Friday, July 8, 2011

Ellwood Mesa 7-8-11

A ride on Ellwood Mesa, on the Western edge of Goleta, on a large undeveloped area surrounded by housing and golf courses above the ocean.
Length: 4.3 miles
Duration: 2 hours
Difficulty: Much of it easy. Side-by-side and single file, mostly flat with gradual climbs, except for unmaintained trails inside eucalyptus groves which have downed limbs and entire trees across the trail.
Altitude gain: 60 ft
Grade: II

View Ellwood Mesa 7-8-11 in a larger map

Tobe is quite sure that if he stares into the tack compartment hard enough a treat will eventually levitate from the container and make its way to his mouth. He is a very patient creature. I am but a minion of his will.
Once we got out on the trail we headed into the eucalyptus forest by a route we'd never explored before. This beautiful bright zone of nasturtiums was a nice surprise.
The trail led off into stands of eucalyptus that are showing a lot of deadfalls and broken limbs.
In many places there are limbs and entire trees across the trail, which the trusty mule goes over like cavaletti but which the quarterhorse and thoroughbred riders chose to walk their delicate animals through.
On a very hot summer day the dappled shade in the forest was welcoming, but eventually we hit a densely overgrown area and a tree we couldn't get around, so we backtracked and went out to the mesa.
There in the heat of the mid day sun the grasses are drying up, and the onshore breeze is most welcome.
On one edge is a development that seems to have been abandoned in the housing crunch. Houses that look like they were finished but never inhabited.
A fence divides the natural grassland from a golf course, with artificially watered greens and a fabulous view.
Golf carts and whizzing balls are NOT Tobe's favorite. He gets riveted when he thinks something might be dangerous, and there's nothing to do but let him get a good look and then decide when he feels it is safe to proceed.
On the far left one of the oil derricks is visible in the Santa Barbara channel, and the Channel Islands are almost a mist on the horizon.
Turning and coming back downcoast the Coal Oil Point area is ahead, part of the University of California at Santa Barbara,  my alma mater.
Hikers, bikers, boy scouts, babies in strollers, everyone is free to enjoy this clifftop walk. Part of the area below on the beach is set aside as a preserve for the endangered Snowy Plover to nest in.
But we turn back inland, and cross what was an impassible marsh for most of this wet winter. Now, the cycle turns and the grasses flower and die.
And we retrace our steps back to the trailers, around yet another golf course, having had our restorative dose of wildness for this day.