Day 2 Mission Pine Springs: Migrating Butterflies, Snow and Sugar Pines

Day 2 started well after an 11-hour sleep. After being exhausted from hauling my pack through the fallen trees and up the mountain, I’d gone to sleep at 8:30 and gotten up about 7:30am. We took about an hour to get out of camp and had a 1,400′ elevation gain in the first 1.2 miles. That climb works out to over a 22% grade. That’s steep!

Here’s a highlight reel of the day of hiking.
Day 1’s hike is shown by the light white line. Day 2 is the light blue line and I gained 2,700′ going from Big Cone Spruce Camp to the top of San Rafael Mountain.

The trail was clear and we hiked up the steep grade without much difficulty. When we got to the top, I dropped off my bear container in the bushes and some extra things since we didn’t think we’d run into any bears – we were wrong…

When we got to the road, we saw quite a bit of snow in the shadows at about a mile high. As we climbed more, we saw more and more snow. By the time we were over 6,000′, we were hiking more in the snow than on dirt. The snow remained because we were hiking in some shade on the north face of San Rafael Mountain – the second highest peak in Santa Barbara county at 6,593′. Only Big Pine Mountain is taller and we could see to the east at 6,827′.

Deep snow near the top of San Rafael Mountain. The pine trees in the distance are where we were headed.

The snow slowed us down quite a bit because we didn’t want to slide down the mountain. Hiking poles helped to keep us on the mountain.

As we were walking along the ridge, I kept seeing many butterflies rise over the ridge and fly down the other side. They just kept coming and coming for an hour as we walked along the ridge. Thousands of painted lady butterflies were migrating across the ridge for who knows how many hours. They looked like small monarch butterflies. I couldn’t get a picture of them because they would fly away when I got near, but I found a pic of one on the Internet.

Here’s a painted lady butterfly like the ones that were migrating over the ridge.

We summited San Rafael Peak and had great views to the Channel Islands about 60 miles away. I thought how Amy would be looking at the Channel Islands from our apartment and thought of her. If only I could contact her way out in what seemed to be nowhere. I turned airplane mode off and got a signal. I called her from on top of the mountain and we had a nice chat while she was making some crema de lemoncello. She was just a phone call away, but still a long ways away. I called my Aunt Marilyn later too.

We had another 1.9 miles away to our campsite from the top of San Rafael Mountain. We started hiking and got into the pine forest really quickly. While most people think of oak trees or the Moreton Bay Fig tree when they think of Santa Barbara, I think of the pine trees that grow on the tops of our mountains. Below you’ll see a picture of a 100′ tall mature cedar. Chip is dwarfed by it.

Here’s a lovely cedar tree.

The tree I like even better in this forest is the beautiful Sugar Pine. They grow over one hundred feet tall and have long graceful limbs. The limbs reach out and hold foot long pine cones on the end that dangle like a woman holding a handkerchief. I haven’t seen it happen, but they say that a strong wind can fling the pine cones hundreds of feet from the base of the tree. Since it usually grows in the mountains, the cone might bounce and roll hundreds of more feet to spread it’s seed.

That’s a sugar pine’s long, lovely arm that are probably 50′ long.
Here’s an unopened sugar pine cone and an opened one. These are fairly small, but can grow over a foot long.
Chip signing in at the registration desk.
From the top of the ridge, I could see the Channel Islands off of Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara lies beyond the Santa Ynez Mountains that rise above the green fields. Lake Cachuma lies at the bottom of the Santa Ynez valley and supplies most of the water for Santa Barbara. It was pretty easy to see Lake Cachuma in person, but it might be hard to see in this picture.
When we made it to Mission Pine Basin Camp, someone had left a broken spork. I carved out a notch in a stick and put the spoon on it. Then I duct taped it and it worked pretty good until the tape got wet. I had to use my wooden spoon after that because I couldn’t get it to stay together.

We made 6 miles to camp in 6 hours after being slowed down by the snow and the steep climb. The wind was blowing and it was cold up at 5,863′. Chip made a fire, but the wind blew the heat away, so I went to sleep at 8:30 again.

Mission Pine Basin in 4 miles. That’s where we went the next day.

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