On a beautiful cool Fall day 8 members of the Los Padres Trail Riders met at the Greenwell Preserve and took a stroll across the Summerland and Montecito landscape. The route skirted the edge of the Birnam Wood golf course, and then explored the beautiful Ennisbrook nature preserve.
In 3.5 hours we walked 8.5 miles, sometimes climbing trails and other times forming an unusual sight on the housing area streets.
Heading up from the Greenwell Preserve, many of the hillsides are cultivated with avocados.
Estates grid up the acres, some are second or third homes for the very wealthy, some are ranches producing avocados or dedicated to training horses.
Walking down the roads between the beautifully landscaped estates, the many colors of profuse bouganvilla and fruit trees and succulents delight the eye.
Usually when I ride up here the residents have never been in view, only the gardeners and caretakers busy at their tasks keeping it all tidy.
Clearly Tobe can smell the horses behind this custom wrought iron gate, and is curious about them.
The trails are lined with dry brush, a reminder of
the fragility of the urban environment imposed on these foothills. All too clearly locals remember fires which have swept through these neighborhoods, with terrible results.
It is at this time of year, when the dry winds come out of the deserts and blow across the spent grasses and tangled chaparral, that fires are most likely to catch hold.
Our path takes us between these great estates, sharing their views and sentinel trees, a place of tranquil beauty.
Birnam Wood Golf Club. It has 18 holes, was built in 1968 by Robert Trent Jones, and is surrounded by high value estates.
The land across which our trail passes was once part of a very large land holding that belonged to the Coffin Family. It is with their generous permission that the Coffin Family Trail provides a vital equestrian link in the area.
The trails in this system are maintained by the MTF, the Montecito Trails Foundation, and their efforts keep these trails in very excellent condition.
Then our track took us through a large boarding stable as we made out way from the Summerland side of the hill to Sheffield Drive and Montecito.
Many of the trails are edged with fence rails, and make passage between the estates easy. Here we crossed a stream, just a trickle in this season.
Then our path took us through a long stand of eucalyptus trees, with their shedding bark forming a scented mulch we walked through.
A fine bright color fills the interior of these freshly cut logs.
And then it was time to enter Ennisbrook. At one time this was part of a grand estate, the Rancho San Leandro, with polo grounds and a world class team.
But the Great Depression ended the glory days, and by the 1940's the property fell into disrepair.
In the late 1980's plans were approved to put 63 homes on the acres, and permission to build was contingent upon the developers setting aside 44 wooded acres on San Ysidro Creek to be Montecito's first nature preserve.
It is now a favorite with walkers, hikers, and equestrians.
Two stone bridges built around 1900
still give pedestrian and equestrian access across the creek.
And quite unexpectedly we came across this magnificent horticultural folly. Walking past it has the effect of moving past row crops, and the play of light and shadow on the sculptured hedges was entrancing.
FLIGHTS OF ANGELS SING THEE TO THY REST.
Members of the group all had different stories about the origin of this beautiful sculpture, and I was unable to determine the true one.
The quote is from Shakespeare, Hamlet: Act 5, Scene 2, Page 17.
Whoever it commemorates must have once been greatly loved, and seeing the angel is always a time to pause, and reflect, and be grateful for days that include time spent traveling through natural beauty on the back of a willing mule.