From the end of Coronado Drive you can enjoy the mesmerizing beauty of monarch butterflies fluttering through the tall eucalyptus trees during the winter months, then walk out over the open meadows to the bluff tops. Small trails lead in and out of the eucalyptus trees and a network of paths throughout the bluffs, allowing you to walk for miles. Several trails lead down to the mile long beach.
From Santa Barbara drive northbound on Highway 101 to the Glen Annie/Storke Road exit in Goleta. Turn left, cross over the freeway and drive 0.3 miles to Hollister. Turn right and continue 1.1 miles to Coronado Drive, just past the 7-11 store. Go left on Coronado and park near the Coronado Butterfly Reserve sign or at the end of the street.
When I lived at 410 Coronado Drive in the 1960s we would head out to the eucalyptus groves whenever it was a warm, sunny day in late February or March. What made it so beautiful weren't the puffy clouds or the green hills; it was the sight of the skies filled with butterflies, often hundreds and hundreds of them.
Later, when I taught an Environmental Education class at UCSB I would bring my classes here every winter to experience the wonder of seeing the Monarchs hanging in thick clusters from the tops of the eucalyptus trees in what is now called the "Ellwood Main." This short gully is surrounded by tall eucalyptus trees and is the overwintering site for thousands of Monarch butterflies every year.
Before we would come I would tell them all to bring a bandanna large enough to be used as a blindfold. We would meet at the bottom end of Coronado Drive and talk a bit, but I wouldn't tell them anything about the Monarchs or what we were going to see. I would have the students form a long line just on the other side of the barrier, and we would create a caterpillar by having each of the students place their hands on the shoulders of the person in front of them.
Once they had gotten the idea, they would blindfold themselves, place their hands on the student in front of them and I would lead them in caterpillar fashion down into the creekbed and over into the ravine. It would take awhile, and there were always lots of laughing as the students would stumble, but we would go slow and they would warn each other about upcoming obstacles.
Finally, when we were in the ravine, I would take each one and help them lie down on their backs in a comfortable place, blindfolds still in place. As we were doing this I would tell them to imagine something beautiful and magical, something that would be so powerful it would leave them breathless. One by one all of them would get in position until finally all of them were lying there, heads resting on the ground, eyes facing straight up.
At this point I would ask them to take a few deep breaths and when they were ready to take off their blindfolds to let me know. Then, perhaps a minute or two later I would lie down beside them so I was looking up as well and lead the countdown. On "three" all of them would take off their blindfolds.
All I can say is this an incredible experience, the looking up towards the sky, with the silhouettes of the eucalyptus trees all around, the butterflies floating about you and the incredible silence. At first there would be lots of words but then inevitably the students would all lapse into silence, mesmerized by the experience of watching the butterflies flying everywhere.
In a minute or two the really amazing thing would occur to them. In the silence they would begin to realize that it was not completely quiet. You could hear the sound of the butterfly wings as the Monarchs moved through the air. It is an amazing sound.