Monday, April 30, 2018

2018/4/30 Cass Winery Riverbed Exploration

The generous Cass Vineyard & Winery allows equestrians to park on their property to stage rides, so The Horse & Mule Trail Riders of the 805 MeetUp convened there for a journey up the river.

 We went 7.58 miles in 3 hours, traveling on trails alongside the sandy river bottom and inside the river where necessary. The ostensible end goal of the trek was another winery, Sculpterra, but the riders voted to turn around when we were just shy of it.... so that remains for another day.
Here's Tobe Mule all tacked up and ready to go, waiting for the other animals and humans to get organized for the ride.

The first part of the trek was a long stroll on the access roads around the acres of grape vines.

We did a very long loop up and around the cultivation.

Last time we were here the rows of vines were lush and the strips between filled with weeds. But today they are just beginning their annual growth, and the dirt between has been carefully harrowed.

The geometries of the landscape make a fun photographic challenge, and Tobe indulges me by stopping when I insist on Photo Ops.

It is exceedingly rare to be allowed access to a working vineyard like this, so while the Paso Robles area is now a respected appellation the actual day to day work of growing the wine grapes is largely a mystery.

For Tobe Mule a highlight of the day was getting to know Arnie the Fjord horse, a charming little fellow of a most curious and unique breed from the mountainous regions of Western Norway.

Walking at mule speed past the rows of grapes is similar to but entirely different from watching cultivated fields from the window of a speeding car. At 2.2mph the straight lines and the rolling hills beyond form a most pleasing panorama.
Once we left the vineyard it was time to explore the trails and the dry river bed, and I asked the gals to pose for this group shot. From left we see Tobe mule, a paint horse, buckskin quarterhorse, thoroughbred cross, Fjord, and a paint.

The name Paso Robles means a passage through oak trees, and that certainly applies to this system of informal trails that track their way alongside the river.

This is such a wonderful season to walk through this landscape, when the grass is lush and filled with tiny wildflowers. Soon it will be burnt dry for the summer.
The riverbed, or arroyo, is exceedingly wide and the sand is deep and a challenge for the animals. So we tried wherever possible to scout out trails on the sides, which meant a lot of tracking back and forth.
But in some places the passage of torrents of water over the eons has shaped the land into dramatic cliffs, so around every bend there was a possibility of a new interesting view.
But enough was enough!
We had no cell reception to check our location on a map, and I was following the verbal route told to me by a savvy pal, and it did seems like we'd been in that river for a very long time.  So we voted to turn around and head back to have a delicious lunch at the Cass restaurant and promise to MeetUp again sometime for another ride together.

“In all things of nature,
there is something of the marvelous.”
– Aristotle

############FIN########### Pat Fish <")*)><

Saturday, April 28, 2018

2018/4/28 MeetUp & LPTR ride Hope Ranch and More Mesa

A beautiful sunny Saturday and a big turnout for a trail ride, 19 equestrians from the Horse & Mule Trail Riders of the 805 MeetUp and Los Padres Trail Riders gathered at a private home to begin our adventure.

We rode for 2 hours and went 5.35 miles, a scenic stroll through the open space of More Mesa and then alongside some of the great estates of Hope Ranch.
Afterwards we had a wonderful luncheon catered by a generous hostess, and left with enthusiasm to ride together again soon.

Every trail ride starts with a cheerful meet and greet.

Old pals on new horses, former members of clubs eager to rejoin and once again ride in good company.

Many of these women rode these trails as wild teenagers together, so there was lots to catch up on now that they are retired ladies of a certain age!
The trail began with a hill, so up up we went to start our ride with a work-out for Tobe Mule and his companions.

Hope Ranch is an unincorporated suburb of Santa Barbara, set out as an equestrian community of estates on the coastline.

It has 27 miles of riding trails, mostly access passageways between the property borders. 10% of the property owners are owners of equines.
Directly adjacent to Hope ranch is More Mesa, 300 acres of coastal bluff mesa consisting of open grassland and oak woodlands preserved from development and giving the community access to valuable animal habitat and miles of informal trails.
The spring flowers are tiny, but a careful observer can see them in the grassland. This is the best possible time to ride here, before the summer heat begins to turn it into dry pale weeds.

The trails are "informal" and fairly well maintained, but a mule or horse needs to keep a sharp eye where they are stepping to avoid the ground squirrel holes.

Wild nasturtiums cover the shade underneath the oaks as we turn to follow a path alongside a drainage creek. The sounds of bird song fill the air, trilling and chirping in the branches above.

Dappled light is a nice rest for the eyes after the bright glare of the Mesa sun.

This massive oak snapped in half could have blocked the trail, but fortunately it fell in such a way as to allow careful passage through.

Out of the woodland, we doubled back on an access road at the Mesa's edge.

And once again the caravan of 19 riders went up and over the Mesa trails.

The islands are obscured by maritime haze on the horizon out to sea. But we have the pleasure of strolling across a natural grassland at the slow and steady pace of equine travel.
Then we returned to Hope Ranch, for a tour past some of the massive estates that look like hotels. They are bound by the community covenant to maintain trails alongside the roads, so that equines may pass safely without fear of the drivers of very expensive sports cars.
In most places it is effective. Not all.

At this seaside property Tobe was absolutely riveted by the sight of a pony and a donkey. How the other half lives!

Then finally we descended back toward the home of our lunch hostess, where we feasted and almost immediately the wind picked up to fulfill the "wind advisory" warning .... we got off the trail just in time.
How very fortunate we all are to be able to spend a day in perfect weather in good company on safe trails and well behaved steeds...... something few have access to. Gratitude is in order.

"Gratitude is a sign of noble souls"


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Saturday, April 14, 2018

2018/4/14 Live Oak Exploring

Gazing into the greenery that once was Lake Cachuma.

On a typically bright and sunny day, 6 horses and 1 mule and their owner members of the Los Padres Trail Riders and the Horse & Mule Meetup of the 805 set out to take a leisurely stroll from Live Oak Camp out to a Cachuma Lake overlook.
We went 5.36 miles in 2 hours, and a nice time was had by all.
The spring growth contrasted sharply with the stark land forms with steep chalk sides rising above the valley floor.
 The first wild life we saw was a coyote who came boldly out to observe us and then followed us for quite a while. Inset bottom right for detail, the iPhone is not the best at telephoto shots!
Then we saw a bit of tragedy, what I believe to have been the gnawed on skeleton of a stillborn foal. The tiny hooves could not have been more than 2.5", and it must have been the offspring of the wild bucking horses that roam freely on the property.

The roads have been greatly widened, presumably for the fire department vehicles this winter. It changes the experience when what used to be trails have become jeep tracks, and jeep-wide tracks now can accommodate fire engines.
We went as far as the picnic table that used to be a nice place to stop and rest and look out over the lake. But as the photo that started this blog shows there is no water visible from this point now.
The horse riders pose for the mule riding photographer.
And Photoshop allows me to be in both places at once.
And then we headed back.
Again the iPhone was not up to the job of recording what the eyes could see, on the opposite side of the Santa Ynez River were several Canada geese. Inset mid-photo. A welcome sight in a healthy ecosystem.
So no drama today, just a nice walk in nature.

We stand somewhere between the mountain and the ant.  
Native American (Onondaga) Proverb

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

2018/4/4 Wild Things at Live Oak

Lake Cachuma in the distance, seen from the trail near Live Oak Camp

Seven members of the Los Padres Trail Riders met up at the Live Oak Camp for a lovely spring ride.
We ended up doing 6.61 miles in 2:41 minutes on the trail, no one fell off and a good time was had by all.

Downtown Santa Barbara was fully engulfed in maritime fog, and it was a question whether over the mountains it was going to be a good day for riding.
Just over the top of San Marcos Pass, crossing Suicide Bridge and heading down into the inland wilderness, a thick blanket of fog was also visible just ahead.
 I was concerned that the parking area might be filled with participants in the Lucidity Festival, whose vendors were on site setting up. But they put aside a section of the lot for us and it was no trouble.
UNTIL we got to the river crossing. A series of metal sheets had been bolted to the riverbed, where no equine has ever had a problem crossing before. They must have been for service vehicles, but Tobe's mulish sense of self-preservation kicked in and he was NOT going to cross this amateur death trap. Everyone else waited patiently while I negotiated with him and finally he agreed to cross  outside the "bridge."

Once on the trail it was obvious that the access roads have been significantly widened and many dead trees and fallen limbs pushed off to the side.

Perhaps this widening was done during recent fires, to increase accessibility for fire engines. Tracks of big vehicles were everywhere that hoof prints used to cover the clay soil.
We are blessed to have this trail system at our doorstep, enough trails so that random exploring can always find new areas to see and old favorites to recognize.
And off on the horizon lies Lake Cachuma, greatly reduced in size right now but always lovely,
 Many of the oaks have shed limbs in the last 6 years of drought, but are making a comeback now after this winter's rains. This is our prettiest time of year, when the open grasslands are green and lush.

Under that tree are two of the wild horses that live on these acres, one with a blaze standing on the right and one lying down closer to the trunk.

I always enjoy seeing this tree when we pass by.

Like some venerable bonsai,  it has been shaped by the greater forces of its environment and gives the impression of great age.

The bark on one section is like some marvelous reptile, while another has been hollowed out.  One set of limbs appears dead, while another is putting forth spring growth.

This section of the lake is completely dry, as it has been for several years, and is now a mudflat of reeds and grasses.

A large section of oaks here all look dead, casualties of drought. It takes a very long time for oaks to achieve the massive size of so many here, and these were just not strong enough to weather the change in seasonal precipitation.
 ....But wait, what is THAT over there?
A rock?
No, a turtle!
Upon inspection he was a water turtle, and clearly was not in a good place for him.
One of the mule riders was equipped with big saddlebags, and so in a mission of mercy he was packed up and out, to be returned to the lake. It is mating season, and he took a wrong turn looking for love!

But we humans were just looking for landscape and nature appreciation.
And next thing we knew, we saw even more wildlife.
A group of young wild horses ran up to the road, checked us out, then ran back under a tree.
At that point it was decided we'd seen enough for one day, and we turned to go back to the trailers and a leisurely lunch under a shady tree.
But first we tipped a nod to this venerable landmark as we passed by, the ancient trunk that marks the Bee Hole Corral. It is covered with woodpecker holes, and when I first started trail riding out here was much bigger. But time and the elements have been weathering it away, even here in the Land of Climate.
 The view coming down the chalk hill to the river below.
And the tents and caravans of the Lucidity Festival spread out across the Live Oak Campground.
But my day was not over. Mr Turtle needed to be returned to the lake.

The river looks very nice here near the campground, but currently it dries up and goes underground between here and the lake, and where the turtle was found was a high meadow at least half a mile from any water. So I transferred him to a bucket and set off on my mission of mercy.

I went to the boat ramp, but the water was WAY far away, an insurmountable span of boulders between me and my goal. SO I admired the art installation and then asked permission from the attendant to drive down to the water "to take a photograph."

After taking a moment to reflect on his marvelous good fortune, and meet two of the neighbors, he skedaddled into the cool mud.

And so my good deed for the day was accomplished.
And Tobe Mule and I headed for home, sure to return.

All the thoughts of a turtle are turtle.     
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

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