In 2008 I spent several months in Santa Barbara, California during which time I made new friends, discovered new flora, and learned what it’s like to live within walking distance of a warm, sandy beach.
I’m a forest-dweller at heart, so learning to live among the Santa Barbarians took a little getting used to. To find balance I sought out the Manzanita (Arctostaphylos), the Guava (Acca sellowiana), the Fig (Ficus macrophylla), the Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globules), and of course, the ever-present Palm (Arecales). Unfortunately I didn’t grab enough pictures of the Oak trees (Quercus), Pepper trees (Schinus molle) , Sweet gum trees (Liquidambar styraciflua), Citrus, and countless other species planted in the area, to say nothing of the ever-popular succulents and other flora which would never survive outdoors at my northern latitude in Kitsap County, Washington.
Most palms are not native to southern California (which is true of many plants now growing in SoCal), but I don’t discriminate. Every morning during my stay I trucked myself up to Goleta Beach Park to enjoy the friendly waves of palms, the familiar tinkle-knocking of the wind sculpture, and the warm-cold water and squishy sand on my bare feet (and usually well up my legs). Fortunately, clothes dry fast in a place like Santa Barbara. If you arrive early enough, the only people you’ll see are the usual van-campers (I’m sure the locals have a name for these guys), the ever-present surfers, and a handful of early morning beach-watchers and beach-walkers.
The trees of Goleta Beach Park include plenty of palms, eucalyptus, and a handful of evergreens which I never did identify. I believe the tall, skinny palms shown here, so familiar in Santa Barbara, are Mexican Fan Palms (Washingtonia robusta). If you spend any time in Santa Barbara, you’ll acquaint yourself with the Santa Anas – warm, dry winds which sweep across the region in the autumn and winter. They give voice to the eucalyptus and palms, and the interspersed deciduous trees which actually manage to remember to turn color and drop their leaves for the season.
In addition to the calm waters of Goleta Beach (Santa Barbara enjoys relatively calm beaches thanks to the Santa Barbara Chanel Islands, which alas I have yet to visit), there is also a small slough which is inhabited by numerous birds. Perhaps the strangest and most unexpected thing I learned about Goleta Beach during my stay was that it is a “managed” beach.
Apparently there is a seasonal cycle whereby sand is dragged out with the ocean, the beach shrinks, and then a bulldozer comes to redistribute sand and smooth out the beach for all the touristas. (Just to be clear -- I don’t pretend to fully understand the causes, impacts, and potential benefits or harms that surround these approaches to the erosion of Goleta Beach.)
I’ll say this on behalf of “managed” beaches – they’re fun to walk on, and perhaps that’s the point. I wouldn’t trade a hundred Goleta Beaches for the rocky, windy, salt-splashed beaches of Washington State, but I did enjoy every waking-up moment that I shared with those quiet Santa Barbara waters, and the dolphins that swim in them.