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URBAN HIKE

Stairway to Heaven - Trek to the Highest Streets
updated: Nov 05, 2011, 9:30 AM

By the Urban Hikers, Stacey Wright & Peter Hartmann

This week we cover some of the most rugged and rural territory in Santa Barbara. During several of these hikes we often felt we were a world apart from the buzz of the city, and yet we weren't at all. Perhaps our perceptions were due to the fact that we were hiking along the highest streets and neighborhoods Santa Barbara has to offer.

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And now we briefly pause for a confession from one of the Urban Hikers: Prior to embarking on our "walk every street in the City of Santa Barbara" project, while driving the streets of the most yonder territory in the city I would often wonder if I could find my way out alive...sometimes it occurred to me that I might have crossed the county line and ended up somewhere in Ojai - especially if I was driving at night. But after hiking this area during daylight hours, I can reassure you that what seems like an otherworldly maze isn't one at all. There are a few main arteries up there, and if you know your way around them, you're golden. Some of the streets to know and love are: Mountain Drive, West Mountain Drive (which is actually East of Mountain Drive), Gibraltar, El Cielito Road and Lane, Las Canoas, and Mt. Calvary. Next week we'll take you on the rest of the mountainous roads, and wrap up our exploration of this rural and wonderful part of our town.

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There were several remarkable features of the neighborhoods we covered during these hikes, including views galore, ancient boulders, majestic oaks (and other notable trees), two wonderful parks (Parma and Skofield), a few icons, interesting signage, surprising historical highlights and a couple of things even those familiar with the area might not know about. We begin with a couple of basic views shots...

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Aside from amazing mountain and ocean views, this area is full of natural beauty - case in point, gorgeous boulders and magnificent trees. We found that some of the residents are quite protective of their boulder fields, including this one who has multiple intimidating signs around the perimeter of his property, which is located at the end of the world...this sign reads, "CLOSED CIRCUT TELEVISION AND AUDIO ON PREMISES". Really?

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Others seem to prefer to use their boulders for practical purposes...like security system housings, accenting their signs and even walls...

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After viewing lots and lots of rocks and trees we've decided we like them best in their natural state.

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We came across several lichen-covered trees that prominently line one street on our hike...and from another street and vantage point we could see an orchard of olive trees in the distance. We've heard the orchard dates to Missionary times, and served as the Padre's olive source...if so, they must be very fire resistant olive trees.

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Skofield Park and Parma Park are two city-run and maintained parks in this part of Santa Barbara. They are well-loved by hearty souls who prefer to recreate in a natural environment. Suffice to say, we Urban

Hikers have plenty of great memories from our years spent wandering in and about these sublime public areas.

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And check out the very cheery paragliders we encountered on Gibraltar Road as they headed up the mountain to launch. Ironically, this road, built during the 1930's, was originally known as Depression Drive. Although officially renamed Gibraltar (because it takes you to Gibraltar Dam), many old-timers still refer to it as Depression Drive. But we digress...we believe that at least one of these smiling paragliders probably ended up at Parma Park, which is a popular landing spot for these brave men and women.

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We also encountered a few iconic signs and symbols of this area, along with a few other lesser known signs. Each of these tickled our fancy for one reason or another...it's true that we get a little giddy on some of these hikes, and this may have been one of those days...

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In all of Santa Barbara there is one beautiful little bridge we will shamelessly claim as the fairest of them all, and it just happens to be in this neighborhood. We suspect that many of our readers have traveled across this little beauty on the way to a hike in Rattlesnake Canyon. What we discovered on the day of our official urban hike, is that this sweet little old bridge is significantly older than we had once believed. We used to believe it was constructed during the Depression, but during our hike, we located a date stamp that reads "1919". So cool.

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One of our favorite gardens in all of Santa Barbara is also located in this area, and has been lovingly tended for decades. It's in a place that is so perfect and so private that photographing it well is nearly impossible. But we'll share with you what we managed to capture of this truly enchanted secret garden.

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And lastly, as promised, we'll tell you about two things of interest we passed along the way, which even most locals probably haven't had the pleasure of knowing or seeing. One is a massive water tank (there are more of these around town than you would imagine!), and the other is an interesting (old?) cart that adds a rustic charm to the ‘hood. These are the types of finds we've made along all of our urban hikes, thanks to being on foot.

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Next week we'll continue or ramblings of the "upper 40", and come back down to earth...But until then, we encourage you to go out and explore the city, meet your neighbors, keep your eyes, ears and minds open to all that you encounter, and above all, expect the unexpected.

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

 COMMENT 230159 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-11-05 09:46 AM

1 Hi JD, peace right back atcha
2 used to get high on top of that water tank
3 thank g-d and Nick that the peace barn didn't burn in the Jesu. fire
4 thank you urban hikers, see you next week in Misssion Canyon

 

 COMMENT 230162 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-11-05 09:56 AM

I love that bridge too. Thanks for another great report.

 

 COMMENT 230169 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-11-05 10:05 AM

Nice pics!

I love hiking in rattlesnake canyon up there too, its so nice down in the shade by the water..

I'll look for you when I go riding on Gibraltar. Oh and I've forgotten about that hole a few times, man it really catches you off guard flying down the road...

 

 COMMENT 230190 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-11-05 10:42 AM

great pics, one of my favorite areas in sb. great for hiking and riding (pedal or moto).

 

 COMMENT 230196 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-11-05 11:07 AM

Thank you for highlighting our beautiful neighborhood. We would like to take this opportunity to remind bicyclists to please come to a stop at the Gibraltor & ElCielito intersection. There have been many close calls and we cringe each time we see someone speeding down Gibraltor. Please be safe.

 

 COMMENT 230199 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-11-05 11:12 AM

I am glad you took a photo of the hole at the base of Gibraltar. That hole is gnarly if you are descending on a bike and don't know about it.

 

 HATTIE agree helpful negative off topic

2011-11-05 04:05 PM

thanks for sharing this wonderful hike! your photos & commentary are always delightful.

 

 COMMENT 230316 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-11-06 07:47 AM

I used to live on Stanwood Drive across from Parma Park, and was pleased to see the name on the bridge on the way to Rattlesnake, which I hadn't noted before. I love the area.

 

 COMMENT 230320 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-11-06 07:53 AM

You guys rock!

 

 FLICKA agree helpful negative off topic

2011-11-06 08:46 AM

Urban Hikers, you are wonderful, bet you really have fun out there. Do you have any idea when Depression Drive started being called Gibralter? We used to ride horses up there in the 50s (and go park w/a beau at night); I never heard it called Gibralter until many years later, still Depression to me.

 

 COMMENT 230376 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-11-06 09:48 AM

I thought the highest neighborhood was Del Playa in I.V., Confused again.

 

 MTNDRIVER agree helpful negative off topic

2011-11-06 11:34 AM

Thanks for the photos, landmarks of the neighborhood!

And to add to 196's comment, it would be great if both cars AND bikes stopped at the stop sign where Mountain Drive meets Mission Ridge, just down the hill from that Gibralter Rd intersection.....another place where many near-misses take place. Bicyclists hate losing the momentum they've developed coming down the hill, I guess. I've almost been run over at that corner many times over the years. People drive down that hill WAY too fast. Since the fires, many construction trucks speeding to work and home, too.

Wish you'd gone a little further along West Mountain to where the bicyclist-mailbox is, that would make a great photo. That whole property is photo-worthy, all the crazy sculptures. Maybe next time! You could break the mold, cross the county line into Montecito, come down Coyote, then take Sycamore Canyon to 5 Points--take some photos of the portion of the road that's closed. Not to be telling you what to do or anything....

 

 COMMENT 230476 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-11-06 04:13 PM

Great pics, I am honored to call this place home and try to get out there as much as possible. Such rich history and pleasant scenery. good day.

 

 COMMENT 230492 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-11-06 06:24 PM

Urban Hikers here - Thanks all for your nice comments. We really do appreciate them. Flicka is so right - we do have a lot of fun out there...but part of the fun is wondering what you all will like. As far as her question regarding when Depression Drive became Gibraltar Road, we aren't really sure. We do recall that people routinely called it "Depression" into the late 70's...does anyone have any local maps from the 50's, 60's 70's or 80's? We've checked, but unfortunately we didn't keep ours. Today's maps show it as Gibraltar.

CHANNELFOG - You make us laugh...guess we aren't as literary as we think we are. You're literally right - except that DP isn't in the SB city limits, and that's all we're walking for now...so maybe Mountain Drive IS the highest neighborhood, after all...

MTDRIVER - Comment? We actually have finished that part of the city - If you search Edhat for "Decade-old Detour" and you'll see the route we took. Great hike. We have other photos from that area that weren't included in the story, because we are limited in our numbers...We agree with you, and have the mailbox pic....we definitely plan on using it in another "Marvelous Mailboxes" story...it's a beauty!

 

 COMMENT 230504P agree helpful negative off topic

2011-11-06 09:07 PM

Articles such as this make Edhat especially endearing. Thank you also to Urban Hikers.

 

27% of comments on this page were made by Edhat Community Members.

 

 

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