On a bright hot summer day I joined the Equestrian Trails Corral 36 for a challenging ride through the mountains of Monte Nido, a region just inland from Malibu on the coast.
A dozen riders rode out in two groups. My group did the route shown on the map and covered 5.28 miles in 2.5 hours. Our trail was often extremely (and unexpectedly) steep and required me to put faith in my stalwart mule.
The ride invitation said "This ride is not appropriate for ...inexperienced trail horses" but I had NO idea what the terrain would be like!
Malibu Valley Farms. It is the former home of ELSA:Experience Learning Support with Animals, a facility that serves individuals with special needs through the benefits of the human-animal bond. We got a pep talk from Susan, the energetic spirit behind ELSA, and then divided into two groups. I went with Stephanie the ETI36 newsletter editor, who promised a walking ride, while Rex took the trot-canter girls off at a brisk pace.
King Gillette Ranch, in the heart of the Malibu Creek watershed. They were setting up for a wedding, and we had more uncivilized places to be.
The ranch has many historic buildings designed for razor magnate King Gillette in the 1920s.
But we skirted around them and headed for the trails above the Malibu Creek Park area.
We saw the Fast Girls in passing as they moved by at Endurance pace.
And immediately we began to rise up into the ridges of the surrounding mountains.
It is utterly unfair that photographs never capture the steepness of trails.
What feels almost vertical when riding looks like a simple elevation.
Even the meadows full of wildflowers were a big climb, but no worries for Tobe Mule.
And this unique cabin. The story is the property owners purchased it "bask East" and had it dismantled, shipped,and rebuilt here. Rustic!
Malibu Creek State Park, viewed across sycamore and oak covered woodlands.
Then our path took us further westward, up and over ridges, looking down on scattered housing areas.
Looking out over Las Virgenes Valley and Malibu Canyon, we could look down onto the estates of the who-knows-who rich and famous.
While I will always prefer living in Santa Barbara, it is easy to see why someone wanting to live a rural lifestyle within minutes of Hollywood would choose this special area.
It has been a center of Chumash Indian life for centuries, long before Malibu became famous.
Tobe met lots of nice animals on the ride,
taking turns who was leading and following,
but always following our trail boss.
Up up up,
then down down down.
Only now do I realize why this ETI Corral 36 is called the Mountain Ridge Riders.
This kind of riding requires an attentive rider and a secure steed.
I'm pretty sure if I keep my legs on either side and my mind in the middle Tobe can get us where we want to go.
Must I brag? Tobe and I won!
A lovely time was had by all.
“The problem with being a second-generation Californian is you're not objective about California itself. I think a lot of people come here for the comfort of it, or to reinvent themselves, and maybe creative people are natural searchers, searching for someplace to be. The lifestyle becomes very appealing."