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