by Sally Berry
Although I enjoy visiting the Gaviota Coast, I typically stay along the beach leaving the canyons and mountains unexplored. Today was different – I was invited to go along with small group to explore Refugio Canyon. This is an area that I have not been to before and it was time for me to explore new places. After the hard rain the night before, our group dwindled down to just three of us – Warren, Janet, and myself. I felt “in good hands” with Warren as our trusty guide due to his familiarity with the area and the local history.
We anticipated seeing some destruction from the recent fire. What we didn’t know is that we would also see some results of fresh debris flow. We met and drove up the road sloshing through the fresh mud and following a mud plow scraping away debris flow. After a bit of slipping and sliding up the winding road, we parked near the horse ranch. The three of us started walking up the trail at the Circle Bar B Ranch. Others in my group shared their stories of the ranch and reminisced about the horseback riding and the earlier dinner shows that used to be held at the ranch. The ranch owners were starting the messy clean up the ranch to make way for future visitors to come.
We continued the careful step-by-step muddy trek sloshing our way up the hill. What once was a road now was a mud filled path making our hike just a little bit more challenging. As we continued up the road, we started to see positive signs of this week’s rain. The creeks regained a nice gentle flow of water not seen for weeks on end – a beautiful site. It was interesting how the new patches of fresh green and soft flow of water was mixed in with the charred remnants of the fire. I could start to see how destroyed nature helps heal part of this mess that had occurred. It was amazing, but also gave a lot of mixed feelings.
Warren informed us of a nearby larger waterfall and guided us in that direction. Continuing up the muddy path, we finally could see the water fall in the distance below our perch at the road. It was a beautiful site … but we wanted to get a bit closer. So we agreed to skitter down a muddy ravine, make our way over the rocky muddy terrain, and across the creek towards the fall. The trek was well worth the journey. A picture does not begin to explain its beauty, the sounds of rushing water, the birds, the moist green surroundings. There was a fresh rain scent of of nature with a mix of charred wood, mud, humid air coming from the new growth. I had not smelled or felt a bit of humidity in quite a while but it felt good. After our brief meditation at the waterfall, we reversed path to climb up muddy rock ledge and back up the ravine. It was a bit challenging – but why not? We continued along the path, up the hill, skimming over streams and plowing through the mud. We finally twisted our way up the mountain side to a point where we could view the ocean to the south.
Along our path, we encountered remnants of homes that now lie in rubble. We fortunately saw homes still standing too. Warren was able to fill in my knowledge gap with some stories and history the locals and land. We stopped at one of the charred remains that used to be a home taking a glimpse of the melted parts of someone’s personal life. We continued on down the “main road” that was now a rock-filled field of muddy rubble which unfortunately, no owner could get up by car anymore.
As we made our way down toward our car, I reflected on the beauty of this wonderful area and how mother nature tries to renew the damage. The trip reminded me that occasionally … I need to get off the beach and up into the mountains to see another type of beauty very close to where we live called the Gaviota Coast.