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Urban Hike: Upper Mesa
updated: Feb 19, 2011, 9:45 AM

by Stacey Wright and Peter Hartmann

What do a stairway to heaven, an abundance of fossils, magnificent views in all directions, Ben Franklin, an open space park, an exceptional Port-a-Potty and eclectic artistic expression have in common? The Upper Mesa (East of Meigs, and North of Cliff), sometimes known as Harbor Hills, 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 once again headed into the Mesa to finish off this quintessential Santa Barbara ‘hood.

This neighborhood's motto could be "Views, Hills and Yard Art".

We hiked all or parts of the following streets: La Coronilla, La Cresta, Harbor Hills Drive , Harbor Hills Lane, Meigs, La Vista Del Oceano, Calle Del Oro, Juanita, Ricardo, Roberto, Delors, Louisa, and a few other streets which we guess were named for the rest of the children in the family...

The weather this late Sunday morning was about 57 degrees and partly cloudy. The walk was NOT flat or easy. Think free Stairmaster.

Our first impression of this neighborhood was that it has crazy-good views in EVERY direction.

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Then we noticed a Port-a -Potty that had very special meaning to us. Despite the fact that neither of us actually used this sweet little rest stop, we were delighted to see it and couldn't help but notice that heretofore we have not come across a pot with the views that this one offered. In fact, on many a hike we have pined for either a private spot in the wilderness or just an outhouse to call home for a minute or two. Let us just say that this was a Port-a Potty to remember.

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Continuing along our route, we found a trail that has been "Closed Due to Erosion". The trail is part of the Honda Valley Open Space. We aren't sure how long this trail has been closed, but the sign looked weatherworn.

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Nearby, Peter spotted what looked like a midden, or shell garbage heap. We have seen quite a few of these on our Santa Barbara hikes, and think it may be located where the Chumash had a little village... we considered that it might also be a dump from a later period, like when the Chinese were a significant cultural influence in Santa Barbara. Maybe it's even a prehistoric fossil bed... Down the road a bit we found even more shells, and these looked a whole lot like prehistoric fossils. Perhaps an Edhead has the answers to these mysteries?

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Along Meigs, we were lucky enough to spot Ben Franklin, and not far from there was a little stairway to heaven. We still aren't sure what the Ben Franklin is all about, but through a little research, we found out that the stairway actually leads to Surf View Drive. If you happen to be a surfer, Surf View is actually heaven.

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The streets dominated by people's name (East of Meigs), were also dominated by yard art - did Miro live here for a time? Unlikely, but the residents of this neighborhood sure do love to display their art for all to see.

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Was this same bottle tree in Anthroplolgie or is that our imagination? Anyway, we decided that not all Mesa Yard art is created equal...perhaps other influences are at play?

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Maybe what some consider an al fresco dining experience, others would consider art.

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Along our journey we ran into Ken Boxer, proprietor of local restaurant Palazio. His family moved to one of those children's names street back in 1957. He told us that in 1957, a brand new Belton designed home in this neighborhood sold for a whopping $21,500, and that the views then were better than ever. In those days he recalled that there was a Jordano's on the Mesa, Carrillo didn't go up the hill, and there was a dairy at the end of Victoria Street. Ah, the good old days in Santa Barbara...And 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)

 COMMENT 146991 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-02-19 11:10 AM

Dig these reports and love the Mesa. I'm on Elise, but have lived on San Miguel, Cliff and Mesa Ln. Thanks.


 COMMENT 146996 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-02-19 11:17 AM

You guys totally rock! This is really, really neat. Thanks for sharing.
Any chance of a book some day?


 CEES agree helpful negative off topic

2011-02-19 01:20 PM

Thanks for the great story about the finds in our 'hood. I think I'll expand my walking route to explore some of these hidden treasures. After 19 years on the Mesa I thought I knew my way around...guess not!


 KDEF agree helpful negative off topic

2011-02-19 10:38 PM

A map showing where you have explored would be helpful. Thanks for the photos.


 COMMENT 147172 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-02-20 10:04 AM

Thanks for the story and pics. I moved away 6 years ago and am still homesick. The virtual visit was great and I saved on airfare!


 COMMENT 147242 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-02-20 03:12 PM

Love the plant grouping hanging in front of the garage in the last pic. Nice specimens!


 COMMENT 147285 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-02-20 06:57 PM

Love the posts....when is the book coming out???


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