Black Tie, Garden Hike

Simba and I exploring the garden.

Simba and I exploring the garden.

Last weekend was another eventful couple of days in Santa Barbara. One of my fellow lab members and his housemates were hosting what they dubbed the 4th Annual Wine and Cheese Conviviality. The dress code was black tie mandatory (the invitation suggested you wear your wedding dress/tuxedo if you didn’t have anything else) and each guest was asked to bring a bottle of wine. There would be a DJ playing music and a photo booth to record the night. Kierstin and I dressed to the nines and invited Daniel to attend as well. We brought wines labeled “Fancy Pants” and “Handsome Devil”, which seemed appropriate for the theme of the evening. Even Simba donned his handsomest tie for the occasion, but he had to stay home for the night.

All dressed up

All dressed up

My evening of potential bacchanalia was trumped by my responsibilities for the weekend. I officiate high school wrestling and I had a tournament just outside of Los Angeles the next morning at 9 AM, so I chose not to drink and designated myself driver for Kierstin and Daniel. While they polished off a couple glasses of wine, we mingled with other fancily-dressed graduate students and danced a little before skipping home early at midnight.

The next morning arrived quickly, and I groggily arose and got ready for my tournament. I wrestled for 11 years, beginning when I was 7 years old and finishing my last match during my senior year of high school. My dad had started officiating when I was younger, and, as soon as I turned 13, I began officiating at local youth tournaments. I started refereeing high school matches, too, as soon as I graduated high school. Officiating wrestling has allowed me to stay close to a sport I was involved in for over half of my life while granting me the opportunity to be a positive role model for high school students in my community. The tournament on Saturday was a combination of girls’ and varsity boys’ wrestling. The girls’ portion of the tournament had three mats crammed into a small gym, while the boys’ wrestling was held in the large gym on five mats. We had ten officials there, and it seemed like it was going to be a long day, with 30 schools showing up.

My morning began in the small gym officiating the girls’ matches. The popularity of girls’ wrestling has been declining this year in the tri-county area. Earlier this year, I was sent home early at a girls’ tournament when only 8 out of an expected 20 schools showed up for a tournament. As a result, the tournament directors didn’t know how many girls to expect on Saturday, and so he apparently set no plan of action for conducting the tournament. I wore many hats that day – I officiated my matches, taught the table help how to keep score and run time, and, to top it off, wrote hand-drawn brackets and bout sheets for the girls’ wrestling. I couldn’t wait to rotate to the larger gym to get away from the chaotic mess of scribbling names and scores on sheets of scrap paper and trying to yell across the gym to find who was going to wrestle next. As soon as I finally arrived in the large gym, I immediately wished I was back in the girls’ gym. While the boys’ tournament was chugging along smoothly, the gym had absolutely no airflow and literally created a sweat box that had me perspiring even before I stepped on the mat. I felt like I had just stepped into a very unsanitary sauna – that is, I was well aware that the humidity I felt was generated by the heat and sweat of high school athletes. I would have gladly been back in the other gym, dealing with the stress of juggling, running, and refereeing a tournament rather than being uncomfortably hot on the mat. Still, it was something I just had to endure just like everyone else. I eventually got used to it, and the tournament ended sooner than I thought it would. I finally made it home at 9:00 PM, worn out and happy to just wind down, watching TV on the couch while eating Indian food and drinking chocolate milk.

Kierstin and I got up the next day and decided to visit the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. I saw it on the map a few times and had wanted to run to it while Kierstin was training for her half-marathon last year, but there were no safe places to run along. It was a cloudy day, about 70oF, and perfect for a short day hike so we took Simba along with us and drove up the hill to the garden. There is not much blooming in the garden at this time of year (and the lack of blossoms is even more pronounced with the absence of rain in California this winter). We strolled into the garden and found maps, which highlighted the main attractions along the 5.5 miles of trail at the garden. The first site was a large meadow with budding stems of wildflowers adjacent to the park entrance. Simba wandered in that direction and managed to pull on his leash enough to reach the meadow, which was closed off for the winter to protect the burgeoning wildflowers.  He was immediately scolded by park attendants (or rather, we were scolded as the owners responsible for his behavior), which I was oblivious to until after the fact (He stepped toward the meadow again and Kierstin quickly grabbed his leash, “We’re going to get in trouble again!” I wasn’t even aware we had been in trouble at all).  We sauntered around to find placards indicating White Moth Orchid and Antelope Dendrobium Orchid only to notice that the plants were completely missing, apparently housed for the winter to protect them from frigid temperatures. Most of the flora in the garden was similarly missing or just barren twigs and stems, except for the manzanitas and a few other plants that were scattered regularly through the park.

View from above the dam. The only place in SB where the leaves turn colors.

View from above the dam. The only place in SB where the leaves turn colors.

Full view of the Mission Dam

Simba enjoying the creek.

Still, the garden has spectacular views of the Santa Ynez Mountains and, if you climb high enough, you can see the Channel Islands peaking over the ocean blue horizon. There’s a section in the garden where you’re transported to another area of California, where coastal redwoods tower above and create a secluded forest not typical of Santa Barbara. The garden is also a historical site, where mission leaders had directed Native Americans to build a dam and aqueducts to provide water for the settlers of the mission. The Mission Dam resides in its original location, and you can admire the engineering of 1807 and wonder what hardships were endured to construct it. The trail we walked along circled behind the main garden, over the dam, and ended near the other end of the creek. We had to find our own crossing over boulders to get back to where we started.  This was probably Simba’s favorite part, as he plopped right into the algae-green water and looked up at us with satisfaction and content. There was more to explore, like the dedicated manzanita section of the garden that had countless varieties of manzanitas differing only slightly, to my botanically challenged eyes, by leaf shape or bark texture. Further down the trail was an authentic Japanese teahouse that is open at set times during the week. We didn’t get to see it, but you can come and watch the students of the teahouse perform sacred rituals and customs associated with the houses. After a couple of hours of pleasant hiking and exhausting the sites to see, we headed out for the day with a future plan: the garden hosts a “Trails and Tails” event in August where dog owners are encouraged to bring their pups. It’s definitely on the to-do list.  

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