AROUND THE CORNER TO NOJOQUI FALLS

falls

Sometimes it’s only a few thin bands of water dropping 164 feet. Other times  it’s a gossamer tracery of water more mist than substance. It nourishes families of mosses and ferns growing on its walls. Only after a rain, does Nojoqui Falls aspire to something grander.

The falls (pronounced NAW- ho – wee) are named for a Chumash village “Naxuwi” once nearby.

When my granddaughter asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I said: “A day trip with you.” We talked about where and decided on a drive up the coast and inland to Nojoqui

falls2

Falls County Park, and then lunch at one of the good places in the Santa Ynez Valley. I wanted to walk along a creek and possibly even see falling water while it was still spring.

Driving up along the coast is a treat in itself.  Once you’ve cleared the outskirts of Goleta you are in full view of the ocean and if the day is clear enough, you can see the profile of the islands on the horizon.

refugio beach

On the right, the Santa Ynez Mountains make a formidable barrier to the sea and its cool breezes.  We passed three beach parks.  On the landward side of the freeway, the beaches become canyons.  Though beautiful on its own, the landscape stimulated memories  – El Capitan Beach where grandson Stuart always wanted his birthday to be celebrated with a campout.

tunnel

Just beyond Refugio Beach, the highway swings inland where ahead, the mountain wall is pierced by the Gaviota Tunnel.   I thought about all those years when Santa Barbara could only be approached easily from the south.

barns

 

 

At the sign “Nojoqui Falls County Park,” we left the noisy highway and dropped down to the Old Coast Highway and Alisal Road to the peace and quiet of farmlands. Once horse pastures, organic produce now grows in the soil enriched by manure.

Skirting the western edge of the mountains, we rounded the corner to the lush, north-facing slopes, the rainiest place in the county.  How different from the south-facing slopes above Santa Barbara where the mountain slopes are dominated by bare sandstone and chaparral.

park

When we turned into the park with its broad meadow and a scattering of trees, Caroline said: “This reminds me of Yosemite Valley.”  I could see her point except that when every detail of a beloved place like Yosemite is so perfectly embedded in my memory, nothing can compare.

We drove up to the end of the road where a few cars were parked. At the base of the canyon, a short trail leads up to the falls..  Starting up the trail I was transported to the Berkeley Hills where bay trees also form arches of fragrant leaves and the sun shines through the thin leaves of the big-leaved maples.  The creek burbling over dark rocks reminded me of the dark-gray basalts of home.

gateThe final ascent on stone steps to the base of the falls looked damp, making them especially perilous for my old legs.  A bench at their base invited me to sit a while, let my granddaughter

Warbling Vireo
Warbling Vireo

trot ahead while I listened to the creek and the cascade of Warbling Vireo songs spilling down from the bay trees overhead. Click here to listen to their song.

purple martin
Purple Martin

Purple Martins are our largest and highest-flying swallow.  They perform breath-taking acrobatics when hunting insects.  At the park, martins ignore man-made boxes in favor of holes in the sycamore trees.

brushThree weeks later with Berkeley birding friends, Bob Lewis and his wife, Hanno, we returned to Nojoqui Falls park to find the Purple Martins. Bob is sitting on the left.  The heap on the right is actually me lying on my side watching martins in flight.  Stretched out, has become my preferred position for watching birds of the sky and for general cloud-spotting.(I highly recommend to others who love clouds “The Cloudspotter’s Guide by Gavin Pretor-Pinney – the founder of The Cloud Appreciation Society)

varied thrush
Varied Thrush

Now we will be leaving the park to the summer crowds, returning in the fall to see the winter birds like the beautiful Varied Thrush.

 

 

 

 

BirdWatcher
Birds watching bird-watcher watching birds         -Roger Bradfield

SUMMER THOUGHTS

berries2If you have lived a natural life say as a manzanita bush on the slope of the San Ynez Mountains you will understand the true meaning of summer.  You will have grown new foliage or lengthened the leaves you have during late winter or early spring.  You will have flowered and welcomed the bees.  Now the flowers have turned into fruit, it’s time to let them ripen in the warm sun of the long days.  It’s a season for repose or maybe deepening, as your tap root reaches down further to find water.

Advertisements

LESS THAN AN HOUR AWAY

Tucked into the coastal range 40 miles southeast of here, is a valley that fits my description of near perfection.  The road which travels its length is five miles long. There are few buildings of any kind. Geographers would describe the countryside as oak/savanna. Only the fence lines tell you that the land has been claimed.  On a good year of decent pasturage, you’re apt to see some cattle and maybe men on horseback responsible for their well being.

Even its name Canada (pronounced canyada) Larga has a sweet resonance.  “Canada” has a number of meanings:  valley, glen, cattle trail.  Take your pick.  “Larga is more specific, meaning long (or tall in another dimension).

waterworksThe valley was part of a 6,658 acre Mexican land grant known as Canada Larga 0 Verde. Turning off highway 33 (one road to Ojai) onto Canada Larga Road you see your first bit of early California history – a 7-foor-high remnant of a rubble wall which was part of the aqueduct that once carried water seven miles from the Ventura River down to the the mission San Buenaventura where it satisfied the needs of the 350 inhabitants for their gardens and pastures.  The waterworks were built by the Chumash Indians under the instruction from the padres sometime between 1785 and the early 1800s.  What’s left of the ruins is protected behind a chain link fence.

slopeNot much remains of the nearby Canada Larga Creek in late spring but a sluggish flow full of clots and streamers of algae.  By the bridge, the creek runs beneath a steep slope of near white rock.

What interested us was the old, rather disreputable blue gum eucalyptus (actually several trees in various stages of decline).  Ignoring the heaps of shed bark caught between branches, our focus was on a Red-tailed Hawk’s nest with a full-grown young standing at its edge with an adult nearby.  Nobody appeared happy with their presence.  The Cassin’s Kingbird with their nest in the same tree voiced their raucous objections, while a pair of Bullock’s Orioles, with their nest in a smaller euc behind, went about their business of carrying food to their young.

oriole
Bullock’s Oriole
kingbird
Cassin’s Kingbird

I sat in the shade of a walnut orchard where ground doves were seen earlier and watched the activity.  Getting back into the car, with windows down, we proceeded slowly up the narrow road stopping where there appeared to be activity.  Birding along the Canada Larga Road is a challenge as the pullouts are infrequent and hardly adequate and the occasional cars and trucks often travel at a high speed.

western kingbird
Western Kingbird

Barbwire fences make good perches and we were almost always in sight of a Western Kingbird, a low-slung bird with a yellow belly who would frequently leave its perch to grab something appetizing.  One stop was warranted by a phainopepla calling from the upper branches of a half-dead walnut tree.

buntingMy eyes were on the yellow mustard growing along the fence where last year I had seen a dazzling Lazuli Bunting amongst the yellow flowers.  Plenty of mustard this spring but no bunting.  Further up the road everyone (but me) saw a smallish bird sitting on a rusty water tank.  The bird turned out to be a blue grosbeak – one of the target birds of the trip.  And best yet, it appeared to have food in its mouth.  With young to raise, the pair should be around for a while.

Now I could indulge myself with the scenery and days later, at the computer, I would struggle for words adequate to describe what I was seeing.  Maybe I should let it go and simply say that this landscape made me superbly happy.

hillsWas it the contours and shapes of the hills, the close and distant views, the colors and always the possibility of an eagle?.  You’re not going to be slammed by the brilliance of spring wildflowers.  The muted tones of late spring reach a deeper place.  Russets, pale beige grass, drifts of mustard reach up into gray chaparral with lavender undertones.  A gifted Landscape Architect couldn’t do it as well.

Far to the northeast beyond the rounded hills, gave a glimpse of the higher mountains with their irregular profile.  A fresh breeze filled my lungs and lifted hair away from my face.  Two kingbirds flew close to a Raven’s tail.  My birding friend called it a “teaching lesson.”

The road ended at a horse ranch.  Now we were on level ground where we could rest in the shade of live oaks and sycamores with the bubbling songs of House Wrens surrounding us.

We planned on picnicking at a park along the Ventura River where we could count on Yellow Warblers singing in the sycamores and swallows with their small, bright voices sieving up insects over the water.

dry grassBut I could only think about how nice it would be to set up my cot and roll out my bed roll under the edge of one of the oaks in the Canada Larga valley on a gentle slope with a view in all directions – perfect for night coming on with the changing colors.  I could imagine crickets chirping in the dry grass and a small owl hooting nearby.  Once darkness was complete I would observe stars undimmed by city lights and listen to a night wind rustling the oak leaves, bringing me far off scents.

 


The next blog will be about the same distance northwest to another favorite spot.  I’m on a roll!