On a mild and misty spring day I was fortunate to be allowed to ride on the beautiful Brown Ranch, a historic piece of old California on Foxen Canyon Road in the Santa Ynez Valley. It was my first time out with the Santa Ynez Valley Riders, and we were escorted across the property and through many gates, seeing the verdant growth of the season, nourished by recent rains.
Two dozen of us rode 3.86
miles in 1.36 hours, a leisurely stroll through a landscape changed very little by human hand.
We started out walking up the old ranch paths and immediately the lushness of the hillsides filled our senses. Down on the coast the drought is unmistakable, and the nearby Lake Cachuma is very low, but here the spring rains have renewed the land.
The massive trees that ennoble the habitat are Quercus lobata, the Valley Oak. Living hundreds of years, they have seen many droughts come and go.
They stand sentinel on the ridges, providing habitat and shelter for the creatures of this place.
The tiny specs in this shot are black cattle who scattered out of the way of the riders. By the time Tobe and I moved up into position for a photo they were just a series of skid marks in the grass..... did someone talk too loudly about Santa Maria style bar-b-que?
Green pastures like this are a mule's dream. He can eat a more varied banquet than a mere horse, so while he was attending to the business of carting me around the 4 miles he was casting yearning looks at the aromatic bouquet of greens.
Lots of tiny spring flowers were in bloom, fiddleneck and blue dicks, lupine and chamomile, and a sprinkling of California poppies.
Better photos could have been had if I'd dismounted and hunkered down, but I was on a mission.
The mist rolling in is the secret of the vineyards that fill the
lowlands in this valley, now becoming world famous for the fine vintages
produced. And it made our ride pleasant and cool.
I am ever grateful that my stalwart beast carries me to see sights such as this.
"Ah, shucks, Ma'am," says my Kentucky mule. "T'ain't nuthin'."