Curious to see a new part of the mountains above Los Angeles, and having never been to Chatsworth, I signed up for this ride honoring a County Supervisor who has done much to preserve access to the open spaces.
A 6.86 mile trail ride in 3:28 minutes. A LOT of stops and moseying around, by the 100 or so riders.
Typical of an event honoring a politician, the day began late with thanking lots of people I had never heard of and the presentation of the flag and singing patriotic songs.
Then the group straggled off. The attending Sheriffs all bunched up in the front, with a hardy small band of them going on ahead to scout the trail for snakes. I didn't really know what to expect, but they said the ride would be 3.5 hours so Tobe and I settled in for a long stroll.
For a long time it was a jeep trail, with nice views.
So close to the teeming metropolis, and yet so wild and unspoiled. Rising up the canyon we could look out into the rugged grasslands that lead up to the regional park named after this politician.
Tobe was wearing his ear flaps, maybe because I anticipated he might be troubled by gnats, maybe because, as usual, he was the only mule on the ride and I thought he might stand out with extensions.
The cloud cover was a bonus, making a mountain climb much more pleasant.
We tracked up parallel to Brown's Canyon Road, then turned over onto the Curaco Trail.
The ride promoters thoughtfully brought water tanks up to several resting points, and all the animals got good refreshing drinks while the humans had juice and snacks.
These are some of the Sheriffs who came along for the event.
The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Mounted Posse has existed since the Department’s inception in 1850.
Often used for crowd control, they appear at the scenes of demonstrations and unruly assemblies, adding "high profile crime suppression" as they tower over mere humans on foot.
Here is my pal Ben from Boston, who came out to add to his tattoo collection and to go on this big adventure with me.
He will henceforth be able to claim the honorific
He has had very little equine experience, but he piloted his rental mare through some obstacles that called upon all his athletic skills.
Necessary because after climbing up and up we descended into canyons, where the pathway turned into single-track trails and lots of wet low-spot crossings.
Any time you have 100+ people on a ride, there will be incidents. The two people I saw fall off were a Sheriff and an EMT.
Of course you really don't need markers with dozens of horses on a trail, but it was nice to see them placed throughout the ride in case I ever want to come back and not get lost. It was at this point we turned off Curaco Trail and went into Ybarra Canyon.
The canyon walls had a lot of exposed rock.
We tracked along the creek bed at the canyon bottom.
We got to see drama at muddy places.
A Sheriff fell off into poison oak.
Many horses jumped the water and made precarious landings.
Tobe was awesome, with my encouragement he walked steadily through all the boggy bits. Being a mule he takes his time and considers a route, then calmly proceeds through it.
When I first got him he'd jump, but that can lead to mishaps and so I have learned to ask for slo-mo.
Once again, the mule team showed that perseverance and training lead to competence.
Not to brag too much, but I have a darn good mule.
Makes me look good on these adventures!
After the mud dramas of the aptly named Devil's Canyon Trail we started to ascend once again to the canyon tops.
Lots of rock obstacles, evidence perhaps of earthquakes.
And wide areas that look like rain has made a river here in times of more generous weather patterns.
Would that be follow the tail, or follow the trail?
Same thing in a big group ride.
Nice to rise up again to expansive landscapes.
The afternoon started to turn windy.
We passed through rock formations with intriguing shapes.
And then a series of human habitations of which the only remnants were chimneys. Turns out this is Mormon Canyon, once a settlement that was wiped out in a fire in the 1970's. The Mormon community moved on, never to return. I was unable to find any reference to this online, so only the name remains.
I felt very fortunate to be able to ride in such a beautiful natural place, with long distance views and tiny spring wildflowers up close.
High up the yuccas were blooming, nearby small purple and yellow ground cover tinted the land.
One man on the ride told me that he and his Arab ride these hills regularly, and that they cover the came trail in half the time it was taking us today.
That's OK, we had a lot of people of varied skill levels, a third of whom were on rental horses, and that makes slow going an important precautionary method.
But wait, what are those white strings visible on the hillside? What could that mean?
Here is the future of this land. Over on the right you can see the smog-drenched community of Chatsworth, a flatland of rabbit hutch apartment buildings and strip malls. To the left is Porter Ranch, being flattened in preparation for the installation of hundreds of houses, and the string markers up on the heights are the grids where even more houses will be built.
What will be known as Hidden Creeks Estate Development plans to cut 400 trees and build 188 houses on 150 acres on this property called Porter Ranch.
Aside from the destruction of beautiful natural watershed, there is something even more ominous.
On 10/23/15 a 40-year-old gas injection well, SS25, at the SoCalGas Aliso
Canyon Storage Field started leaking due to well integrity failure. The
odor from this leak was SO STRONG, that members of Save Porter Ranch
immediately called 911. They were initially told by SoCalGas that the smell was coming from routine monthly natural gas releases at the Storage Facility.
The black dots indicate the oil and gas wells that are apparently just over the ridge line we were tracking along.
This is an infrared view of the plume of methane gas on 12/28/15. Local residents and their pets were sickened. One woman I spoke with boarded her horse in the area and it developed nosebleeds, another said her horse got pneumonia.
On 2/18/16 officials announced that the leak was permanently plugged. An estimated 97,100 tonnes of methane and 7,300 tonnes of ethane was released into the atmosphere, making it the worst natural gas leak in U.S. history in terms of its environmental impact.
Is this the right place to build new housing?
This is the way to experience this land, strolling through the wilderness and absorbing the beauty.
"Nature always wears the color of the spirit." - Ralph Waldo Emerson