When Hannah and I were twenty-somethings living in the Valley of the Sun (Phoenix metropolitan area), each December we braced for the snowbirds – those retirees, often from Minne-snow-ta, Io-where?, and Nebraska to descend like a plague of locusts, like the Black Death, like 35 pickleballers for three courts! They would nest and swarm across the Valley.
And, was I ever self-righteous! Silently mocking their clothes, their shapes, and their leisure while I was busting my butt teaching elementary school students. I was Smug with a capital S. I’m not proud of that now; in fact, embarrassed. Can you tell that I’m trying to cleanse my soul with these admissions?
And then, what do you know? Now that Hannah and I have retired, we are sheepishly thinking of joining the flock of our white-feathered brethren somewhere warm ourselves. Order me a big slice of humble pie (with four and twenty black and snow white birds).
For the past three years to prepare to join the pasty flock from the North, we’ve traveled to California each January for a fortnight of hiking. Last year we also spent some of February in southern Utah as well as a few days back in Arizona.
Doing the VRBO (i.e., Vacation Rental by Owner) thing in California, we have rented the three-bedroom Jasmine Cottage in Summerland, 400 yards up the hillside above the Pacific Ocean; it’s just south of Santa Barbara and 85 miles north of Los Angeles. California offers me an alternative to the indoor winter routine and its punishing cold and dark.
With pickleball in nearby Santa Barbara, we have the local coastal Santa Ynez Mountains for hiking. San Luis Obispo is just a hundred miles to the north, with hiking at nearby Montana de Oro State Park. With the state parks of Big Sur three to four hours away, we are living the snowbirds’ dream.
For me, this whole “California” thing had its roots during my high school years in the mid-60s in New Jersey. Who was cooler than the Beach Boys for surfing wannabes like myself?
In time, megabands like California’s Spanky and Our Gang and the Mamas and Papas rose to the top of my hit parade. The Mamas and Papas classic California Dreamin’ worked its way into my heart, my soul, and my belief that there was something better than New Jersey. No offense, Garden Staters. When times were tough for me, I could always escape to California in my mind. And once I conceive an idea, action soon follows full speed ahead. After college, I took my first teaching job in Anaheim, California.
Three years ago, Summerland was where we first started hiking in California. Thanks to Hannah’s friend Rose, we walked the beach at Summerland to warm up our hiking muscles. Who knew three years later we’d been spending a month overlooking that very beach? Click here for that Summerland Beach blog.
Summerland is a hillside community of less than 1500 where there is no mail delivery (i.e., just general delivery at the local post office). With no super markets, we can drive to Trader Joe’s five miles up The 101 highway to Santa Barbara. On coastal bluffs, Summerland has an average high temperature of 65F in January, the same for February, and 66F for March. Is it any wonder that this temperate climate draws snowbirds aplenty to the “American Rivera?”
In the 1880s, Real estate speculator H.L. Williams founded the town of Summerland, divided the land into 25’ x 60’ plots (i.e., postage stamps) for his fellow Spiritualists. (Spiritualists believe that the spirits of the dead can communicate with living people.) The spiritual center of the town was a Spiritualist Church, with a séance room, later demolished when The 101 was constructed in the 1950s; Summerland was once referred to as “Spookville.”
In the 1890s, oil development began in Summerland with wooden oil derricks constructed on the beach and on piers stretching into the ocean. In January 1969, a blowout at an offshore oil field platform caused the infamous Santa Barbara Oil Spill. Unfortunately, a recent spill from an oil pipeline is currently fouling the local beach. Fortunately, we have sandy alternatives nearby in Santa Barbara and Carpinteria.
During our first week here, we walk each morning. One morning we happen upon the Ortega Hill Loop overlooking the pacific not ten minutes walk from our cottage. Along the trail are workout stations. Can you guess what this one to the right is for? (Answer below.)
And one more thing from the Handbook of Snowbirds – Never complain about the days when it rains or when there is a nip in the morning air. The sympathy meter will point to zero by your family and friends up North who have two more months of roof raking, snowy roads, and cabin fever, while you are California Dreamin’.
Answer: Body stretcher for your back