This week, for the first time, Amy and I left the main roads and the big cities behind and headed for the hills. We left Santa Barbara on Highway 154, dipping our toes into the southern extremities of the massive Los Padres National Forest. Soon the farmland and vineyards were behind us and we were sampling the delights of the San Marcos Pass. One of the objectives of this undertaking is to test the depth and range of on-line information. Finding detailed information on the towns and cities is simple enough - the real challenge comes with the wilderness areas. So the San Marcos Pass would be my first mini-challenge and - thanks to a young man called Ewen J Kummel - one I would easily pass. An explanation is necessary.
Back in 1992, Ewen Kummel, a 6th Grade student at Dunn Middle School, wrote a class paper entitled "The Stories of San Marco Pass". Ewen lived with his family on the San Marco Pass so it was a suitable subject for his school project. Some years later his father found the old school project and decided to publish it on the internet, where it remains to this day and represents one of the most-quoted sources of information about this Californian pass. Somehow this simple little story about a school project says something about the net.
So Amy and I discovered that we were walking through the ancestral lands of the Chumash Indians. Whilst the Chumash are long-gone, their painted rocks and caves remain. The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History has a useful website devoted to the Chumash People of California. As can be seen from the illustration, the cave paintings are bright and energetic. Amy wasn't very impressed, however, indicating that she had walked past better graffiti back in West Yorkshire.
You can get a good feel for the land we were walking through by viewing the aerial maps on Live Search or Google Earth (Google Earth has the better aerial maps of this section as they are in colour). For a time we left the main road and took to the old Stagecoach road. Ewen Kummel tells us that the old road was built by Chinese workers in the 1860s and that the tolls for use of the road were quite expensive for the time ($2.50 for 4 horses and a wagon and 5 cents per sheep) Nothing is listed for dogs, so Amy and I walked on with alacrity.
Eventually, civilisation returned in the form of the Rancho San Marcos Golf Course. According to their website, this is "where the golf Gods play", although initially I misread this as "where God plays golf". My mis-reading seems more accurate, especially as it costs $85 to play a round of golf there. Amy and I took a short cut across the 16th green for nothing. It appears that the ranch along with 35,575 acres (that's right, 35 thousand) of land were sold off by the Mexicans in 1846 to help finance the Mexican-American war. It went for just $750 in gold. Nowadays that would buy you a couple of days of golf and a club sandwich.
By the end of the week we had reached Lake Cachuma, and more specifically, one of the Yurts on the shore of the lake. A yurt is a cross between a tent and a tepee and the ones at Lake Cachuma feature all the comforts of home including platform beds, lighting and heating and screened windows. OK, they cost $65 a night to rent, but we had walked some miles over the previous seven days. Anyway, that is equivalent to only a round of golf at the Rancho San Marcos Golf Course, taking 15 hundred sheep up the old toll road ..... or three and a half thousand acres of prime Californian real estate.