Saturday, April 29, 2017

2017/4/29 Paramount Movie Ranch & MASH TV set, ETI

Every year Corral 22 of the Equestrian Trails organization holds a memorial ride in honor of a beloved past member.

This year we gathered at the Paramount Ranch, site of many films and TV shows produced by the Paramount Studios.

The goal this time was to find and explore the set of the 1972-83 TV series M.A.S.H. about an Army hospital in the Korean war.

A 7 mile trip, done in just under 3 hours, including a rest mid-way. Altitude gain 393 feet, difficulty moderate.

The movie ranch is located in the picturesque Malibu mountains.

In order to ride the trails we first had to cross over the famous Mulholland Highway.

Built in the 1920s, it is now a racing ground for motorcycle and sport car enthusiasts who vie to clock the fastest times while navigating "the snake" of a skills-testing course.

In 2013 Popular Mechanics wrote about it:
"It's a picturesque, diverse, long ribbon of road that starts in Calabasas, north of the San Fernando Valley, and runs 30 miles along the backbone of the Santa Monica mountain range all the way to the coast. ... The road is packed with some challenging curves, sweeping views .... and... soon the road gets tight and technical."

As you can well imagine this need for speed is not particularly compatible with 3mph one-horse travel, and even asking the gearheads to pause at the stop sign for our group to cross the street to access the other side is a test of their short patience.

After the ride I navigated it out to Kanan to visit a friend, and what I thought would be a short-cut turned out to be running a gauntlet of bikers intent on making their new time record, who would pass on blind curves, much to my dismay. I won't be taking a mule trailer on that road again.

 Next we walked through the valley where the film The Yearling starring Ronald Reagan was filmed in 1946.
Reagan bought a section of this land and had a ranch here from 1957-67. The remaining buildings are this stable and barn, seemingly not being used except as a parking lot for park personnel.
There are plans for a memorial Ronald Reagan Equestrian Campground at Malibu Creek State Park but as of yet no ground has been broken or changes to the buildings.

The photo below shows Ronnie and Nancy riding there in 1958.
Once past the valley we turned into the mountains, and the dramatic landscape that was the backdrop to so many childhood Westerns immediately begins to captivate the senses. Close to the trail black sage grows in abundance, and the slopes are thickly covered with coastal chaparral plants. 
The trails are not particularly well maintained, but the wildness and lush growth after this winter's rains is small impediment to the passage of the group of riders.

It is a classic California landscape,  with the bones of the land showing on all the steep mountainsides. As we push through the sage the scent envelops us and time slows to the pace of the animals' walking.
We took a turn up a canyon and into shade and tree cover. Trees that had grown into the path and ones that had fallen in storms were a constant challenge. What might be easily passable for a human at most 6' tall can often be an annoying obstacle for someone on a 16hh mule which means my head is closer to 10' in the air. The trail up the canyon got less and less civilized. Large rocks looked more like a stream bed than a trail, and we passed a lot of off-road bike riders and hikers, all headed to the M.A.S.H. set.
Finally, we see the abandoned Korean War era vehicles that mark the spot where the TV series was filmed. A large crowd of hikers gathered at picnic tables under shade cloth
while our equestrian group checked their cell phones and took photos by the prop cars.

I stopped watching TV in 1972, so I don't have memories of this set location, but for many people it was an important deja vu experience, of the kind Southern California loves to offer.  Some people even swore they have memories of a character in the show somehow parasailing off this very mountain.
But soon it was time to turn around.
Time to take a ride through Western Town.
 This charming town is in the media DNA
of anyone who ever watched a Paramount Studios Western. Most recently it was the set for Westworld. There is something very special indeed about imaging that you have saddled up Ole Trigger and headed in to town for a snort at the saloon.
Ah, but the saloon was empty, awaiting the set designers and character actors.
So our posse lined up in front of the Mud Bug Hotel and posed for a Happy Trails memory.

I have ridden this area many times, and know I'll be back again. With 8,000 acres to explore there is always something new to discover. The National Park Service has an  ONLINE MAP
that will help anyone who wishes to make a day trip out of Los Angeles and step back in time to Old Hollywood and the Old West.

:::::::::::::   <")*)><    :::::::::::::::::::::: Pat Fish ::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Saturday, April 15, 2017

2017/4/15 Brown Ranch, Santa Ynez, SYVR

Once again the Santa Ynez Valley Riders were graciously allowed access on the private Brown Ranch in the heart of the Santa Ynez Valley wine country. Surrounded by prestigious wineries and historic ranches, this cattle ranch is a slice of the old Californio Tradition, and we were fortunate to take a spring stroll across the magnificent landscape.
In all our ride was 4.5 miles done in a 2 hour walk. We went from an altitude of 1,026' to 1,1426', in a leisurely stroll.

Our host Lance Brown met us in the meadow where we staged, and welcomed us to the ranch. About two dozen of the club members were along for the ride, and the animals were glad to be getting out and seeing landscape after such a wet winter.

             And so the trek begins.

Past blasted oaks on the hillsides, through grasslands dotted with solitary Coastal Live Oaks, sentinels of the ages, in a landscape the hand of man has touched only lightly by the introduction of cattle.

In the hundreds of years these trees have stood watch they have seen the Chumash Indians walk by on their way to the mountains, to collect piƱon nuts, chia seeds, and sacred white sage. Then the vaqueros on horseback, driving herds of cattle through from ranchos to the south all the way to the gold fields of the north, feeding the hungry miners driven by dreams of striking it rich. And now, just a few cowboys move the resident cattle from one grazing area to the next, and keep a close watch on fences that protect the valuable grape vines of the neighbors, destined to become world class wines.

And how is it that I am so fortunate as to be experiencing this very private hidden gem of a ranch? Why, all thanks to the SYVR club who gain access, and my Kentucky Mule, who is my sturdy legs as we explore the insider locations in California that clubs like the SYVR are so lucky to be invited to see.

A moment ago it was a wet winter, yet already the lush grasses are sere and giving way to summer. Their light color contrasts with the evergreen of the live oaks, highlighting the terrain with canyons and ridges where the flora responds to the availability of water and sunlight.

With the blue hazed mountains of the Los Padres National Forest in the background, the feeling of timeless beauty and extremely low population density is calming.

In just a few minutes from this tranquil place the bustling urban area of Santa Barbara will bring the traveler right back into the present day.
But not yet,
today is a stroll through the past.

Up on a ridge top several of the resident cattle gaze down upon the slowly walking group of riders. I didn't see any of the horses noticing the cows, but Tobe Mule was quite aware, with his big ears pinned in their direction and his big brain paying attention to this oddity in the environment.

Not that I would say Tobe Mule has Cow Sense, he's only worked cattle a few times and the result was more humorous than effective. But he does have Mule Sense, and I rely on it.

Next we came to a fence line and looked over into the winery next door.  A tidy and controlled contrast to the natural world we have been walking through.
And from an elevated point we look out across the valley to the sea, the source of the vital mists and cooling breezes that have allowed this region to gain world renown for the quality of the wines produced under the Santa Ynez Valley AVA, granted in 1983, an American Viticultural Area of 67 square miles. It is part of the larger Central Coast AVA, and contains the greatest concentration of wineries in Santa Barbara County.
Just before the end of the ride we came to this idyllic spot, eucalyptus trees surrounding a little lake. After hours in the sun this was a welcome sight, and we stood in the shade a little while letting the animals cool off.

Of course, cows are no fools when it comes to comfort, they were there already.

And so we moseyed back to the ranch, and another day in the saddle was completed.
Thanks to the hospitality of the Browns, for a lovely afternoon well spent.

"I never said all actors are cattle; what I said was all actors should be treated like cattle."
                                                                          -   Alfred Hitchcock
I paint from the top down. From the sky, then the mountains, then the hills, then the houses, then the cattle, and then the people.
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I paint from the top down. From the sky, then the mountains, then the hills, then the houses, then the cattle, and then the people. Grandma Moses
Read more at:
I paint from the top down. From the sky, then the mountains, then the hills, then the houses, then the cattle, and then the people. Grandma Moses
Read more at: