid the price for it – I got some massive burns on my neck and shoulders which were still sore a few days later. That’s one mistake I won’t make again!
That night I ended up meeting a bunch of other travellers at the hostel and enjoyed some drinks with them. I met a girl from Australia, three girls from Germany, and five guys from Britain.
My biking for the day was only to the trailhead and back but it still amounted to 15.6km for the day. Adding 8 miles of hiking to that meant that I finished the day pretty exhausted!