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URBAN HIKE

The Pit to the Summit
updated: May 28, 2011, 9:45 AM

By Stacey Wright & Peter Hartmann

This week we continued our quest to walk all 256 miles of public streets within the city limits of Santa Barbara, and report back to you on our adventure from Hendry's Beach (Arroyo Burro; The Pit) to Campanil Hill.

This "hike" was actually comprised of a few hikes that covered the southwestern-most territory in the City (except for the airport). The area, which includes Alan Road and its environs, Yankee Farm Road and its environs, and Campanil Hill is bounded by Hope Ranch to the west, Las Positas to the east, Cliff Drive to the south and Hidden Valley to the north. It's truly a pocket of paradise.

We began our hike at Hendry's, which is actually a County Park...but it's so close to the City boundary that we decide to start there anyway... And what a beautiful starting point it is...every vantage point is just as gorgeous as the next.

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After a quick stop at the "Pit", we continued our hike, crossing Cliff Drive at Alan Road and headed toward the mountains. This neighborhood is not always given the respect it deserves, being the "stepsister" to Yankee Farm and Campanil Hill...but we think it's worthy of tons of praise. The neighborhood is very homogeneous and is reminiscent of a bygone era...lots of great family homes with every modern amenity; plus location, location, location....The Alan Road neighborhood is indeed a real estate agent's dream.

In this neighborhood we found, among other things, a really interesting house that is covered in rock rescued from the demolition of the Miramar Hotel...we even met the homeowner/artist, Jim Mahoney, who told us that the first sign he placed was immediately stolen by merry pranksters. As a result, he fastened this one into the earth to preserve its dignity for years and years...also in this neck of the woods; we found, at the end of the road, a sign that said...ummmm...the end of the road.

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After finishing off this neighborhood we headed up the hill toward Hope Ranch...above the beach, we looked back over our shoulders and saw one of the most pleasant views we've seen during our urban hike adventures...Hendry's Beach in all its glory.

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After hiking up Cliff Drive to Yankee Farm Road, we hung a right and entered another neighborhood, different and apart from the one we had earlier trekked. But there's one small disclosure we must now make...when we were on Vista del Mar, in the Alan Road neighborhood, we ventured off road long enough to discover a little footpath that led from that road to Brosian Way, which is in the Yankee Farm neighborhood. So, what we are saying is that if you want to connect to this neighborhood without risking life and limb on Cliff Drive, just take the short cut at the end of Vista Del Mar...

This neighborhood, which includes Yankee Farm, Braemer Drive, Braemer Ranch, Brosian Way and Calle Los Calderas, is so bucolic, and so idyllic that one could not imagine anything other than pure bliss each and every day in this part of Santa Barbara. It seemed all we could do was snap photo after photo of wonderful sights. We even found a little footpath that seemed to lead to heaven.

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As we were admiring the sign to Yankee Farm, we happened to meet one of the owners on the roadway...the story we heard was historical and fascinating, and deserved further investigation...and so we looked into things just a little bit further.

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We were able to verify the following: The area that is now known as Yankee Farm has a history dating back to the time of Mexican rule, when the Governor granted the land to Nicholas Den. We believe that after his death, the land was divided amongst his children, and eventually became part of the Hendry estate. Sometime around the turn of the century, a carriage house was built adjacent to what is now the entrance to Yankee Farm. We heard that the reason for the building was that travelers making the trip from Gaviota to Santa Barbara were in for a long journey, and even when the days were the longest, the ride into town could not be made in a single day. As a result, a weigh station was created that would allow weary travelers to stop for the evening and then continue into town the following day.

We know that in 1944 Edward E. Haskell purchased the property from Amy E. Du Pont, the youngest daughter of the industrialist Eugene Du Pont. Mr. Haskell was a prominent Santa Barbaran who had arrived in 1917, after graduating from Stanford University with a degree in engineering. Making his home on Anacapa Street, he was hired as the City Manager, and less than a year later, entered into a contract to build Gibraltar Dam.

We hate to diverge too much from the business of urban hiking, but after looking into the history of Gibraltar Dam, we really want to share with you some of the story. And so we will... In July 1918, the City of Santa Barbara signed a $2 million contract to build a dam that could and would deliver water to the residents of the town. The supervising engineer was none other than Edward Haskell (who would later go on to assist in the design and construction of the Cold Spring Bridge, with his son Eldon). Mr. Haskell supervised a project so grand that it's hard to imagine how it came in on budget and took just over 18 months from start to finish.

Gibraltar Dam is an arch gravity dam, completed in January 1920. It is 1,100 feet long, 185 feet high and required 54,000 cubic yards of concrete to build. This was all accomplished after engineers drilled a tunnel, approximately 4 miles long, through a mountain, foot by foot. At times, the temperature in the Mission Tunnel reached upwards of 120 degrees, and the men were forced to sit in vats of water as they drilled, in an effort to keep cool enough to complete the work. As the tunnel was drilled (at what is now the top of Tunnel Road), an 18 gauge track was installed behind the workers. This track would ultimately deliver the men, equipment and supplies to the site of the dam. The interior of the 4-mile long tunnel was 9 feet high by 6 feet wide and had "criss- cross" sections that supported it. At the commencement of the building of the dam itself, 32,000 sacks of cement had been transported along the track and stored in a warehouse at the site of the building site. As the project continued, more cement was delivered, mixed and poured, and used in creating what is now the source of much of the local water delivered to Santa Barbara. The tunnel, which had housed the rail cars is now an integral part of the dam and water system; no longer required to transport goods, it was converted into a waterway and now serves to deliver water from the dam to the City of Santa Barbara.

And so, it was dear Mr. Edwards, who after completing the project that provides water to our city, decided to move his family from the city to the ‘burbs, and bought from Ms. Du Pont the acreage near Arroyo Burro Beach. Mr. Edwards, who originally hailed from the East Coast, named his property Yankee Farm, because it reminded him of his home in Canaan, Maine. He lived very happily in what had been the original carriage house until his death. Ultimately the property was bequeathed equally to his three children and became home to his grandchildren and their children, who now occupy the property, along with an organic farmer who grows fruits, vegetables and flowers for sale at the farmers' markets.

Before we left this neighborhood, we stopped to admire some of the most beautiful trees we have seen in all of Santa Barbara. Indeed they reminded us of a plein air painting; so regal, strong and enduring. And as we were stopped to photograph them, we heard from a resident of this neighborhood that a homeowner on Brosian Way is hoping to cut these very trees down to provide a better view for his property. And so, if the tale is accurate, a stand of 3 magnificent sugar gum trees will soon be destroyed in order to make way for "progress". We were happy to hear that a large singular tree, once the target of a similar fate was spared several years ago and that it will remain, even if the others are chopped down. Ironically on the day of our hike, which was blustery and unpredictable, the three trees slated to be axed stood tall, proud and steady. If we have anything to say about it, we think the trees should stay and the homeowner should just learn to appreciate their elegance and beauty.

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The last of our photographs from the Yankee Farm area shows a little hummingbird, a bunny, a cool horse, and two different views that are truly amazing.

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Leaving Yankee Farm and environs, we headed toward Hope Ranch, via Cliff Drive. We passed the turnout that offers panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean.

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As if we hadn't hiked enough up one hill and down another, we headed up, up, and up Sea Ranch Drive. The views and the wildlife in this neighborhood abound and astound. We captured a picture of a quail near the campanil, and were simply awestruck by the views...But we wonder why the neighborhood is called Campanil Hills, since there is only one hill and the bell is long gone...maybe it should be re-named Wishbone Heights...but all kidding aside, we encourage you to refresh your memory about this wonderful neighborhood by reading the attached Edhat link...because it's the history that makes the adventure so unforgettable...and while we're at it, we have a nagging question about this neighborhood that we hope can be answered...was the vacant property adjacent to the water plant designated as a public park at the time of the development? We tend to think it was...but then again we could be wrong... And lastly, on a lighter note, we have a story from years ago. During the construction of the water plant, the workers were approached by a gentleman who expressed an interest in purchasing the "house" they were working on. The water plant had been so well designed to blend in with the neighborhood that it looked just like another home. (The water plant is shown in one of the following photos, to the right of the campanil.

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The final photo of our hike shows the end of the line, which is just off Campanil Drive...if it were to go through it would take us into Hope Ranch. Lucky for these hikers (who are trying to observe the City limits) some benevolent soul blocked off the road and prevented us from wandering even further into territory that is beyond our jurisdiction... (INSERT pic #30).

We encourage you to go on an urban hike of your own, meet your neighbors and see the pride they take in their homes and neighborhoods. We also remind you to keep your eyes, ears and minds open to all that you encounter along the way, and to be on the lookout for us. We still have the Harry's gift certificate, and are anxious to give it to the first person on foot who sees us during one of our hikes and says, "Hey! Aren't you the Urban Hikers?"

(Editor's Note: We have removed a map and description of the public pathway. The owner of this property has asked for this to be removed from the article as it is not public property as the article stated.)

 

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