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.
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.
But our destination lay ahead...
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...)
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
was 2 1/2 hours long and viewed by a whopping 77% of the people watching TV that night, 121.6 million people.
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.
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.
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.
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.
But on a positive note
As they said at the end of the last episode of M.A.S.H.
XXX <")#)>< XXX
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