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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