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The Urban Hike: Lower Eastside
updated: Jan 22, 2011, 10:00 AM

By Stacey Wright and Peter Hartmann

Neighborhood Hiked: Lower Eastside/Milpas

Streets or Portions of Streets Hiked: Cacique, Carpinteria, Salinas, Alisos, Ensenada, Canada, Soledad, Milpas

Reason for choosing this Neighborhood or Street: It was a beautiful day and we wanted to finish off this area. We first hiked this area, days after a recent homicide was committed on Punta Gorda. We came back this weekend to experience, once again, the people, sights and sounds of this neighborhood.

Beginning Location: Salinas and Ensenada Streets

Ending Location: Salinas and Ensenada Streets

Weather/Degree of Strenuousness: Gorgeous afternoon, flat terrain.

Summary of the Hike: On this day, we had only a limited time to hike because we had a house guest staying with us; but we were determined to take our urban hike and see the sun set at Butterfly Beach before heading home to assume the responsibilities of good hosts. Plus, we still had to get a few groceries for our dinner. So we parked the car on Salinas Street, and set out to see what we could in an hour or less, and also get our last minute shopping in.

Reason for Peter's Photo #1: Peter picked this image because it illustrates the peaceful beauty of the 3 creek crossings of Sycamore Creek in this neighborhood. He thinks there are most likely trout in the creek. We have a special patented way of attracting trout in local creeks and have seen them in several…but because we were short on time during this hike we weren't able to find out for sure. We plan on returning to see if we can spot a couple of trout, and we'll let you know the level of our success in this endeavor.

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Reason for Stacey's Photo #1: When we walked past this house on Carpinteria Street, Stacey thought she heard classical music playing from the house down the drive…but out of the corner of her eye, she spotted this huge wind chime. On closer inspection, we determined that the "classical music" was the product of the wind gently dancing around theses perfectly tuned tubes! Beautiful, unexpected music…

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Most Memorable Feature of this Hike: We both agree this neighborhood officially ties with San Roque as having the friendliest inhabitants. A full 98% of the people we passed along the street (and it was many more that we see on most of our hikes) smiled, spoke, or otherwise "tipped their hats" to us. We got the opportunity to met Daniel, who has lived in the ‘hood for 26 years, in a beautiful brick home built by Italian immigrants in 1922. Having lived on the Lower East side his whole life (50 + years), he says there isn't any other place he'd rather call home. In another stroke of good luck, the clerk at Trader Joe's fronted us 34 cents when we miscalculated how much money we should bring for the few provisions we needed at the store…it didn't help that Trader's had so many tempting treats… and lastly, we are sorry to report that our marvelous, friendly hike was marred by witnessing a little drug deal on the corner of Alisos and Carpinteria Streets. It wasn't exactly frightening, because it involved two women, one most likely in her 50's, the other probably in her 70's (mother and daughter?) who had ventured out to have a quick rendezvous with a young Latino on a bicycle. When we first passed the women, they looked quite determined and serious…heads down and marching to a goal. When we got to the end of the dead end at Alisos, we headed back toward the women, just in time to see the "score". Now, almost giddy, the women passed us, headed back to what we presume is their home. Toothless and well worn, these women had a spring in their step that got us thinking and talking about more than a few things…

Relevant Post-Hike Activity: We watched the sun set at Butterfly Beach and wondered if there are any folks on the lower Eastside who, for whatever reason, don't get a chance to travel the few miles from their neighborhood to the shore of the magnificent Pacific Ocean. We suspect there are…

Rambler's Ramblings: We very much enjoyed the time we spent on our two hikes into the Lower Eastside. The people of this neighborhood are friendly and outgoing, the smells of cooking food and fresh laundry are wholesome, and the sense of community is strong. We are well aware of the dangerous elements that show up occasionally, and that makes us sad for the residents of this neighborhood. We fear the new underpass that will soon link Cacique to the east of Milpas with Cacique to the west of Milpas will negatively impact the easterly neighborhood, by bringing with it more transients, more drugs and more crime. This is a shame. We also think that if the SBPD would simply get a few good old-fashioned beat cops to walk the streets and get to know the inhabitants of the Lower Eastside, much of what comes out at night down there will be hampered. But then again, we are realistic souls and understand that a simple solution such as this is, well, just a little too simple. So for now, we encourage you to take a hike into the Lower Eastside, meet these neighbors for yourselves, practice tolerance and respect and of course, expect the unexpected.

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