Tuesday, June 7, 2016

2016/6/7 La Purisima Mission exploration

A lovely bright day, summer with a bit of wind, and the Acorn Riders decided to go see a new kind of oaks, the Quercus agrifolia coastal oaks of the La Purisima Mission property in Lompoc, California.

We started the ride at the parking lot at the front of the 2,000 acre property, and did a 3.53 mile loop up the Eastern border in 90 minutes.
The Mission is low-key, so much so that they don't even staff the parking kiosk, you just pop $6 in an envelope and display the tag on the dash. Such a deal! We were the only equestrians today, but several school buses filled with shouting children drove in as we arrived. They headed for the interpretive center, and we hit the trail.
Here Tobe Mule and I pose in front of the first of the Mission buildings, ignoring the sign to the left that says no horses. Clearly he is only half-horse and so exempt.

Mississippi Molly came along, another adventure in the continuing education of Stoney the Brandenburg/Thoroughbred X.
Stoney does not yet get it, he has not reconciled to the fact that it is the fate of horses to be told what to do.
He doesn't like being told what to do.
He's going to learn.

And the third rider was Miss Bella, another student of Molly, riding the long-suffering patient Woodrow QuarterHorse.
Woodrow has been been drafted into the role of assistant teacher in the Miss Molly Charm School for Horses.
He is teaching the riders.

Because of the yammering hoard of children in the central area of the mission I decided we would strike out for the trail that hugs the Eastern edge of the property. It starts with a long sandy climb.
We passed through a grove of eucalyptus, and one tree has a surprising branch of entirely red leaves.
The mission property of 2,000 acres began as a Spanish Land grant that covered nearly 470 square miles. Visiting it now it is possible to step back in time, and imagine it in the 18th century when it was a bustling center of cattle and sheep ranching.
To read more about the mission check out  http://www.lapurisimamission.org/
The trails are a favorite with equestrians, whose animals build strong muscles by moving through the deep sand. Tobe was happy to set the pace, and return to this beauty we have not explored for several years.
The oaks here are the Coastal Live Oak, and this venerable specimen is cloaked in Spanish Moss. They are much more dense than the Valley Oaks, and provide shelter for woodland creatures in the canopies where their branches almost reach to the ground.
At the middle of the climb we saw this signpost, and continued on to the Santa Rita Mesa Trail.
On the map you can see this is a straight track up the right side, and then once up onto the mesa we took a left and tracked straight across again.

The View!

From the top of the mesa we could look out across the mission acres to the city of Lompoc, and the fog rolling in off the ocean beaches beyond.

The fence line we walked was held in place by ancient weathered posts and barbed wire.

Now, tell me this piece of real live ranch memorabilia wouldn't fetch a top dollar in an antique store specializing in Americana?

Between the woodpecker and squirrel holes and the bug erosion, this is definitely the authentic Olde West.

The mesa had lots of spring wildflowers still blooming. We saw Mimulus, Bulbous Buttercup, False Dandylion, Evening Primrose, Elderberry, Cornflower, Thistle, Woods Rose, Indian Paintbrush, ....all hidden aside the dominant Chapparal plants of Chamise, White Sage, Artemesia, Bush Poppies, Manzanita, Morning Glory, and Coastal Live Oaks.
This is a particularly beautiful manzanita, the reddish brown of the branches so stark against the green of the leaves. It is easy to imagine why trail maintenance is so vital here. Trying to push through Chapparal without a trail is an extremely exhausting effort.

But soon we turned and headed across the mesa, out of the shrublands and into a sea of moving grasses.

And what a view! Now we are well above the central valley near the mission buildings, and have a clear view across Lompoc to the coastal mountain range beyond.
Step by step, my trusty mule led on through the trail system.
Then our youngest rider was getting worn out, so we headed down the slope back toward the mission.
We passed this cistern that once held the mission water that was then channeled to irrigate crops.
Stoney was clearly ready for a close-up, posing next to ancient stone walls that perfectly matched his coloration.
Alongside the central field is the stone aqueduct that carried the water down from the cistern. We tracked along it.
Then it was time to go. This trail was once again marked no horses, but that was OK, we'd seen enough for one day.
Happy sight to be back at the rigs, get the animals un-tacked and loaded, and return to civilization.
La Purisima Mission will wait for our return.