Length: 6.1 miles
Duration: 2.2 hours
Difficulty: Very easy, trails mostly sand, some climbing, well maintained open trails frequented by hikers and dog walkers.
Altitude gain: 320 ft
View 7-29-11 La Purisima Mission in a larger map
La Purisima Mission buildings have been restored and are a popular educational resource for the local community, teaching children and visitors about what life was like durning the Mission system years.
Ascending the first ridge above the building area we look out over the valley towards the town of Lompoc, with the fog of morning obscuring the view towards the ocean.
A lot of the trails here are old roads, well maintained with great footing. This is traditionally the place that equestrians flock to in rainy weather, because the sand drains quickly when other nearby areas with clay soils are too wet to ride.
Turning onto smaller trails they go from road to sand pathway, hemmed in by live oak and LOTS of poison oak.
Then sand path becomes sand trail, and the moist morning humidity makes the chaparral scents fill the air with heady perfume.
From a high vantage point we can look back down into the valley below, civilization in the distance.
The junction of the Cuclillo de Tierra Trail and El Chaparral Trail.
Spanish moss hanging from the trees gives a still, timeless quality to the forests of oaks. Wildflowers bloom beneath the oaks, in tangles of poison oak bushes.
The junction of the Mesa Arenosa Trail and El Chapparal Trail.
The mule ahead of us is lost in a swirl of dust. Tobe and I sensibly follow at a distance when riders in front kick up dust, and of course that's a very good reason to offer to lead a trail ride!
The Huerta Malador Trail marker.
Coming off the sandy mountain we look back down across the central valley, once the major agricultural crop land of the Mission and now set to growing hay.
Because I'm Scottish I have to love thistles. And because I wear chinks they do not spike me.
But very close to where this photo was taken I did fall. Tobe was being very cautious about crossing a very old stone water cistern and then when he made up his mind to cross it he JUMPED and there was a tree limb hanging into the trail and as I leaned left to avoid the limb I think my cinch has loosened up from an hour of riding and Tobe was hopping and I flopped. No harm done, except a bit of a scratch on my nose and cheek. My Red Cross first Aid training came in handy! All I really cared about as I lay on the ground was that my fall had been broken by a bush, but my first thought was that if it was poison oak, and it had scratched my face, I was going to be in for a world of hurt. Fortunately it was wild blackberries, so I just dusted myself off and got back on and counted myself lucky that it was an uneventful unplanned dismount.
After a long walk we reach the top of the valley fields and look back down the entire expanse. The fields are bare and dry now, just stubble and tiny wildflowers.
Coming back around down the hill we see stands of opuntia cactus in a more desert-like setting.
Little buildings like this one dot the landscape, remnants of the various agricultural tasks that once formed the daily lives of the Padres and Indians who lived here.
If I had taken the time to view the exhibits inside the quite modern Interpretive Center I could tell you more about the Mission, but alas, today I came to ride and that is what we did. Another time I can stop and be more informed.