Adventures await at Campus Point and Lagoon Island
They ran unexpectedly in front of a human visitor in their race for an education.
Apparently these squirrels were studying coastal biology.
At least, it looked that way as several of them darted across bicycle and walking paths at UCSB and under a fence to explore the brush on a bluff overlooking the Pacific.
All kinds of wildlife and people packed the university’s coastal areas, including Campus Point and Lagoon Island, during the summerlike weather last weekend.
They were everywhere from the joggers and bicyclists daring to go up a big hill to the countless ducks swimming through the lagoon. On one stretch of dry land, seagulls and other birds lounged around.
As the ocean roared, a middle-aged bicyclist stopped for a moment and laughed at the beach.
“I don’t know how you could go to school here!” he joked, referring to all of nature’s distractions. After all, it’s not every college campus where you can surf between classes.
The bicyclist smiled, then charged up along a big hill that would take him to views of the Pacific.
On the other side, there was more to see, such as the surfers of all ages along Campus Point. At one spot, an adult waded along a kid paddling on a surfboard and gave surfing lessons. Soon the youth would catch a small wave and be “sitting on top of the world” (to quote the Beach Boys).
Farther from the beach, more advanced surfers, some of whom were clearly college age, were triumphantly embracing big waves. And friends or family members cheered them on from a bluff high above them as the ocean continued its boisterous roar.
Back at the quieter lagoon, a diversity of plant life and birds graced the shore. A lot of ducks were swimming, and some approached the shore as they saw those two-legged individuals famous for feeding them and other birds.
True to form, one family threw some bread crumbs to a seagull near the shore.
UCSB has listed the Lagoon Island’s various birds at ccber.ucsb.edu (the Cheadle Center for Biodiversity & Ecological Restoration website). The waterbirds vary from dabblers such as mallards to three other evolutionary groups: divers, coots and grebes. They all fit the bill.
As UCSB noted, “more than feathers distinguish these birds.”
There’s also a diversity of plant life, so don’t be too surprised when you walk past the cactuses overlooking the lagoon. Native plants also vary from the western ragweed to monkey flower, California poppy and coyote brush. There’s also some coast live oak.
The UCSB website noted that the earliest map of the area, one from 1871, shows a large oak woodland covering the northwestern portion of the main campus.
A few large oaks at UCSB today are believed to be remnants of that woodland.
Today, restoration research continues on Lagoon Island.
The area is also an ideal place to simply relax. One way to do that is to walk to the top of Lagoon Island and step onto a journey called the Labyrinth Trail.
It’s an amazing series of circles formed by rocks, and to walk it properly, you can’t step over a rock. This writer has walked it many times, and it feels like orbiting the sun. The path starts with being close to the center with short circles.
Then as the circles grow long and farther from the center, you feel like you’ve suddenly had a slingshot from the sun to the outer reaches of the solar system. Fear not, the path will take back to the middle, and there’s that moment of triumph when you stand in the center.
There’s a meditative quality to this in that you don’t think about anything except following the path (or maybe imagining you’re off to outer space).
The trail was suggested by Carol Geer, who retired from UCSB in 2000 after 21 years as the director of Counseling and Career Services and executive director of Student Development Services. She saw a need for a quiet place on campus to be alone. You can find more details about the trail, established in 2011, at news.ucsb.edu/2011/013041/uc-santa-barbara-opens-new-labyrinth-trail-lagoon-island.
As you walk the path, you can enjoy a view of the Pacific and a feeling of tranquility. This writer once went there and saw a young man simply sitting in the center, his eyes closed, his mind at peace.
A short walk from the trail leads back to the surfers, the crowds, the beach. Last weekend many craved the excitement of the waves, while others simply kicked back on the beach and read a good book.
Yet another chapter at UCSB.