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.

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Sunday, June 7, 2020

2020/6/7 Lake Cachuma Edge Trail MeetUp RideOut

A windy day and a winding trail around the edge of Lake Cachuma in the mountains above Santa Barbara. Shown here, looking toward the coastal mountain range at Arrowhead Island.

A 3 hour ride covering 6.5 miles, wind and spirits high, warm sun and beautiful landscape. A trail I had not ridden in several years, splendid views and relaxing riding.
We have our access passes,
we are tacked up and ready, and the trail begins at this gate.
Every week we ride here the water level recedes. Soon it will be underground again until the next rain.
For now Tobe Mule can still get a cool drink before setting off on our adventure.
Just for variety, today we chose the chalk hill short cut.
Then we are tempted by a choice of different trails to explore.
We opt to head out to the Bee Hole Corral and then across the valley, with a goal of seeing the trail that winds around the edge of the lake. This lightning-blasted tree is just a shell now, graffitied with woodpecker holes.
Out across the valley floor we go, and it is remarkable how much more dried the grass is in just one more hot spring week.
The high wind was moving it around us like waves in the sea.
The blasted signs are tempting but hardly informative.

We wind back and forth, going up and down canyons and then up to elevations with lake views.
The lake is man-made and dates from 1956. It serves as the reservoir for the drinking water for the City of Santa Barbara, and is just half an hour above the city. To be able to drive up here and go for a stroll with friends on companionable equines is splendid, and the lake adds so much to the experience as it reveals itself in stages.
Just a few years ago in a drought phase this was all a mud expanse all the way out to Arrowhead Island. Now it is a real treat to see the sparkling water once again.
There are sight-seeing and fishing boats in the water, looking for eagles or hoping for a catch. I remember coming here as a little girl with my adopted father and catching crappie fish so tiny but so exciting on a Zebco reel. It seemed like Harley's goal was to get himself tangled up in the line and then sit back in the boat and enjoy the floating, while I caught our dinner. I think I loved most saying the naughty word crappy.
I know, many people like lush forests, but for me, this is MY landscape. To be able to travel through fragrant coastal sagebrush and look up and see the very bones of the land in the heights, centauring along on my sturdy mule. Not a bad way to sit out a pandemic.
Taking an iPhone panoramic on the back of a mule isn't easy!
Fortunately Tobe is a very indulgent creature, and knows he has a part to play in our blog, and holds his ears just right as I do the "photo ops."
 Mules don't know or care about civil unrest, they don't pay attention to political parties, even though one does have as their symbol their half-relative the donkey. Mules are in the moment.

And I will acknowledge that our trail rides hold a rich buffet for him, much more of interest than any views. This yucca in full bloom could have provided delicious blossoms, but better to leave it for all to admire.

Ahhhh gak. 
As I typed that a friggin' tick fell out of my hair onto the keyboard.
 That's one small problem with going out into the woods. 
Fortunately he had not yet begun to feed ..... and I guess I could have taken his photo before I squashed him, but NO. Just NO. 
every tiny itch in my hair will have me scratching 
like one of my Irish Wolfhounds with fleas.

Now, where were we.
The next thing that happened was the massive dead tree blocking the trail.
Here we are, at a conundrum.
And I include this photo because the view of Woody's big white quarter horse butt 
 is the sort of photo you'd see if you look at most trail riding blogs. 
"If you're not the lead horse, the view never changes."

Woody says "Hey Tobe, what are we going to do now?"
We sauntered over to assess the situation.
Not good.
There was a diversion that involved an extremely steep drop that the Charros among us went down no problema,
but Tobe and I looked at it, he balked, and I let him.
I called it, it just didn't seem like a day on which I needed to prove I could catapult down an incline like that.
So that was OK with everyone, we turned around and started back.
And as everyone who rides knows, nothing puts a spring in an equine's step like turning back toward the trailhead.
Back into the valley, following the yellow grass road.
But wait, we are not alone!

Rigo went off into the tall grass, off the trail, and next thing we knew a little group of does and fauns started darting across the road.
Can't take that guy anywhere. If he isn't at a rodeo chasing cows he'll make do with whatever is available.
So I guess that means it is time to introduce the cast of characters for the ride.
Rigo on his mare Mariposa.
and Noë on Rigo's horse Hurache. Usually on a ride Noë is a puff of trail dust way ahead, and this photo seemed a better representation of the energy than one standing posed.
Jamie on her solid citizen Woody.
Eric on his well behaved Renegade
Eric's wife Michelle riding with us for the first time, on Maximus
And last Tobe Mule and I.
 And then off we went
back down the chalk hill
Back through the flowers and grasses
Back across the river
and settled in under an oak tree by the rigs for picnic lunch.

No animals got spooked, no one fell off, and a good time was had by all.

"God has granted us this respite."
---- Virgil

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