Thursday, July 21, 2011

Devereaux Lagoon 7-21-11

A ride around the Devereaux Lagoon, just North of the UCSB campus, and around the Ellwood Mesa area. A hazy day, misty and cool on the coastline.

Length: 6 miles
Duration: 2.5 hours

Difficulty: Very easy, trails mostly former oil company access roads, some pushing through overgrown brush that required us stopping and trimming. 
Altitude gain: 140 ft 
Grade: I

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 We start out on the edges of the golf course, which rumor has it is soon to be turned back into native habitat. So much for this wee slice of Scottish sport.
 Tobe is never entirely comfortable around golf courses, with their whizzing carts and random balls flying. Or maybe it is the fashion sense of the participants.
 Venoco Oil once used this entire area for onshore processing of the Channel Islands oil. There are a lot of structures left, and the company is funding a massive "wetland restoration" project in the adjacent areas as penance for numerous spills.
 Most of the trails are former oil company access roads like this one. Nice if you want to ride alongside your trail companions and chat. Or if you want to lope and fly along a clear stretch of well maintained dirt.
 Easily visible offshore are the oil rigs that Jim Morrison called "The Crystal Ships" for their illuminated beauty at night. In foggy daytime weather they are just barely visible on the horizon, and the islands are lost in mist behind them.
 The restoration of the wetlands involves labor intensive replacement of the scrub growth with native flora, marked out in patches with little bright flags.
 The Devereaux lagoon is a haven for birds, and we like to watch for egrets, herons, stilts, ducks....
 More plants that are part of the restoration project. The oil company has had numerous spills on this land and this is the way they do penance, funding the plantings as a reparation.
 The mouth of the lagoon where it falls out into the sea, a beautiful natural resource enjoyed by many.
 Along the top of the cliffs the road cuts through fields of anise and mustard, waiting to be returned to botanical diversity.
 At the edge of the University property at Coal Oil Point the lagoon is host to many species of birds. Visible here are a white egret on the left, mallard ducks and coots swimming.
 This structure has been known to generations of UCSB students as The Red Barn and in my days as an undergraduate was home to amateur theatrical performances and musical events. Now it is a decaying ruin, graffitied and sealed up and I fully expect one day to come by and find that it has collapsed entirely.
 A group of circling pigeons shot up out of the grass and whirled around us, having their daily exercise perhaps before returning to a nearby home.
 Use Tobe's nose as a pointer and squint and you will be able to see a 3' California King Snake in the grass. Always a pleasure to see snakes out on the trail doing their job, catching the ground squirrels who make the ankle-twisting holes.
 Looking out to sea, the classic California view of surfers catching waves. The idyllic endless summer of the glorious youth culture.
 The very bottom of the Campbell cross at Coal Oil Point that appears as the profile photo of Tobe and I for LuckyTrails. A soldier on a horse, perhaps, off to conquer unknown lands. Placed here by a member of my own Scottish clan.
 Whizzing by offshore a whale watching boat heads downcoast, perhaps after a trip to the islands and back.
 And it is our turn to head back, across the lagoon road that leads to the staff housing complex, back across the slough, another day's pleasant hours spent exploring the beauty of the area.
And on the Eastern horizon loom the frontcountry mountains of the Los Padres forest, beckoning the equine adventurers to explore them another day.