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Just Walkin' The Rails
updated: Jun 23, 2012, 10:00 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 about random areas within the South Coast. A few weeks ago we took a morning hike along the railroad tracks beginning just west of Miramar Beach near Montecito Creek to the point at Summerland. At this juncture we pause for a public service announcement: Do not try this. It could potentially present a variety of hazards, up to and included being hit by a train. We undertook this hike out of curiosity, out of a sense of duty and for the pure nostalgia of it all. In our youth both of us UH's spent many a lazy day walking the tracks for a variety of reasons, but mostly it was simply to get from point A to point B in the most efficient manner possible. This was due to the fact that we were way, way too young to drive. This was our hike.

Not to dwell too much about the rails, but as you can see, it was a relatively long hike (since we stopped quite often to photo document and observe) so we had plenty of time to talk and reminisce. One of our observations was that in the "old days" the rails of tracks were not solid as they are today. Back then they had breaks in the rails that caused the trains to make much more of a racket than they do presently. It was the noise of the approaching trains that always caught our vigilant attention, allowing us to jump from the tracks with plenty of time to spare. Often we even had enough time to place a penny or a nickel on the rail for an instant "souvenir" of our youth.

As we started out we saw this old windmill tower which had been used to pump water from the well beneath it. We figure it's from the late 1800's or early 1900's, before electricity made it to this part of Montecito. Pretty cool piece of local history.

Next we passed a beautiful little garage, which is located across the street from the home to which it belongs. As far as we can tell, the house and garage were built sometime around 1905.

This is the view as we headed down the tracks from Miramar Beach.

We're trying really, really, really hard not to make this a piece about the Miramar Hotel. So much has already been written about that wonderful place - and for so many people in our age demographic the present state of the Miramar is nothing short of a tragedy. We will reserve the Miramar history to two very important people who worked at the hotel for decades: Jacques Renon and Grover Cleveland Barnes - but that'll be included in next week's story. For now, we'll tell you that both of us, hailing from different neighborhoods, different lifestyles and much different families learned to swim in the Miramar pool at about the same age, under the watchful and strident instruction of Monsieur Jacques. And both of us were equally terrified students who learned to become strong, precise swimmers.

Next stop, the Southern Pacific Railroad depot at the Miramar Hotel. We love the detail of this restored structure, and can only imagine the pleasure Eastern visitors felt as they disembarked at this little railroad stop, beginning when it was opened in the summer of 1892. You can read more about the history in Edhat's "Montecito's Miramar", including the price the original owners paid for the property...a whopping $40.

This "cottage" with its distinctive Moorish arches was once a part of the Miramar Hotel. Built in the late 1800's or early 1900's it was aptly named "Arches". Today it appears to be a private home, and backs up onto the railroad tracks.

This stately home, built in 1912 beckoned us off the tracks for a diversion... we couldn't resist a closer look at the beautiful Craftsman style, the vibrant purple gate, the lovely plantings and the general tidiness of the home. Wondering what "Posilipo" ( the name of the street on which this house sits) means, we made a mental note to research...We discovered it's a Greek word, roughly translating as "respite from worry", and found that there's a section of Naples, Italy with the same name, but with a different spelling. It's an apropos name for this street, considering it ends just at the beach at Nun's.

Another view shot looking eastward down the coast toward the Summerland exit sign.

Along our route we saw a number of sluice-ways, of several different styles. We liked this one in particular, and used a path nearby as a route to the beach for our return trip.

Further down the tracks we encountered a very special home. We called out to the occupant or occupants, but no one was home. Acting a bit like Goldilocks herself, one of the UH clamored up to the front door of the home and entered. There was no porridge, no chairs, and no beds...but there was a book about how to grow orchids and one helluva ocean view...perhaps the resident was out orchid hunting.

About the time of our hike, other observant Edhat readers noticed the cormorant nesting spot just above the rail road tracks. Like them, we were fascinated by the rituals of the nesting birds. We were unable to take any real close-up shots, but the photos do show some of the babies, which are lighter in color and quite fluffy. We also watched for several minutes as birds flew in with twigs, seaweed and other nest- building materials. It was fascinating.

As we continued down the tracks we saw many interesting sights, including this sign. We don't love graffiti, but must admit, we do love the message.

Just before arriving at our turn around point, we heard the familiar far off rumble of an oncoming train. We got safely away from the tracks and shot a series of photos of the Surfliner. Sadly, we forgot to place a coin on the track...maybe next time.

After our turn around, this was the view we saw. Along this portion of the railroad tracks, there is a distinctive path that appears to be well used by pedestrians traveling between Montecito and Summerland.

These two images were an attempt to capture the beauty of the train tracks, the beach and the point, but we don't think they do this stretch of coastline justice.

As mentioned earlier, we used a pathway along one of the sluice-ways to gain access to the beach below the tracks, and this is the one we used. At the bottom of it we found a retaining wall that once proudly displayed the work of a childhood acquaintance, local surfer and all around "beach boy", Bobby Korner. The writing is now barely visible, and restoration of it would probably be a felony, so we don't suggest that he do that...but for us it's a reminder of lazy summer days long, long ago.

Stay tuned for our next installment, which will include images from our return walk along the beach as well as the history of some of the notable places in and around South Jameson Lane and Eucalyptus Lane. We can't wait to show you our discoveries and provide you with a bit of local history that you probably never knew...

As always, we encourage you to go out and explore our marvelous town on foot, keep your eyes, ears and minds open to all that you encounter, and above all, expect the unexpected.


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