What could be better than a day spent at the seashore near Morro Bay and in the eucalyptus forests of the Montaña de Oro State Park? We went in search of the Mountain of Gold.
We started at the bottom of this map at the Hazard parking area, tracked parallel to the road through the forest, went down to the beach and rode toward Morro Rock, then back up through dunes to the woods again and back to the starting point.
It wasn't a long ride, but it was filled with deep sand trails that gave all of the equines a workout.
We started out with the rumor of the good intentions of several other MeetUp members to come along, but as it turned out we had this small and stalwart crew: our trail boss and guide Devyn on JakeQuarterHorse, Noe on MarcosAndalusian, and me on TobeMule.
The Hazard lot is the only one set aside for horse trailers, and it was jammed full. Devyn's husband considerately went early and set up some cones, so we had spots saved for us. In just a few weeks there will be major roadwork started here, and we very fortunately got in just before that, just in time.
So off we went, into the eucalyptus forest. It was planted 100+ years ago by someone who intended to make his fortune selling the fast-growing wood for railroad ties. Unfortunately he soon discovered it is completely unsuitable for that use, and now it is a State park.
Some grow straight and tall, some are bendy and twisty.
But always a forest is fascinating.
When we came up out of the trees, heading for the ocean, we passed through chaparral scrub and saw deer. Can you see them in this photo?
Here they are:
We were all eager to have Marcos see and calmly watch the deer. A month ago he saw his first stag on a trail and had a bit of a meltdown. This time he was awesome, no fear.
One of the great things about being out in nature on a mule or horse is that animals like deer, who have every reason to fear humans, tend to dismiss the centaur as harmless and behave naturally as we pass by.
Then we got up into the chaparral scrub behind the dunes, a wild and windswept place.
This marvelous land form is one of the nine sisters, The Morros, volcanic plugs that form a chain of mountains and hills that runs from San Luis Obispo to Morro Bay.
And there is the bay, with the rock, harbor, and city spread out.
It was a good place to take a portrait of my traveling companions.
How lucky am I to be in such good company.
Adventures are always best when shared.
Then the trail headed down, and we saw our first view of the surf. Time for another complete change of pace.
And here we are, the Edge of the Continent, at the seaside.
No more asking the mule to look out for tree roots or squirrel holes, just smooth sand stretching away to the horizon.
The Rock glimmers ahead, and the next time we come back to ride here we will make heading further in that direction our goal.
This was the first time Marcos had ever been on a beach, so he found it all pretty amazing. Of course this is an everyday thing for Jake, nothing special.
Tobe and Marcos live on the same ranch, so they are good adventure companions and Tobe's steady influence helps Marcos when all this new stimulus can seem a bit overwhelming.
Our guide Devyn moved here for the cooler weather, and she rides in the Park almost daily.
Noe drove up with me from Santa Barbara, a 3 hour haul but ever so worth it to experience a new splendid place to ride.
Then it was time to turn back inland, up Army Road, which was used in WWII to practice amphibious landings. As the story goes it took many years to clear off all the left-over ordnance from these dunes.
As scary as an unexploded bomb, puma pawprints in the sand!
Because the dunes are a plover habitat they are roped off with wire cable.
We are very fortunate to be able to ride the trails here and gently pass by all the wildlife.
Devyn took her job as guide seriously, and told us details about the area she now enjoys calling home.
But then it was time to turn around and head back to the starting point.
Trails with branches and roots, rocks and ground squirrel holes, no problem for a Kentucky Mule. They truthfully call mules sure-footed, and they keep their rider safe with accurate hoof placement.
No need to travel to another state or country, California offers such a wealth and variety of landscape to explore.
What a timeless antique method of travel, slow enough to really experience detail and the wonderment of nature.
But all too soon it was time to load up the MuleMobile for the return to the home zone.
But wait, first we stopped at the Sea Pines Resort that astonishingly offers livery, so we were able to give the animals a paddock to rest up in and munch their dinner.
Tobe made some new friends who stepped up to the new task of giving him carrot treats and hay...
And then Mr Bean treated us all to dinner at the clubhouse before our big 3 hour drive home.
What a lovely end to a fine day!
"We are tied to the ocean, and when we go back to the sea we are going back from whence we came."
- John F Kennedy
###### PAT FISH #####
##### FIN ######