A Stroll in the Summerland Countryside

When Ashlee Mayfield of the Montecito Trails Foundation suggested that we do a little hike as a Walk With Me post, I was delighted. For one thing, she’s fun, and for another, it would make a refreshing change. My only concern was that there wouldn’t be as much to write about—something I worry about on every walk—but Ashlee assured me that the trails east of Summerland have ample fodder.

We parked at the Summerland Greenwell Preserve, circled on the map. Los Padres Outfitters is based at the preserve, so initially we followed some folks riding horseback—a first for one of these posts.

Soon, we were on our own, heading up the Bella Vista Ranch Trail that loops around the Montecito Ranch Estates development. I tend to get winded when I start climbing, and the afternoon sun didn’t help; doesn’t that trail sign look like a roadside grave marker? (Ashlee, who trains for an ultramarathon in the mornings, tackled the hill like a gazelle.) Happily, that was it for uphill on this walk, which is really more of a beautiful stroll in the countryside.

The hill affords a glimpse of many houses you can’t otherwise easily see. Love the long, curved driveway in the second photo.

The payoff comes quickly as the trail winds toward the ocean. I wish I could say we waxed poetic about the views, nature, or even the makeshift bench, but instead we traded stories from the front lines of Montecito. For a brief moment, we even fantasized about starting an anonymous blog of blind items….

The area still feels remarkably rural—a pile of hay, split-rail fencing, woodsy detritus…

…but for how long? I wish there was more variety in the architecture at the Montecito Ranch Estates, which comes off a bit Orange County. We wondered what the funny little Home Depot bench was doing under a tree, far from any houses.

This eucalyptus grove evidently attracts monarch butterflies, but we came too late in the season to see more than a few flitting around.

Vista Oceano Lane extends off Lambert Road, and while the entrance is gated, that’s only for cars—pedestrians can walk right around it. An estate on the street recently sold for $19.5 million, and an 11.3-acre lot currently used to grow lemons—I think that’s it in the second photo—is on the market for $11.95 million.

Before you install outdoor sculpture, take a moment to ask yourself whether it’s really an improvement on nature.

The polo field has quite the wide gate on Lambert Road. The second photo is of Lambert, and I felt like I had been transported to the Santa Ynez Valley.

Before continuing east on Via Real, we took a brief detour to the west to check out Patrick Nesbitt’s helicopter hangar, although it’s hard to make out in the photos. (I’m sure the security camera got great footage of me pressing my face up against the chain-link fence.) There was a dumpster at the entrance of the building—maybe Nesbitt has finally given up on his dream of a helistop? (By the way, the property is still available for $65 million. The listing photos are worth the click.)

Walking on Via Real is kind of drecky, but passing through the hedge doorway is fun. And the subsequent trail, Toro Canyon Trail, is stunning.

This cyclist was the only other person we came across during the entire outing.

The east side of the polo field has a rather ornate gate leading to the trail and, at the other end of the spectrum, some intriguing old farm infrastructure.

I expressed dismay about (a) all the lawn that (b) doesn’t even get used very often, but Ashlee pointed out that it’s sparing the land from development, at least for now.

Nasturtium season!

And mushrooms! I thought we were having a pleasant time together until Ashlee suggested I try one.

How pretty is this? Makes me sneeze just looking at it.

I could do without the chain-link fences, though. Particularly the ones lined with plastic.

Of the many trail signs we spotted along the way, this was my favorite. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ashlee has already had it replaced.

I was promised a pig at this farm on the Perkins Trail—named for legendary real estate agent and former Montecito Trails Foundation president Suzanne Perkins—but it was nowhere to be seen. We did spot a few chickens and hear a few ducks. I have to say that I like ducks a little less now that I have a pool they find tempting in nesting season.

More evocative rural decay for you.

Someone should get this thing on “Antiques Roadshow.”

There was less housepeeking on this walk than usual, but we did get a few worthwhile glimpses. Note the marvelous allée in the third photo.

Behold Monarch Ranch. Butterflies don’t raise themselves, you know.

Someone told Ashlee that one of these properties has a pretty pond, but we couldn’t see it, despite best efforts. She subsequently remembered that the tipster is a horse enthusiast, and of course they have a better vantage than us bipeds.

Meanwhile, I was thrilled to encounter a Sprite lymon tree.

All in all, it was a rejuvenating stroll in the country, complete with pastures, wildflowers, and even the moon rising above the hillside.

And finally, near the very end, we found some horses!


Walk With Me…
The Side Streets and Alleyways of Upper Oak Park
Quintessential Montecito at Butterfly Beach
Mixing Business and Pleasure in East Beach
It’s Only Milpas Street (But I Like It)
An Aimless Wander Through Hidden Valley
Voyage to the Heart of the San Roque Spider Web
Where the Streets Have Full Names
Once Upon a Time in the Hedgerow…
On the Golden Slope of Eucalyptus Hill
The Past Is Still Present in Old Town Goleta
The Haley Corridor Is Keeping It Real
The Unvarnished Appeal of Yankee Farm
Where Montecito Gets Down to Business
The Small Pleasures of Bungalow Haven
The Small-Town Charms of Samarkand
Climbing the Back of Eucalyptus Hill
Admiring the Backsides of Beachfront Houses on Padaro Lane
Social Distancing Made Easy at UCSB
In the Heart of the Golden Quadrangle
Is There a Better Neighborhood for a Stroll Than West Beach?
Up, Down, and All Around Montecito’s Pepper Hill
E. Canon Perdido, One of Downtown’s Best Strolling Streets
Montecito’s Prestigious Picacho Lane
Whitney Avenue in Summerland
School House Road and Camphor Place


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