Friday, November 22, 2019

2019/11/22 Live Oak Leisure Life

A beautiful Fall day, perfect weather for a MeetUp ride, so we headed to Live Oak Camp on the border of Lake Cachuma for a 2.5 hour ride, going 5.78 miles. We climbed from an altitude of 749 to 1,122, an ascent of 373, and the highest point equaled today's date 11/22. Because Tobe Mule led most of the way we achieved his preferred mule pace of exactly 2.2mph.

In the map above the track we took is superimposed on a Google Earth Map that dates from the drought, so the lake is green with grass growing in mud, but we were delighted to see that the lake is now almost full and sparkling in the light.
This is a rcent aerial view of the lake, which was formed in 1953, when the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation built the Bradbury Dam, which is over 200 feet. The lake, which takes its name from a local Chumash Indian word, covers 3,100 acres.

The adventure begins when we leave the staging area where the rigs are parked and head off onto the trail. We all have our annual or day passes, and thus are granted access to the many miles of trails.
Here we are crossing the Santa Ynez River. We have had no rain in months, and this river goes underground when there is no rain.

A lot of the trails have been significantly widened since I was last here, cleared for the passage of fire fighting equipment in the recent conflagrations.

At the top of the first ridge above the river we turned to look back at the coastal range. That this wild beauty exists a mere 30 minutes above Santa Barbara never ceases to amaze me.

Here is today's crew, with the chalk mountain behind.

From the left, Sandy the palomino looks calm and ready, Mosca the thoroughbred is asserting her attitude, and Einstein is filled with wonder at how much more interesting life is outside the arena.

And then there's Tobe Mule and I, on our third ride after a year off.

SO grateful to have companions on the trail, to be healthy enough to be back out in nature and casting good shadows and leaving good tracks.

This is the first view of Lake Cachuma, and after so long in drought conditions what a sight it is to see.

By this point we are almost up to the level of the chalk hill, the white face of which is always a recognizable map coordinate.

But this is not a place to get lost easily. It was a valley and now it is a lake, and all trails lead to the water.

I always like to take commemorative portraits of the people I ride with, so here is Kathy on Sandy, a well mannered gentleman gelding on the trail.

And here is Jo on Einstein,  a barrel riding horse who is unaccustomed to trail riding and I think is enjoying this whole new side of life immensely.

And then there's Ms Mosca, the Horse Fly. She's almost impossible to photograph without showing how she challenges her rider. Let's just say she keeps Jamie on her toes and often acts like her thoroughbred blood is revved up to a much higher RPM.

And Tobe Mule and I, happy to be the leaders of this group in our wanderings through the landscape.

As the trail twists and turns we continue to get glimpses of the lake below.

Here the trail splits and we opt to head out onto the flat grassland, hoping to catch a glimpse of the mare band living wild.

When I started riding 15 years ago this was a mighty dead tree. Now it is little more than a hollow shell, riddled with woodpecker holes.

The property is filled with dead oaks, casualties of the drought. But many continue to survive valiantly.

And there they are, the bucking horse mares. 

Poor Tobe, he begins to tremble when he sees them. I know, he wants to run away and join the circus, live wild and free as they do.

More wild girls......
oh the torture of being a domesticated gelding mule!

He thinks his deep mule thoughts.

His eyesight and sense of smell are so keen, I have to think he enjoys these forays into the natural world.

Back in his paddock at home, nothing much changes. Out here, the unknown awaits.
Referring back to the map above, at this point we were at the edge of the dry grass valley, and turned to the left to go as close as possible to the lake.
And there it is, with the red line of floats back in place. When last I was here that was all mud flats.

 Out on the water was a large flock of long-necked birds. I thought they were geese, but the general consensus seemed to be that they were cormorants.

Then I had a hankering to walk across the grassland and not follow a trail. There are deer and cow trails, here and there, and it was nice to just walk across landscape and let the animals pick their own way.

But Tobe alerted to a gruesome find.

Not much left of one of the wild horses.

And the skull lying nearby.

Nothing like the reality of death to make you savor the moment and being alive, eh?

It was time to turn around and head back to the rigs, to a lunch and conversation before heading back off the mountain and resuming our civilized lives.

"When you're young, you're very reckless.Then you get conservative. Then you get reckless again."
                                           -  Clint Eastwood

When you're young, you're very reckless. Then you get conservative. Then you get reckless again. Clint Eastwood
When you're young, you're very reckless. Then you get conservative. Then you get reckless again. Clint Eastwood

Sunday, November 17, 2019

2019/11/17 La Purisima Mission MeetUp Ride

On a pleasant sunny Sunday three MeetUp gal riders met at La Purisima Mission just outside of Lompoc, CA, to go for a short ride.

All of us being mature ladies of a certain age we get the bargain price of $5 to park our rigs and ride whichever of the 25 miles of trails on the mission grounds we choose.

Today as you can see on the map we ambled off to the right of the mission buildings, then straight up the property boundary. Up as far as the base of the mesa, then down through a canyon and back along the central valley.

We were out for 1.5 hours and went 3.12 miles, with an altitude gain of about 300'.
 Tobe being a bit out of shape, having been off the trail for a year, complained a bit about setting off up a hill. But being a mighty mule, he conquered the test.

This place is known for being largely sand, which makes it a favorite for riding in wet weather.

It is also used by competitive endurance riders, as going through the sand builds up the muscles on their mounts.

But at the top of the hill I chose to veer over to the slightly less traveled path, through eucalyptus trees and brush.
Easier for the animals, and shaded.

In every trail ride there are moments when the humans are humbled by how much more acute the senses of equines are.

WAY up on the horizon several deer were grazing in the trees.

Tobe will stop and alert by leveling his ears forward with interest, and we mere humans had to squint and look and finally see the deer, who had frozen still as camouflage.

Can YOU see the deer in this view? Tobe certainly can.
Tracking along the straight line of the fence, every so often the view opened up to the horizon and showed the valley below and the mesa above.
The chaparral was extremely dry, and the trail very poorly maintained. For long stretches we were bashing through overgrown manzanita, toyon and chamise.

This beautiful old oak tree is hung with Spanish moss, as are many on this property.
 Jo asked if I would take a portrait of her on her mare Einstein in front of it. The horse came from Cal Poly and Jo wasn't quite sure how she'd do on the trail, having been bred (out of Highbrow Cat !) for barrel racing. But happily she was a well behaved trail citizen.

From this elevation we could turn and look out across the valley toward the town of Lompoc. The mountains on the horizon run down to the ocean.

But up and up we went, following the sandy track up towards the mesa.

This vineyard has been planted since the last time I rode this trail.

 This is where the chemise seemed to be exploding. The white tufts of flowers would fly up into the air as we brushed our way through down the trail. Happily Tobe & I were in front.

But enough was enough of that hot sun. We stopped for a rest under some trees and I suggested we make a turn to go back toward the starting point.

All the animals, who were doing all the work, were happy to go down a shady canyon.

On some hillsides stands of opuntia cactus stood, filled with ripening fruits.

Then the canyon trail came out onto the central flat valley, where several ruins stand as testimony to the years when the padres enslaved the Chumash and "civilized" them. This was the water cistern that captured water from a spring, then channeled it down the valley to the main mission buildings.

Good old Tobe, he waits patiently whenever I announce a "photo op" and try to capture his viewpoint.

We followed the stone irrigation ditch down along the side of the valley, avoiding the main road which had many walkers.

 By this time Tobe was getting pretty thirsty, but what little water there was in the stone ditch was filled with larvae and tadpoles.

There is an eerie sense here on this property of all the lives lost and the culture destroyed. The land holdings once covered 470 square miles.

Originally it was named La Misión de La Purísima Concepción de la Santísima Virgen María, or The Mission of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. This open valley would have been a massive organized grain and vegetable growing area.

I think this is the ruin of a kiln.

Jamie asked for this lovely display of fall foliage as the background of a portrait of her and her sassy ex-racetrack mare La Mosca, the Horse Fly.

And I chose this old mission building as my backdrop.

Then it was time for a picnic lunch for the humans while the animals dried off and rested.

Then Tobe and I could load up in the Suburban and BrenderUp and head for home an hour south.

A successful ride in beautiful country, good companions, steady mounts, and just enough trail time to exercise the animals but not exhaust them. Tobe and I both are just happy to be out and about, and grateful for people and animals to share the experience with us.

“Stand Fast, Stand Firm, Stand Sure, Stand True.”
Harrison Gray Otis 
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