Visible from California Route 101, crowning the Coast Range behind the city of Ventura, a pair of prominent trees illustrate a saga of high ground dating to 1898. The tale features culture, law, weather and geography in one of America’s most notable relations with high topography.
The 1898 planting of 13 non-native blue gum eucalyptus on the hilltop sowed a high ground relationship. The city along the Pacific below grew beneath their oversight, and the people developed a regard for the trees. They hiked regularly to visit them. Hiking was a part of the Ventura social fabric long before it transitioned into a commercial sport. The trees became an urban symbol.
Episodes of brushfire, vandalism and replanting caused fluctuations in the number of trees until, in 2014, this pair remains. Designated Two Trees , one of them is 116 years old and the second 58.
Two Trees educate the non-native Californian. The sharpness of the ascent toward them is an emblem of the near-constant presence of steep terrain in the state. The tan dust that rises with each step betrays the dry climate that decimated the grove with fire. The long history of hikes to this summit shows the simple love of nature of Californians. From Two Trees, the high ground provides a view of the seacoast city, which trades views of Two Trees from its resort beaches. Offshore, the Channel Islands, the distinquishing landforms along this section of the Pacific, rise dark in the haze.
Today, the relationship is fraught with conflict. Ventura residents claim the trees only through long-distance views and no longer visit them, unless illegally. Shrouding their trunks and leaves is a haze of regulation and property rights. The longstanding common ownership of Two Trees has vanished. In a city no longer a community, the relation of the people to their two trees will be in the hands of lawyers. Briefcases of land easements in hand, they act in service of a symbol.
Editor’s Note: The elder of Two Trees recently succumbed to California’s persistent drought.