Monday, July 25, 2011

Tales from Carpinteria

I never know if posting vacation pictures is the modern-day equivalent of making all the neighbors come over to watch your home movies, but I persist in doing it anyway. I feel like California has such a wealth of great places to visit and vacation and I enjoy sharing the information in case anyone is looking for a great getaway or just likes to learn about what's going on in other parts of the country (or world - depending on where you're from).

So, here are a whole bunch of pictures of our trip to Carpinteria (with a few forays into nearby Santa Barbara). Oh, and just a warning...this is a LOOOOONGGG post so you might want to get you a beer or a margarita and some nachos or something.

I'm just sayin'...

Carpinteria State Beach was a half-block walk from the house we rented. It was gloriously sunny the first day we were there, but that was the day I got so excited to get out onto the sand that I left my camera back at the house. So no pictures of the sun, the dolphins that came by that day (my brother was actually in the water at the time and got within about 20 feet of three of them!), or the absolutely ginormous live clam that I accidentally dug up while helping the kids look for sand crabs. This picture is the next day when the marine layer arrived and stayed for almost the entire week. That's my mom and Ryan down at the water in spite of the cold.

Did I mention the clams? I've always known we had them on our beachs, but have never been able to dig them up so easily. We were really looking for sand crabs which are right in the surface layer of the sand, but kept coming up with clams any way. This is a tiny one.

But most of them were this size or larger. Like I said, I didn't have my camera to record the really huge one (almost couldn't fit it in my hand it was so big), but this one was pretty decent-sized. I took it up to where our chairs were to take this picture and as I was running back down to the surf to put it back in the sand, the strangest thing happened. It felt like a giant tongue suddenly and randomly licked my hand. NOT something I was expecting (there may have been some screaming involved because while I don't get grossed out by much, unexpected cold, slimy sensations in my hand definitely qualify as high on the gross-o-meter). The clam, which had remained tightly closed during the entire photo process, had suddenly decided to stick its big, slimy, muscular "foot" out to see if it was safely back into the sand yet.

Um...that'd be a no. That's my HAND...not sand.

Ugh. Definitely a sensation I have no desire to repeat. But I got him safely back down to the damp sand and everyone got a kick out of seeing his foot come out and watching him dig down into the sand and disappear.

There were tidepools, too. Unfortunately, they were a LONG hike from our beach and the tide was coming in by the time we got there so we didn't get to see much. Notice the weather is still not cooperating.

So, we had to find other things to keep the three boys (four if you count my brother) occupied. Fortunately, the city had just built and opened this great new playground...also only a half block walking distance from our house.

There were a lot of "King of the World" competitions on these hut-type structures.

The winner got to pose for the camera.

A lot.

Ryan and his 5-year-old cousin, Casey.

On a couple of the days we were there, the sun managed to make a brief appearance around dinner time. This shot is taken at a beach slightly north of where we were staying. There's an actual restaurant on the sand and this is the view from our table at dinner. It works out great because the kids can sit in the sand and play with toys and build sand castles while the adults finish their food. Built-in entertainment! Plus the view at sunset was just gorgeous.

I was on a mission to see the Harbor Seal rookery that was supposed to be in the area. After days of people telling us "oh, they're gone for the year" or "oh, it's too far to walk from this beach", we finally found a cliff trail that was supposed to lead to a viewing spot for the rookery.

And the wildflowers were out along the trail, too.

This flower probably has a real name, but around here, we call it the "Fried Egg" plant.

There were whole clumps of these sweet lavender and white flowers growing along the trail.

I found a whole bunch of these bright orange flowers growing around some fallen eucalyptus trees.

And then we found the seal rookery:

These are all harbor seals. I'd always thought that they were mostly a light to medium gray with dark gray to black spots, so I was amazed to see the wide variety in coloration from brown and gray all the way to white.

From December-May, this beach is covered with hundreds of them because it's pupping season. However, if you visit the area outside of those months, like we did, don't let anyone tell you that the seals are "gone."

There were quite a few out in the water and about 20-30 snoozing on the beach. I like that guy in center front just flat out on his back and dead to the world.

I nicknamed him "Snoozy." Dude, THAT is how you vacay.

Still looking for alternate activities due to the weather, we headed to Stearns Wharf in nearby Santa Barbara.

It's so big that you actually drive your car out onto it to park. I'm taking this photo from the upper, outside deck of a restaurant.

But the main feature of the wharf is the Ty Warner Sea Center. If the name Ty Warner sounds familiar, it's because he's the culprit behind Beanie Babies. He donated a lot of money to have this small aquarium refurbished and expanded and it's really quite the little gem now. I think it cost like $5 to get in (bargain!) and had some really great exhibits, very knowledgeable docents and some really interesting hands-on activities for the kids. There were a variety of touch pools where you could handle all kinds of animals and there's even an open deck where the kids can lower equipment into the water below the wharf and take visibility readings and scrape up material from the sand to be looked at under a microscope.

As a bonus, when we exited out onto the main pier, we could see lots of starfish on the pilings and there was even a young seal swimming around the base of the pier. He dove under before I could grab a photo, darnit!

On our last night, we strolled the main street of downtown Santa Barbara and look what I managed to find! The manager was just shutting the door as I walked up, but was nice enough to let me in to take a look around while the rest of the family went on to dinner at the Tupelo Junction Cafe. Good thing I practice super-speedy bead shopping because I got down to the restaurant just in time to order some cheddar cheese hush puppies for an appetizer.

After dinner, we headed to the Santa Barbara Mission and the park in front of it for a great sunset view of the Pacific Ocean.

Here's the Mission itself (or as much of it as I could fit into one photograph).

So then I took a couple of more close-up, split shots. This is the main chapel with the bell towers on either side.

This is the dormitory building.

This cross was added in 1913...on the 200th birthday of the Mission's founder.

This is a Moorish fountain outside the Mission in the courtyard.

I loved the lily pads and the pretty pink flower, but I swear there's a carnival game where you try to get your penny to land on a lily where's my giant stuffed pink unicorn?

This is one of the more unique features of the Mission. It's called a "lavanderia" and only two of all the California Missions have it. The local Chumash Indians prized cleanliness as a societal virtue (one can only imagine what they thought of the stinky Europeans who thought bathing brought on disease) so they built this station for washing clothes. There's a carved stone spout at either end, one in the shape of a lion and one in the shape of a bear, and the trough was filled with water. Clothes were scrubbed on the rough outer surface and then rinsed in the trough to get them clean.

Another thing the Chumash Indians did even before the Spanish arrived was to cultivate local varieties of grapevines. Some of these grape varieties became the ancestors of the current wine industry in Santa Barbara.

If you passed the fourth grade in the state of California, you already know who this guy is. But just in case you're from out of town, I'll give you a hint.

His name is Junipero Serra (and for everyone who just pronounced it's hoonipero because in So Cal we habla Espanol...sort of). You can follow the link and read all about him on Wikipedia, but basically, he started in San Diego and traveled up most of the California coast establishing the Mission system all along what is known as the El Camino Real (the King's Highway) back when California was part of Mexico and belonged to Spain.

Just across a small road from the Mission is a gorgeous park with a great view of Santa Barbara and the Pacific Ocean. It's got an amazing rose garden with all different varities of roses. My mom dragged me through the whole thing and made me take pictures of her favorites. I won't bore you with all of them (okay, who said "Thank God?") but here are a few of the ones we identified as having been in both my grandmother's gardens:

This one is called "Double Delight." I have to admit that it is a personal favorite of mine because you get to enjoy a whole progression of colors as it goes from bud to fully open.

Both of my grandmothers had this rose and my parents have it, too. It's called "Peace" and it starts out as a yellow bud, but as it opens, the petals turn with with a delicate blush of pink on the outer edges.

Same type of rose, this blossom just has slightly more intense coloring and I took the shot a little earlier so there was more light available.

This is a darker version that shades from light pink to dark pink that's called "Chicago Peace."

And while Mom was dragging me through the rose garden, the kids were having a great time getting their bubbles on.

And on.

And on.

It's "Bubblicious."

And here's the whole park with the rose garden, some historic houses across the street, and beyond the telephone pole, the Pacific Ocean as the sun slowly sets on our last night.

The next day, we braved "Carmageddon" to get home (yeah, yeah, you weren't supposed to drive on the 101, but we planned this vacation before word got around to the OC about the closure.) Fortunately for us, everyone ELSE stayed home so we breezed through. I have NEVER gotten through downtown L.A. that fast or with that little traffic. I think we ought to declare "Carmageddon" at least once a month and not let anyone drive.

Well, if you lasted this long, I salute you. Thanks for sharing in my little post-trip reflection. Later this week it's back to beady stuff. I got the pictures of my July 4th resin pour all done so there will be lots of new resin-y goodness here and then later up for sale on Etsy.



TesoriTrovati said...

Since I never manage to go anywhere (what is a vacation?) I would say that I am living vicariously through you. Especially the big slimy clam thing and the bead shoppe and those roses. Swoon! But that kid of yours takes the cake. Too dang cute! Enjoy the day, Kelly!

Barbara Lewis said...

What beautiful photos! It looks like a wonderful trip and I'm glad you got to a bead shop! Is there any bead porn coming soon?

SummersStudio said...

Lovely holiday. I love those seals and I'd like to be able to just flop myself down on the beach like that without a care in the world.

Anonymous said...

Hey, that IS our summer weather after all!

Oh sure, and you didn't call.