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URBAN HIKE

Bucolic Beauty at its Best
updated: Nov 12, 2011, 9:00 AM

By the Urban Hikers, Peter Hartmann & Stacey Wright

This week we continue our hike along some of the most mountainous roads in the city, and wrap up our exploration of this rural and wonderful part of our town. This hike includes all or parts of the following streets: Mountain Drive, Las Canoas, Las Canoas Lane, Foothill, Foothill Lane, Jorgensen Lane, and Stanwood.

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We'll share with you some of the flora and fauna we encountered, including a variety of fruit and nut trees, plus a horse and pony, the incredible natural beauty we saw everywhere, a few historic sites, a cool garden, as well as some interesting signs and other quirky things you've probably never seen before. It's all in a day's hike...

This area must be prime land for growing fruits and vegetables. Some of the more unusual producing fruit trees we passed were macadamia nut and pomegranate.

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And we were tempted by juicy green, red apples, and tangerines growing on a really, really, really tall tangerine tree. The ladder was there, along with a box to drop our payment into, but that tree seemed awfully tall...

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This fungus was too interesting to walk by without photographing, and these wonderful animals were so friendly. We wished we knew we would see them, because we might have snatched an apple or two to share with our new friends.

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The natural beauty in these neighborhoods is nothing short of astounding and something we adventurers never tire of seeing. We passed magnificent trees, ancient boulders, flowing creeks, natural fields and more. Of course, the views from this part of town are always a source of admiration and inspiration.

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This view, familiar to many, is probably one you pass again and again by car, but on

foot it's even more interesting - and you can peek down for an interesting perspective on the tennis club. The traffic is a little insane, but the natural beauty makes up for the absolute need to be vigilant about pedestrian safety.

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The four historically interesting sites we encountered on this hike are the Sheffield Reservoir, the stone wall on Mountain drive, the Lower Reservoir and water system that served the Mission and the Oliver Fountain at the intersection of Mountain drive and Mission Canyon.

The first, the Sheffield Reservoir was built in 1917, and for decades served as the primary water storage facility for the city. It was built on 20 acres and held 45 million gallons of drinking water for the residents of Santa Barbara.

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The reservoir, know as The Sheffield Dam, has the distinction of being the only dam (reservoir) in the U.S. to break during an earthquake. It was built in the winter of 1917, was 720 feet long, 25 feet high, and, at the time of the earthquake, held 30 million gallons of water.

When the quake hit in the early morning hours on June 29, 1925, the reservoir cracked. According to the website, Santa Barbara Earthquake History, "...the center of the dam, about 300 feet of it, simply floated away on the liquefied soil, traveling about 100 feet downstream... and a wall of water rushed between Voluntario and Alisos Streets, carrying trees, automobiles, and three houses with it, and leaving behind it a muddy, debris-strewn mess. The water filled the lower part of town up to two feet deep, until it gradually drained away into the sea. This historical photo shows the damaged sustained to the dam during the earthquake.

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Today, for safety reasons the reservoir has been under grounded, and serves as a recreation area for people and their pets. Nostalgic souls that we are, we still miss that big ol' reservoir though...there was something so old school about it.

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Across the street from the City Fire Station and Los Padres National Forrest Service Fire Department (at the intersection of El Cielito and Stanwood) is the Firescape Garden. It is a beautiful example of landscaping with drought-tolerant, low maintenance, native plants and has a great deal of information to help residents landscape their properties in this way. It's located adjacent to the old Sheffield Reservoir, and is definitely worth a visit.

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About the same time the Sheffield Reservoir was under construction, another amazing Santa Barbara landmark was in the making. In 1910, a group of primarily Italian, Scottish and English stonemasons completed construction of a nearly 2-mile long a wall that surrounded the Black Estate, present day campus of Marymount School. The wall is so spectacular that we had a hard time restraining ourselves when it came to picture-taking...There was a Where Is It Wednesday article in Edhat (October 21, 2004) that gives even more detail about this remarkable Santa Barbara Landmark.

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We diverge for a moment here to bring you a few miscellaneous scenes from our hike, and by now you probably know that we enjoy unusual signs - a lot - and that we also like to look down, for some strange reason. We also get very excited when we come across unusual sights, like large reptiles in trees and brightly colored homes...

One day we'll share with you a whole lot of photos of the city's "loud" homes and building, as we like to call them, but today, you get to see the Easter egg special. Who says Santa Barbara is a cookie-cutter town?

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As the weary Urban Hikers came to the end of a very long hike, we passed two more places of interest, that are too interesting not to mention. The first is something that appears to many to be part of the stone wall on Mountain Drive. In fact, it's a part of the old water complex and aqueduct that date to the early 1800's. This building, used will into the 20th century, housed the filtration system. Inside was a basin which trapped the water and sent it though charcoal filtration unit. After a good cleaning, the water was sent down the aqueduct, to the reservoir, which sat at the bottom of Mountain Drive on Los Olivos. The first two photos show the filter house, the other is what remains of part of the old aqueduct.

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The Lower Reservoir is marked with this sign, but many probably drive right past the storage facility itself, seen here from Mountain Drive.

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And last, but not least, as we came to the city/county line in Mission Canyon, we passed by the Oliver Fountain. This memorial was dedicated to George Stuart Johannot Oliver, by his wife Frances (nee Dabney), six years after his death in 1904. It was constructed using three boulders moved from the property the couple owned and occupied, which they named "Rocky Nook". Originally, the horse trough served thirsty animals, and there was a drinking fountain for humans, but sadly, neither have been in use for many years.

The intersection there is deadly, so we suppose it's just as well.

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As always 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.

 

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