Tuesday, December 5, 2017

2017/12/5 Pismo a-go-go MeetUp

The edge of the continent, with the best view of all, thru a mule's ears. 

A bright and breezy day for a ride through the Oceano Dunes and on Pismo Beach.

We went a total of 4.5 miles in 2 hours, an average speed of 2.3 mph except when we loped on the beach when we got up to 12.3 mph.
A maximum altitude of 79 feet climbing thru the dunes, and a long stroll on the sand at zero.

To begin we line up behind the Gypsy Vanner Oberon, with his festive red tail ribbon.
Time for him to step up and perform his weekly civic duty, be a patrol horse, looking for miscreants and vagrants in the sacred dunes.
Into the dunes, following the sand and the hoofprints of other equine adventurers.

The plant life of the dunes is varied and beautiful, and trails cross-cross through them. Plants native to the area include the arroyo willow, sand verbena, and bush lupine.

And carefully camouflaged up in the bushes was a young coyote, observing us calmly.

Karma the Arabian was the first to alert to the coyote, and she riveted on him, not quite sure what to do.

Tobe was not concerned.

Oberon was patient, he's seen it all before.

A wind made the dunes come alive, with grasses blowing and bushes swaying.

A strong Santa Ana wind was whipping fires in the counties to the south, but here the air was clear and fresh.

The Oceano sand dune area is recognized by scientists, conservationists, government agencies, and the public as the finest, most extensive coastal dunes remaining in California.

Most of the material that forms these dunes has been carried down to the ocean by various rivers and creeks, deposited here by ocean currents, and then shaped by the wind into the dunes that we see today.

We had done the Grand Dunes Trail, and now it was time for our trail boss to place her time sheet in the mailbox, registering her volunteer hours.

 Then it was time for the beach.                                    

But, wait......

what IS that animal slinking along at the end of the access road?

Just barely visible, way down the road towards the campground.........

another coyote
bold as brass
walking calmly towards us.

This IS his territory, and we are mere visitors. We acknowledged him and moved on.

Because it was time for the beach.

 Oberon led the way.

Tobe, being a Kentucky Mule, is suspicious of the waves in the gigantic lake that is the Pacific Ocean.
He is growing to enjoy it, but is not yet at ease.

Karma Arab had never seen the ocean, and we had no idea what she would think.

Tobe gives the whole situation a good long look.

He's been here before, time to consult that memory.

Miss Karma Arab, being a horse, simply enjoyed herself.  She trusts her owner Kerri, so she obediently slipped into this new experience.

Tobe took the opportunity to show off that he is,
in fact,
a gaited mule,
with the special smooth movement that is his birthright.

So we sped off down the beach and enjoyed moving very fast indeed,
no rocks, no squirrel holes, no obstacles to untrammeled speed.

Oberon Vanner, on the other hand, comes here every week with his Mistress Barbara, and has a very been there done that attitude about it all.

He knows that a big part of his job is posing for the tourists, looking mythic on the beach, a vision of a medieval spirit now patrolling the dunes.

Kerri and Barbara were convinced that the whirling birds far out to sea on the horizon indicated the presence of whales. Tobe and I were skeptical.

We watched the waves and birds, and bathed in the negative ions, and the day was good.

Any vacation day on the back of a mule is a good day.

Which is not to say horses can't be magical.......                              here the double shadow in the wet sand clearly indicates that Kerri and Karma have been transported to a planet with two suns.
The closest Tobe wanted to get to the water was the wet shiny places, so, that was what we did.        We saw lots of birds, dog walkers and off-road dune buggie racers, and did a little loping to prove we could.

Then we started back inland, across the northern part of the dunes, back to the staging area where we began our journey..


Postcard from another planet.
Proof that we transcended time and space and rode our steeds into dreams.

"A horse is the projection of peoples' dreams about themselves — strong, powerful, beautiful — and it has the capability of giving us escape from our mundane existence."
~ Pam Brown

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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

2017/11/28 MeetUp at La Purisima Mission

Looking from a burned area on the La Purisima Mission hillside out across the Lompoc Valley.

To celebrate my birthday I convened a group of riders by advertising my intent to ride the La Purisima Mission in Lompoc.
In addition to the restored original buildings, the nearly 2,000 acre park is home to 25 miles of hiking and riding trails. Much of the land is sandy, so it is the best choice for winter rainy-season riding. Whichever trail we chose, there would be changes in terrain and views out across the Lompoc Valley. 
As it turned out, we rode for 2.5 hours and went 7 miles, slowly adventuring around the property.

And here are the Lucky Seven who opted to join me on this lovely day.
Plus Tobe & I on the right, added with digital cleverness. 
Some I had met before, some were brought to this place by the magic of the


which now after 2 months has almost 100 members.

I look forward to a future in which I have many new riding companions and am able to add many more trail adventures to my schedule.

My introduction to the Meetup reads:

Riding in good company can be a safer and friendly way to explore the beauties of the front-country and back-country trails of the 805 area. Join this Meetup and participate in group rides, and find new like-minded riders who will share the trail with you. Anyone who owns and rides a horse or mule or donkey is welcome to be a part of this Meetup. If you know good trails, meet new friends and show them the way. If you are new to the area, come along and follow someone who knows the trails. We are united by our love for the grace and power of the animals that make our explorations so very special. Exploring Happy Trails !!!

For these rides I don't have a number of hours in mind, actually. I always think it is best to have a talk with the group before we go out and the most important thing to me is to ride to the least rider. So if someone only wants to ride 2 hours, or has a rehabilitating horse or mule that can't do distance, I always say we ride to accommodate them. If that means a shorter ride and half the group wants to go back and the other half wants to split off and go longer, that works too. There really aren't any rules for this, just common courtesy.

For more info about the mission see: http://www.lapurisimamission.org/

We started out tracking up the Western perimeter, through sandy  trails and some recently burned over areas.

Fairly soon we were tracking through dense chaparral.

       On the higher areas we could see the Santa Ynez Mountains on the horizon, and also the vast expanse of this property, waiting to be  explored.
             At the highest point we traveled the Burton Mesa stretches back several miles. 
Beautiful Spanish moss hanging from an ancient oak beside the trail.
In places where the trail was eroded a rather crude but effective system of planks have been sunk into the dirt, causing the water to eddy around them when the rains come. A bit of an obstacle course, no worries for a mule.

As our path descended we came to the upper portion of the central valley, where the Padres grew grain for the colony that developed around the Mission.

Now the ghosts of all those long ago missionaries and the indigenous peoples forced to live under their power haunt this quiet place.

A choice.... which way to turn? On the map above this was the X intersection, where we began the top loop. Tobe set off with a happy gaited rack, and the horses followed behind.

the natural landscape with mare's tail clouds in the sky above.

And sometimes it can feel as it you are transported to another State entirely, to a place with seasons perhaps.

And then back to the fragrant chaparral, where chemise and sage give up their scents as the animals push through the overgrown bushes.

At this time of year the chaparral looks scrubby, and is most inhospitable should you get a wild hair to go off a trail.
But in the spring dozens of species of flowering plants will rise up and fill these trails with bright splashes of color.

Following behind other riders through manzanita forests, often bashing our way through on the poorly maintained trails. That's the one problem with riding a big mule, often my head is far above what any trail trimmers cut for.

And then we started to curve back towards where we started, following a gravel access road.

All the animals got along well, and only one horse got a bit flustered with water crossings and ditches. But the rest of us waited patiently as that gal got things handled, and even the one rider who has been quite worried about how her green young horse would do in a group (with a Mule!) was quite pleased to find that a herd helps make a happy horse.

This is Tobe's favorite food of all time.
Arundo donax, giant cane, which was a vital building material in olden times and is a fine fodder for mules.

But today, he had to stroll on by.
There would be carrots and apples in the trailer for the ride home, so no snacking on the trail.

Then back on the valley floor we started to see the remnants of the buildings that were part of the large community that once lived here. The stones in the ground are a culvert that brought water down to the Mission. It runs quite a distance from catchbasins above.

The culverts run into and then back out of this large cistern.
And this smaller one may have been part of the vats used for tanning hides with oak galls.
I've always thought that this building was a baking oven, but it might just as easily have been a kiln.
And this pillar, standing like a Stonehenge orthostat, is a complete mystery to me.
And for now I'll leave it that way.

And then it was time for Tobe & I to bid everyone a fond farewell, with thanks for making my birthday wish come true, that I had a lovely group of riders to share a happy trail with.

We parted with promises to Meetup again soon.

"Since there is nothing so well worth having as friends, never lose a chance to make them."
------   Francesco Guicciardini
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