A storm swept into this desert region Thursday, by which I mean it rained. It’s been raining for five days solid, and though the rain is like Portland rain, Santa Barbara doesn’t handle it like Portland does. Because it’s a low-lying area, gutters gushed and sidewalk crossings flooded and little rivers burbled along each side of the street by Saturday night.
On Saturday afternoon a friend from school came to visit me in Santa Barbara. She and I both graduated from Hillsdale, but she graduated the year before I came, so we know each other through Mary Beth. Hillsdale connections are a funny thing.
Mine and M’s plan had been to go hiking, and like sensible people from places where it rains, we were determined to hike in spite of the rain. We were the only ones at Elings Park besides the ranger, who urged us not to go. We would, after all get wet, and there would be mud. We assured him we knew all that. So, bundling coats over hooded sweatshirts, we adventured onto the trails.
The hiking was glorious. The steep trail took us up above Santa Barbara, away from palm trees and the beach town scene, into a green, wet wild that could have been the Pacific Northwest. We were ecstatic, sliding up the hill, kicking caked mud off our shoes and snapping pictures through dripping branches. And getting soaked.
When we got back to the car, after swishing unrecognizably brown shoes through a rain stream to clean them off, a little scarf and hat exchange locked the keys in the trunk. We sat there in despair, cold jeans sticking to us and not so adventurous anymore, waiting for a locksmith to come, till the park ranger walked up to the fogging window.
“Don’t you have a trunk release?” He asked.
We pulled the trunk release and cracked up.
After stopping for dry clothes and shoes, we set out for Dargan’s Irish pub, totally starved. We’d decided fish and chips were in order with our beer. But first, we had to navigate the flooded sidewalks. A roundabout run down State and Ortega streets eventually got us to Dargan’s, but not before we’d gone several blocks down to cross the street at points narrow enough to take a running leap over the puddles between us and the other side.
But Daragan’s, as charming as it seemed, did not promise good food. We headed to Old King’s Road and found the same thing. Beer is all very well but we didn’t just want bar food. Fortunately, on our way to the James Joyce, we spotted Santa Barbara Brewing Co., and that one recommended itself immediately. We ordered fish & chips and beer, and were not disappointed. (Until the next day, when I made a note to self never to eat fried and battered food. Ever.)
After a long chat over our good local beer, my friend suggested we walk down to the wharf. It was only ten minutes from us, and we couldn’t get much wetter without another hike, so we ventured down to Stearn’s Wharf and found ourselves almost alone on the water under twinkling Christmas lights.
The rain and waves and lights redeemed our squelching shoes and soaking rolled-up cuffs. We stood at the edge, watched a couple quiet fisherman, and tried to take a picture in the dark. It didn’t work, but that’s all for the best. We were soaked again.
Finally we turned around and made it back to the car. My friend left me at my house with a promise to come back for a longer hike next month in return for a visit to shop with her in Orange. It was, we thought, a highly successful Saturday.
p.s. As I write this, I am curled up on the couch with a bowl of homemade potato corn chowder and a bottle of homemade beer brought by my very thoughtful friend. While rain drips down the sliding glass door, inside my vanilla candle it lit and my Christmas tree glows in the corner. Until I get home, I am quite content to celebrate the advent season this bright, cozy way.