Everyone has their own personal well of strength that they draw from. They draw from its depths in everyday life and during hardships. It is the strength from this well that pushes us to not just survive, but to find our niche and thrive. While our personal wells may differ in depth and magnitude, we all have a common source that is open to all and rarely drawn from: the wilderness. It demands strength, and grants it. Summiting a mountain is no easy feat, but the pride swells in your chest when you realize there is nothing above you but the sun and the sky. Laboring through the brush or trail can be arduous, but nothing is as empowering as looking back at what you have accomplished.
If my small opinion is not enough, John Muir’s words surely carry credence. “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.” John Muir was one of America’s famous naturalists and preservationists, known for his writings on nature throughout America, but specifically in California throughout Yosemite and the John Muir trail, which was named in his honor. Credentials aside, Muir was an ecological thinker with a fervent enthusiasm and reverence for nature. The wilderness was his well of strength, and his writings inspired many to draw from it as well.
In the last article, I encouraged you to get a taste of what Santa Barbara has to offer in a saunter up the stream to Seven Falls. This week’s adventure will focus on a hike that requires both strength and grit. While physical fitness and endurance are necessary to reach the top, this hike requires a mental toughness to thoroughly enjoy the experience. Cathedral Peak reigns above Santa Barbara at 3,333 feet. Its jutted rock-face can be easily identified from the 101 if you know what to look for. Hands down, it is the most demanding and rewarding hike in the region.
Before delving into the description, I must issue a warning of precaution. This trail is as steep as it is strenuous, and it amounts to four miles round trip with a 3,000 ft. elevation gain. At several points throughout the hike, there are episodes of boulder-hopping and even class two and three rock-climbing. Exposed on a mountainous ridge, there is little protection from the sun. All of these factors combined accumulate to several hikers being extracted via helicopter by Santa Barbara’s Search and Rescue squad.
If it isn’t clear yet, you should not take this trail if you consider yourself a first-timer or a novice hiker. Even for those more seasoned, I would recommend asking around and finding someone who has completed the trail before. This is a potentially dangerous hike and it is not for the foolishly brave or unprepared.
The trail begins similar to Seven Falls. It starts at the Tunnel Road Trailhead and follows the same old electric utility road that leads to the Jesusita Trail, which will eventually comes to a creek crossing. At this point, follow the creek upstream and take the first steep trailhead on the left. This dirt path will lead you up to the mountain ridge. Soon after reaching the ridge, the trail turns from dirt to boulder hopping. Rise with the ridge on its center until you reach the first summit, Arlington Peak. Obtain a good view from Arlington Peak, and you will be able to see the jutting rock formation that is Cathedral Peak only a short distance away. From here, the trail is relatively easy to follow. Once you reach your destination, let out a mighty roar — you earned it. Enjoy the stunning view that ranges from Oxnard to the distant Channel Islands. On a clear day, you can distinctly point out I.V. and even our own Storke Tower. Take caution hiking back down, as this is where the majority of injuries take place.
After eight expeditions, I’ve found this trail takes around five hours up and down. Necessary supplies: one meal, snacks, two to three liters of water, solid shoes with ankle protection, first aid kit, sunscreen and most importantly hiking buddies.
We all have our own sources of inspiration and strength, but a source can diminish if used too often. So mix it up, look to our natural surroundings for strength. Prove your might against the mountain, and watch it seemingly bow when you stand on top of it.
Harrison Gibson is a fourth-year biology major.
Directions to Seven Falls: From 101 South, take exit 101A toward la Cumbre Road. Turn left onto Las Palmas Drive and continue onto South La Cumbre Road. From there, turn right onto State Street. Next, take a left onto Alamar Avenue. After about a half of a mile, turn right onto Foothill Road. Next, turn left onto Mission Canyon Road. Stay left at the fork in the road and continue onto Tunnel Road. The trailhead is at the end of Tunnel Road.