Two days before Hallowe'en the Equestrian Trails Alliance organization Ride Nipomo offered members the opportunity to ride on the YellowJacket Ranch in the Huasna Valley, East of Arroyo Grande, California. I joined the club just to take advantage of this rare opportunity.
I had been invited to come by Stormy and her Awesome Arab Pico, and she promised to lead us across the landscape safely.
Also my pal Ben from Boston was in town for a photo shoot and I thought he might enjoy a hike in "the Other California," the one hidden away on private ranches, unseen from the highways, inhabited by cows and country folk.
He was ready !
And off we go, with our leader in blaze orange confidently setting the pace.
Pico is an endurance Arab, and I know he could fly these trails, but he and his mistress kindly adapt to Mule Pace when we are with them.
We went a distance of 4 miles in 2 hours, which may not seem like far but it was often very very steep !!!
But no resting on our half-way accomplishment, there was one more push to attain the top.
Pico, being an Arabian, practically dances up hills.
Tobe, being a mule, puts his shoulder to the wheel and conquers the task with slow and steady power.
And the stalwart Stormy and Perky Pico got us here!
What is utterly unfair is that there is no way to convey in photographs how nearly vertical some of these trails are.
I've been battling a bit of PTSD after a mule wreck a few years back that injured me, and steep drop-offs and vertiginous trails have been a challenge. But today I really felt like any consciousness of fear is my friend, making me aware of living in the moment, and I was utterly calm. I knew if I kept myself centered my mule would get me through, and he was seeing Pico up ahead of us conquering the trail, so no doubt he could too.
We stopped at a respectful distance, watching them watch us.
The pink ribbon on the bush was put there as a marker for the riders, letting them know this is a main trail throughout the ranch that will loop them back to the starting point.
Up on the crest of a hill appear some riders.
The ride was more of an opportunity than an organized event. Three dozen Ride Nipomo members RSVP'd, and then took off in small groups to explore, with a promise to rendezvous in 3 hours for lunch.
We had one final hurdle to cross. We came to a stream with mud that looked very boggy. Pico was not sure it was safe, but Tobe and I determined that the area to the far right looked safe to us and Tobe strolled across it carefully, placing each foot with great deliberation.
Then Pico, being a horse, decided that getting this over with as quickly as possible was the best approach to danger and ran through it.
And then the ride came to a close
And we tracked back to where the trailers were parked.
I end the day with thanks to the ranch land owners for their generosity for allowing us to visit their property, to Ride Nipomo for the opportunity, to Stormy for alerting me to the event and being our guide, to Ben for being a good right hand and able conversationalist and traveling companion, and to the mighty Tobe the IncrediMule, for being my legs.
Happy Hallowe'en !!!!