Dan and Pickleballers in Santa Barbara, California

While Hannah and I hike regularly during our winter two months in Santa Barbara, we also pickle three to four times per week.  Today, I introduce four of the good guys at the pickleball courts.

Pick map

Ten miles from our home away from home to the courts

Pick Tim 2

Tim in the safari hat and blue tee shirt

Let’s start with Tim.  Hailing from Virginia and here for the winter, he and I come to the courts in Santa Barbara as the outsiders.  Many times Tim makes a point of seeking me out as a playing partner.  His power, delicate touch, good humor, and the fact that he doesn’t take himself too seriously make him an ideal partner.  Though we win more than we lose, it’s always a good time with Tim.

After our last pickleball morning before we return for home in Maine, Tim makes a point to come to wish me well.  He then seeks out Hannah on another court to bid her farewell, and says, Take care of the old man.

Pick Bill

Then there’s Bill.  After one enjoyable morning of teaming on the pickleball courts of Santa Barbara, Bill offers up, why don’t we “catch dinner” together with our wives.  Not exactly sure what that means, we invite them to our place in Carpinteria for drinks, dinner, and cards.  Our Sunday night becomes one of the peak moments of our winter stay as we laugh throughout the evening over getting-to-know-you conversation and then conclude the evening with a spirited game of Mormon Bridge.

Pick Werlins with H

Bill and Claudia with Hannah at the Frog Wall in Santa Barbara

The following week, Bill and I play as partners all morning long, building on our growing friendship.  Three days before Hannah and I leave for home in Maine, Bill and Claudia have us to their place for lunch, followed by a surprise trip to the Frog Wall in Santa Barbara.  We have a home away from home.  And Hannah has plans for a Frog Wall in York.

Jerry makes three.  Though we only partnered up on two mornings at the end of our stay, he made an indelible impression with his encouragement and confidence in my play.

Pick SB logo

You see, I can be a fish out of water. I play the soft game; by that I mean I hit softer third shots over the net and dink to slow down the play; I’m waiting for an opportunity for my partner or me to pounce on a high return.  At Santa Barbara Pickleball, power is the name of the game for so many of the top players.  Slam, bam, thank you ma’am.  They are bangers.  Without subtly, they crush the ball and often leave me in their wake.  I tire of points being over so quickly; either they pummel me or miss wildly.

Jerry is different.  As an elite player, he values and celebrates our soft games.  With some deftness, he and I beat some top opponents and narrowly lose to others.  But Jerry is constant in encouraging me to keep hitting my low soft balls over the net.  Self-deprecating himself, he pumps me up especially when we play games where I am clearly the weakest of the four players.  He sees the best in me.

Pick Sal

Sal in the blue shirt rocketing a winning return

And lastly Sal.  Everyone knows Sal with his effervescent personality.  With his welcoming way and daily presence on the courts, he is a bridge to all the advanced players.  Sal hits with power, plays the soft third shot, and good-naturedly moans about missing a shot, all in good fun.

At Santa Barbara Pickleball, if players win, they stay on the court for the next opponents.  On one morning, I have just won a game with another player.  We as a team move to another court to play, when that player calls out, Sal let’s play.   Clearly that is against protocol since I just won. Sal turns and says, You won with Dan.  It’s his turn to play.  It may have been an innocent mistake on the other player’s part, but what I appreciate is that Sal stepped up.   He could have let it slide, but he didn’t.  He was looking out for me.

I want to take something from each of them to be a better version of myself.  From Tim, let another know that they make a difference; from Bill, go for it and reach out to others; from Jerry, speaking up and be relentlessly encouraging; and from Sal, look out for the quieter ones so they don’t get lost in the shuffle of more aggressive players.

There have been others of note – Bonnie, Matt, Alistair, Paula, Ben, Andres, David, Paul, and Craig who were decent to me as well as excellent pickleballers.  I look forward to returning in 2021.

Pick H serving

My number one squeeze, Hannah serves in the far court.

Dan and Hannah Hike on the Hot Springs Trail in Montecito, California

The Santa Barbara area is Zen-like in that it has an abundance of hiking trails.  Coming to the area for seven years, today Hannah and I find a new-to-us hike with a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  Let me explain.

Hot map to HS

Different from most of hikes where Hannah and I are alone together, today Claudia, a regular on the trails in Santa Barbara, joins us.  She is an example of the serendipity that comes to our lives when we just put ourselves out there.

You see, at pickleball in Santa Barbara, Hannah and I met her hubby Bill.  One thing led to another and they came to our house for drinks, dinner, and Mormon Bridge, the Rothermel Family’s favorite card game.  Over dinner, we learned of Claudia’s trail adventures and invited her along on our hike into the mountains above Montecito.

Hot 1 start of trail

Following the lead of our daughter Molly and her hubby Tip who hiked this Hot Springs Trail just last week, we three come to the trailhead and find only one spot of the seven for parking.  Hakuna Matata (no worries).  If you, too, can’t find a parking spot, just around the corner on Riven Rock Road there is parking for 30+ vehicles.

Hot 1B C and H on trail

Claudia with Hannah along the dry creek bed

Hot 1C D and C

Dan with Claudia on the Hot Springs Trail

On an unusually warm late February day going to 80F, we three take to the opening chute of the trail past the mansions of Montecito.  At 830A, the trail is shaded with many places for two of us to walk side by side in conversation.

Hot 1D H and C on trail

Since it’s not a long hike at 2.6 miles round trip, the trails modest 800’ elevation gain makes this a hike one families can do.  In fact, we soon will see a dad with his one-year-old on the trail.  Yes, he is carrying her, but there is a reason why she is along; and that’s at the end of the rainbow.

Hot 1F H and C on trail

Like her husband Bill whom I teamed up with for pickleball just yesterday, Claudia is good company sharing her stories and wondering about our lives.  We have a kindred spirit.

Hot 2 H and C on the trail

Though the McMenemy and Saddlerock Trails veer off our path, our trail is easy to follow as we crisscross the nearly dry creek into the mountains; due to the mini-drought of the winter of 2020, there are small pools here and there.

Hot 2 stream crossing

Arriving at one final creek crossing with the smell of sulfur in the air, we figure the hot spring pools Molly mentioned were just the small pools in the very dry creek bed.  Not so fast my friends!

Turning back toward the trailhead, we soon see said father and his child.  Chatting him up, we learn that he is off for a soak in the hot springs with his daughter.  He lets us know it’s just a little further up the trail.

Hot 3 pool

Hot Springs of Montecito

We would have totally missed the hot springs if the universe hadn’t intervened for our greater good.  Zen Deux!  Finding four iridescent pools of warm water with fascinating white strings of algae(?), we deboot to soak in the healing warm waters of Montecito’s Hot Springs.

Hot 3AA white strings better

White algae strands from the hot springs

Hot 3C H and C in pool

It’s February in California!

Hot 3FF H and D better

Next time we’ll bring Bill, bathing suits, and towels to luxuriate for a good soak in Montecito’s healing waters.

Dan and Hannah Get Their Vitamins Hiking to Inspiration Point in Santa Barbara, California

Whether hiking or pickleballing, Hannah and I feed off our interactions with others in small groups.  Classic introverts!  This morning four new hikers dropped into our lives thanks to a tee-shirt and a baseball cap.  Let me explain.

Unity map Carp to IP

With no trailhead parking for Inspiration Point, we park along Tunnel Road, then walk the ¾ of a mile on a damaged paved/gravelly fire road to the trailhead.  Once on the actual trail, we find a delightful single track along a dry riverbed.

IP D on trail

Now for the value of wearing distinctive shirts on the trail.  Wearing my iconic white Ithaca Bombers tee-shirt, a woman coming down the mountain says, My son went to Ithaca.  Are you two from New York?

I say, No, we live in Maine.

Where? she asks.

Since hikers usually don’t know the little town where we are from, I say, south of Portland.

That piques her interest, Where?

York, I respond.

In disbelief on this southern California mountainside in the middle of February, she says, York!  We’re from York.

It turns out Eric and Carol own the Dockside, a popular restaurant/watering hole/wedding venue in town that we have been many times.  Hum with me, It’s a small world after all.

IP 2 H on real trail

Jazzed by our conversation, Hannah and I hike along a trail that meanders through the brush and woods of the Front Country beneath the 3000’ peaks.

IP 2B H on trail

IP 2C H on trail

IP 2A more of trail

On the way up, I notice a man with a hat with has hockey national champions.  Ever the chatty one, I ask him, What school is it from?

He says, It’s for my hockey team.  Turns out Karl is here from Minnesota for a weekend tournament of 60+ year old players at the local Ice in Paradise rink in nearby Goleta.  How cool is that?  Of course, it’s cool, it’s a hockey rink.

IP 3A from the summit

Fifty minutes after we parked our car, we are at the overlook on a hazy day, unusual for Santa Barbara.  My video puts the inspire into Inspiration Point.

Hiking down the rocky, dusty, never perilous trail, we meet up again with Karl and now his wife Beth.  Walking and talking with them, we know very soon that they are America’s version of Canadians.  They are from Minnesota.

For the next forty minutes we make connections in that we each have five and seven year old grandchildren and love being active.  Learning that Karl plays right wing on his hockey team, I crack, Do they assign position by politics?  They both laugh no, no; we are among kindred spirits.

After forty minutes of conversation with the couple from the Land of Ten Thousand Smiles, we have quite the morning of Vitamin N and Vitamin C.   By that I mean, Vitamin Nature and Vitamin Connection.

Dan and Hannah Hike the “Unity Trail” above Santa Barbara, California

This was not part of our plan.  You see, Hannah and I were ready to be inspired by hiking to Inspiration Point above Santa Barbara on this first Monday in February 2020, but…  Well, let me explain.

Unity map Carp to IP

Arriving at Tunnel Road, having hiked in this area before, we know there is no trailhead parking.  Since the only parking is along the road leading to the trail, we park and walk nearly a half mile to the trailhead.  There we spot a small sign at the gate to the Edison Road.

Unity 1 H at trailhead

It’s that little sign to the left of the gate

Unity 1AA sign at trailhead

By looking at this sign, especially the last line, you tell me how worried would you be, from 1 to 10, that you wouldn’t be able to hike to Inspiration Point this morning.  My concern was a 3; possible, but not likely.

Before we get to the real trail, we have ¾ miles on a charmless, fractured paved road that Southern California Edison uses to maintain their power lines into the mountains.  It’s a steady climb on a road with new sand/dirt berms to keep mountain gazing hikers from sliding into the canyon.

Unity 1A berms on fire road

Berms along the So Cal Edison access road and then road continues in the distance

Unity 1B fire road

At the end of the now dirt fire road, we see orange pylons; that’s never good!  And then two city workers say in so many words “No dice” to our plans to hike the trail to Inspiration Point.  It seems Santa Barbara City crews are working on the trails for the next three days.  Ergo, mild mannered that we are, we shrug and figure it’s a Doris Day day!  That is, que sera sera.

Unity 2 pylons

When straight ahead to Inspiration Point is blocked, we juke right.

Spotting a rocky, rutted sandstone trail with no name to our right, we take it to get a heaping does of Vitamin N on this morning in paradise (That’s right, Vitamin Nature).

Unity 3 unknown trail

Unity 3A more of new trail

At this point, we shift into Unity mode and head into mountains.  What’s Unity mode, you ask?  Let me explain.

Unity unity of SB

Each winter when we come to California, Hannah and I are part of Unity of Santa Barbara, a spiritual community.  People ask is this Unitarian/Universalist?  Nope.  So what is it?

A recent talk/message (not sermon) by the minister (not preacher) Cathy Norman of USB focused on three points that may begin to help you understand UnityUnity folks (1) look for the good in any situation, (2) embrace setbacks and see them as course corrections, and (3) believe in the importance of positive I am sentences (i.e. When you start a sentence with I am it should reflect your goodness, your potential, your possibilities, not what’s wrong with you.)

Today we see this new trail as a literal course correction, an opportunity to experience something new; focus on it’s possibilities rather than wah, wah, wah.  You know the old joke, Want to make God laugh?  Tell him your plans.

So, the Unity Trail?  There is no Unity Trail, it’s just in our minds.  Asking hikers that we pass if they know the name of the trail, none do.  Maybe the Tunnel Trail, one says?  Maybe not?  So for today, it’s the Unity Trail that reminds us that obstacles are opportunities (from Unity 101).

Enjoy the sandstone Unity Trail into the Front Country of Santa Barbara and its views to the Pacific.

Unity 3C H on trail steepens

 

Unity 4 out to the ocean

Channel Islands in the distance beyond the Pacific Ocean shoreline

 

Unity 4A green has returned

 

Unity 4B out to channel islands

 

Dan and Hannah Hike the West Fork of the Cold Spring Trail in Montecito, California

Just a week ago, Hannah and I hiked the East Fork of the Cold Spring Trail; it’s our new favorite hike in the Santa Barbara area.  Click here for that blog.  Today, on the last Thursday in January, 2020, we drive twenty minutes to the same trailhead in Montecito to hike her little brother, the West Fork.

EF Carp to EF

Taking the common trail with the East Fork for a quarter of a mile or so, we then branch left towards the mountains.

CSW 1 D at trail sign

Crossing the creek quite easily, I take a picture of Hannah in front of the boulders for scale to show what type of boulders came bounding down this creek bed two years ago.

CSW 4 boulders

I am immediately struck by the regeneration of the flora, just two years after the Thomas Fire laid waste to this mountain hillside; and then obliterated everything in its path, through the canyon and into nearby neighborhoods.  The black stick figures of the oaks and sycamores are moving to the background behind green bushes and new tree growth.  Mother Nature is the winner and still champion.

CSW 1AA H on trail

 

CSW 5 charred trees amid green

The single track trail takes us steadily into the mountains, soon climbing high above the West Fork of the Cold Spring Creek.  There are some dicey, sandy gravelly sections of the trail that kick up dust as we lean into the mountain to maintain our balance.  It’s no trail for our grandsons, Owen (7), Max (5), and Brooks (1).   In time, Brooks’s sisters will kick butt and leave these boys in the dust.

CSW 1 B H on narrow part of trail

 

CSW 1 F H on tenuous part of trail

Recently shored up portions of the trail

It’s a winding trail through the Santa Barbara Front Country that once lead to Tangerine Falls, now a distant memory thanks to the Biblical debris flow.  Climbing steadily along now dry riverbed, we are not surprised by the parched landscape as Santa Barbara County is experiencing a mini-drought this winter.

CSW 3 cold spring tunnel

Thirty minutes into our hike, perhaps a mile in, we come upon the Cold Spring Tunnel, built in 1905.  It has seen better days.  It was Santa Barbara’s first municipal water supply for this semi-arid area that gets just 18” of rain per year.  As a point of reference, uber-arid Phoenix, Arizona gets 7” of rain per year while Portland, Maine gets 49” of rain.

CSW 2 H on upper trail

Trail into the mountains

At this point, the trail takes a steep turn into the mountains with pebbly gravel switchbacks that take us by more evidence of the redemptive power of Mother Nature.  The Grand Lady aside, we find the footing uneven and have no interest in climbing further into the mountains without much shade.

CSW 1 G more of tenuous trail

Challenging sections of the West Fork trail

Now forty-five minutes into our hike, we abandon ship and U-turn for the trailhead.  Upon our return, we inch slowly down the trail as I hike fifteen feet behind Hannah.  The reason being, if I were to slip, I don’t want to take Hannah with me into the canyon below.

All’s well that ends well.  Though the West Fork of the Cold Spring Trail takes a backseat to its Big Sister, the East Fork, what’s not to love about sunshine and blue skies on the trail.

CSW 6 palm tree cutting

Back in Carpinteria that afternoon, Hannah on her beach cruiser checks out a member of the Flying Wallendas

Dan and Hannah Hike the East Fork of the Cold Spring Trail in Montecito, California

Learning just last week (January 2020) that the Cold Spring Trail had officially reopened after the January 2018 debris flows through Montecito that took the lives of 25 people, Hannah and I take The 101 north from Carpinteria.  Winding through Montecito, we come upon the trailhead parking at East Mountain Drive in twenty minutes.

EF Carp to EF

At the trailhead, where once East Mountain Drive crossed the Cold Spring Creek, now a forbidding chain link fence blocks all but foot traffic.  Following the yellow lines dividing the former road to the creek’s edge, we look over to the road forty feet beyond.  There is no evidence of any bridge abutments, let alone the bridge that washed downstream from the amazingly powerful flow of water, mud, car-size boulders, and trees.

CSE 1AAA chain link fence

CSE 1AA road to nowhere

CSE 1 where once there was a bridge

Immediately, we have a choice of two trails thirty feet apart.  A hiker returning from her climb suggests the second trail which will take us along the creek bed to the east.  It turns out to be a fortunate choice as we head into the mountains on the shady side of the East Fork of the Cold Spring Creek.

 

CSE 1B D at trail sign

We choose the East Fork this morning

CSE 1A H at start of trail

As a narrow single track, the trail has overhanging trees providing protection from the penetrating sun.  As the trail’s soft, moistened dirt caresses our feet, the switchbacks take the hurt out of the climb on this 67F morning on the central coast of California.

CSE 2 Falls

We come across a small waterfall, which begs to be videotaped.  Enjoy.

Easily crossing the creek two or three times, we climb further into the mountains in light shirts and shorts.

CSE 1E more of trail

High above the valley, those more adventurous than us can go further up the mountain.  Opting for the trail to the right back down, we have a steeper descent (due its one mile length as opposed to the 1.5 miles we took to climb up) on a trail with full sun that has switchbacks with views to the Pacific.

CSE 3 trail turn down

CSE 3A valley below heading down

Santa Barbara County looking out to the Channel Islands

CSE 3B dusty trail

CSE 3E H above trailhead

Looking down to the trailhead

Though the Thomas Fire of 2018 denuded the landscape and made it ripe for the deadly debris flow, Mother Nature takes a W today with regenerative green carrying the day.

CSE 3F H at switchbacks

After we park in downtown Montecito to pick up the Thursday special, Mojado chicken burritos, at Los Arroyos, I wonder if you can guess which is the car we rented from Enterprise?

CSE 4 Montecito cars

Post script – Click here for Ray Ford’s history of the Thomas Fire and Montecito Debris Flow of January 9, 2018.  Ray Ford pictures from 2018

Cold Spring Ford 1 fire in Montecito

Cold Spring Ford 2 CS canyon

Cold Spring Ford 4 shed in tree

Cold Spring Ford 5 CS trailhead

Cold Spring Creek after the debris flow

 

Cold Spring Ford our trail coming back

East Fork of the Cold Spring Trail after the debris flow

Dan and Hannah With Their Son Will Hike the McMenemy Trail in Montecito, California

Before Hannah and I hit the beach this morning in Carpinteria, our son Will, still not adjusted to the three hour time change from the East Coast, gets up very early and runs five miles through predawn Carpinteria to the high school; he then warms down by walking with us for three miles on our Pacific sands.  Ah, to be healthy at 36!  And at 72!

SY map

Returning to the San Ysidro trailhead with Will this morning, we have a new trail in mind, the McMenemy Trail.  This trail has been inaccessible due to the devastating debris flow of 2018 and then the heavy rains of 2019 throughout Santa Barbara County.

McM 1D W and H on trail

Will and his sweet Mama

Shaded by Eucalyptus trees, the McMenemy (pronounce enemy with an M) Trail is soon a meandering series of switchbacks up the hillside with views to the Pacific.  As Will and Hannah hike ahead, I think of our third child.

McM St mikes

Through his public school years, Will balanced sports, studies, and friendship without obsessing in any one area.  As a Division II basketball player at St. Michael’s College in Vermont, Will had his most fun athletically when he left the team his senior year and played intramurals with his buddies.

McM Brooks

Brooks, the big brother

With his wife Laurel and our nearly two-year-old grandson Brooks, Will eagerly awaits May when he will double his fun as his family will grow in an unexpected way.

Since I was born without the grilling gene, much to Hannah’s chagrin (make that horror!), Will takes control of barbecuing, be it fish, burgers, steak tips, or chicken when we get together.  I figure, we each play to our strengths!  Do I hear an Amen!  Tonight in Carpinteria, he will lightly char chicken chunks to a barbecue crispness for our dining pleasure.

On his last visit home in York, Maine where Hannah and I still live since we moved from Arizona in 1982, Will looks for things to do to support us around the house when he comes home.  He gets right to mowing our lawn, solidifies our brick walk with polymeric paver sand, and puts cold pack tar from our garage to our sinking driveway to provide a smooth ramp in for our cars.  Yeah, he plays to his strengths.

McM 2B D and H

Reminiscing done and now the steepness of the climb getting my full attention, I join Hannah and Will for views of the mansions of Montecito as well as the Pacific coast shoreline out to the Channel Islands.

McM 2D D on trail

McM 2A mansions

The McMenemy is a moderate workout with a 1000’ of elevation gain into the Santa Ynez Mountains.  While the trail is mostly dirt at the lower elevations, it is rocky into the mountains.

McM 2B sandstony trail

 

McM 1B stoney creek

Creek crossing

Once at the high point, we swiftly descend on the dusty and rocky trail back to the San Ysidro Creek.  Fording the miniscule creek, we retrace the first mile of the aforementioned San Ysidro Trail back to the trailhead.

McM 4A Los Arroyos facade

McM 4 Arroyos daily specials

Driving into downtown Montecito minutes away, we order take-out from Los Arroyos, our favorite Mexican restaurant in Santa Barbara County.  Today’s specials (take-out and specials are how Hannah and I roll) are chicken burritos (Dan) and steak burritos (Hannah and Will) topped with a chili-based mole (pronounce mol-lay) sauce has a chocolaty look.  The special includes ice tea, which both Will and Hannah claim is the best they have EVER tasted.

McM 2C D and H closeup

Proud parents

And by the way Will and Hannah each hit 30,000 steps!  It’s the least we can when Will comes to sunny California in January.

Dan and Hannah Make Things Happen for Their Son Will in California

Will Carp Beach 1

Carpinteria morning

Environmentally-induced exercise is in our DNA.  Hannah and I began running regularly in 1973 at the start of the running boom.  After running five times per week for thirty years, we woke one morning to hear our creaky knees say no mas.  Our three kids, Molly, Robyn, and Will,seem to have the same genetic predisposition to move and groove.   As you all know, motion is lotion.

Will Carp Beach 2

The beach at Carpinteria with Santa Ynez Mountains in the distance

Ergo, prior to our son Will heading to Anaheim, California to represent the athletic department of Ithaca College at the 2020 NCAA Convention, he takes the Amtrak north to spend a few days with his sunshine-induced, exercise-crazed parents.

Will early Carp with H

Will and Hannah on the bluff above the beach in Carpinteria

Before breakfast, Hannah and I walk three miles at the Carpinteria Beach just 300 yards from our winter rental.  Will does us five better by running five miles before he joins us for a cool down.  He’s on his way to a day of 30,000 Fitbit steps!

SY map

After Hannah’s to-die-for buttermilk biscuits and my oatmeal with blueberries, chia seeds, flax, almonds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, protein powder, raisins, and cinnamon, Will is sufficiently fueled to hike the San Ysidro Canyon just twenty minutes away in Montecito.

Will 2 H and W at start of trail

Will 2A H and W on trail

Will and his mom on the San Ysidro Trail

The San Ysidro has become our trail of choice when we introduce visitors to hiking on the Central Coast of California.  On this typical January day in the 60s, we skirt the now bowl-shaped ravine, scoured by the January 2018 debris flow.

Will 2C W and D

Will and his pop

Will 2E on trail with H and W

Will and his mama

With Will in the lead, he takes it easy, well aware of the years of exercise recorded on his parents’ 72 year old bodies.  With a 1000’ of elevation gain to a dribbling waterfall this dry winter of 2020, the trail is always one we try to determine exactly where Hannah fell in 2017, the year before the catastrophic, channel-changing debris flow of 2018.  Check out the pictures below.

Will 3 where H fell

Though the landscape has changed because of the 2018 debris flow, we think this is where Hannah fell 25′ in 2017

 

Will 3A H near her fall

After a short siesta, Will and I take our beach cruisers to ride the Carpinteria Beach at mid-tide.  Will can both bike on the wet sand and take selfies, a talent that he has not as yet passed on to his old man.

Will 4 on beach cruisers

Will zzzzz

Dining on take-out of Los Arroyos grilled chicken burritos washed down by a Dos Equus, Will is no match for his three hour time change and the fact that he awoke at 3A in New York this morning; he heads for bed at 730P.

I am sure he is well aware that we will not let up and have a full day of activity for him tomorrow.  Oh yeah, mission accomplished; Will hits 32,000 steps, a current Rothermel Family personal best.

Dan and Hannah Hike the Bluff Trail at the University of California, Santa Barbara 2020

UCSB calle ocho

Our winter rental ranch house in Carpinteria

Let’s lay all the cards on the table.  The stories from the West Coast are true!  California is one muy expensivo place to live.  As homeowners in Maine, Hannah and I couldn’t own a comparable home here in Carpinteria, let alone in upscale Montecito or Santa Barbara.  The modest three bedroom ranch we rent in winter (their off-season) is valued at $1.3 million.  Click here to check out our VRBO.  Who else can’t afford to live in Carpinteria?  Their teachers, fire fighters, and police!  In their dreams.

UCSB gas prices

Gas price in Carpinteria with my one-speed beach cruiser in the foreground

Check out these gas prices in Carpinteria when gas is $2.65 in Maine.  That said, California is a leader in reducing emissions and giving a sh** about the Climate Crises that has our lives staring down the gun barrel of trouble with a capital T.

Stepping down from soapbox, I present to you one of the jewels of the University of California system – The University of California, Santa Barbara.

UCSB map

Twenty-five minutes north along The 101 are the bluff trails of UCSB.  Even for Californians, the total cost of one year at UCSB is $36K.  Out-of-state students pay $64K for this selective state school (36% acceptance rate).

UCSB 1A east cliffs

Parking at the Goleta Beach State Park on the first Tuesday in January, we walk a half mile along the coastline to the bluff trails to enter campus.  Being low tide, we take the stairs down to the surfer’s beach to check out the cliffs above us.  A year ago at high tide, we saw officers on a ski-do rescue a distressed surfer.  Click here for that story and pictures.

UCSB 2B north cliffs north

North side

 

UCSB 3A from the beach north

North side

Once on the north edge of campus, Hannah and I take another bluff trail facing the Pacific.  Much of this Campus Point is covered with ice plant, an exotic invasive scourge that competes with native plants by forming thick mats that cover the landscape.  It’s California’s bad brother to the South’s kudzu.  Click here for the kudzu blog.

UCSB 4 ice plants

Ice plants

UCSB 4A heron with ice plants

Up close and personal with a heron among the ice plants

Easily descending on a trail to the beach, we see three coeds dive into shoreline surf of the 59F waters of the Pacific this first week of January.  When we ask how it feels, one claims it’s amazing!  But for us, we believe the math: 59F is 59F.

UCSB 5 apts on cliff

Off-campus student housing at UCSB

UCSB 5A deck above cliffs

Over time, the bluffs they are acrumbling.  Notice the vulnerability of the deck this winter of 2020.

UCSB map to PT

After two hours of hiking/campus walking, we lunch at Pilgrim Terrace in Santa Barbara.  PT is an affordable living complex of apartments whose director John believes that if his lower income residents have at least one nutritious meal per day in a social setting, their health will improve dramatically.  To that end, the complex grows vegetables on site.

UCSB towers of lettuce

Towers of lettuce grow efficiently at Pilgrim Terrace

To raise funds, PT allows others to lunch for a mere $7.  Check out the lo mien shrimp dish (count ‘em five shrimp) with roasted broccoli and Brussels sprouts, a green salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, cottage cheese, and, a personal favorite, croutons.  In addition, the pea soup has kale for those of you who donate blood and need to raise your hemoglobin level.

UCSB 9 PT meal H

Lunch al fresco at Pilgrim Terrace in January

Our treat next time you come to California’s Central Coast.

Dan and Hannah Hike Romero Canyon in Montecito, California 2020

Romero mapOn this mid-January Wednesday, it’s a simple 15 minute drive from Carpinteria to the trailhead of Romero Canyon in the foothills of Montecito.  Parking near the trailhead at Belle Vista Drive, we see the road again in rough shape but nothing like it was in 2019.

Romero 1 trailhead road

2020 (the creek naturally flows over the road)

 

Romero 2019 road

2019 after debris flows

Fact is, the rainy winter we spent in California last year is a distant memory as we have had 11 straight sunny days on the Pacific.  We’ve had effective temperatures in the 70s! Though the daytime highs are generally in the low to mid-60s, as a trained meteorologist (by that I mean I watch the Weather Channel), I add 8-10F to the ambient temperature (temp in the shade) to get the true “feels like” temperature in the sun.  Please, it’s not rocket science!  I just do the math!

As we begin the dusty trail, we see what appear to be volunteers with white flags.  As we approach them, I ask, What are you doing?  (By that I mean que paso?)  They tell me and now it’s time for you to figure out what’s up from the pictures below?  Answer at the end of the blog.

Romero 2 flags

Romero 2A flags

The trail up Romero Canyon is relentless (by that I mean there is 1500’ of elevation gain in just over two miles of hiking).  Popular with mountain bikers, the Romero Canyon trail has the distinctive jingle of bike bells when riders approach.  The bells are free and available at the trailhead.  Throughout our two hours on the trail, we see five or six rockin’ riders; we are never startled by their passing.

Romero 3D Hannah with bell

Romero 4C better biker

With little rain since December, the trail is dusty with creek crossings that we take with a simple step or two.

Romero 3 trail with H

For the most part tree covered, the very rocky trail meanders into the mountains for a mile and a half with vertical drops of 20’ or more just a few feet from the trail.

After our final creek crossing, we follow the mostly shaded switchback trail into the mountains.  Our turnaround point is the fire road; there is much more hiking into the Santa Ynez mountains available for the adventurous.

Romero 4A H on upper trail

Romero 4 D at top

Adventurous we are not today, so we return for the trailhead knowing that we love our hikes of about four miles roundtrip; they are our bread and butter, our peaches and cream, our yin and yang, our Ali and Cat… I think you get the idea.

Romero Canyon?  It’s a workout but worth the effort.

White flags?  The volunteers are taking a tick survey.  Really, active ticks in January?  Yes, in California.