April 6- May 25
We’d been in Santa Barbara for a month and a half, and had yet to get out on the water. Jamie took the occasional float in the harbor on a paddleboard, but other than that, it had been a dry stay.
We linked up with Maggie and Brandon, booked a whale watch on a catamaran with Santa Barbara Sailing. It turned out being just a nice day out on the water, as the whales played shy. But it was nice to see the coastline from an offshore vantage point and we spotted some harbor seals sunbathing and perhaps a dolphin. The company gave us a voucher to come back and try our luck again in the future.
We’d been to Romero Canyon, before, on our last stay in SB back in 2020-21. It’s a stunning hiking route- about 7 miles up through the depths of the canyon and swinging back down, up high and hugging the canyon wall.
The views coming back south toward the Channel are stunning, and visibility was crisp that day. We could make out the wrinkles of rugged Santa Cruz Island in the distance. Charley enjoyed the beginning of the hike more, as we weaved through the oak trees and wildflowers along shady Romero creek. Better views on the second half of the hike also meant more sun exposure, and poor girl is liable to overheat. But she managed, as did we.
As I mentioned earlier, Jamie had taken to paddleboarding down in the harbor. She got a monthly membership to a shop at the water’s edge, and took adventure of most days off (save for the windy ones) to get out for an hour or so. We don’t have the extra space to buy a paddle board, so the membership worked out really well.
We’d split up on some days off- I’d head to the mountains or streets of Santa Barbara for a run, and she’d head down to the water to float around and see her marine pals. It was kind of nice to each have our own thing for a bit.
Our second visitor rolled into town a couple weeks after my mom left. We’d mix in some of the activities from her visit, and throw in a few new ones. Kaivan flew in from Phoenix and spent 5 or 6 days with us.
Jamie had to work Friday, so I made a tee time for my brother and I at Sandpiper golf club- “the poor man’s Pebble Beach” as Kaivan called it. Fine by me; at a third of the price, it was still expensive but simply incredible. Along the bluffs in Goleta, the town west of Santa Barbara, the course looked to be out of Golf Magazine. We had a lovely time, and I felt obliged to sport the hot pink shirt my Dad got me for Christmas this past year.
The main event of the weekend (and only way I could entice Kaivan to make his way out to SB) was a trail race we signed up for. Point Mugu State Park is a beautiful coastal mountain park along Highway 1 in Malibu, about 45 minutes south of Santa Barbara. I was fired up- it’d be my first time running an actual race. Kaivan was no stranger to them- it’d be his 4th or 5th.
The course took us 17 kilometers, climbing to high seaside vistas and then to rolling high-grass hills beyond. The whole experience was amazing, and to run my first race with my brother was really special. We rode the runner’s high right into finish line and the beer garden afterward.
There were several photographers along the course, so we were able to find some action shots of us, in addition to the ones I snapped during the race.
We carried on the next coupe of days, giving Kaivan the SB tour and getting out for a few hikes. A stop for lunch up at Franceschi Park was a must, overlooking Santa Barbara from the Riviera hillside. We hiked the Cold Springs loop and made a trip to Ojai for a hike and lunch in town. A mix of eating and moving seems to be a winning recipe for showing friends and family around.
We said “so long” to Kaivan and logged several shifts at work before our next run of time off.
Jamie Charley and I made a trip up to Jalama Beach, a bit over an hour northwest from SB, one evening for a stroll along the remote coast. We’d visited the area before, on our last contract in Santa Barbara. The rugged hillsides give way into the cliffs, then ocean, in a dramatic display of the sea and wind’s might. This spot, including the scenic drive out to the Jalama Beach, has become a favorite of ours. Camping at the beach is offered by the County, but it seems to me that a reservation is essential to secure a spot in this beautiful area.
A fiery glow lit the evening as the sun slipped beneath the far reaches of the sea, beyond the off shore oil rigs. We’d be driving the labyrinth of country roads back to the 101 in the last breaths of dusk- completely worth it to have enjoyed such a spectacular sunset.
We didn’t have to wait long for our next visitors to swing into town. Jed and Moe arrived less than two weeks after Kaivan left, and we put on our host hats and got to work.
Jamie did most of the planning for the visit, as is normally the case. I certainly don’t mind- the plans never disappoint and she’s a born planner.
As is tradition, we looped the Cold Springs hike with Charley. A lunch stop at Franceschi Park also made the itinerary.
Jamie had secured reservations to visit Lotusland again, and we strolled around the breathtaking grounds, still amazed at the collection of plants and trees from all over the world. New blooms had taken hold, so it was like seeing a different garden than last time we visited. The cactus garden was a favorite, as was the Japanese and Cycad gardens. The lotus flowers wouldn’t bloom until July, we were told.
Up over San Marcos Pass and into the arid Santa Ynez Valley, we headed to the vineyards. A patient of mine had mentioned Roblar Vineyard to me, and I was eager to check it out. We were seated beneath a veranda and protected from the gusts wreaking havoc on the open high-desert landscape. After a sampling of the wines and charcuterie, we scooted down to Los Olivos for a bit of live music and beer from Figueroa Mountain brewery.
We took Charley to Hendry’s Beach that evening for sunset, and grabbed dinner at the Boathouse, situated right along the beach. We’d be leaving our girl behind the following day, and taking to Big Sur with Jed and Moe for an overnight trip.
Again, Jamie had the playbook all written up. Stops at Pismo Beach, San Luis Obispo (SLO) and Morro Bay were on the docket. Moe bought me a sweatshirt at Pismo for my birthday (thanks Moe!), which has been glued to me ever since.
An excellent brunch in SLO at Novo fueled us for the day ahead. We made the stops at Morro Rock, along the beach, and the elephant seal rookery along Route 1 on our way northward. Thousands of seals dotted the stretch of sand beneath the observation walkway, flipping sand on themselves and letting out moans of contentedness as they sunbathed.
The Ragged Point Inn would be our resting point that evening. We took our time getting there, stopping when we felt the urge to walkabout the rugged cliffs or coves.
It was decided that we’d settle at the Inn and explore the grounds instead of climbing back in Archie once we’d arrived. The Inn boasted a gift shop, restaurant and snack shack, and a gas station with nearly $7 gas. If you’re coming through on Route 1, it’s best to gas up before reaching these remote stretches where you have no other choice.
Ragged Point also had beach access, kind of. It was a bit sketchy, but Jed and I scooted down the steep crumbled switchbacks to the black sand beach far below the Inn’s perch. It was our own private cove for a bit, as we marveled at the strength of the waves crashing in. The hike back up was a blood pumper, but we were sure-footed and rejoined our wives shortly after.
We’d have dinner in the solarium of the restaurant and turn in early for a long day of exploring the sights the following day.
I’m losing track- I think Jamie and I (and Charley) have done the Big Sur drive maybe 4 times. But it’s an area impossible to grow tired of. Every twist and crest in the road brings a new vista, aqua waters hundreds of feet below, sea stacks and debris battered endlessly day and night.
We stopped off at some familiar beaches, some new spots. On prior trips with Charley, we weren’t able to do many of the hikes that Big Sur offers. A trip to Julia Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park was a new stop.
We hiked up through the redwoods to a viewpoint along a valley outlet to the sea. We made a stop in the gift shop afterward, and we got Jed a baby coastal Redwood. She was dubbed “Mosey” and she’d eventually make the trip back to Massachusetts where she sits planted by the pool. The odds for her survival are near, but not quite, zero. Maybe she’ll surprise us.
After a birthday lunch at Nepenthe, we started making our way back south and homeward bound. It was a long trip- 4 or 5 hours. We got back after dark, good and tired. We’d stay local the rest of their visit, eating, drinking, and sunset sailing. The gang went for a bike ride but I sat that activity out, needing to recharge a bit.
All in all, it was about a weeklong visit. We packed what seemed to be two weeks worth of activities into it. We were again thrilled to be able to show our family our temporary digs in SB. And I think they had fun!
Jamie and I returned to Point Mugu State Park a couple weeks later. Our plans to visit Santa Cruz Island had once again been foiled by harsh Channel winds that were stirring up some tough conditions on the open water. It turned out to be a great day hiking, though.
Taking the 45 minute drive down past Ventura and Oxnard, we were pleased to find ourselves relatively alone on the trail. Wildflowers were still popping, and visibility was crystal. Though we didn’t make it to Santa Cruz Island that day, we could see its mountainous folds and wrinkles with ease across the Channel.
It gets hot though, and as I knew from the trail race, there is full sun exposure the entire trail. We managed 6 or 7 miles out and back, constantly in awe of the views, both out to the ocean and in to the larger inland mountain range.
We’re beginning the wrap-up now of our time in Santa Barbara. There’s so much to say about this place.
It’s a small town feel with bigger-city attractions. It’s a paradise climate; my Weather Channel app grew cobwebs over the past few months. There are boundless areas to explore, and endless activities to satisfy the outdoor enthusiast. Sampling food and drink could keep you busy in perpetuity. The hospital was incredible, both in structure and personnel.
I’ll miss it. Jamie will miss it. Charley will definitely miss it. Her daily walks to the Cruisery brewery for fresh baked dog treats became the highlight of her day.
We got to be locals, twice. But with a finite amount of time, we attacked it like a vacation.
It’s time to move on, to shake things up. We’re headed back east for a wedding and family time, but in the background, the Planner continues to scheme. Jamie’s been hard at work, plotting our greatest adventure yet.
This summer, the gang takes on Alaska and the Last Frontier.