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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.

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

 HATTIE agree helpful negative off topic

2011-11-12 11:43 AM

wonderful! thanks for continuing to chronicle & share your magical hikes.

 

 LOURAY agree helpful negative off topic

2011-11-12 12:21 PM

Thanks to the UHers again for a nice album. You weren't kidding about the lizard in the tree.

 

 COMMENT 232304P agree helpful negative off topic

2011-11-12 03:44 PM

Important safety tip: Please don't feed snacks to animals without the owner's permission. I had a beloved old pony who lived on soft food. He choked to death on a piece of apple that some well-meaning stranger fed him not knowing he would not be able to chew it.

 

 MTNDRIVER agree helpful negative off topic

2011-11-12 04:58 PM

Great stuff, sorry I missed you as you walked by! Feel very lucky to live in this neighborhood.

That strange fungus is called chicken of the woods, and I hear it is edible, though I have not partaken. And don't take my word for it!

 

 COMMENT 232397 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-11-13 07:57 AM

Hikers, thank you for this interesting and ambitious report. I look forward to reading about your adventures each week.

Savoy Restaurant has a delicious dish called Chicken of the Woods. MTNDRIVER, could it be?!...

 

 COMMENT 232403 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-11-13 08:07 AM

Very cool pics, I love seeing anything and everything that is off the beaten path in SB. As a native I recognize most of these places but some are new. I would have loved to tag along for the trek, who thought up the idea and organized it? Where was the Golden Retriever crossing posted? Keep up the good work, brings back many great memories and makes me want to get out there and do some sightseeing.

 

 STACE agree helpful negative off topic

2011-11-13 09:43 AM

Urban Hiker here: Thanks, guys. We're glad you enjoy our stories about all the adventures Santa Barbara has to offer.

To 403: We're pretty sure the Golden Retriever sign is on Las Canoas Lane. We got a kick out of it not only because the sign is funny, but also because it's paired with a home security system sign...we guess that Golden is a little too playful to be a serious threat to intruders. As for tagging along, when we "finish the town" we are going to invite anyone who cares to join us for our final hike. We had expected to have the hike (but the posts will continue) sometime this month, but I had knee surgery three weeks ago and that has slowed down our progress. Stay tuned for more on the date, time and place of of final hike. We'd love to have you come along! Lastly, if you go to the main Edhat Santa Barbara page and click on the Urban Hike tab on the left hand side of the page, it will take you to all of our past posts, covering many local neighborhoods. If you scroll to the very bottom of the page you'll see our first story - it tells about our hike project, and why in the world we ever decided to walk all the streets of our city.

 

 MTNDRIVER agree helpful negative off topic

2011-11-13 10:28 AM

Angelica, I don't know about that dish at Savoy. Where is Savoy? How come I don't know about it?

Love the Urban Hikes pieces every week. I know someone else who has done this same thing, walked every road in the city--but his M.O. was to bring a trash bag and pick up litter--especially cigarette butts, yuck. Got me inspired to bring a plastic bag on my walks in the neighborhood.

 

 COMMENT 232475 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-11-13 11:07 AM

To STACY, I am looking forward to your post of inviting us folks on your last hike. I have loved and enjoyed reading about your hikes and seeing pictures you post with your articles. Thank you and hope for your quick knee recovery. Hope you pick a day that is sunny and not raining.

 

 MTNDRIVER agree helpful negative off topic

2011-11-13 11:13 AM

Oops, a correction here: the firescape garden is actually at the corner of Mission Ridge (not El Cielito) and Stanwood. Right across the street from the fire station.

 

 TEXAN agree helpful negative off topic

2011-11-13 08:47 PM

To Stacy: I've loved the series and am so excited to get to tag along!!!

 

73% of comments on this page were made by Edhat Community Members.

 

 

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