02 June 2015

Burton Mesa

Vandenberg Village




Surrounding Vandenberg Village is some California State land known as the Burton Mesa Ecological Reserve. It is a varied piece of land and they say it has various rare plants and animals on it. Twenty-eight miles of paths cross all over it, so a hike of any desired length could be constructed along it. It is not particularly hilly, so the hiking is not particularly difficult overall. There are multiple entry points and I head to the west end of Jupiter for one. After squeezing through a narrow opening past a couple signs, the trail quickly drops into a valley and I take one that climbs out the other side with a couple short but very steep spots. The northern section of this part seems generally open and grassy while the southern section has thick brush.

looking acros the short canyon to grassy areas
Looking out from near the street to the generally grassy areas at the north end of this section. Whatever rare plants are here, they are competing with invasive ice plant.

looking back to houses
Looking back to an edging of houses in the village.


I turn down one of the paths southward to wander through the brush because while I am looking around a bit, my primary goal in coming is to finish off a bit of nonsense called "geoart" where geocaches have been arranged in a pattern. My first find is actually a bee hive in the hollow of a standing dead oak trunk. The land slopes gently downward to the south and eventually there is a view over flat fields of farmland and a little bit of Vandenberg Air Force Base which lines the south side. Behind it is the last of the Santa Ynez Mountains before they meet the sea.

bee hive in trunk with large opening
A layer of honeybees swarming over the honeycomb visible in the large opening of this tree based bee hive.

farms and mountains
The southward view over farmlands and mountains.

The paths are often sandy. Oak trees and short manzanita dot the area, but mostly it is just scrub. I wind around to the north again. As the land flattens, there are spots that look like they become shallow lakes in the rain. I then turn on a path headed west. It crosses old barriers made of crossed fence posts that have mostly been removed, then passes uneventfully into a large, groomed road. Investigating a sign hanging on a loose wire twenty feet off the trail, half buried in the dirt, my suspicions that I am about to enter the base are confirmed. It is time for an about face and I make my way along the edge and around.

flat pool of dried grass
A panorama around one flat area that looks like it might pool a bit except for the sandy earth.

view from the edge
A view from the edge of the base. This bit of good fencing ends abruptly at a 1924 property boundary marker.

colapsed picnicing area
The (former?) home of the Lompoc Valley Flyers. One picnic table remains upright.

a few more houses at the edge
Back around to where there are houses again while near highway 1.

oak tree waving with plenty of French beard
An oak tree along the way sporting an impressive draping of Spanish moss.

Up in the northeast corner of this section of the reserve is a six foot storm drain the local walkers use to pass under highway 1 to the larger section on the north side of the road. It is a bit long to comfortably walk without a flashlight, but after stepping on the Nerf football, I manage to avoid all the little obstacles. It is not immediately obvious where one should go at the other end as there seems to be some trail just to the east. The better way is to climb up to the highway and travel west a short way. I end up having to push through a few cat tails to get to a real trail.

a couple pine trees along the trail
Pine trees along a trail north of the highway.

A short way along, I get to worrying about the level of my water. It is a hot day, so I turn back again. This time, the way to the tunnel is much easier, although the way through is no more comfortable. The trail is easy to follow back to the entry on Jupiter.

sandy trail
The wide sandy trail along the side of the small canyon.


After getting some more water from the car, I head to the other end of Jupiter where there is another small section of reserve that follows another little canyon. This trail starts off through a gate and into a thin forest of eucalyptus and pines. The eucalyptus is thickest in a row on the other side of a fence that is still at the edge of the air force base, the rest are a thin scattering. I continue on it past a split that heads steeply down the hill only to find my flat trail ends at a fence with a farm.

grassy hill with a field starting to grow corn beyond
The canyon opens up below to a large field.

grassy hill the other way
Looking back up the canyon. The weather has not changed to the north yet.

Back along the trail and down the steep hill is the way. A trail heads up the bottom of the canyon, but I continue down and around and up the other side.

large seed pods
Plants in the bottom of the canyon.

Another path heads back up the canyon, but I continue some more and wrap around to the edge of Hancock College before deciding to take that other path after all. This trail is more winding than the other. The trees are thicker and almost all short oaks.

velvet ant
A velvet ant in white instead of red.

yellow lanceleaf liveforever
Another thing I see more often in red.

circle of swam plants
It looks like it could be swampy below. Across is the thick row of eucalyptus.

Eventually, I can hear the highway above me again and this route drops down into the canyon. Crossing the bottom, there is a little bridge with some actual water flow below. On the other side, the trail again climbs steeply, this time through sand. The sand makes climbing very slow. Back behind the houses, I stop by a fenced in wetland area. The grasses wave in odd ways and as I look, I see a red shouldered blackbird bobbing with it. One or two flutter, then I start to pick out brown birds in great bunches. They are the females. I watch them for a while as they erupt into the sky, circle near the tops of the grass, split, and settle again. At first this fenced area seemed silly, but the blackbirds seem to love it. Eventually I succumb to the coming dark and head back.

tall grasses in a fenced enclosure
There are hundreds of blackbirds hiding in this photo, just below the tops of the grass.




©2015 Valerie Norton
Posted 5 June 2015


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