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Santa Barbara Urban Hike: Part Two
updated: Jan 15, 2011, 10:15 AM

By Stacey Wright and Peter Hartmann

Thank you all for your encouragement, ideas and warm responses! We are pleased that ya'll think this is as much fun as we do…and now, to answer a few of your questions, and reply to your comments.

The Ambassador stairs are on West Mason, and were part of the magnificent Ambassador (Potter) Hotel. The hotel opened as the Potter in 1903 and in 1919 became part of the Ambassador Hotel chain. Unfortunately it burned to the ground shortly thereafter, and despite plans to resurrect it, that was not to be. Neal Graffy wrote a wonderful history of the place that appeared in Edhat on January 24, 2010, which tells how even after the hotel had burned down, the hot springs made money as the Burton Mound Sulphur Baths. The article is definitely worth looking at…and after you learn all about this historic SB landmark, hit the streets yourselves and locate the steps…they are also in the vicinity of three other local landmarks - Sambo's, the Veteran's Memorial Building and Burton's Mound, which is still strewn with shells and other artifacts from an old Chumash Village located on the mound.

Regarding if we hike from home each time…well, no. We love downtown and do our best to get to our starting points either on foot or by public transportation…the 25-cent shuttle is great for that. But sometimes we drive to a location and strike out from there. A few times, in an effort to minimize extreme backtracking, we have even taken two cars (oh the shame of it!) and parked on down the line so that we could make a 1-way hike. This was the case for a part of Mountain Drive (it was threatening severe rain and we were determined to get that piece marked off the map), Northridge (yes, if you must know, we walked DOWN the hill) and a part of the Riviera.

We have not yet hiked Otono (should we keep our eyes open for something in particular?), and since it appears to be in the City, we will be hitting it hard. It really doesn't matter that it's a puny little cul de sac. In our hearts and minds, all city streets are created equal and all deserve full recognition. In fact, on New Year's Day, we thought it would be fun to walk Nirvana and Halcyon, which are off W. Pedregosa. Nirvana was, well, heavenly…but Halcyon was a little less grand. In fact, despite being on the map, it's nothing more than an unimproved strip of wild grasses…we took a picture of both streets nevertheless…

When we hike we make it a point to walk the "wrong way" on the one-way streets - you'd be surprised at how much different the perspective is than what you get from driving or even biking it the legal way. And while we haven't yet gotten to Hubba Hubba Lane (it appears to be right on the border of the county), or even Curley Ave., we will definitely do Curley. In fact, we hope to cover Reddick in that very same hike. We have done nearby Lucinda Lane and were impressed and inspired by the Mid-Century Marvelous architecture and great views. We also did the Primavera/Rosario/Verano area (near the 154 and State) and we remember the morning well. We had Peter's 15 year old daughters as guest walkers with us…they are learning some of the neighborhoods, just in time for driver's training! It was a gorgeous morning and we saw many wonderful things along our route.

The Mesa is indeed, a world unto itself…during our Mesa hikes we have commented to each other that the folks up there seem to love their "yard art'. And by the way, we did too. We've noticed that each neighborhood seems to take on its own unique character; and when one resident does something to the outside of his abode, others seem to follow suit. On the Mesa, people seem to especially love flags, mobiles/wind chimes, sculptures and VW bugs!

We feel fortunate to have been published by Edhat, and really thrilled that you are along for the ride, or "streetwalking" as NATIVE1 pointed out. We only wish that Elmer was still around to fix us a coke at the end of a long hike…he really did make a mean Coke!

Next time, as promised, we will tell you about our hike on the lower Eastside, specifically on Punta Gorda, which we made days after the senseless killing in that neighborhood. We'll even talk about bulb outs and crosswalks in general, and let you know how these urban hikers feel about them...until then expect the unexpected in your lives.

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