Friday, November 1, 2019

2019/11/1 Rancho Oso to Upper Oso Canyon

            Upper Oso Canyon above the Santa Ynez River

After a FULL YEAR OFF, healing up from an accident, today
I was finally able to get back on my mule and ride!
What an utter delight.

Four riders did 6.51 miles in 3.21 hours

Tobe got to step out for the first time in his new bespoke Australian saddle made for us by Colin Dangaard.

I admit that after a year of anticipation I didn't know if I'd be struggling with any PTSD issues, but happily Tobe Mule acted like he'd been ridden last week, no attitude adjustment necessary, and the Aussie saddle has special features that enhance rider safety and gave me an extra boost.

So I reactivated the Horse & Mule Trail Riders in the 805 MeetUp
and a crew of 4 women was assembled, riding 2 mules and 2 quarter horses, to stroll up into the Upper Oso canyon.

Because there were several active forest fires blowing smoke into the county, the air was very hazy as we drove up to Rancho Oso.
 But once on the other side of the coastal mountain range the air was much clearer.    

Staging out of Rancho Oso gives us the security of knowing our vehicles are protected, and we have direct access to Los Padres National Forest trails.
The haze on the mountains was quite noticeable, but not a reason to stay in civilization. It was time to walk on the wild side.

Walking through the Rancho Oso grounds we enjoyed observing the stands of opuntia prickly pear cactus and the rock formations on the sides of the trails.
But when we came to the only safe crossing, where the Arroyo Burro Trail crosses the Santa Ynez River, there was no sparkling water. Just a mass of reeds in sandy mud, one of the few seasonal markers we have here in this Land of Climate. This river flows to the sea but at dry seasons goes underground for long stretches.

Our route took us across Paradise Road to the mouth of the canyon, and thankfully we saw very few vehicles on it.

The baked grass is a constant reminder of the fragility of the environment, and the fires burning both above and below us and filling the news are always in mind.

To be able to access the natural world so close to the city is an amazing opportunity.
There are several private cabins still up in the forest lands, grandfathered in, and we stopped to admire this manzanita bush in front of one that has collapsed or been pulled down since the last time I rode here last year.
Finally we got to the end of the canyon, but the Upper Oso campground was largely deserted. Many of the roads had washed away apparently in last winter's rains, so the campground I last saw filled with happy families was empty.
The sacred stone circle was overgrown with weeds.

But the ancient boulders stood sentinel with their coats of lichen.

The only other people we saw out on the trail were a bunch of high school students who had trailered their horses up from Ojai to escape the Maria Fire ashy air.
They got to the water trough before we did, so our thirsty equines waited their turn patiently.
Is Tobe Mule happy to be back in the wilds after a year standing around waiting for me to heal up? I think so. I like to think these adventuring forths are as much of a relaxing break from the ordinary for him as they are for me.

The MeetUp is important to me, because it gives me companions on the trail and I appreciate the opportunity to share the experience with others.

Jamie came on Woody, a registered quarter horse paint, who was a steady presence on the trail.

This is the Japanese kanji tattoo for "Free Spirit" I did on Jamie several decades ago.

 Jo brought her home-grown quarter horse mule JohnBoy.

And this is a portrait tattoo of JohnBoy I recently did for her.


Kelley rode her quarter horse mare Winnie, the only female among the equines.

This is a tattoo of Odin's 8-legged horse Sleipnir with a female rider that I did for Kelley..

And of course there's Tobe the Rocky Mountain Mule and I, so pleased to be leading the group.

It is NOT a prerequisite of the MeetUp that riders have a tattoo by me.... but this time it turned out everyone did! How splendid for me to be friends with my clients, and share other good times with them aside from ink.

Finally, it was time to turn around and head back to the staging area and share some lunch before departing for the drive back home. The fields that were lush with grass this spring are now dried up, potential tinder for fire, and their tufts look like Tobe's forelock, blowing in the wind.

As always we leave our adventuring with lifted spirits and intentions to meet up again soon for another trail on another day.

"Life is a great adventure or nothing."      - Helen Keller