Saturday, September 9, 2017

2017/9/9 Los Flores Ranch Park

A lovely hot California day, and a chance to explore a new place I'd never been. But it did not begin accurately. I had an invitation to ride with a docent who knows the property well, but did I pay attention when she clearly instructed me to get off the 101 at exit 161? No, of course not. I set the park address I found online into my iPhone and trusted technology, got off at exit 165, and proceeded to the wrong entrance. Represented on the map above by the top right corner. As you can see, I should have been at the bottom left.
That caused an hour delay, so Tobe snacked and I combed out all the tangles in his tail, and I watched people arrive to go hiking, and waited, and finally when I gave up hope I started back to the freeway whereupon I returned to cell service and my phone pinged with the messages telling me where I should have been.
I could have stayed cranky, but I adjusted my attitude and proceeded on to the correct spot, and on to a fine ride.
My escort and her athletic Arabian use this as their training ground for endurance rides, but were kind to go at mule speed today, so in 2 hours we did a scenic distance of either 5.28 or 6.12 miles, depending on whether you are looking at my GPX track or hers. It seems hers is calibrated more generously, her tracker says she has ridden over 3,300 miles in the 3 years she and her perky Pico have been together!
The Los Flores Ranch Park is 1,778 acres (nearly 2.8 square miles) located about 8 miles South of Santa Maria, California, in the Solomon Hills.  
All information about the Park is available online HERE.

This is the utterly unremarkable exit 161 off highway 101. Gateway to a slice of Old California, a place I intend to explore at other seasons of the year to watch the now dry grassland spring to life with flowers when the rains return.

This is the staging area. Plenty of room for any size equestrian transport vehicles, tie rails, a mounting block and a huge metal shed with picnic tables inside for after-ride social hours.

And if I am lucky I will be able to ride again with today's guide extraordinaire.

Her Arabian gelding is decked out in the latest in bright biothane tack, and she is every inch the endurance rider.
She is presently preparing for a 50 mile ride next month, and so is out on the trails as often as possible.

 Tobe and I are strolling rubberneckers by comparison, and she was kind enough to slow down and wait for us whenever we lagged behind.

We did a big loop, as the map shows, and much of it followed ridge crests and gave a fine view off across the Santa Maria valley to the East.

The Park is quite new, and many of the trails we followed have been created in just the past year. The City of Santa Maria is committed to making this a multi-use recreational area, and we saw lots of orange flags set out marking where future trails would be blazed.
Arabians "drink the wind" and I'm quite sure Pico could have sped through these trails in half the time, but he was well mannered about being a mule escort.

The hills we traversed were almost entirely grass burnt to straw, with just a few tiny wildflowers here and there. The trees are Live Oaks, all looking quite healthy, and giving a stark contrast with their dark green leaves.
And here is our guide, posing in a spot where an oak spans the trail.

With the exception of 5 bicyclists and 2 hikers we had the place to ourselves, the only sound the tapping of hooves and the calls of red tailed hawks soaring above.
Tobe did all the work of course, but he's a good-natured beast and glad for a chance to leave his paddock behind and stretch his legs on a new trail.
 It is always interesting to explore a place like this, so little utilized, and then come up over a ridge and there is the highway, streaming along. This is the antidote for the pressure of urban living, the perspective on how very much of California is in fact ranch land, not populated at all.
One small obstacle before the ride was done. Looking very much like a training trial in an arena contest, a slightly wobbly wooden bridge spanned a deep crack in the earth. Neither animal gave it a moment's hesitation.

And then it was back to the trailers for a well earned lunch, and then for Tobe and I an hour's ride back to civilization. Another memory made.

"Well, certainly memory is a curious machine and strangely capricious. It has no order, it has no system, it has no notion of values, it is always throwing away gold and hoarding rubbish. Out of that dim old time I have recalled that swarm of wholly trifling facts with case and precision, yet to save my life I can't get back my mathematics. It vexes me, yet I am aware that everybody's memory is like that, and that therefore I have no right to complain."

Mark Twain   - "Three Thousand Years among the Microbes"

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