When I was in my 20s some college friends moved into a little old house on the coast north of Santa Barbara. It didn’t take long to appreciate what they had, the only house in sight on over a thousand acres of land and 3 miles of coast! The Las Varas Ranch belonged to the family of one of my friend’s roommates. We walked down to the beach to fish and drank beer on the roof, watching for whales to swim by. There was nothing but avocados and cows with three locked gates off the Pacific Coast Hwy to get to the house. They were carefree times fondly remembered by all of us. The Las Varas Ranch was purchased decades later by a successful investor who then donated it to University of California Santa Barbara.
One of my friends had a trawler in Santa Barbara marina which we took on trips to the Channel Islands. There we fished for Cabezon, Calico bass and Halibut, hiked and scuba dived for abalone and scallops. The scallops were absolutely huge, we’d grill them on the back of the boat with only lemon and butter. That with some grilled fish while anchored in a quiet cove under the stars was as good as it gets. It was fun to learn the different types of fish from my buddy. We’d grown up catching walleye, bass and perch in the Great Lakes, but California fish were far more fun and challenging to catch. On the way back to Santa Barbara from the islands once we ran across a huge Basking shark, a plankton eater, the only one I’ve ever seen.
Besides the ranch and islands, downtown Santa Barbara was fun too. My friends were well known at Joe’s Bar, the Paradise Cafe and other places. There were a couple great breakfast spots on State Street like Esau’s.
I also loved the Santa Ynez mountains and enjoyed Cold Spring Tavern, located on the spot of an old 1800s stagecoach stop. There was a place higher in the mountains where a woodworker made vases from the ancient dried rootballs of certain trees and shrubs, I still have a nice collection of them. You can spend days exploring the mountains and interesting little towns like Solvang and Ojai.
Santa Barbara and the Channel Islands make up one of the nicest coastal areas in the United States. They also make for a beautiful map which was fun to put together.
On my pilgrimage to draft the map of the area I stayed on my friend’s sailboat in Channel Islands Marina. Barking harbor seals woke me up at night but always made me smile. We took the ferry from Ventura harbor to Santa Cruz Island one day and did a very long hike in a very pretty place. It was strange to see so many foxes but they’re everywhere!