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Montecito's Mountain Drive
updated: Mar 10, 2012, 9:30 AM

By the Urban Hikers, Stacey Wright & Peter Hartmann

Now that we've walked each and every street in the City of Santa Barbara, we're wondering where to wander next. Last weekend we awoke to a gorgeous morning and headed to Mountain Drive with the intention of walking the part of the drive that we'd ignored during our "official" SB City walk. We began where we'd left off, at the city/county line just up from the place that east meets west. We've highlighted our map in orange showing the part of Mountain Drive we hiked on this particular morning.

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Initially, we planned on showing this entire stretch of Montecito road in one article, but after taking over 100 photos (all interesting and "important") we realized we couldn't show everything. And then there was the problem of having way too many personal memories of Mountain Drive, as well as knowing some of significant the history of the place. So we whittled down the pics, decided not to tell about all of the nostalgic magic of Mountain Drive "back in the day," and thought that would solve the problem. But still, there's too much to show and tell about Mountain Drive in one article. So - this week we'll write about the Drive from our starting point to just about the corner of E. Mountain Drive and Cold Spring Rd. In our next installment (2 weeks from now), we'll finish up the hike from that corner to the end of E. Mountain Drive at Park Lane.

These are images from the small part of West Mountain Drive that lay in Montecito. As with all parts of Mountain Drive, the views are amazing, there are banks of communal mailboxes, a well-founded concern for brush fires and an abundance of unique and artistic expressions created by the inhabitants of the area.

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And then we came to the intersection of Coyote and E. Mountain.

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Neither of us grew up on or near Mountain Drive, but we have known many wonderful people who did (and still do!). As teenagers we spent a fair amount of time up on Mountain Drive, engaged in a variety of activities. It was the perfect place to learn to drive - all cars were stick shift back then- and those were the years long before hordes of bicyclist, joggers, power-walker and urban hikers flocked to the area in droves. Back then it was just a long, quiet, stretch of gorgeous rural road populated with a handful of interesting people, long-time families, artists, free-sprits, ecologists, and even a troll or two. These are some the sights we saw along this stretch of road.

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Just near the intersection of E. Mountain and Hyde Road is a community fountain for man and beast, created by Andy Johnson a long time Mountain Driver. It was featured in March Edness 2008, and there's a nice explanation for its inception and creation in the "answer". Briefly though, in early 2000 Andy got permission of the owner of the property to construct a fountain, and in doing so, memorialized the annual wine stomps that started back in1952 and continue to this day. Each tile represents one year's honorary "Wine Queen." Some of the older tiles decorating the fountain were salvaged from Bill Neely's old wine cellar by Andy and used to preserve and represent the history this quintessentially Mountain Drive festival. Bobby and Floppy are also honored in the fountain, but more about them later.

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Just next to the fountain is a bank of mailboxes that prior to being burned down was pretty darn funky. Today it's much more utilitarian than anything else, but we did happen to see this little gem that deserved a closer look.

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This humble little sign marks Hyde Road.

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The road is named for Bobby and Floppy Hide, the indisputable "founders" of Mountain Drive. After a fire scorchrd the hillside in 1940, Bobby Hyde and his wife, Florence, (who everyone knew as "Floppy") purchased 50 acres on what was a dirt road, out in the middle of nowhere. Bobby was the son of Robert Wilson Hide, a well-known illustrator and artist, who also happened to be one of the founders of the Arts and Crafts Movement in California. He was instrumental on many local civic projects, including the promotion of a colony of Arts and Crafts homes in Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara School of Arts and the Lobero Theater. Robert Sr.'s home (and the one we suspect Bobby grew up in) in on Salsipuedes Street and is a part of the neighborhood referred to by some as "Bungalow Haven".

But we digress. It was Bobby and Floppy who in the late 1940's began a life on Mountain Drive that would become something of an experiment in living a "green lifestyle." Without even trying, the Hydes created a tightly knit neighborhood of iconoclasts and visionaries unified by the values of family, a communal lifestyle, respect for the earth, reverence for nature, a love of the arts, irreverence for most things mainstream and unfettered lust for fun and freedom.

In their mid to late 40‘s Bobby and Floppy were the first to build a home on E. Mountain Drive, and then began selling 1-acre plots of land to people they thought would "fit in" and to those who shared their philosophy of life and living. If you were lucky enough to be offered a plot, the price was $2,000, and after making a small down payment, the land was financed by the Hydes. There were no building codes in Montecito until 1954. Many of the early residents of E. Mountain Drive simply prepared a suitable building site and then used the dirt that had been moved to create adobe bricks, which were then stacked to form the homes.

The Hydes had seven kids of their own and several grandchildren, but at the age of 55, Bobby and his wife decided to foster 6 siblings who had been left in the care of an elderly relative here in Santa Barbara. The children, aged 4 to 12 were Mexican Nationals, but back in those days, immigration policies were significantly less stringent. So, Floppy and Bobby found themselves raising a new brood up on the mountain. Bobby later wrote a book about the experience entitled Six More after Sixty, and we bet it would be a fascinating read. Some of those Hyde children are the ones who we went to school with and cross paths with from time to time.

As most people who've lived in Santa Barbara for a decade or more know, Mountain Drivers are credited with the creation of the hot tub. However, fewer know that as a direct result of the bohemian culture of E. Mountain Drive in the 1950s and 1960s, an explosion of new arts, crafts, recreation, philosophies, sciences, architecture, design, cuisine, winemaking and a whole host of other uniquely Santa Barbara ideas and "things" emerged. It was the unique environment created "accidentally" by Bobby and Floppy Hyde that lured many of the luminaries of the countercultural world, including Dylan Thomas, Ken Kesey, Timothy Leary, Baba Ram Dass and many others to study, play, visit and create in the hills above Santa Barbara. From the influences of these visitors, as well as the residents of Mountain Drive, sprang forth marvelous conceptions, creations and ideology that would become an integral part of the fabric of Santa Barbara. Betcha didn't know that the Renaissance Pleasure Faires held throughout the country originated on Mountain Drive, did you? But in fact, they did!

Without further ado, we bring you more images of our stroll along East Mountain Drive.

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Following the Tea Fire in November 2009, the once shrouded and overgrown remains of the Tea House became visible. The gates and Palm tree are what had once been the entrance to"Mar Y Cel (Sea & Sky), a 350- acre estate built by Mr. & Mrs. Henry Bothin in the 1916. Following the 1925 earthquake many of the intricate stone aqueducts and water works, Romanesque arches, walls and statues were destroyed. Lockwood de Forrest rennovated the property adding magnificent gardens and recreating the stone walls surrounding the tea house. After Mrs. Bothin's death in 1965, part the estate was split off and sold, and the tea house fell into a state of disrepair.

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Along our hike we saw many beautiful birds, including this sweet little baby.

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We liked this sign for some odd reason.

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This quaint little resting spot was the perfect place to sit for a spell. We know nothing about it but sure wish that we did.

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And this, friends, is where we end today's story. It's not where we ended our morning hike, so you'll have to stay tuned for a future installment of "Montecito's Mountain Drive" to hear and see the rest of our urban hike, which will take us from this intersection to the end of Mountain Drive at Park Lane.

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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. Above all, expect the unexpected.

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

 COMMENT 263192 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-03-10 10:59 AM

Thank you Urban Hikers for the photo tour and history of this very special "neighborhood" in Santa Barbara. I'm glad you are still walking and writing. Very cool!


 COMMENT 263235 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-03-10 12:18 PM

Thanks for a little nostalgia. I'm not sure who should get credit for bringing the hot tub to the US. The big, round wooden soaking tub was enjoyed by many American visitors to Japan prior to it showing up here.

Night hikes to the Tea Garden were rites of passage for generations of SB teenagers. In the pre-skateboard years we didn't light fires, leave trash, or go off the road. The cascade-and-bowl water features were enchanting, but now they are gone and can't be brought back.

The lesson? Treasure your heritage. Think past the end of your nose (or that thing under your toes!), the end of this year, the end of this generation.


 COMMENT 263292 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-03-10 05:01 PM

Wonderful article and photos. I too have wondered about the wall with the Egyptian (?) lady - your resting place at Cold Springs Rd. and East Mountain. Rd.


 ROGER DODGER agree helpful negative off topic

2012-03-11 08:56 AM

You guys can't work for a living to have all this time to walk around and take pictures.. you must have a good panhandling spot to support this fun hobby. I don't hardly get any money down here at Circle K. But at least I don't have to go anywhere. I think my biggest regret is that I've never hiked the back hills and now I can hardly walk. Never took a boat ride off Santa Barbara and now I get motion sickness. Haven't been on an airplane since 1980 when I got into a near fist fight on an airliner. But now I could look at the pictures and pretend.


 COMMENT 263458 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-03-11 10:33 AM

The bench in question I'm pretty sure is another creation of Andy Johnson


 FLICKA agree helpful negative off topic

2012-03-11 11:03 AM

Thanks, Hikers, for a fun trek. Yes, the California hot tub, the craze in recent years, started on Mountain Drive. They used big wine vats. They had wonderful "pot wars" too (about once or twice a year) where you could buy their pottery, cups or glasses were filled w/wine to drink on spot. It got so popular the fire dept made them stop as all the parked cars were clogging the roads, no emergency vehicles could get through.


 COMMENT 263475 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-03-11 11:07 AM

URBANHIKERS ROCK! What a great time I had reading this. I have enjoyed your past hikes and looking forward to others. THANK YOU SO MUCH! As a native, I have learned so much from you folks about SB, my home. Keep it up!


 COMMENT 263499 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-03-11 01:05 PM

I believe the 'wine vats' used by the Mtn Drovers were actually old redwood water tanks historically used on ranches and rural properites. Back in the day I had the 'Great Hot Springs of the West' book which described the use of the first wood-and-gas fired water tank tubs used by MDers. Sounded pretty cool back then and still does.

Hoorah for these expanded posts by the Hikers--your column so greatly expands my enjoyment of Edhat. Thank you both!


 COMMENT 263526 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-03-11 02:35 PM

Thanks for the nostalgia about Mountain Drive. For over 35 years lived on Stanwood and absolutely fell in love with that part of SB. House burned in Tea Fire, moved to the next place that seemed closest to that "vibe" which was up on the San Marcos Pass.
Thanks for the history and memories, UH. That was great!


 COMMENT 264079 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-03-14 06:56 AM

Here is a page that tells the story of the bench at the corner of Cold Springs & Mountain Dr. alturl dot com forwards slash agebz
Yes Andy Johnson did the sculpture.


 COMMENT 264163P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-03-14 10:13 AM

Here is the story of the corner of mountain dr and cold springs road, which the urban hikers asked about in the posting.


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