Sunday, December 20, 2020

2020/12/20 Winter Solstice stroll at the Monarch Grove and Deveroux Slough at Ellwood Mesa

Santa Cruz Island visible off the shore of the Ellwood Mesa. 

Winter Solstice and perfect bright climate (can't call it weather) beckoned to us to explore the shoreline and eucalyptus forests just North of UCSB.

We started out at the Ellwood School parking lot on the mountain side of Hollister Avenue, rode across the Mesa out to the cliff edge, proceeded South to check out the slough, then meandered back through eucalyptus groves and grass fields.
Five-ish miles in two-ish hours, just enough to stretch out the equines' legs and get us out in nature.

A section of the Ellwood Mesa has been set aside as a preserve for the Monarch Butterflies. Tragically, today we saw NONE.

Here are photographs taken there in 2011:

We used to see branches so covered with the orange magnificence that you couldn't see the green leaves they clung to.

And with a certain irony, the news headlines today read:

But in the year 2020, when everything that could go wrong seems to be, this is just another insult to injury. And there being nothing we can do about it, we went for a ride and enjoyed the day.
The path out to the Mesa skirts the edge of the eucalyptus trees that have been badly damaged by the droughts of the last few years.
With no effort made to water them the trees are on the verge of collapse, and with them will go the habitat the Monarchs relied on.
Once on the Mesa, the view of the Islands and the sea. The oil platform still dots the channel, and several more run up the coast, despite it being a marine sanctuary.
Once upon a time we used to be able to go down the cliffs to the beach and ride, but the Snowy Plover preservation plan has quashed that. One member of our group grew up boarding her horse nearby and riding wild through these trails, down onto the beach, being a thoroughly wild thing. As we walked the civilized paths she regaled us with tales of naked escapades and drunken near-death exploits.
Nature abides, and how wonderful to be out from behind a computer and seeing landscape stretching away in space.
                                                                This is the wicked little sign that forbids equines and dogs from going on the beach. In an age where people want to rat out their neighbor for not wearing a mask, we dare not trespass. 
And these are the oil tanks that offshore oil used to be pumped in to.
But after several spills, they were abandoned and this area became part of a "wetland restoration" project to "mitigate" the careless use of the land.
When I was last here 4 years ago this was a native plant propagation lab, filled with plants that were being transplanted out into this landscape. Now it seems abandoned.

This used to be a lush golf course, filled with men in absurd bright plaid outfits and little golf carts whizzing around.
                                                     This is my photograph of this same area in 2011. It was actually quite lovely.

NOW it is a deserted waste of trampled dirt.
Airplanes constantly growling above add to the post-apocalyptic feel.

Equines forget nothing. Does Tobe remember this as lush grass and disturbing golf carts?

Signs forbid entry and call it a restoration, but it looks like a defeat.

We are forbidden entry, but I say it all looks like it could use a delivery of manure compost to mulch these dried up bushes.

Then we followed the road out to look at the slough.

I may be sounding uniquely cynical in this commentary, but I found the sight of masks on so many people dreadfully sad.         Here they are, out in the fresh air, walking or bicycling alone, wearing a mask as if they believed the magic Virus could drift on a breeze and kill them.

And then, there it was, the slough. Almost dried up. A tiny trickle of water ran in a stream down the center. For comparison, here is a photo I took from near this viewpoint in 2011:
Few egrets hunting today, in what I had always seen as a rich ecosystem teeming with life.
I felt like a ghost in my own life.
But we all know you can't go home again, so it was onward with today's trail ride, time to turn back toward the starting point.
Which involved navigating not one but two metal span bridges that made more noise with every hoof step than any equine would like to hear.

Somehow this plover monument that bears a passing resemblance to male human anatomy felt like a big f-you to anyone who wanted to run amok on the beach with their horse or dog, or have a lush golf course at the seaside. Of course our native with childhood memories was doubly aghast, as she wondered where buildings like the old golf course club house had gone.

Just dried caked mud now.

And crackerbox housing

smashed densely together where once milkweed grew.

This is this field in 2011  

Ah, sweet Goleta, the formerly Good Land.

But before we left it was opportune to take some portraits of my trail companions, with Santa Cruz island as the backdrop.

Noe on Marcos

Maggie on Woodie

                                            Jamie on Mosca

                                           Deborah on Carbon

                                and I'm a bit of a blur on Tobe Mule

so I will close with this photo of us down on the beach in 2016

and here we are
making memories every day.
As the world spins in a pandemic, 
and nothing can be taken for granted,
least of all the measure of our days.

###### PAT FISH ######
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