Sunday, December 19, 2021

2021/12/19 The last ride of 2021 at La Purisima Mission

A milestone ride! The 100th adventure of the Horse and Mule Trail Riders of the 805 MeetUp group, and the last ride of 2021.

The group now has 467 members, of which about a dozen come on the regular Sunday rides. 

We have NO idea who the rest of them are! We look forward to meeting them in 2022.

Today we chose La Purisima Mission for our ride because recent rains had closed or made difficult other trails.

It is always lovely.

My mapping program was wonky, so it only recorded the gold track but we also rode the green I have drawn onto the map. 

Altogether about 7 miles in 3 hours, all the way around the central valley and then up to the water tanks for the Mesa view, then back on the sandy overgrown trails past the water treatment plant and then back down.

The statue of the padre holding the dove greets us as we come into the parking area, and always seems like a sign that all animals are welcome here, human and equine.

The property is a California State Park, and a wonderful resource for the Lompoc area. We share the trails with families walking with dogs and children, bicyclists and other equestrians.

We consider these trails safe and reasonably well maintained, although there are some that are not trimmed back and riders are well advised to wear long sleeves lest the manzanita and other plant life scratch them up. There is also a LOT of poison oak.

Many of the trails travel through chaparral woodlands and we make sure not to stray off the designated paths. 

Mostly the horses and mules are on the deep sand on the hillsides, and the rest of the visitors are on the paved areas.

The winding sand trails let us see magnificent specimens of plants that are the essence of the California front country. In summer this area is redolent with the aroma of sage. In winter we enjoy how moisture brings out the mahogany color of the manzanita.

Tobe and I are OK with roads or trails, the important thing is getting out of the city and into nature.

And no problem sticking to the 15mph restriction. 

Mules like to walk 2.2mph, but if encouraged by faster companions he will kick it into a faster gait and keep up.

No mule left behind!

But then... we had two encounters.

We like to think that sharing the trails nicely should be a goal for all we meet, and to the great extent we enjoy letting little kids pet the horses on the nose or ask us questions.

But then there are the bike riders who we often fear.

This fellow exemplified what we always hope for.

He stopped his bike, said hello, thereby defusing the fear that equines have, as a prey animal, when something behaves in a predatory manner, especially rushing up on them at top speed.

He greeted Mosca with the deference to which she feels due, as former racetrack royalty, and she deigned to kiss the ring.

He was Gallant.

Then we let him whirl off ahead of us, since his progress was much faster on the road.

But no sooner had he gone but we met the next fellow on a bike and had an opposite encounter.

Inexplicably he first rode towards us at high speed and when we shouted at him to "STOP!" he pulled up in the middle of the road and assumed the pouting stance of a 5 year old.

As we always do we calmly explained that an onrushing bike can cause a horse to bolt, and the risk to rider is great.

And, of course, the Rules say we have the right of way. It really isn't difficult.

His response was to argue that he shouldn't have to stop riding just because we can't control our damn animals.

He shouted at us for quite a while, and finally said the telling thing: 

"I'm afraid of horses, their brains are too small for their bodies!"

Well fellow, we might say the same about you.

HE was Goofus.

So we left him to the turkey vultures to sort out.

We set our goal to ride to the highest point on the property, two humongous water tanks at the top of the Mesa.

There the unusual color of the metal challenged me to do portraits.

Mosca was not sure she wanted to pose next to the fencing as if having just made a jailbreak.
Marcos is always ready for the get-away
and Miss Kitty is forever obedient.

But these photos looked too industrial, so I asked everyone to walk to the end of the overlook for the landscape background.

This is how Jamie likes to remember her rides with Mosca. 

Sharing the beautiful vistas, here looking out to Lompoc and the coastal mountains topped with clouds.

And Marcos looks every inch Andalusian royalty.
Miss Kitty is unpretentious and loyal and eager to please.

Then it was time to turn around and head downhill back toward our starting point.

Since most of the walk so far had been on roadways, it was time to head up into the chaparral. And bashing through the overgrown bushes, yelping as tree limbs bonk me in the head or branches scrape me, is not conducive to photography.

At one open area I did get this lovely shot of several trees, the front oak hung with Spanish moss and quite dry, the ones behind thriving. Overall the oaks here are in much better shape than the ones at Live Oak Camp, but still some show the stress of drought.
But all too soon we were back on the central road, and now greeting walkers and letting the animals pick up an easy pace, knowing they were on their way to the finish line.

Of course, 

the ever alert Tobe Mule saw and was baffled by this artifact in the asphalt.

Evidence of some small mammal passing this way.

But for now time to relax, everyone have a snack, and then load up into the trusty BrenderUp trailer and head back to Santa Barbara.

Another year stretches out before us, and trails old and new to explore. 

### PAT FISH ###

##### FIN #####

Sunday, December 12, 2021

2021/12/12 The Gaviota High Way

Looking out to the sea and one of the oil platforms, the high view from Gaviota State Park, at Las Cruces where the 101 and 1 split.

As you can see from the map we went up and over and then came back.

It was a view stroll, getting ourselves and the animals out before an oncoming rain storm would keep us all off the trails.

So here Tobe gazes at his compadres, Woody the white, and Mosca the black. 

On Jamie's trailer you can see this sticker I made for her.  

Of course Mosca is on top.

We checked in at the kiosk that SHOULD show the trails, but it does not. 

In typical government inefficiency a giant YOU ARE HERE covers any possible detail of the trails. It shows the entire state park, all the way to the ocean, and many of the trails are degraded and no longer passable for equines.

Which is OK, it really wouldn't be possible to get lost anyway. The 101 as shown directly ahead here borders the trails, which essentially go out to ocean views and overlooks and then loop back.
ALL of the trails could be driven on by a car, no perilous mountain tracks for the equines to navigate. Just very long uphill pulls and then long descents.

Whenever we get to high points and look back down on the people speeding by on the highway I think how sad it is that none of them have ever taken a hike up here. They whiz by and never know that this lovely bit of forest is just above them.

It seemed like just the right place to take souvenir photos, so here is Jamie on Mosca.
And CC on Woody, shimmering like a white unicorn in the sun.

And if you turned and looked the other way here I am on Tobe, silhouetted against Gaviota Peak.

 Altogether a splendid location for a Sunday Church of Equine Enthusiasm.

I always like to see this set of trees. They feel like such survivors, bent and tangled and leaning into each other to withstand the onshore winds.

There is something soothing and heart-filling about traveling slowly across the landscape, seeing valleys from different angles, watching the light play across the surrounding mountains.

But then there are the bicycle tracks and skid marks in the dirt that remind us to keep a sharp eye out for anyone racing the trails on wheels, moving very much faster that we do.

When we get high enough we can look out across the Hollister Ranch acres, out toward the sea.
Tobe's eyesight is so much more acute than any human's I know that as we wander along he is experiencing it in a way I cannot imagine. Rather as if a geologist or botanist were with us and could with their trained eye spot rock formations or plant communities that tell them a story hidden from the uninitiated.
We stopped to give the hard working animals a break and a snack. Humans can, and do, carry water and treats in their saddlebags. The creatures appreciate a chance to sample the grasses growing wild.

Then I did my stupid thing of the ride.
I had this silly goal of traveling down the Woodland Trail. 
We had come up the Las Cruces Trail onto the Hollister Trail, and in previous rides I had seen a trail bisecting the loop that promised a journey through a woodland.
And it looked inviting, being a new trail we hadn't been on. 
We needed no more encouragement to go and explore it.
A totally bad idea.
I don't know who ever goes on it but I'm guessing it has been a very long time since any horses or mules went there. Almost every step broke through dirt to squirrel warrens under the trail. It was soft dirt and absolutely riddled with holes, those we could see and many more we created as we collapsed the ceilings of ground squirrel condominiums beneath us.
We came, we saw, we retreated.

Tobe's shadow is flashing the victory sign.

No twisted ankles or broken legs, no need to investigate that trail all the way to the bottom.

From this vantage point we could look across the 101 and see the other part of Gaviota State Park, and the trail up to Gaviota Peak which we have ridden to in the past. That trail is the location of the hot springs, and is the historic terminus of Camino Cielo.

If you look right in the middle of the mountain you can see the zig-zag track of the route from the parking lot to the hot springs and then all the way to the peak.
It is STEEP and exhausting, but an accomplishment to attain.

I think it tires Tobe out just remembering climbing it.




But there was no time to relax.... all the animals alerted to the sound of a motorcycle speeding toward us on the trail.

Totally illegal, whining like a wasp, he came hurtling toward us at 35mph on the dirt trail. All the animals took great offense.

We shouted at him to stop, so he pulled over and the animals passed by, wary and nervous. 

I explained that what he was doing was illegal, that bicycles are allowed on these trails but no motorized vehicles are allowed in any State Parks.

That was received with a big "Whatever."

There was no license on the motorcycle and he was in an obscuring helmet, so surely he figured he was able to break the law with impunity.

I told him I had his photo and would turn it in to the Authorities. 

When he heard that he gunned his engine and roared off, spurring Tobe Mule to jump forward.

I really didn't know who I might report it to, never having had this happen here before, but amazingly as we got back to the trailhead we ran into

the State Park Lifeguard and Ranger. To the rescue, just in time.

We explained our encounter, and he went up the trails searching for the motorized speeder. He said that based on the photo I sent him the motorcycle's ccs were too high, although presently the "electric bicycles" are still being debated in the courts as to whether they will be allowed access on the trails.

We want it kept for hikers, equines and bikes. The bikes scare us enough, we can't contemplate motorcycles!

But no one fell off, we got back to the rigs safely, and the experience of the view of the shimmering sea and a day spent in good company will be the memory we hold dear.

#####  PAT FISH #####

### FIN ###