Sunday, March 21, 2021

2021/3/21 MeetUp Oso Canyon Exploration


Oso Canyon above the Santa Ynez River, off Paradise Road.

Six MeetUp riders, 6.51 miles in 3.21 hours on the trail.

As always a diverse group of equestrians with their mounts of many styles and colors. 

We began at Rancho Oso, where we know the gatekeepers will guarantee our rigs from vandalism. We started out with a plan that was quickly derailed when Jamie saw the sign for the Waterfall Trail.

She's one of those gals who just has to check out a place she's never been, so off we went to see what there was to see.

This astonishingly huge tank appeared at the end of the trail. The last time I rode out there all that existed was a flat cover over a cistern. 

Come to think of it that was quite a few years ago.

So now we know what's there!

Curiosity satisfied we got back on the main Bath Tub trail and passed by the mare pasture where one of the horses traveling with us lives. 

Her pasture mates called out to her.

But we passed by.
The spring grass was abundant, and it was a pleasure that some rocky places in this trail that had always been a challenge have been repaired nicely.

Of course even as we headed into wilderness there were the inevitable signs of civilization, antivirus face masks on the trail.

But we were breathing the pure fresh air of nature, and glad of it.

We passed through the camping area, and headed down to the Arroyo Burro river crossing.

The shady oaks on a hot sunny day were very pleasant.

Then we turned the corner to the river, which usually would be filled with an expanse of water at this time of year. But it is completely choked with reeds.

There was just enough water to get the animals' hooves hydrated before climbing up into the canyon.

For comparison

this is what this exact spot looked like 5 years ago.

Tobe Mule was in the middle of taking a drink when suddenly 3 bicycle riders careened around the trail corner and skidded to a stop at the water's edge.

They were pleasant enough, but when they were informed that good trail etiquette encourages them to announce their approach when riding up on equines they seemed to have never been informed of that.

Thankfully we met lots of other bike riders who slowed down and did announce themselves, nicely sharing the trail.

We let them speed on ahead and started the ascent to Paradise Road.

The road is filled with bicycles and cars, amazing how differently humans behave. Some slow down graciously as they pass us by, some, not so much. Tobe Mule is a steady fellow. He will track their passing with his ears but he keeps his feet on the path.

From Paradise Road we could look down, across the Santa Ynez River, and back to where the rigs were parked on the grounds of Rancho Oso.

We stopped in some shade to let the animals rest a bit before continuing on.

Finally, onto the trail and up into Oso Canyon, fording the stream that joins the river.

Lots of the path was very dry, and I tossed the last of my California state flower poppy seeds out onto the waste areas. It may be too late in the season for them to take root now, there may not be rain to sprout them.

In which case the ground squirrels will thank me for delivering a treat.

So many of the trees that should be budding forth Spring growth looked dead, just like we see on all the trails.
BUT once we got into the Upper Oso Campground it was astonishingly green. The pole paddocks for horse campers had been repaired, and were very overgrown, waiting to be used.
In contrast to the giant motor homes filling the campsites at Rancho Oso, here the place was deserted.
The roads were still in poor condition, as they have been for several years.

There is a lot of evidence of flash flooding washing away roads and campsites. 

But traveling on the four-legged as we do this was no deterrence. 
Water spilling over what used to be a road made a nice waterfall.

Having reached the end of the route we wished to take we turned back toward home.

It would have been nice to see families out here teaching their kids about nature.
Less than an hour above the cityscape of Santa Barbara, the restorative quiet of the mountains.

So down the canyon, across the road and back to Rancho Oso. Just enough for one day's adventuring.

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to."
"I don't much care where –"
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go.”
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

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Sunday, March 14, 2021

2021/3/14 Santa Ynez River Ramble


La Rambla del Rio Santa Ynez, a dry riverbed that could pass for high desert.
Our ride began in the Industrial Way section of Buellton and our guide led us for a couple of miles through the wide wash alongside the river.
BUT this was not the day's intended ride. I first called in to Live Oak Camp to get the river and trail conditions yesterday, and was told they were fine for a ride. Then this morning when I called for the gate code I got the go-ahead again and alerted the MeetUp krewe we were on.

But when I got there I saw the unprecedented sight

of absolutely no cars in the equestrian parking area.

On a fine Sunday morning, the only living thing was a Great Blue Heron looking quite smug at having the place to himself.

Then I got a call from one of the riders I expected to be meeting and they were at Lake Cachuma getting their pass and were told that the trails were closed today because of recent rains.


With horses and mule already loaded we needed a new plan. So we drove through the tourist crowds flooding Solvang, past the Ostrich Farm which had more visitors than I'd ever seen in their lot, and went to a section of the Santa Ynez River 20 miles West.

It hardly looked like an inviting trailhead, but anyplace new is ok by me.  

One of the breweries in the complex of buildings was hosting a Corvette concourse, so as we tacked up we saw a mighty fleet of hot sports cars pull into our cul de sac at unnecessary speeds.

Our trail boss Debi Lee lives nearby, and she promised to lead us into this unknown territory. 

She tacked up her National Sport Horse GiGi and was ready to go.

Noe's stallion Marcos is another matter. He needed to do considerable circulo groundwork before he was ready to be a good citizen on the trail. 

He has more energy than he knows what to do with!

And then it was time to head out into the undeveloped land, the real estate that cannot be built on because of seasonal flooding.
With the green hills above us we headed into the river wash.

In recent years this area has become a camping ground for transients, but the city of Buellton spent much money and hauled out many dumpsters of trash last year, 

with the result that we found clean trails.

The Drum Canyon Fire swept through here 2 years ago, with the result that many of the big trees look dead or severely damaged. 

But many of them sport healthy clumps of mistletoe on their branches.

And lots of sections of the trails are over-grown with willows and other riparian plants. 

Especially worrisome was the extremely soft sand, sometimes causing the equine's hooves to sink in very deep.

But they took it in stride.

Apparently sections of this land are fenced off as private property, so we stuck to the main trail.

And I continued my Patty Poppyseed project, scattering California poppies all along the rough areas. If we get some more rain this year they'll have a chance to take hold in a new spot.

The amount of dry grass makes it easy to see how easily a fire could rip through here.

No campfires!

Then the land flattened out to a wide area bordered by "river view" estates and ranches.

And here we had to tread lightly lest we antagonize ranch dogs barking at us from the distance.

Things like barking dogs get Marcos a little excited, 

so sometimes he has to break into one of his dance routines.

We stumbled across a bit of rock art
That mystified human and beast.

Then we passed by a field that had been mechanically sewn in long thin strips of what looked like grass. 

Eventually we came to the end of our trek, a swampy pond that none of the animals had ANY interest in wading into.

Tobe wasn't going to argue with that, so we turned around.
At which point Tobe Mule took the lead and followed our path back out. It is almost eerie how well he can retrace his steps without any guidance.
And having avoided the Dismal Swamp he had a spring in his step as he aimed back to the East.

At one point we did see 3 other horse riders, but otherwise the entire area seemed deserted.

Every so often there would be piles of wood, perhaps left-overs from the clearances that depopulated this area.

There were signs throughout warning of petroleum pipelines, 

but we saw no other evidence of them.

In fact the only residents who seemed to be watching us pass by were the crows.

So we rounded the last corner and returned to civilization having had a ramble on the rambla.

lyrics from RAMBLE ON by Led Zeppelin

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