Archive » March 11, 2010
By Christie Tarman, Contributing Writer
After reading my column last week, a friend of mine pointed out that I had likely offended 70 percent of my reading audience in the Valley in my first paragraph. She explained that I should have talked trash about the name Chumash Highway, rather than romanticizing the name.
It is hated by those who see it not as an expression of a rich, cultural past, but as a way to capitalize on the fact that the Chumash Casino and all it represents reside just inside the borders of the little town Santa Ynez. The Casino is one of many hot-button things linked to the Chumash name. In my outsidersí way, I am drawn to a name that represents antiquity, while her long-term residency leaves her shaking her head at my cluelessness, warning me that to earn the ears of locals, Iíd best learn the local language.
Iím thankful for the frankness of such conversations. Since that day, Iíve been pondering the way to write about the beauty that I see without alienating most of the longtime readers. I am a newcomer to this place and glad to be here. Iíll give things a fresh face. Itís also fair to say Iíll make the locals shake their heads in consternation at my ignorance. It takes time to know a place and learn its language. No amount of researching can get me up to speed with all the politics and nuances of how the Valley cries and yells and makes up with its relatives. Besides, Iím not the research type. I like to meet people face to face and hear their take on what they see.
I hope youíll take that time with me before you write me off as someone who canít ďget it.Ē I hope youíll tolerate my cluelessness, even when it grates on your beliefs. Iím not here to preach about anything, but to expand upon the beauty that I see: an area filled with outdoor majesty. I get this picture everyday living where I rent on National Forest land. Five miles in on Paradise Road, I get to wake up to a view of canyon wilderness outside my bedroom window. This all will change for me in the next few weeks, as I pack my things and move with my family to our new home in Ballard. Some days I canít believe the joyful reality that my husband and I are now homeowners in the Valley. Other days I find Iím bittersweet: leaving the forest for country is not as easy as it seems. We have lived where the stars donít compete against nearby electricity. We have had mostly oak trees for neighbors.
Our yard here is a wild, unruly sea of green. The wind is swooshing through it. I am reminded of my childhood spent wading through fields of waist-high grass to climb up trees Iíd named as faraway places. I could go anywhere, or be anything up in those trees. I want that legacy for every child that I see. I want parenting to be the thing we parents love, because it is refreshing to our lives. We can see the world through childrenís eyes when we bring our children into the wild places. Wilderness inspires imagination. Nature nurtures creativity.
For this reason, my sister-in-law and I team up to take our daughters out of town. They are pre-teens and love the time to pair up with their peers and share those moments of exploration. My sister and I get time for conversation. I have to say, even without the views, itís heavenly. This week we took ďthe passĒ (as locals say) and wound our way to hidden Tequepis Canyon. I call it hidden because it is not easy to find the trailhead for Tequepis Trail. After turning in toward private land, you must drive for more than a mile before finding a place to park outside the gates to a private camp. You must walk through the camp past a pool, and some cabins until you come through a large open gate and cross Tequepis Creek. At first the trail is basically a road; wide and hardly angled. Eventually it narrows and becomes a hiking path, climbing up the canyon.
The trail is lined with edible things for those who are trained to spot them. My sister-in-law and nieces have a knack for this; they pointed out the bracken fern and wild cilantro. They picked some leaves of wild mint to dry for tea and studied a tap root plant that smelled like carrot-top leaves. My expertise for edible things started and ended at Minerís lettuce. So I learned from them the scents and shapes of plants they had met in Washington State. New to this place, they lean on me to take them to my favorite places. I remind them about our area specialties, like the poison oak leaves and small deer ticks. It is a great partnership to learn from each otherís areas of expertise. I wanted to explain the meaning of the word Tequepis to the group, but found the name is an unknown bit of history. It came from the word tequqs, which was the name of a village south of Lake Cachuma. What tequqs stood for, other than a village name, remains a mystery.
I found out about Tequepis Trail from firefighter friends who train on it. Iíve never walked the entire length, which winds from the pass all the way up to West Camino Cielo. Iíve driven to the place it meets the road near Broadcast Peak and looked out from that point on to the sparkling Pacific. Someday soon, Iím going to do the 4- mile trek on my two feet.
I hope youíll take my advice and try the adventure of hiking Tequepis. Itís 15 minutes down the road to hike along a lively creek in shaded oak-lined woods. Bring the dog, and watch him smell the smorgasbord of wild creature clues. Bring some kids and let them teach you something that you didnít know they knew. The wind is blowing through the knee-high grass of memories you ought to make now. Like all the birds who sing after the rain, itís calling, ďCome out and play!Ē
*The road becomes single-lane and bumpy in many locations, take great care when driving in two-wheel drive and/or low clearance vehicles, especially after rain.
Directions: To get to Tequepis Trail from the junction of Highway 246 and Highway 154, drive about 7 miles (toward Santa Barbara). Shortly after passing the turnoff on your left for Cachuma Lake county park, turn right into the entrance for Camp Whittier, Rancho Alegre and Circle V Ranch. Take the left fork, and follow the signs leading to Circle V Ranch (more than one mile*). Park in the dirt lot across from their Main Entrance, and walk through the lower section of the camp, (veering left) until you come to the trail signs.
Additional Info: Poison oak is prevalent in plant and bush form; learn how to recognize it (or avoid touching all leafy plants). Remember to wear sun protection, and bring ample water. You should check your clothes and skin for unwelcome visitors, like ticks, before returning home. Dogs can be real ďtick magnetsĒ at this time of year, so inspect your pet before returning him/her to the car.
Finding Paradise appears weekly in The Santa Ynez Valley Journal. Contact Christie at email@example.com with comments, ideas or questions.