Saturday, October 6, 2018

2018/10/6 Elwood Mesa and the Devereux slough

A beautiful sunny day and a triumvirate of riders took the opportunity to explore the recent changes to the terrain around the University of California at Santa Barbara campus.
We rode for 2 hours and covered 5.5 miles, glad to be out in the fresh air.

Every ride starts with the tacking up. The animals ride naked to the meeting point, and then patiently wait while they get saddled and bridled and readied.

Tobe takes longer, mules have significantly more gear, so I appreciate that my riding companions are patient with us.
And Tobe, in turn, is patient with me.
I genuinely think he enjoys exploring around, and also my mentors assure me that he forgets nothing. So he remembers this trail quite as clearly as I do.

But oh my gosh,
last time I rode out from here this was a big open field leading up to a golf course.
Now it is crammed full with cheap clapboard housing.
A distressing loss of open space.
And almost immediately we start seeing the signs.
This was a beautiful trail meandering through the eucalyptus grove, connecting to the Monarch Butterfly Preserve. Now it has been deemed too dangerous to travel through. The years of drought have taken their toll on the trees, and rather than selectively thin and trim them the Government has chosen to forbid public access.
And the massive Venoco oil and gas storage tanks are still here, even though it was my understanding that they had withdrawn from processing oil here and were paying for the restoration of the damaged wetlands.

Piles of materials tarped off and left as rubbish still hold puddles from Wednesday's rainfall,
in an area that was actively being replanted with native perennials when last I was here.
And oh my gosh, the golf course has been utterly stripped.  No grass, no trees, no brightly dressed men zipping around in electric carts.
It is now a desolate wasteland.
The trunks of the eucalyptus that used to shade the periphery are lined up alongside the road, and the only signs of life within are the tracks of machinery moving through the dirt.
On the ocean side of the road there are signs forbidding and limiting entry, but I see little evidence of the reintroduction of native plants that was so in progress just a few years ago.

And this

sign is beyond pathetic.

Like the old joke sign "PLAN AHEAd". 

Presumably a college educated person scrawled this.

We saw no bees. Nor do I fear them.
But ah, the Devereux slough.
Usually it is filled with local and migrating birds, but today it was silent.
A lovely natural place, giving a respite and visual refreshment to the many people we saw walking, biking, pushing baby strollers.
Coming up and walking toward the University and Isla Vista we saw a field blooming with poppies, at the entirely wrong season of the year.
Tobe looked puzzled too.
Living outdoors as he does, he is much more responsive to the changes in weather patterns, and usually I can predict what the winter weather is going to be like by how much hair coat he prepares. On the observational hair-o-meter I now predict a warm winter. He has not yet begun to change into his winter coat.
Next we walked past the rather charmingly dilapidated UCSB Stables. I thought at one point of stabling Tobe there, I qualify as an alumna, but made other choices.

This is the Red Barn, which in my days at UCSB was the setting for concerts, revelries, and absurd performances.

Now it sits desolate, surrounded by manure piles.

It has been cordoned off, and no attempt is being made to preserve or repair it.

Sad to see another bit of history collapsing into ruin.
Then we stride on toward the cliffs and the beach overlook.
On the left is the edge of the student community Isla Vista, and far out on the path the first of the lads carrying surfboards that would present a challenge for Tobe.
The self-preservation instinct of mules is legendary, and today was the day he learned not to spook at surfboards.
On the horizon is one of the oil platforms, and on the sea below surfers hang ten.

At this point every time we saw surfboards Tobe would stop and take time to assess the threat.

He has keen eyesight, and this was a new shape and movement.
I love taking portraits of the people I ride with, it is a special gift I can give to thank them for accompanying me on adventures.
Here they are next to the Campbell Cross at Coal Oil Point Reserve, that has a knight on horseback at the bottom of the sculptured face.

This is a photo from a few years back of Tobe and I here, when the grass was greener.

This gardener popped up out of the bushes to ask what we were doing at the cross, and then pointed out something I'd never noticed before. He said the rumor is that Colonel Campbell was a Mason, and lo and behold there IS a Templar cross set in the bricks of the pillars at the entrance to what he said was once the graveyard.

There is also a very old conical dovecote built of stone, largely unremarked upon by the surfers heading for the beach below.

He said Colonel Campbell used to enjoy releasing the doves for his hunter friends to shoot.

How different times are. Nowadays we are not allowed to go onto the beach for fear of disturbing the snowy plovers.

Sad Tobe, he does love to run on the beach and enact the Black Stallion scene that all equestrians love to experience.
But not here anymore.
Like the honking geese above, we turned for home.
Another day in nature well spent, the perfect antidote for the highly detailed indoor hours that tattooing demands of me.

"I'm your biggest fan,
I'm coming home."
- Joni Mitchell 

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