Sunday, July 31, 2011

Greenwell Preserve 7-31-11

A ride that began at the Greenwell Preserve, in the aptly named Summerland, California. We climbed Ortega Ridge up to the Ortega Reservoir, skirted the edge of the Birnam Wood Golf Course on the Coffin Family Trail, and ventured towards Innisbrook but then turned back. A lovely summer day, trails in excellent condition, a bit of cooling haze.

Length: 6.2 miles
Duration: 3 hours

Difficulty: Moderate. Trails single file, steep climbs, well maintained and reinforced trails, ankle deep water crossings.

Altitude gain: 770 ft 

Grade: II

View 7-31-11 Greenwell Preserve in a larger map

As always Tobe is ready to go, no matter where I ask him to carry me. He's skeptical, but enthusiastic. Eager, but stubborn. A consummate athlete, but at his own pace. He carefully places each foot on the trail, he knows he is in charge of getting us wherever we are going in a safe manner. He is the very essence of MULE.
I had read in the Montecito Trail Foundation newsletter that a lot of repair work had been done on this trail up Ortega Ridge, and I was curious to see it. Sure enough, a new wooden bridge spanned a tiny seasonal creek. Tobe was NOT convinced it was safe, and try as I might, all my calm assertive encouragement was met with refusal. So we resorted to the standard fallback, having my riding companion get her quarterhorse to cross first. Sometimes it can get embarrassing how firmly Tobe will refuse to do things he considers dangerous. Like they say "You can FORCE a horse, you can ASK a mule."
I don't know the history behind this cubist red gate, it seems to guard access to an unimproved hillside, but perhaps at one time this was a secret entrance to a grand estate.
Turning to look out to sea from half way up the ridge, the marine layer obscures the islands from view.
Turning to look up, the Ortega Reservoir is the near horizon line, with the frontcountry of the Los Padres National Forest looming above behind it.
A tremendous amount of work has gone into the maintenance of these trails. Wooden beams are anchored in such a way as to counteract the effects of erosion, all done by the MTF crews. Much appreciated.
On the left is another kind of trail reinforcement, buttressing up a sandy hillside to keep the trail from collapsing.
At the top of the trail we look across on a level with the reservoir. And on the other side of it, a curious dwelling that looks like a kids' playhouse on a grand scale.
Looking into the next valley, across acres of avocado trees in neatly spaced rows, up into the mountain trails. In just a few minutes we can completely leave the freeway, the city, and all the noise of civilization and look upward to the trails that lead to the unimproved interior. The California that those who stay in their cars never see.
This road once gave access to local estates, now it is gated off and slowly succumbing to weeds and earthquake cracks.
Looking down onto a palatial estate, a horse farm with no visible horses, just massive arenas and barns and a house like Versailles. I wonder if Tobe would consider it heaven or hell to live in such a place? Probably heaven would be a field in Ezel, Kentucky grazing with his late mother, a Rocky Mountain mare.
Now we are on the Coffin Family Trail, which also shows the restorative touch of the MTF crew, with reinforcements and wooden planks laid into it.
Looking down at the unnatural green, it could be nothing but a golf course. Tobe is NOT OK with golf carts, he sees them and is riveted. No matter that they are the size of insects way below us, he stops and watches them, unwilling to turn away lest they might decide to swarm up the hillside.
The MTF places signs to encourage appropriate trail etiquette. Bikes are supposed to yield to both hikers and equines, and equines always have the right of way. Look closely and you will see clustered snails beneath the trail sign, gathered where the fog and mist collects dew. It must be the Snail Trail.
This is horse purgatory, a large boarding stable on Sheffield Road. A waiting zone, filled with beautiful animals, many of them Rocky Mountains like Tobe. But as many times as we ride through we seldom see an owner, and the animals feel parked and forgotten.
The trails skirting the edge of the former Coffin Family Ranch are well done, and I do my bit by trimming overhanging branches as we pass through.
It may be mid-summer but the creek is beautiful and full, and Tobe stopped for a well earned drink before crossing.
Water always makes a ride more enjoyable, and the aquatic vegetation is Tobe's favorite salad bar.
We HAD intended to go to the shady valley called Innisbrook, but we lagged and when we got as far as the ancient stone bridge, with the inviting oak forest ahead of us, truth was I had a tattoo to do and had to call the ride short and get to work. So we turned around, knowing we can always return another day.
And we backtracked our steps, feeling thankful that the Coffin Family have been so generous as to give access to superb riding trails on their property, and that the Montecito Trails Foundation keeps them in such good repair. All so that Tobe and I and our fortunate companions can go for scenic strolls like this one.