Sunday, May 16, 2021

2021/5/16 MeetUp & ETI22 to the M.A.S.H. set in Malibu Creek State Park


Tobe Mule and I on the set where the TV show M.A.S.H. was filmed.
This looks like a simple straightforward trail, but I promise you there were dozens of trail turns and twists and LOTS of steep and treacherous single track sections.
We were led by a very competent trail boss, so everything went smoothly. I have ridden here before, and had told myself that this time I was going to pay attention so I could myself lead a group here.... but it is so complicated once we were en route I still cannot imagine doing so.

We met up in the big field next to what used to be the Western Town, on the Paramount Movie Ranch. Now a State Park, it suffered great devastation during the November 2018 Woolsey Fire, and much of what had become familiar to me is now greatly changed.

So 18 riders headed out toward Mulholland Drive to start our day.

The first part of the trail follows along a creek, and is level and easy. 

But ahead of us loom the mountains, and we know we will be tracking up them before long.

This property was once owned by Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox, and used for filming Westerns. For centuries before that it was inhabited by the aboriginal people the Chumash, and their village of Humaliwo was located inside what is now this Park.

The first long stretch goes through Yearling Valley, named after a movie shot here starring Ronald Reagan. 

After the filming he bought the ranch and raised horses there, and then when he became Governor of California he donated it to the State to be part of this larger park system. Another big part of the land was donated by actor Bob Hope.

Reagan was an avid horseman and came out on Sundays to his 400 acre ranch to relax and ride.

I expected to see Reagan's old farmhouse and stables...but there was nothing left. I took this photo in 2017.

Where they had stood there were now some temporary buildings and rubbish.

Another part of history gone.

Once above that valley the burnt trees left behind by the fire were everywhere. Some species making a comeback, others just silent sentinels.

Tobe and I followed at the end of the line, getting a look at everything and able to appreciate the nature without being goosed by someone riding too close behind us.

We went up a long rocky canyon very much filled with hikers and bicycle riders, all making the pilgrimage out to the M.A.S.H. site. 

The fire changed the character of the plants here, with fast-growing saplings and bushes replacing the former trees.

But it was obvious that a lot of work has been done on the trail, supporting the heavy use.

Along the way, one stopping place favored by hikers is the Udell Gorge, a beautiful reservoir set amongst the towering stone formations.
 But our destination lay ahead...

The first part of the M.A.S.H set on the trail is this old Korean War Era ambulance. Many of the members of our group lined up to be photographed next to it.

Of course Tobe and I had to pose

And my traveling companion Noe and his stallion Marcos posed also

This screen shot from the show is either this prop ambulance or one like it.

And searching for images sent me down a rabbit hold of information about the show.

The Korean War lasted under 4 years, but the show itself ran 11 years.

Disclaimer, I never watched it. In 1972 I made a geas, a deal with the Gods, that if I stopped watching TV I could be self-employed all my working life. So all of the years of M.A.S.H. I was being stubborn and keeping to my promise. (And still do...)

This is the set, as all who watched the show will remember it.
And you can identify the matching ridge crest in this photo, and see that what is left now is the signpost and a rusted out old vehicle. The car has a holder for cameras so you can gather around, as these riders are doing, to take your commemorative photo with the sign.
So who was I to resist?
Even before the recent fire this ambulance was in this condition.

Off to the side the State has kindly erected this shade structure, which always has some exhausted hikers sitting under it. And behind it on the hill is the landing pad used for helicopters in the show. 

 In reading up about the show after I got home I learned that the final episode that played in 1983

Which can be watched at this YouTube link:

Goodbye, Farewell and Amen

was 2 1/2 hours long and viewed by a whopping 77% of the people watching TV that night, 121.6 million people. 

I admit that I had the curiosity to watch it, and even without an emotional investment in the characters it was a very moving experience.

I highly recommend a viewing. I simply wasn't aware that subjects of such depth and complexity were being portrayed on TV at that time. Now I understand a little better why people seem so moved to make the hike all the way out to stand where it was filmed.

 Always before I had just looked at it as dramatic landscape, 

but now it feels like a place where something important happened.


There is a world of fan pages, and memorabilia for sale, and I now wonder how many people's life choices were influenced by these role model characters.

But it was time to go.

Under a majestic sky portending rain we turned to track our way back to the rigs.
With 18 riders the long line can stretch out quite a ways on the trail.

And from the vantage of Lookout Mountain we could see far across the landscape.

The Park has 8,215 acres and many miles of trails, online websites describe the possible hikes.

And what perfect weather. 

Soon it will be very hot in these mountains, but for today we had dramatic clouds overhead to accompany our appreciation of the wild land.

When we got back to the starting point Trail Boss Paul led the group over to see what is left of the Western Town.

It is a sad sight. There is talk of rebuilding it, but it won't be the same backdrop that made so many people feel as if they'd been there before, having seen it in so many movies.

I used to thrill to ride through the town, on my very own mule, feeling like a star in my own Western melodrama.

This was 2017.

And everyone has seen movies in which some cowboy swain is sitting on his horse below this balcony, serenading a senorita. 

Or a stunt man takes a dive off that balcony onto a pile of mattresses below.

All gone.

But on a positive note

Tobe Mule knew the rigs were near and was eager to get back to them, get naked and have a slew of carrots as his reward for a three hour workout.
As we passed by the trailer of the rental horse wranglers I was filled with gratitude that I have my very own mule, and opportunities to ride in such interesting places in good company.

As they said at the end of the last episode of M.A.S.H.

XXX  <")#)><  XXX

#####  PAT FISH  #####

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Sunday, May 9, 2021

2021/5/9 Mothers' Day MeetUp at Rancho Oso


An opportunity to follow a cool and shady trail on Mothers' Day, through the white oaks in the acres surrounding Rancho Oso, a Thousand Trails Resort on the Santa Ynez River above Santa Barbara.

We seem to have tracked the shape of Africa as we rambled across the Arroyo Burro trails.
Not a long ride, but a pleasant one.

We did not have too much of a plan, just to be above the city and in nature.

Leading directly out of the paddock area the trail is well used by people who board their animals here and the many locals who come up to access the trails.

Because the land is technically part of the Los Padres National Forest no chainsaws can be used.

So if a tree falls across the trail a work-around must be created, instead of cutting a passageway through the trunk. 

This leads to a lot of detours.

Heading up toward Camino Cielo the trail is cut very deep into the dirt. In some places walking in the ditch it was so deep the bottoms of my stirrups touched the sides.
In places like this the shade under the trees and the sounds of birds is quite transporting. We move through it at mule speed, and observe the tiny spring flowers blooming and the hear the rustle of small creatures getting out of our way.
When the trees open out into grassland we can see the Edison lines on the upper horizon, evidence of civilization in a place where there is minimal cell phone reception. Every so often all our phones will start to ping in unison as we happen upon a part where the phones pick up a signal and download messages.

For me, I like best passing through the oaks, feeling like I am back in time and voyaging across landscape in another part of the world.  As we head into summer the green is still with us, not yet the high fire season.

Today my companions were Cookie on Morgan, Jamie on Mosca, and C.C. on Woodie. Cookie boards her horse there, so she was our informed guide.

We passed the entrance to the White Oaks Camp of the Santa Barbara Trail Riders.

All I know is it is exclusive and online it says they are a non-profit with 95 members.

And NO girls allowed in that club.

Well heck, we've got the MeetUp with 421 members and we like everybody.

So we headed back down toward the river. Tobe and I often mosey along this far back, it is the best of worlds. We have the safety of being with friends, but the sensual experience of being out alone. Plus if I want to sing silly cowboy songs to Mr Mule no one laughs at the lyrics.

This very strangely formed rock placed on a boulder seemed like a signpost, but for what I will never know.

It qualifies as found art.

Here the trail meandered back and forth, sometimes dropping with very rocky sections, causing what the mule guys would call a "pucker factor." 

But if the horses ahead of me can manage, I must not fear, for yea I go forth on a mule.

Then it was time to ford the Santa Ynez River. At this time of year, not much rain and going into summer, it is only inches deep and not very wide.
Of course the animals like the opportunity to get a drink, and cool their hooves in the water, and have a snack of the reeds. On the other side Morgan is not quite sure what looks edible.

Tobe Mule would always rather snack on water plants than have a drink, so he appreciates the time-out.

We passed on heading up into the canyons, where we usually opt to go, because today we just wanted a short ramble. So we walked up the dry riverbed and angled back toward the staging area.

Walking up toward the barn we saw a massive amount of piled up deadfall branches. A combination of trees dying in the drought and not being able to burn campfires.
And the last sight on this trail, the string horses waiting patiently for the little buckaroos to load up and get ready to go out for a pony ride.

That was certainly my introduction to equines, half a century ago, but then it was in the mountains of Pasadena, California. How much more splendid these landscapes here, how very lucky I am to have the ability to explore them.

“Bilbo was sadly reflecting that adventures are not all pony-rides in May-sunshine...”
J.R.R. Tolkien,The Hobbit, or There and Back Again

 ### PAT FISH ###

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