This reporter is graduating from UCSB next month. In the nearly four years I’ve lived on the South Coast, I thought I’d gotten a pretty solid grasp on the beauty and the history the area has to offer. But when the opportunity to experience the 11th annual Goleta Valley Heritage Tree and History Tour presented itself last week, I — perhaps due to my insatiable appetite for learning, or perhaps due to a bout of early-onset nostalgia for this place — jumped at the chance. Thank goodness I did.
After a quick lunch at Rancho La Patera-Stow House, my 40 or so fellow tour comrades and I boarded the Santa Barbara Airbus (the tour’s sponsor) and headed over to San Marcos Growers to catch a glimpse of horticulturalist Randy Baldwin’s private “secret garden.” After passing by the 100-plus-years-old property’s many avocado trees, we slipped through a gate and into the gardens, sun slanting through the towering bamboo plants, illuminating just enough the lushness of the landscape. It was green, and it was gorgeous.
From a secret garden to a historic ranch, we next went to the San Jose Winery, where trees of avocados, grapefruits, and bananas led us to a adobe winery that survived the 1925 earthquake. With fresh-squeezed limeade in hand, we listened as various members of the Cavaletto family (who own the property) told us about the winery and adjacent museum, which houses, among other things, a wagon from the 1920s.
Back in our bus, after driving through Old Town Goleta and seeing a 95-foot-tall, 50-foot-circumference sycamore tree — estimated to be the largest in California — we headed into the fog and over to the Bacara Resort and Spa for an in-depth understanding of what flora (and even some fauna — rabbits!) make the hotel so sought after.
Our final stop found us at Rancho Dos Pueblos for a look inside the Big House and a free-for-all foray around the property. With its own beach and a cherimoya orchard, there was a lot to take in. What made the ranch really remarkable, though, was the quarter-mile stretch of Moreton Bay fig trees. Standing on the lawn, shrouded in the shade of those majestic trees, I looked around, back, and forward. It was all so beautiful. It had been a good education, with good people, on good land.