Every Christmas, for the last decade or so, I have gone for a run on Christmas morning. It used to be that I would start at my house (which was near Hendry’s Beach) and run along the beach to More Mesa, then along the bluffs, then along the bike path, through UCSB to Devreau Slough, around that and out to Elwood to check on the butterflies, and then back. Roughly 25 miles.
But now I’ve moved. I now need to run 2 miles down Los Positas just to get to the beach. Ah well. The tide had been pretty high on the solstice when I went down to the beach to watch the sun rise, so I figured that four days later it would be pretty low.
I was wrong. It was higher. But I looked at it, and there was still a sliver of beach, so I thought I would risk it.
That was at Hendry’s.
I couldn’t see all the way to More Mesa, and the tide was still coming in. After going for about half a mile the sliver of beach turned into a jumble of cobbles lying between the cliff and the water’s edge. I don’t like running on wet cobbles, I tend to slip and to lose my balance. So I slowed to a walk and picked my way through the slippery stones for a bit, until the beach came back.
Santa Barbara beaches have a strange habit of getting washed away in the winter storms (and coming back later), this leaves little sand cliffs at the high water mark of the last storm:
The birds seem to like it.
A little further on the beach disappeared entirely and I had to clamber up and over a large rock with its feet in the water. When I got to the other side I found the water had hollowed out a clear channel underneath another rock leaving a bridge.
The beach came back again, and I found a small patch of red sand verbena growing in a sheltered nook. I’ve never seen sand-verbenas in the wild before (just the patches around the UCSB lagoon and the Plover Sanctuary where the dunes have been restored), but here they were, apparently growing wild again. I’m pretty sure they weren’t here last year…
The beach narrows down to cobbles and then there’s another rock to scramble over and on the far side of it there is just the sea cliff and the ocean. No beach (except briefly between waves). I take of my shoes, try to time it right, and sprint around the next bend where (Yay!) there is beach again. I don’t get very wet.
From here I can see Hope Ranch beach, and beyond that the cliffs of More Mesa. There’s beach the whole way now.
After another mile or so I climb up to the mesa and run along the bluffs. Last year the Grassland tarweed was blooming here at this time, but today it is not. This has been a hard summer. (I came up here a week or two ago to check on it, but when I got close I saw a young man down on his knee to a young lady near where the tarweed grew and figured I’d give them some privacy and not look at my plant that day).
Then down to the bike path. There’s another tarplant that grows along the slough here, and again it was blooming on last year’s Christmas run. But again it is not blooming this year. Grump. It’s more fun to see flowers.
Past Goleta Beach, and UCSB. I run around the edge of the lagoon. Three weeks ago the sea-marsh dodder was in bloom here, but it has also stopped. I can’t even find the plants. I go back and forth looking for it, but it’s gone.
I try to ignore Isla Vista as I run through. But there are workmen, at work, on an apartment building. On Christmas morning. Poor guys.
At the far end of Ellwood I turn back, head inland and go toward the monarch grove. It’s a chilly grey day. The monarch’s aren’t doing much, just huddling in their clumps. But they are there. Nice to see them.
As I charge up from the Devereux Slough, I see a blue heron standing on a fence. I watch him for a bit…