Saturday, November 28, 2020

2020/11/28 Happy Birthday long ride at Live Oak

What better way could there be for me to celebrate turning 66 than a long trail ride at Cachuma Lake with friends. My birthday goal was to ride 10 miles, and we exceeded it! 

We convened as usual at the old favorite Live Oak Camp, on a perfect crisp Fall day.

Even just turning the MuleMobile off Hwy 154 into the Camp grounds the leaves of deciduous trees turning bright Fall colors announced the season. 

But I had a special plan. In the spirit of Johnny Appleseed, I brought along a pound of the very bright orange Eschscholzia californica, the fabulous California Poppy, our state flower. 

In my new self-appointed role as Patti Poppyseed, I determined to scatter the seeds of this prolific annual across our trail, in a place where I have never seen them blooming. And when I return in subsequent Springs, I fully expect to see them well established and know it is my work come to fruition.

But first as always we must begin the ride by fording the mighty Santa Ynez River. Because we have not yet had any rain this Fall, in what is projected to be a dry La Niña winter, there is no water at the crossing now. What water there is runs deep underneath until significant enough runoff will turn this back into a real river heading down to the lake.
When we get some altitude the lake glimmers off on the horizon,
and we climb up until we are above the familiar land forms that are the signposts for the frontcountry.
On trails that are wide enough for service vehicles we head toward the lake and the deeper trails.
There are so many choices of trails that it is possible to ride here frequently and always discover new views.
While the charro contingent sped on ahead, Tobe Mule got a chance to walk alongside his friend Mosca the feisty Thoroughbred. But perhaps he is miffed that it is apparent she only has eyes for Marcos the Andalusian.
The further we go, the more memory serves to fill in the trail ahead, and the conversation turns to "This is where we saw those bear prints..." or other invisible memory markers of rides past.
This is the perfect terrain for my poppy seed dispersal. They like to grow in "disturbed areas" such as roadsides, so as we strolled along I randomly flung pinches over into the dirt and dry grass. I can only hope that they will work their way down into cracks in the earth, avoid bugs and birds, and lie there awaiting the rain that will bring them to life and start a new cycle of growth here.

Every so often we see buzzards circling overhead, reminding us that we are indeed in wild country and something may lie dead nearby. Another cycle of life.
There are herds of wild "Bucking Horses" out in the fields, but this aged mare standing all alone looked like she'd been dumped out here to fend for herself.
Her spine was very high, showing her age, and she'd have a hard time getting enough nutrition grazing on just this parched grass. But perhaps her former owners thought it was the best they could do for her.
Across the valley was one of the bands of horses
too far to tell, but it might be a band of geldings. At this time of year if the mares are foaling they are kept over at the Lone Star Ranch on 154 to protect them from mountain lions. When the colts are old enough they return them to these pastures.
Tobe and the other animals always see so much better than we humans do, so especially when we cross the grass plain they are on high alert for the horse, deer, or cattle.
But it was time to make a decision about what trail to take, and I encouraged my pals to accompany on the big loop that would be a ten mile ride, one I have not done in a decade. So we turned away from the lake and started up into the nearby forest.
One of the most amazing things about this area is how very close to civilization it is, being only half an hour above Santa Barbara, but also how it marks the edge of civilization. Looking East there is simply no one home.
And traveling at mule speed, 2.2mph, allows for contemplation of space and time.
Everywhere we went, I just couldn't believe I never thought of broadcasting poppy seeds before. The landscape cries out for that adornment.
But for now, Fall foliage will have to do.
The trail turned, and now we were in something that can properly be called a forest, oak woodland. The oaks are so old their presence always makes passers by humble. They've seen generations pass beneath their branches.
This is my favorite artsy photo of the day. No Photoshopping, a natural impressionist painting of glowing red poison oak in a clearing in the woods.
Then turning another corner the land levels off for a small valley.
And this strange fallen log that looked like a crocodile or a space ship.
One last big open valley with a finger of the lake stretching up into it
and then one last climb before we headed back to lake level.

It would be lovely enough to ride the woods, but this man-made jewel of a lake is so refreshing, it makes the rides here all the more special.
So as the afternoon sun started to cast long shadows we turned back toward the staging area,
finally descending down the chalk hill to the riverbed below.

I asked my companions to pose for their portraits in close up with their animals, not mounted as I usually do.
Jamie and Mosca and Sparky
Noe and Marcos
Arturo and Golondrina
Rodrigo and Relámpago
Lisa and Shameless
Nancy and Jugeton. 

And there they all are, the people who made my birthday dream come true. It has been well over two years since I have ridden ten miles, and it is a mighty personal victory that I have come back from serious injury to accomplish this goal.

I encourage everyone to overcome the challenges that 2020 has beset us with, to look forward to 2021 with courage and positive thoughts.

#### PAT FISH ####

## FIN ##


Saturday, November 21, 2020

2020/11/21 Los Flores Park Turkey Stroll


The Uncivilized View

The City of Santa Maria Active Communities initiative sponsored a

Horseback Turkey Trot at Los Flores Ranch Park

which turned out to be a Turkey stroll, as our Trail Boss Stormy led us walking a big rectangle through the hills covered with dry burnt end-of-summer grass.

Consisting of 1,778 acres (nearly 2.8 square miles), the property lies about eight miles south of Santa Maria in the Solomon Hills. Directly adjacent Hwy 101, we started at a staging area just off the highway and did a long loop.
We had an excellent assortment of mules and horses of all kinds, and split into a group that wanted to go faster and those folks who wanted to go with Stormy, at whatever speed she chose.

 Stormy is a docent here, and she and her Arabian Pico are frequent visitors and love to guide others around.

And off we went, the lucky seven, off to see the landscape that has stayed the same, with the exception of some grazing cows, forever.


Looking over toward the freeway as we climbed up into the hills, interesting to muse on the stark contrast between the rush and hustle of the modern world on one side and the stillness of uncultivated sere grass landscape...

The day had begun in the most modern of ways...
SpaceX scheduled a satellite launch from Vandenburgh AFB
and before we left Santa Barbara I gathered with some of my neighbors to ooh and ah as we saw the rocket lift off like a giant match flame piercing the sky. Then when the first stage disconnected and fell back to Earth we heard a series of sonic booms, like distant fireworks, culminating in a huge BOOM.

Later when I saw this mysterious object on the trail I couldn't help but imagine that it was space junk, fallen back to Earth, rusting away. It was actually very close in size to the extremely expensive object hoisted aloft this morning.
Up and around and through we went.

A lot of climbing, and descending. 

Thankfully TobeMule does all the work, and I get to come along for the ride.

One thing that makes it nice for him is that he gets to see old friends.

On  this ride he liked riding alongside JohnBoyMule, here on his left, and the gleaming redhead Pico Arabian here on his right.

Looking East there is a beautiful agricultural valley, and distant hills stretching out to Central California.
And looking West from the highest vantage points we could see the Pacific Ocean, with Grover Beach and the Pismo Dunes. 
Then it was time to turn back and head for the staging area. The trails circle around many geologic curiosities.

Across the highway the rumpled landforms showed a continuation of these hills,                         




while on this side a dried up vineyard was stark testimony to a dream deferred.


 But we are only here for a moment, to stroll, to sightsee, to take a break from the politics and pandemic and perturbations of the metropolis.
Soon enough we will head back to the real world.

"Me And My Shadow"

"Like the wallpaper sticks to the wall
Like the seashore clings to the sea
Like you'll never get rid of your shadow'll never get rid of me

Let all the others fight and fuss
Whatever happens, we've got us.

Me and my shadow
We're closer than pages that stick in a book
We're closer than ripples that play in a brook
Strolling down the avenue
Wherever you find him, you'll find me, just look..."

Frank Sinatra Lyrics

######PAT FISH #####