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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Usually it is filled with local and migrating birds, but today it was silent.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
But not here anymore.
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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