Saturday, November 11, 2023

2023/11/11 Veteran's Day Pre-Deluge ride at Live Oak


Heavens to Murgatroid take a look at that weather prediction ! 
The weather apps say a second massive El Niño is coming.
Which they say is the first time in recorded history two years in a row.
Last year we lost MONTHS of trail riding as the local trails were closed due to storm damage.
So today we made a plan to get a ride in before the storm...
                Back to Live Oak Camp, riding our favorite place on the shores of Lake Cachuma. This time we set off from the trail head and walked through the ridges toward the lake, but we had a hankering to see a particularly tricky bit of trail in a canyon that stretches off to the left and south from the Bee Hole crossing. We knew that the trail there had completely collapsed in the rain last winter, and the man who maintains the trails was intending to go there and create a new passage... where the old one was scary enough on a sheer drop off.       So this we had to see.
The parking lot had massive sink holes last winter after the river overflowed its banks. But today everything was calm and quiet, sunny and clear and we tacked up and headed out as if the impending storm were not baying at our heels.
The river now was mere inches deep, slowly draining down into the lake.

But once we crossed it and started up the trail the amount of repair work still in progress was quite obvious. This is the main access to the trail system, and a deep drainage ditch has been dug all along the length of it. There is a spring here, so new pipe will be laid to channel off the water coming off the hillside and run it down to a trough by the catch pens below.

No worries for a mule or horse, but these former ranch roads are always meant to be kept open for access by fire and emergency vehicles. Right now it is a very rocky path about two feet wide, and with a three foot deep ditch on the one side and a steep drop off into the trees on the other. Maybe a 4x4 could traverse it but not a car. During drought years it hadn't mattered much that the pipe directing the water had been broken, but time to fix it now.         On we went !
Almost immediately we started seeing pink ribbons held on bushes with wooden clothes pins. These are the universal markers for endurance rides, and indicated that the Sesenta Años XP Ride was happening.
These ambitious people come and camp for several days and do 25 or 30 & 55 or 50 all days; plus 10-15 or more XP Club rides all days. For this year all rides were supposed to be within the Rancho San Fernando Rey property but for some reason there were markers on the Live Oak trails.

With ambitious folly I rode the 25 mile NATRAC endurance ride on the San Fernando Rey twelve years ago. Tobe mule was up to it, sailing through the periodic vet checks easily, but it remains the longest ride ever for me. And as I recall the last 5 miles or so I was standing up in the saddle with butt burn.
 Nowadays I am quite happy to stroll at mule speed, 2.2mph, and not consider riding something competitive. Happy to have the partnership with my willing mule and friends to explore the changing seasons in our wonderful front country trails.
As always when we get to the first lake overlook I like to ask my riding companions to pose with their animals for souvenir photos. 
Here is Noe Peña Alvarez riding Mariposa, an Azteca mare, borrowed for the day.
And Jamie Buse riding Mosca, the Appendix Thoroughbred.
Two new folks came along joining the MeetUp, Anna Johansson Feldman riding Tarzan and her husband Lew Feldman riding Cash, both quarter horses.
And me riding Tobe Mule, hybrid son of a Rocky Mountain mare and a mammoth jack.
So off we went tracking down toward the lake level. The satisfying view, looking inland from the coast and knowing there is basically no one home until you hit perhaps the Cuyama Valley. 
Every time I ride this I consider it the antidote for my occupation, looking at far horizons letting my eyes relax from the daily work tattooing and paying attention to very small sections of skin under high intensity lights.
Out here, the eyes watch light on plants and turkey buzzards soaring above, and I am grateful for my ambitious clients who make it possible for me to own and adventure with my stalwart mule.

The live oak trees, Quercus agrifolia, are the index species for these lands. Some hundreds of years old, they see humans come and go, and remain survivors.

The bark of the trees, so reptilian, filled with woodpecker holes, so fascinating to walk by and observe.
But there are also animals on the property.... can you see the one peering down at us from this hill top?
It was a small herd of mule deer, always a sight that rivets Tobe, calling them to my attention.
Then it was time to take the left turn that would lead us to investigate the Perilous Canyon. Would it be repaired?
In every trail ride there's a moment to acknowledge the pucker factor, when going forward may well put you in a very skinny trail that offers no option of turning around.
Coming up on the hill track it was obvious that the whole thing was a reconstruction, scraped loose rock. The County Fire Department came through with major earth-moving equipment and recreated the collapsed passageway, and then Ralph Lausten who takes care of all repairs on the property followed behind and fine-tuned it into this trail.

Looking over the edge on the right we could see a wide expanse of water where in previous years we saw only a creek at the bottom of a canyon.

The drop-off doesn't look so bad?

Yes, I'll say Ralph and the firemen who did this earth moving repair did a very brave job. At any point it felt like the un-reinforced hill slope above could come tumbling down.
But it was totally worth it. Trusting the mule to make every step in the right place, and coming out the other side to see Lake Cachuma stretched out ahead of us.
And there's the lake as seen through Mosca's ears.
Just as I enjoy living on the edge of the continent, with the sea as horizon, having the lake appear and then disappear on our rides adds a very special element to these Live Oak trails. 

But at this point we got a text from the Feldmen who announced they were not coming up behind us. They opted to save the thrill of this particular trail obstacle for another day, so I asked Jamie and Noe to turn around so we could all ride back together.

Having already been-there, done-that, the descent didn't seem so bad.
This is the vertical slope of the uphill side, somehow scraped into shape by the earth-moving equipment. Geologic evidence of volcanic upheaval I presume, layers completely vertical. No gentle sedimentary accumulation here.
So interesting to see so much water there, and perhaps with another wet winter it will remain.
But for now, back up onto the wide ranch roads and stroll back to the rigs at the trailhead.
Coming around the last corner we could look down at our vehicles parked at the end of the lot, but what or who is in the river?
What the heck are cows doing here in this end of the property? There are lots of fences, and we adhere to "leave it as you found it" and are NOT responsible for bovine get-aways.
Jamie took Mosca to splash unconcerned in the river, but here we see Tobe Mule's ears in the fully erect ALERT position as he spies a young bull in his path.

Not that Tobe is afraid of cows, ....     it is just like the Bukowski quote: 

"I don't hate people, I just feel better when they're not around."

What is that steer doing here, anyway?

And to add to the puzzle, when we had un-tacked and were all enjoying a bit of lunch along came two of the bucking horses that live on the property, and stood by the gate as if waiting for us to let them come over and share a snack, possibly come home with us. 

MORE evidence of gates left open!

And so we did....... until next time.

Pat Fish

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