del Rio Santa Ynez, a dry riverbed that could pass for high desert.
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.
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!
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.
The amount of dry grass makes it easy to see how easily a fire could rip through here.
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.
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.
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.