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Urban Hike: Hidden Valley
updated: Feb 05, 2011, 9:30 AM

By Stacey Wright and Peter Hartmann

What do a gate of locks, a long line palms, a whole mess of duplexes, the ultimate man cave, Chumash hair brushes, an old friend, abandoned farm equipment and a little orange trailer have in common? Why, Hidden Valley of course.

We urban hikers continued our quest of walking each and every street within the city limits of Santa Barbara. All 256 "centerline miles" of them to be exact. And so, with the thoroughness of a window washer, the inquisitiveness of a 5-year old, and the dedication of an Edhat staffer, this week we hit the streets and headed into Hidden Valley.

This neighborhood's motto must be "If one is good, more is better". Hidden Valley is the land of plenty: plenty of locks on the gates; plenty of palm trees in the distance; plenty of duplexes (hundreds x's 2); a bunch of abandoned antique farm equipment; two retirement communities (Val Verde and Vista del Monte), and plenty of neon lights and man toys in one guy's garage. And then there's the little orange trailer that's just too darn cute not to be noticed.

We hiked Palermo, Calle de Los Amigos, Pescadero, Casiano, Venita Ln., Mariana, La Cumbre Circle, Chico de los Amigos starting at Pesecadero and Palermo and ending there too. We decided to walk these streets so that we could finally finish this neighborhood.

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The weather this late Sunday morning was a beautiful 72 degrees and sunny. The walk was flat and easy.

We started our urban hike later than we would have liked to, and stopped way too many times to call it efficient. We first stopped and chatted to Chipper, a 3rd generation native who had interesting stories to tell about old Santa Barbara and the good old days down at Pershing Park.He's definitely a local's local.

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So we took a cool photo of him in his man cave and also one of an old photo he had in there depicting the motorcycle race track that was a part of Pershing Park in the 1930's. A copy of this photo also hangs at Harry's.

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After resuming the hike, and photographing a few more cool things , we were beginning to once again feel efficient in our task. Just then we bumped into Peter's kindergarten teacher from Roosevelt School, Miss Robeson. The last time they saw one another was 25 years ago; and after nearly 50 years as teacher and student, we took a breather and stopped for a chat. Miss Robeson was out with a couple of her friends taking an urban hike of their own. She was sharp as a tack and so the reminiscing began...You gotta love the Santa Barbara water - there must be extra minerals and magic in it that help people remember all things wonderful and nostalgic.

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We found a lot of amazing things in this quaint, out of the way neighborhood. Aside from the reoccurring theme of the "land o' plenty", this little corner of Santa Barbara had treasures unexpected and delightful. For one thing, many of the trees in Val Verde are identified by plaques so there is no question about the type of tree it may be. And when one looks toward the sea in that neighborhood one will surely see the repeating pattern of palm after palm, which years ago lined the entrance to the Shah of Iran's sister's estate.

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We found a road that lead to a site that was at one time slated to become the newest elementary school - but instead, it is now leased by the school district to farmers who grow organic produce...and they seem to keep the property quite secure indeed with a multitude of serious looking locks on the entrance.

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And then there are the trails cut into the hillside at Val Verde to offer residents a little urban hiking experience of their own. If they venture up them, they will find a grove of teasels, a thistle-like plant used by the Chumash as brushes to tame their lush black hair.

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And that's not all - there's also abandoned antique, horse-drawn farm equipment that litters a small field at the west side of Val Verde.

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And despite its randomness, we simply can't help but tell you about the little orange trailer that lives on Palermo, just waiting for a road trip to some exotic destination.

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Peter's favorite aspect of the hike, captured by a photo, is the documentation of the reunion between himself and a wonderful teacher he had, beginning when he was just a 4 year boy.

Stacey's favorite aspect of the hike, captured by a photo was the multitude of locks on an official looking gate. How many locks does it take to secure a garden gate, anyway?

We came to Hidden Valley with a sense of duty to wrap up a previously partially walked neighborhood, and left feeling on top of the world. As usual, many surprises were ours on this Sunday morning. So as always, we encourage you to go out into the world, hike the streets of our town and above all, expect the unexpected.

Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)

 AUNTIE S. agree helpful negative off topic

2011-02-05 12:38 PM

Thank you for this wonderful article and especially for the picture of Dorcas Robson. Two of my three children had her for kindergarten at Roosevelt and I worked at with her at the school for several years. It's good to know she's still with us! Not surprised she's still sharp as a tack - the lady seems ageless.

BTW, as a 63-year resident of S.B. I've appreciated all the postings of your walks and learned things I never knew.


 COMMENT 143303 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-02-05 02:18 PM

How does one get the info about upcoming walks (dates, times, starting places)? Can anyone join in?


 COMMENT 143360 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-02-05 11:51 PM

loved this article & the whole concept of what you're doing! thanks for taking the time to chronicle your hikes & share them with us.
one minor point--the name of the retirement community is valle (not val) verde. verde was actually the first name of the founder. the place has an interesting history:


 COMMENT 143380 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-02-06 08:39 AM

The hidden gem of an organic farm that leases the land from the school district is called Avalon Farms. Whether you live in Hidden Valley or somewhere else you can order a weekly CSA food box of produce locally grown on the farm and pick it up on Mondays or Thursday. We have been getting our box of produce from them for over two years now and our twin girls look so forward to it. They usually help themselves to a cucumber, apple or squash and eat them right out of the box! To order your own call them at 680-1218. This little farm definitely adds a sweet touch of local sustainability to the neighborhood!


 COMMENT 143383 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-02-06 08:49 AM

You only need to unlock one lock to open the gate. This set-up allows a number of different people to access the gate without worrying about losing keys or remembering combinations.


 COMMENT 143385 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-02-06 08:52 AM

Really enjoyed your reports on your walks. I hope you continue to share future articles on your explorations.


 COMMENT 143386 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-02-06 08:54 AM

You only need a key to one padalock to get in. Unique design allows all participants in activity behind gate to be able to get in or out without having multiple copies of same key as when only one lock used. Lose your key or have it stolen, replace one lock & a single set of keys. The other participants need not be bothered.My question: where do I buy one?


 COMMENT 143405 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-02-06 09:51 AM

Wonderful walk, felt almost as though I was along. Plan to try it. Thank you, keep up reporting, please.


 COMMENT 143441 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-02-06 01:12 PM

Love your reports and photos!

Correction, though: Teasel is not a native plant. The California natives, possibly including the Chumash, made hair-brushes from the tough fibers that surround the bulbs of the amole plant - sometimes called soap plant - Chlorogalum pomeridianum.

Teasel - also called Fuller's teasel - was used to comb fibers during clothmaking in England, and probably elsewhere.


 COMMENT 143442 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-02-06 01:15 PM

Wonderful! Thank you.


 COMMENT 146572 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-02-18 06:59 AM

I really look forward to reading about all your hikes, and hope you continue to post. After you finish SB...will you move to outlying areas?? Summerland, Santa Ynez..... I really think you should put together a book of your hikes.


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