Sunday, February 26, 2012

Montecito Turkey Trot with LPTR

A Turkey Trot Rodeo in Montecito
6 miles
2 hours
2 mules and a horse

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 Tobe waits patiently at the BrenderUp, he knows the Greenwell Preserve, been here, done that. We were asked to go along as a friend did a pre-ride examination of the trail, in advance of leading the local Los Padres Trail Riders on an outing here tomorrow.
We took the trail to the South, which rises up and immediately gives a view out to sea.
 It was a very hazy day, so the islands on the horizon are just barely visible.
 A lot of this trail is along the edges of estates, and across meadows awaiting development into McMansions.
 If you're not the lead mule.......... you watch a lot of ass.  Here we are strolling down the trail as it cuts through a lemon orchard. If ONLY the internet provided the "Scratch n' Sniff" capacity, and readers could have the heady scent of lemon flowers in bloom on a hot sunny day.
 In back of a very swanky horse facility we saw 
a glimpse of how "the other half lives."

I can't say I have much ambition to have Tobe learn to be a jumper, so we both watched with curiosity the young girls circling around the arena jumping over obstacles.
 And then, we had a run-on with a turkey. Now, I'm all for every rich person being able to do whatever they want to do with their estate, but right adjacent to the trail is a large pen filled with turkeys and I don't know what all else, because the turkeys were more than enough.
 Tobe heard their gobbling as we entered that section of trail, and I confess the rodeo that ensued was SO extreme that I was quite incapable of taking any photographs. The gal on the Percheron dismounted to lead her horse past, and Tobe pulled rank on me and decided that HE was the more astute member of our team and was making the executive decision that we needed to get the heck out of there. He spun around and proceeded to fly back down the rocky trail, nimbly dodging rocks in the path, as I tried to yank him around into a one-rein stop. In perfect duet on my left was Barbara on Tillie mule, neck and neck in the panic sweepstakes.
 I mean, just look at that face. I do agree with Benjamin Franklin that the turkey should have been our national bird, but please, somehow my Kentucky mule has missed being bomb proofed over a charging tom turkey. I know we've seen wild ones, mild flocks minding their own business, but this guy was in full plumage and aggressively charging  towards the fence and Whoa Nellie! off we'd go, Tobe would spin around again and take off.
Eventually after much refusal, insistence, and sashay away we did get past. But I was quite proud of myself, this was NOT something I could have ridden without injury several years ago.
This photo is a place-holder for the turkey zone, I took it just so it would insert into the trail map not too far from the turkey alley.
THIS is exactly why you pre-ride a trail. Since tomorrow's ride was to include inexperienced riders now Barb was in a pickle, and had to start thinking of alternate routes.
 Then we came to this tree which has a story for me. Five years ago when I was just starting to ride Tobe I came on this trail with the Montecito Trails Foundation annual Fund Raiser. I was in a big group of riders and several bees flew out of a hollow log. One stung the gal riding in front of me, and more stung Tobe, who bucked. I distinctly remember looking down and seeing my hand on the horn and thinking "Wow! You rode through a buck!" and then the next thing I knew I was on the ground. He bucked twice.
The woman leading the trail ride told me if I couldn't get right back on and rejoin the group I could find my own way back to the starting point, and she led the group off and LEFT ME sitting under this tree crying. Thanks, Jane Murray, I'll never forget that moment.
But to my rescue came two Mexican gardeners, who held Tobe for me and I climbed up in that tree and remounted and caught up with the group. I had what looked like a black eye on my hip, but I rode the ride. I was beginning to learn to cowgirl up, and also to be wary of who I go on rides with.
 A little further down the trail I saw this raw rebar sticking up out of the vegetation on the side of the trail.
 A landscaping webbing is stretched between them. Just last weekend one of the officers of the BCHC told me he was on a trail when his mule fell against a piece of raw rebar just like this and it poked her so deep in the belly she would have died from peritonitis, so he had to put her down. He asked me to be on the lookout for this specific hazard on trails now, and photo document it, and here was a very long stretch of it!
 This forest is being completely smothered in Cape Ivy. It is an invasive non-native that steals the light and nourishment from other plants. these trees will be destroyed by it if it is not cut back, and many of the area canyons look similar.
 I don't know anything about the history of this odd structure, it looks like an oil derrik rising up out of an old shed.
 We came up out of the canyon trail to the edge of the Polo Grounds, and see heavy construction in progress. Having completed the Turkey Trial, motorized equipment and stone masons were no problem. Here are the piles of stones soon to be assembled into a wall bordering the field.
 And there's a section of completed wall.
 Coming out at the edge of the polo grounds, we turned back towards the Greenwell Preserve, which required walking along the road that is frontage to Hwy 101.
 At the power station there is an easement trail that takes us back up into the hills and off the street.
 Once again looking across Summerland, with Santa Barbara in the fogbank upcoast.
 The mountains are probably ten degrees hotter, and above the coastal fog.
 We got back to Greenwell but Barb was thinking she wanted to see alternative trails, and we had some extra time, so we headed up the Edison, which is controlled by a couple who have horse pens there and requires signing a permission slip to cross on the trail. We had signed in advance.
 It is a quiet and lovely trail, and leads to some rigorous climbing nearby.
 But when we got to the horse area a huge truck was dumping a load of sand, with much attendant clatter, and all the equines were watching and jumpy, and we decided enough was enough, time to trek back down.
 There is always another day and another trail.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

2/22/12 Attempted SheepHerding

An Unexpected Sheep Adventure in Gaviota, CA 
2 hour ride 
5 miles 
Three members of the O'Rancho Riders

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 A pen at the O'Rancho is filled with sheep. I'm not at all sure why they are there, but every time I pass by they cast a baleful eye and mutter. Maybe it is because their pen is right next to the outhouse.
 There is also a very large pen where dogs who are staying at the facility can be penned. My Irish Wolfhounds like to go over and taunt those so incarcerated, but it is as far as they are allowed to come when we ride out, it is not a good idea for them to follow Tobe and I on trail rides. What works up a sweat on him would be impossible for the hounds.
 So out of the canyon we ride, heading up to the lovely sea view.
 The path of the oil pipeline is filled back in, and the disturbed areas anchored with subsidence preventative mesh and bags.
 I suppose if there WAS any rain, and none is predicted, this could immediately become a washout with no vegetation to anchor it.
 The white morning glories (Calystegia macrostegia) twine their way through this coastal sage scrubland. On the more open hillsides the seasons bring a changing colors as different grassland native flowers take turns with showy display.
 But what the HECK is THAT? Ears forward.................. just to the left of that fencepost........... a lost sheep?¿?
 Cells phones activated, calls made, turns out this sheep has been lost out here for several days, quite amazing that a mountain lion or even coyotes haven't eaten him up by now.
 We took turns trying to herd it back home. Ungrateful wretch, it was having none of it. Tobe and I tried to circle around it and nudge it back, then we rushed it like we do aggressive dogs,  and all that accomplished was that the sheep would run off in a blind panic and then stand stupidly staring at us.
 Finally Larry the owner showed up with a bucket of grain and tried to entice the sheep to follow him home. The sheep just evaded him. I asked him why he hadn't brought a herding dog and his reply was "The darn dog is the reason it got out." OK then. Apparently he has never trained any of his sheep to be halter broke, so he couldn't lead it back.... and after watching him walk around trying to nudge and wink the sheep in the proper direction we decided to get on with our trail ride. Later we spied him walking forlornly back, alone, presumably to call someone with a trained dog.
 We continued on up the hillside, but for me to catch up to the other two riders on the trail above Tobe and I had to bash our way through a field of mustard way over my head .... that's growing 10' high when I'm on the 16hh mule! We couldn't see the ground at all, but Tobe could glimpse the horses on the trail above so that was all the incentive we needed to thrash and part the waves of golden flowers.
 This hole in the trail is probably from a badger, it was at least a foot across and none of us were in a mood to investigate who might come out of it teeth first.
Finally we got to the highest point, where the Lone Sentinel Oak caps the hill top over the beach.
It is a magical place, and a lovely spot to let the equines have a well-earned rest and a snack.
 Looking NorthWest, Refugio Canyon stretches forth in lush winter greens.
 All the animals enjoyed eating the profuse blooming purple pea flowers (Lathrus latifolius L.) and sampling everything else beginning the spring carpet. Linda's paint horse Gypsy has a perfect symmetrical upside down heart on her butt.
 Robin has been riding all his life, and at 70 years old he sits on Joker with complete relaxation, like they are one animal. Joker is known for his extravagant mane and tail, shown here blowing in the wind like a wave.
 Coming back off the hill we passed this pen of several sheep, living with a million dollar view of the Channel Islands. This might have been where the sheep escaped from, but it was my understanding he was one of the Outhouse Krewe.
But we'd had enough of our Unexpected Sheep Adventure, and were ready to head back to the O'Rancho and relax a bit in the shade of the pepper trees and spin tales of trails.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

La Purisima Mission with LVR

La Purisima Mission in Lompoc, CA
2 hour ride
5 miles
Ten members of the Lompoc Valley Riders

View LVR La Purisima in a larger map


One of the great things about the La Purisima Mission are the authentic mission structures that have been preserved since the mission was founded in 1787.
Readers wishing to learn more about the Mission can go to

Shown above are replicas of Chumash Indian huts. A people who lived in a land of plenty, the Chumash lived in round domes and traveled between many settlements to fish in the ocean or gather foods from different areas.
 We gathered first in the spacious parking lot, in front of the modern Interpretive Center. The Mission is a great way for visitors to learn about the mission system, and to experience what life in those times was like by walking inside of authentic buildings and around the grounds.
 Equestrians appreciate the miles and miles of trails that criss-cross the 1,928 acre property. almost all of which are sand. This makes it a vital resource when rains make other trails in the area inaccessible because the clay in the mountain trails may become treacherous.
 A local girl on her white mustang started out leading the trail ride, taking us up through the forest where we saw several groups of deer too quick for my camera.
 The chaparral plants are beginning their Spring bloom, with the distinctive fragrance any visitor to the front country trails will recognize.
 Never having been extensively cultivated, the landscape looks essentially as it did when the initial 300,000 acre Mission property was set aside. What remains adjacent to the Mission buildings is small by comparison with what it WAS, but is plenty of space for hours of riding or hiking.
 The Lompoc valley is known for dramatic weather, and as we climbed into the hills the wind picked up and we could turn back to see civilization below.
 The little white mustang started getting a bit anxious, so Tobe and I stepped into the role of trail leaders, happy to set the pace. The ones in the front get the best view!
 Manzanita grows very hardy here, and needs a lot of attention to keep the trails from being overgrown.
 This mighty oak is very infiltrated by Spanish Moss, swaying in the wind.
 And the oak is coming well into the trail, a target for a future clipping. But not today, I can't slow down when we are the leaders!
 The trail is mostly about 5' wide and deep sand, so the animals work up a sweat and build strong muscles carrying us through it. The horizon is a clear view way back into the coastal mountain range.
 It is a lovely thing to walk around in the trails, just letting the mule do the miles and enjoying how responsive and aware he is. The more I ride, the more of a team he and I become.
 Down these trails we follow the hoof prints of the riders who have gone before us. Many local riders who do endurance races come here frequently. Riding on sand builds up their animals' muscles and going up and down the hills builds stamina.
 The Back Country HorseMen apparently installed this water trough with the Lompoc Valley Riders but when we got to it something was wrong, it was broken. I will report this to the BCHC and ask to help with a repair posse.

 We stopped for lunch at a meadow where there were convenient tie rails, plenty for all the horses and Tobe.
 As usual Tobe is the only mule. I hitched him to a rail and gave him some apples and carrots and had my own lunch of pineapple and mango. He supplemented that snack with grass while I chatted with fellow riders.
 He is a most patient and compliant mule when we are having an adventure. I might confess that both of us like to be on our best behavior when we are the only mule team, making sure horse riders notice how steady and calm he is.
After lunch it was time to turn back, and we circled around the central field that I believe used to be where the Mission inhabitants raised their grain crops. Nowadays I sometimes see hay being harvested from it later in the season.
The road stretches ever on, and we passed families walking dogs and riding bikes, and the sound of our hoofbeats was timeless.
Coming out to the Mission buildings we waved to a lot of tourists, then untacked and headed for home. Another successful IceBreaker Ride for the Lompoc Valley Riders to start their spring season of group rides with. A nice opportunity to meet new people and refresh old acquaintances.