Sunday, August 29, 2021

2021/8/29 Pismo Oceano

The tranquil waves of the Pismo/Oceano/Grover beach.

It was a hot day, so we went in search of fog.
With all of our interior trail riding options way too hot, we set our sights on the Grover Beach access to Pismo Beach, where equines are welcome in the dunes and on the beach.
As the map shows, we tracked through the interior dunes, then out to the beach for the stroll back.
But first, after loading up Tobe Mule I had to brave the coastal highway miles.
And much to my consternation everything went just fine until the last 10 miles of the 80 mile total took LONGER than the previous 70. OK, I had a good audio book, but my riding companions, who had arrived just a few minutes earlier, had sailed by the machinery being set up to weed the center divider. When I hit the jam just a few minutes later it had become a parking lot.
OK, I tell myself this is a reminder to be grateful that I do not have a long commute to work.
I get to the parking lot, we all tack up and set out, and I see that the traffic jam has proceeded to the kiosk where people enter to drive onto the beach. Is there no end to this press of humanity?
We start out for the dune trail, and there, hunkered down like a troll demanding toll for passage, is a guy in a hoodie lurking in the iceplant. Jamie yelled in no uncertain terms "DO NOT MOVE!" in her best motherly "Because I said so!" voice, with the result that the little fellow was frozen in fear, the equines were not spooked, and we started our ride.
  Immediately we are in nature, and any thoughts of too many people dissolve away. Now it is time to enjoy the landscape, watch for seasonal changes, appreciate our four-leggeds.
These dunes are ancient, and wise city planners set them aside for the public's enjoyment.
We seldom see anyone else on these trails, even though the ocean is just over that rise to the right.
Jamie and Mosca like to lead the way, this thoroughbred's tail was made to fly in the wind.
Yvette's quarterhorse Breyer was feeling his oats too.
And Tobe Mule and I think any time out on the trail is well worth the effort to get there.
The plant communities change subtly as you walk along, in some places wind-beaten large trees shelter animals beneath them.
Tucked into some of these shelters are the trash middens of trespassing campers, but they are rousted by the patrols when they are noticed.
But we have no official capacity, we are just taking a grateful break from the Real World and going for a nature walk.
Even as the inland valleys are burnt grass and fire hazard, the sea grass here is lush and waving in the breeze.
This section burned last year, a vagrant's warming or cooking fire decimated an acre or more. Now it is making a comeback, but the skeletons of the larger bushes still mark the spot.
Turning to look on the other side of the trail this bright patch of iceplant was luminous in the sun.
Then we reached the access road, and it was time to turn toward the beach. Tobe is an old hand at the sand, but neither of our companion animals had ever been to the beach, so we took it slow.
Something new, orange fencing made a track down to the surf.
Looking both down and up-coast we could see that the vehicles were everywhere. At the price of a shorter ride I suggested we just turn up, heading back toward our starting point. Dodging cars, dogs and children was going to be tricky enough for that distance.
There were people surf-fishing, kids trying to splash around, people walking their dogs...... it was a full driver training movie for the horses! Tobe Mule on the other hoof is quite sure that the lakes in Kentucky never moved like this and it 'taint natural, so he will walk on the hard packed wet sand but not in the surf.
Seeing cars flying Mexican flags put me in a reverie. We are 2 weeks from the 20th anniversary of 9/11, and way back then I imagine that every car on this beach would have been flying the American flag in a spontaneous outpouring if patriotism.
But today, kids of all ages are enjoying the simple joy of a day at the seashore. An innocent and timeless pleasure.
Sometimes I have to include a butt shot, since when I see other riders' photos from trail rides this is what they look like.
Then close to the entrance we fond a dead seal.
Poor thing, it deserved a more dignified end than this.
The cars kept pouring onto the beach, and at the lifeguard tower up ahead we reported the seal. The two blonde lads looked at us bewildered, clearly it was not in their job description to deal with a carcass.
Well, we weren't the ones camping near it. We did enjoy rousting a large colony of seagulls. Another good training moment for the equines.
It is hard-wired into prey animals like horses and mules to respond to the agitation of other animals with a fast twitch. So it was nice to have them see the birds scatter and not be reactive.

There was a fire pit in the sand, reminiscent of the pits dug on the Santa Barbara waterfront on July 4th way back in olden times, giant craters 30' across and 10' deep, so everyone could comfortably lie back against the slope with beer in hand and watch the fireworks over the breakwater. Ah, nostalgia.

Then it seemed like a good time for beach portraits.

Yvette Porter and Breyer, who looks like a model horse
Jamie Buse and Mosca, who always knows when to strike a supermodel pose
And Pat Fish and Tobe Mule, the scheme team.
Then it was time to stroll further up the sand, while it was my job to sleuth out the tiny trail that would take us up off this beach through dunes, and then back to the starting point.
Glimmering on the horizon is Pismo, but we are not fated to go so far.
Thankfully I did find the trail entrance, and we turned inland once more.
These trails are nicely laid out, with asphalt for strollers and sand for runners and equines.
And the ever-shifting colors of the iceplant and other dune species.
With a nod to the golfers on the course that borders the trail, we continued.
And an appreciative nod to the city planners who had the forethought to build this elevated boardwalk, to allow the mobility challenged a nice way to stroll the dunes and see the sea.

All in all a lovely short ride in a classic slice of California.


“It were a grief so brief to part with thee.
William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet 


##### PAT FISH #####

## FIN ## 

Sunday, August 22, 2021

2021/8/22 Gaviota Pass MeetUp


The mountains that form the Gaviota Pass, bringing Highway 1 out to the Central California coastline above Santa Barbara.

We begin this ride at Las Cruces, where the 1 and 101 split. Some of the trail is rough and washed out and untended, some is access roads. All is beautiful.
When we rode here last month it was socked in with maritime fog, and today we wanted both to escape the heat on inland trails and also to be in cool coastal breezes. The sun was just peeking through clouds as we tacked up.

There is a nice equestrian parking lot by the school, so we were able to saddle up the animals and head on out.

For this ride we had 5 riders, and we went through the gate 
and crossed into the trails 
and prepared to see what there was to see.

As soon as you get onto the trails the mountains loom around. 

Traveling through this pass always requires skillful driving at highway speed, and doesn't leave much time to gaze up at the beautiful surrounding land forms.

We all loved this trail system the last time we came, and my idea for today was to do the same route in reverse. 

That always gives entirely new perspectives and views. 

So we checked the kiosk map and then headed down the Ortega Trail that runs along and above Hwy 101/1.

The first part of the trail is quite open, threading the way through the grassy hillside.
But what keeps it interesting are the changing horizons, as the views of the nearby mountains pivot as you angle around them.

There, straight ahead, is the slow-down-curve, and the sign that offers the mythical Rest Area that is always closed. 

Now, very soon after this we hit The Rough Patch. It is never so hard to go uphill on washed out and rocky trail, the animal does all the work and you lean forward and say encouraging things as they find their way.

It is a whole different event when the very steep trail is gullies and rocks and big rain-gauged cracks in the middle of the trail. Suffice to say I was holding on and did not pause to take photos through this area.

But soon we were back up onto one of the wide access roads that make up the majority of the trails here, and all were breathing a sigh of relief that we made it through what we knew was the most challenging part of the day. Having gotten it out of the way first.
Now the road was broad sweeping curves, easy going for all.

But looking back the mountains made such a lovely tableau we stopped so I could take some souvenir photos. We are all, of course, quite dwarfed by the landscape we are in.

Jamie & Mosca

Deni Lee and GiGi

Terri & Renegade

Pat & Tobe

It is always a pleasure to have photographic memories of our rides, everyone is glad of them.

I noticed that many of the areas we passed by one month ago that were lush and vibrant masses of red poison oak are now visibly diminished, withering in the summer heat. 

Even Tobe who likes to snack on the itch-inducing leaves passed them by.

By this time we were getting pretty high up on the Hollister Trail, and could look back across the distance we had climbed.
And FINALLY we could look out to sea, across the Hollister Ranch lands. But admittedly there was enough haze and so much land betwixt that there was no vista of crashing surf or sparkling waters.
From the Hollister Ranch website: The rambling 14,000-acre Hollister Ranch is located behind 24 hour guarded gates on a working cattle ranch. Each of the exclusive 100-acre ocean view properties offers the ultimate in security, privacy and solitude.
From Wikipedia: Hollister Ranch is 14,400 acres (58 km2) of fallow and fertile fields, mountains and valleys along the Gaviota Coast in Santa Barbara County, California between Gaviota State Park and Point Conception. The area is some of the oldest known human settlements in the new world, the last native population of which was the Chumash. The land was purchased by William Welles Hollister after the Civil War.
But what need have I of prestige land, when I have a mule who stands so still on command that I can take a panoramic! 
That is wealth!

As we ambled along the road we could look down at the estates of the 1%.

Like so many places we ride, the view shows how much of California is undeveloped. 

In this case it is tightly controlled and private, and anyone wanting to actually go onto the Ranch has to be invited.

Or, like the surfers, sneak in by boat.

Soon the road turned, and we started to angle back toward the pass and the 1/101.

Looking across the highway I was struck by being able to see the trail we once had ridden going up the mountainside to the Peak.
This is where we rode last Christmas for the last ride of the year 2020, tracking from the Gaviota Hot Springs parking lot on the 101 up to the Gaviota Peak.

It is hard to see the trail in this photo...
So I blew it up in Photoshop.... it tracks all the way up to the peak and then extends South-East to become Camino Cielo that follows the ridge crest all the way back down to Santa Barbara.

Speaking of tracks, 
we saw lots of skid marks of bicycles in the dirt.

And we did encounter two older men on bikes who were very pleasant and courteous and waited for us to go by. We also saw one trail runner and one guy with a dog. 

Amazing that a property as huge as this is so little visited and utilized.

We felt blessed to explore through it.
Now that we were descending in altitude we were back to views of the highway below.
This is an archival photo of a stagecoach in 1860 traveling through the Gaviota Stage Road, which later became the highway.

This is an illustration why Tobe Mule and I like to stay a ways back from the pack when on a dusty trail.

And here our compadres pose for us, on the home stretch down the hill.
One last aerial of the Gaviota Pass, which soon will take us back to civilization.

But first there is time for the animals to get stripped of tack, and Tobe can have a well-deserved snack of carrots and hay, 
while the humans share a lunch and congratulate ourselves on a trail well traveled.

"Don't try. Just do it."
#### PAT FISH ####
## FIN ##