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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