St. Barbara’s Day, December 4, is as good a day as any to give thanks for the many blessings of Saint Barbara and for the wonderful city on the California coast named for the martyred saint. I’ve been truly blessed to call Santa Barbara home for more than 30 years.

Icon of Saint Barbara in Santa Barbara Greek Orthodox Church.
Icon of Saint Barbara in Santa Barbara Greek Orthodox Church.

I moved here after grad school in 1981 and wrote my first hiking book. Not surprisingly, the cover picture of “Day Hiker’s Guide to Southern California” showed a trail on Figueroa Mountain in the Santa Barbara backcountry with two hikers—John McKinney (not yet The Trailmaster) and my cute friend Callie.

I’ve hiked all over the country since then, but there’s not place like home—especially if your home is in Santa Barbara. My home mountains, the Santa Ynez Mountains beckon with wonderful canyon trails and I try to take at least one or two of them a week at the very least. My home shores offer some wonderful beach walks, bluff-top rambles and coastal hikes.

Sunset over the palm trees in downtown Santa Barbara
Sunset over the palm trees in downtown Santa Barbara
It’s been a great pleasure walking about and writing about Santa Barbara coast and mountains, and taking hikes with friends and family. I particularly treasure the times my children, Sophia and Daniel, explored the local footpaths with their dad.

A walk along Santa Barbara's More Mesa Beach at sunset: What a way to end the day!
A walk along Santa Barbara’s More Mesa Beach at sunset: What a way to end the day!
But I digress and let’s return to how Santa Barbara got its name. It seems when explorer Sebastian Vizcaino’s crewmen found their tiny ship tossed about by a nasty storm on the eve of Saint Barbara’s Day in 1602, they prayed for her to intervene and save them from a cruel death at sea. When the day dawned, and the ship found safe harbor, the grateful men named this coastal refuge for the saint.

Saint Barbara, whose father beheaded her after she embraced Christianity in defiance of his beliefs, symbolizes courage, faith and virtue to Christians all over the world. Mission Santa Barbara was consecrated on its present site on December 4, 1786, coinciding with the feast day of the martyred Saint Barbara. She’s particularly popular to this day worldwide with artillery divisions of the military and those who work with explosives from the Greek Army to the British Royal Artillery to the U.S. Marine Corps.

My church, Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox Church, located in the Santa Barbara foothills on San Antonio Road, holds a special service and celebration on the saint’s name day. After the service and the luncheon I like to continue the celebration with a little hike.

Thank you Saint Barbara, for the protection against thunder and lightning you’ve offered me when I’ve been caught by storms on trails far from home, and for watching over the city I call home.