Places We Go
Explore Santa Barbara with Wilderness Youth Project! Click a location to read a place profile, watch a sit scene, and get ideas for exploring below.
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This map shows some of our common destinations during program. Your kids will love to take you to some of the places we go on program. We welcome feedback about these maps or stories about your adventures! Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org
DIY Nature Connection Adventures
Camino Corto Open Space
- FLASH CONNECTION: Different Habitat, Different Life
There are two main habitats in Camino Corto Open Space: the wide open grassy fields, and the shadier riparian strip. What do you notice about the plant and animal life in these two different habitats? How are the plants different? Are they greener in the fields, or underneath the trees? Can you see more birds in the fields, or amongst the plant life in the riparian strip? Where do you hear the most birds?
- ACTIVITY: Scavenger Hunt
Despite its relatively small size, Camino Corto Open Space has many hidden fun spaces to find! See if you can find everything on the following list:
- A red barn
- 3 bridges
- A big patch of nasturtiums
- A circle of really tall eucalyptus trees
- Where the horses live
- A big patch of blackberry bushes
- A bush big enough for you to crawl into and sit inside
- A vernal pool (or where a vernal pool would be if it had been raining)
- A creek (or a dry creekbed)
- FLASH CONNECTION: Tuning In to Smel
There are many different habitats to find at Campus Point. Can you smell the differences between them? Inhale deeply when you’re down on the beach, focusing on identifying the distinct smells of this region. Do this again when you’re up on the mesa surrounded by plants...can you tell the difference? Do this at least one more time, when you’re right next to the lagoon. Is this smell different from the other two? Where are all of those different smells coming from? From plants? Animals? Something else? Now, smell a little closer...smell some leaves, smell some water, smell some dirt. Can you find what is making all of the different scents that contribute to the overall smell of each habitat?
- ACTIVITY: Sneaky Paws
Despite the relatively small size of the Campus Point area, there are a surprising number of exciting mammals who live here...coyotes, bobcats, gray foxes, and even red foxes are commonly spotted around the mesa and lagoon. Where do you think you could look for them and find them? Try getting down on all fours and imagining where you would hide if you were a large four-legged living on a small, busy mesa. Can you find trails and dens in the brush where these four-leggeds might walk and live? With a friend, pick a stretch of trail, and scout for poison oak along the sides of the trail. As long as there’s no poison oak,, have your friend count to 60, while you hide somewhere along the stretch of trail, in a spot where a four-legged might hide. When your friend is done counting, have them walk the stretch of trail, trying to spot you. Did they find you?Switch roles--now have your friend hide while you count to 60. Did you spot them? Think about how all of these species--coyotes, bobcats, gray foxes, red foxes--are currently hiding somewhere nearby. If you can, try and be up on the mesa after the sun sets, during dusk. You will likely see one of these four-legged friends… where and how do they like to walk? Do they walk in straight lines, or do they meander? Do they like walking on human trails, or smaller trails?
- FLASH CONNECTION
Enter the park through Stanwood Drive West. You will see a steep grassy hill to the east. A trail switches back and forth to get to the top. Once at the top, take a moment to admire the majesty that surrounds you. You can imagine yourself in that hilltop scene from “The Sound of Music”, taking in the beauty that surrounds you. Then, using your common sense, try rolling or running down the big grass hill. Strive for a feeling of floating and lightness, rather than out-of-control speed.
Enter from Mountain Drive South, the trail just before the bend, but any part of the park can do. You’re more likely to see animals if you go early in the morning or around sunset. As you enter the trail heading towards an open field, begin to quiet your mind and your thoughts and focus them on what you can see and hear around you. This is a great time to practice “Owl Eyes” or using your peripheral vision to notice any small movements out of the corner or your eyes. As you enter the trail, keep an eye out for any brush rabbits or ground squirrels darting across the trail or moving through the field. Looking off ahead, pick out a destination where you can try a “Sit Spot.” Once you’ve found your spot, you can set a time or just approximate in your head to sit as still and quietly as you can for 10-30 minutes. After 10 minutes is usually when the excitement begins and your awareness has turned on. Here are a few examples of questions you can ask yourself:
- What creatures have begun to move around me?
- What flowers are blooming?
- What smells can I sense?
- Which direction is the breeze blowing?
- What does the air taste like?
- Where are the birds and what are they doing?
- FLASH CONNECTION
The creek is LAVA! Taking the trail can be a great way to get up the creek quicker, but following the creek from the parking lot can be a rewarding challenge. Try rock hopping up the creek and pretend that the creek is one big flowing stream of LAVA! Pick out a section to see if you can make it without getting your feet wet. Once you make it to a big pool, reward yourself by soaking your bare feet in the cool clear water. You can also play this game with your family at any point. Have someone call out THE FLOOR IS LAVA! and start counting down from 5. Everyone must get on top of a rock or log before they count to 0. As you progress, start playing with fewer seconds. This game is a great way to turn on our awareness of our surroundings.
Looking to get some energy out? Try building a small rock & debris dam on a section of the creek. Watch how quickly you can create a deeper pool. Ready to quiet your mind? Try making your return trip a silent walk back down the creek. Notice what sounds and creatures you didn’t see or hear on your way up.
- FLASH CONNECTION: Looking Up
Stand at the highest point. Take a look around and see if you can identify the 4 directions and the main feature you see or feel in each direction. If it’s a clear day, how far can you see? If it’s cloudy, which way are the clouds moving?
- ACTIVITY: Guided Drawing
Find something to draw. A pinecone, a flower, unique leaves or the mountain range even. First try to draw the object on your paper while only looking at the object. No peeking at the paper. Sometimes this may be easier using one line without ever lifting the pencil. Compare drawing with your friend or family member or share in a laugh or be amazed. Second, find a comfortable spot with a good view of the object and take your time with the drawing. Draw what you see. Count the points on the edge of the leaf or the number of petals on the flower. How many peaks are there in the mountain range? Take a photo and email it to us!
San Marcos Foothills Preserve
- FLASH CONNECTION: Listen to the Sea of Yellow
Among the mustard stalks and flowers, there are many voices with much to say! Listen: can you hear warbles, calls, songs, trills, and alarms? How many voices can you hear? What do you suppose they might be speaking about? Try to spot a bird and wait for it make a noise. Close your eyes and hold the image of the bird for a moment in your mind. What did your imagination choose to highlight
- ACTIVITY: Recovering Land
It was not so long ago that cattle roamed SMFP as part of an active ranch. More recently still, roughly ¾ of the preserve burned in the Cave Fire - the firelines cut across the foothills and marked the southern border of the fire. If you look closely, you can see the lasting effects of both forces on the landscape.Start by trying to find evidence of the burn area. Due to the rains, and to the fertilizing power of the burn itself, black mustard (Brassica nigra, most of the tall yellow plants you can see) and other fast-growing non-native invasive species have increased their spread and may be obscuring evidence of the burn. Instead, look out and around: can you spot charred or crisp leaves on taller shrubs? How about the trees? Continue along the trail as it descends to Atascadero Creek and back up the steep uphill. If you look back down the drainage, can you see how far down the creek the fire burned? If you continue on the trail, you will eventually cross the fire boundary into an area that was unburnt. Can you spot this transition?If you keep walking, you will descend again to Cieneguitas Creek and the habitat restoration area alongside it. How many of the native plants do you recognize? Compare how many different plants are on one side of the trail with the other side. How might grazing shape the land so that the non-native invasive species prosper? On your way back to the trailhead, you might try some grazing of your own - without using your hands, take a bite of a mustard flower cluster. Though it’s quite spicy, helping native plants retake their former habitat always tastes delicious.
Looking for more DIY Resources?
Nearby nature is all around! From art projects, to stories, to natural recipes, we are providing you with resources that more deeply engage children and adults with the natural world.