Long established as an exclusively equestrian recreation area, for many decades this has been the favorite riding area for horse and mule riders from Santa Barbara and the surrounding county.
As documented in the Lompoc Record this week, a sign at the entrance gate states EQUESTRIAN ACCESS ONLY. It did say hikers were allowed "Not Yet" and some wag amended it to say "Not Ever."
If only it were so easy. The politicians support equal access for all, not considering the conflicts that multi-use brings.
This sticker is available for those who support keeping this one last trail an equestrian only preserve.
click here to buy
And meanwhile, we riders will make the best of it until the number of people on the trails with their non-permitted off-leash dogs gets to the point where we surrender and ride elsewhere. As has happened already to other local trails.
Already the scant amount of rainfall we got this "winter" has caused this crossing of the Santa Ynez River to go dry.
So we ford the rocks.
Noe on Marcos
Rigo on Huarache
Jamie on Mosca
Pat on Tobe
Arturo on Reylámpago
Gabriel on Rusëll
Hope on Strategic
Christina on Kearney
Lenora on Bowie
Diana on Esprit
Chuy on Mariposa
Tenadora on Diablo
And off we go.
The nice thing about riding in big groups is the opportunity to ride with someone and chat,
or work on some training your animal needs,
or just to ride alone and enjoy nature while having the safety of numbers should something go awry.
I chose the route, and took us down a very long hill sloping to the plateau.
All of these trails are former ranch roads, and are accessible to the service vehicles of the Park Rangers. So riding here is not about cliffs with drop offs and scaling rocky ridges. It is a pleasant walk through oak woodlands and the opportunity to commune with nature from the back of your favorite beast.
Mine of course is my stolid Kentucky mule Tobe.
With his four legs and my brain we have quite the combo.
Or, I like to think so anyway. He probably thinks HE is the smart half-ass.
While on the trail periodically the animals and humans take a chance to rest up for a few minutes in the shade.
The creatures eat grass, humans have some water, then we move on.
And the log out in this meadow that has the appearance of a crocodile catches the eye of every passing equine.
It has been five months since we last rode here on my birthday, and in that time this tree must have fallen and then been sawed up by the park attendant, whose duty it is to keep the trails clear. Nice job.
But it was time to turn back toward the starting point, a change in direction that all the beasts recognize and it puts a spring in their step.
Having the lake come in and out of view makes this such a very special place. Artificially created by the construction of the Bradbury Dam in 1953, it is a reservoir for the drinking water for the city of Santa Barbara.
Another shady spot. By now we've gone 8 miles and everyone needs a breather.
And the animals are all glad for a little spring grass.
As we relaxed I couldn't help but notice a kettle of turkey vultures circling in the air above us.
Incentive to keep moving.
And then we turned off the lake edge and onto the plateau again, and thoughts are starting to turn to lunch and resting up together before the ride home.
And as the last act on the trail, the animals drank deeply and walked a bit in the cool water and let their sore hooves hydrate before getting stripped down and given their promise of carrots and bermuda grass and a rest before trailering back down the 154 to home.
And the award for Rider of the Day < Jinete del Día > goes to six year old Chuy who kept up with all the adults five or ten times his age with no problem. His proud papa Rigo is raising him to be a real Charro, in the traditional horsemen style of Zacatecas.
Z Z Z Z Z
XXX PAT FISH XXX
XX FIN XX