La Purisima Mission in Lompoc, CA
2 hour ride
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.