Saturday, September 16, 2017

2017/9/16 Rice Canyon Trail in Ojai

   
A ride in Ojai, the Valley of the Moon.
The Ventura River Preserve is a quite sensibly managed section of river bottom and adjacent canyons passing through Ojai, very close for residents to access for riding, biking, and hiking, making it a true multi-use recreation area.

Today Tobe Mule & I joined eight of the Santa Ynez Valley Riders for a 2 hour 4.7 mile stroll up Rice Canyon and then back down Wills Canyon. Extremely easy riding.

 Tobe and I are good citizens on the trail, obeying the rules of the road.
Even no martinis.
Frankly, Tobe has never even seen me tipsy. It just wouldn't DO to have him think I was less than his eternally capable leader.


No fishing!
And the Rice Canyon sign quite clearly warns we on 4-footeds that off-road mountain bikers will be sharing the trails with us.
Fortunately today all of the people we encountered on wheels were nice, and were willing to go by slowly so there were no major equine panics. Tobe Mule can hear a bike's tread on dirt a city block away, and will flip an ear and track the sound...... so I turn him to face it and we have no problems.




The first obstacle on our course is the riverbed, entirely dry at this season and filled with tumbled round rocks as far as the eye can see, evidence of the winter storms that have washed them down from the mountains.

Sure footed goes the mighty mule.


As we come up out of the river we hit the Fish Diversion, built to allow spawning runs to reach a lake far upstream.


No horses, yes fish, no mention of mules.


At this dry end-of-summer season there is clearly no water and the grasses are tinder dry. Looming above on the horizon are the Topa Topa mountains, a wonderful orienting landmark. Pretty hard to get lost on any of these trails, because climbing to a ridge will always give you a view of the Topa Topas and instantly you know where you are.



Fairly soon we are under the canopy of oaks in dappled shade, and moving through the forest.









Silly horses, can't they read the COWS ONLY spray painted on the trough?




Well, no worries,  after an uphill walk on a warm day, all the equines had a drink.

 
Soon we came to the high point on the Rice Canyon Trail, 
and looked out over the valley to the West.

And THIS is the BEST panoramic I have ever taken from mule back.
Almost always there are blurry bits as horses fidgit, but not this time!
Of course give credit to the mule, Tobe WAS standing perfectly still, glad for a bit of a breather after climbing up to this point.


There are gates in the preserve, ostensibly to contain cattle in certain sections.

And our Trail Boss dismounted and held them open for us to pass through.

Some of the best things about this riding group are sensible trail bosses, riders with solid animals, and a generous spirit of willingness to help each other.

One guest was a girl whose 18th birthday present from her grandfather was to rent her a horse and come along for the ride.
 Funny how the configurations of trees, the play of light and shade, are so engrossing and soothing as you pass through them at the steady 2.5mph of a strolling equine, and yet trying to capture the feeling in a photo is so very difficult.

 No virtual reality could match the 3D experience.




This picturesque rural bridge is clearly marked as NOT safe for equines, and the trail bends around it.









Benches like this one are scattered along the trail, often dedicated to someone who loved this place in life. We'd often come across hikers taking a breather on them.






But I don't need a break,
all I have to do is sit on my gliding gaited mule and enjoy the ride.

Well, I DO have to pay attention to the ears alerting me to things he is paying attention to, it isn't quite like letting him be the self-driving vehicle.
Coming down the Wills Canyon eventually the trees clear and we start to see the inhabited valley below.
This is looking back across the river bottom, on to farmland, not onto the cities of Ojai and Meiners Oaks. Like so much of Southern California, you can be inside the urban world and in just minutes explore the wilderness.


So lastly, we once again crossed the river bottom rock world, and proceeded back to the Oso trailhead.


Then, one last morbid moment.
On the way in I had hit a cute as a bunny little rabbit. I did. I refused to swerve and have the weight of the horse trailer pull me off kilter, so when the suicidal brush rabbit Sylvilagus bachmani ran forward into the road I let nature take its course.
Then oh my, on the way out half a dozen vultures, Aegypius Monachus, were in the road eating it. Not the condors that inhabit the peaks near here, brought back from extinction and such a proud symbol. Nope. Vultures.

I had determined NOT to let it seem like an omen, and certainly nothing untoward happened on the ride. But coming back out and heading home there it was, evidence of the mortality that waits for us all.

Marcus Aurelius “Your days are numbered. Use them to throw open the windows of your soul to the sun. If you do not, the sun will soon set, and you with it.”


- Marcus Aurelius, The Emperor's Handbook        

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