Saturday, October 10, 2020

2020/10/10 The Live Oak Good Life MeetUp

 In the Autumnal Glow looking out over the Live Oak Camp trails, toward the coastal mountain range.

And here are two Tobes looking up to that same chalk cliff face from the river bottom below, wondering what route to take for our ride today.

I wasn't up for an ambitious ride today, the goal was just to get me away from the computer. We crossed the Santa Ynez River, now in the dry phase...

and proceeded down the trail with Jamie, Noe and Deborah.

Then the drama started.

We turned up the southern trail, into the brush, and above us appeared a stag. Not a tremendously big one, but pretty impressive for a mule deer. 

We all stood and watched it. I started to try to take a photo and then "Marcos, he go crazy!"

Noe's Andalusian/Azteca stallion Marcos apparently wasn't paying attention, because all of a sudden he saw that stag and had a meltdown. He started to rear up, whirl, and demonstrate his "airs above the ground" maneuvers.

Tobe Mule hadn't been bothered by the stag, but this display of equine freak-out was too much for him, so he spun around and ran down the hillside trail back the way we'd come. I pulled him up after maybe 30 yards, and turned him to face the danger. At that point he calmed, and we watched as Noe rode out the tantrum.

Here I insert a testimonial for the custom saddle made for me by Colin Dangaard, an Australian saddle with poleys both in front of and behind my legs. They absolutely kept me securely in the saddle when Tobe spun, and I was never at risk for falling. Whooooeee!

After that thrill

all the rest of the ride went smoothly.

At the top of the hill overlooking the lake we stopped for my tradition of portrait-taking.

Noe on Marcos, every inch the war horse.
Jamie on Mosca, the avid thoroughbred.
  Deborah on Carbone the Peruvian Paso
And of course Tobe Mule and I, captured having just demonstrated our skill at opening and closing gates.
We continued out onto the meadow, and then I called it a day. Noe and Deborah went on and rode more miles on the lake edge, while Jamie and I turned back to back-track our trail.
BUT who else had been there?
Oh dear.
Thankfully we decided to act as though the bear had been chasing a deer down this sandy trail in the recent past, and was not within worrying distance, and so we continued on back to the trailers and lunch.

This tree draped in Spanish moss with a huge colony of poison oak crawling up the trunk made a properly October-themed spooky sight.

But I'm not scared.

Not with me, my mule and his shadow.



(We are but dust and shadow.)” 

― Horace, The Odes of Horace.

######### FIN::: PAT FISH ########

Saturday, September 26, 2020

2020/9/26 MeetUp Reconvenes at La Purisima Mission

La Purisima Mission on the outskirts of present day Lompoc, CA, offers a wealth of riding trails and occasional glimpses of the past in the form of preserved buildings that date to the days of the California Missions. 

Nine riders assembled on a breezy day with hot sunshine, a fine combination for a stroll past the Mission grounds, up the central valley to the Mesa and then back down through sandy trails.

Sometimes the trail passes through ancient oak forests, hung with Spanish moss and sentinel to the passage of time.

Other times we traveled down access road trails, many of which are bordered by stone aqueducts that served to channel water from around the property down to the fields where food was grown.


Up the road to the Mesa, traveling at 3MPH, the speed of the Mission Days.

Overhead a kettle of vultures circled. 

Not sure where there might have been something dead.... and we did NOT slow down.

We descended from the Mesa on the sandy trails through the chaparral, very dry now, encouraging the animals to maintain social distancing so as not to choke on the airborne dust.

And, as is my habit and pleasure, I took portraits of everyone who participated.

Stormy Knight and Pico her Arabian endurance star

Jamie Buse and her Mosca the Horse Fly Thoroughbred

Jo Benko and JohnBoy Mule

Noe Alvares and Marcos the Andalusian stallion

Roxy Douglass-Wolfrom on her mustang

McKennet Douglass-Wolfrom on her quarterhorse

Barbara Winter on her Paso

Mr Winter on his new Rocky Mountain horse

and of course
Pat Fish and Tobe the Rocky Mountain Mule

A fine time was had by all.

Inscription on Mr. John "The Duke" Wayne's headstone: 

"Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. 
Comes in to us at midnight very clean. 
It's perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. 
It hopes we've learnt something from yesterday."

### FIN ###

Sunday, June 14, 2020

2020/6/14 Flag Day at Live Oak Camp

An easy stroll on a sunny Sunday, first a loop on the left around the Live Oak Campground area and then out to the right to walk along the boundary of the Rancho San Fernando Rey.
All rides begin with Tobe Mule lining himself up underneath the winch to have his saddle lowered onto his back. He has a snack and patiently waits for the straps and buckles, cinches and britchen, to all be tightened just so.
I suggested we walk up to the campground and see what sort of condition it is in now. I've been there when as many as 300 of the Back Country Horsemen were camped out there under the oak trees, and several times a year it is rented by the Lucidity Festival and the Santa Ynez Chumash Inter-Tribal Pow-Wow.
But in these pandemic times, it is empty.
As expected, it is quite unkempt.  A large oak tree has collapsed across the perimeter roadway, and many other trees are now snapped off trunks making an effort at regrowth.
With no humans around, the wildlife has returned to residence. Can you see who Tobe sees in the road ahead?

A mother deer and two fauns scampered across the road then stood still waiting to see what we would do next. Not to worry, we're just passing through.
Looking down onto the river is a pleasant scene.
And turning to look up into the mountains the chalk hill cut off stands out stark against the chaparral.
At the end of the camp area is the arena, where in bygone days the Rancho Vistadores would have their rodeos before setting off on their annual trek up to Solvang. Now most of the route they used to follow has been filled by the Lake.
The buildings stand ready, the old performance stage and the covered chow hall.
But with all the campsites vacant it was a bit desolate.
One field was inexplicably filled with what looked like blocks of sod turf.
When we had seen all there was to see, Jamie on Mosca and Noë on Woody turned around and we headed down.
We saw the camp host's mobile home at the corner of the acreage, but no sign that anyone is in residence.
Back down the road to the place where we park the rigs, back to the river level. The animals thought they were done for the day. But no.
We did let the animals play in the river a bit, then we headed off to walk the fenceline of the Rancho San Fernando Rey.

Tobe likes seeing animals in the landscape.

Even silly cows.

The fence that divides the private ranch from the county property shows the effect of intensive grazing. We wade through a sea of wild oats while the cows lie on stubble.
The animals would like to mutiny, cast off their bonds of servitude and eat their way to the horizon. But no.
Unlike the bovines contented with their cud, equines have places to go and things to see.
Jamie's Mosca will never be convinced that life is not a race she must win.
Jamie's Woody with Noë riding is not a competitive fellow, but he has a crush on the black mare and willingly follows wherever she goes.
 And then there's Tobe Mule and I, we just like to go for a walk and see what there is to see.
The end goal of this route was this plateau, from which you look across the San Marcos Golf Course at Hwy 154 snaking along. So many thousands of people drive that road every day, so few experience this landscape at the 2.2mph speed of a mule.
Then it was time to turn around and wend our way back to the starting point, have a picnic lunch, then return to civilization.
One last chance for the equines to cool off in the river, then their working day was done.

As Janis Joplin said:
"Being an intellectual creates a lot of questions and no answers"

Quite possibly time spent in nature simply being in the moment is the antidote.

#####  FIN  #####