Wednesday, June 5, 2024

2024/6/5/24 Pismo Beach Dune & Surf Clam Quest

A fine June Gloom summer day inspires us to drive 100 miles North, to walk three miles on dune and beach. Interior valleys are already heating up, but out on the coast it was a monochromatic hazy day.


We were happy to have a reason to get out to ride in a place we hadn't been in years. Such beautiful nature, lovely at any time of year but especially now with the dune flora changing colors.

We started at the Grover Beach dune entrance, but chose to walk North towards Pismo alongside the Municipal Golf Course, then out on the seaside and turned South on the strand until we came to the inside dune trail to lead us back to our parking area.

I am genuinely impressed with this boardwalk that allows people in wheelchairs or with babystrollers to get up onto the dunes and see the sea. This is how I'd like to see municipal money spent for accessibility.
It travels quite a ways, and celebrates the ice plant (Carpobrotus edulis) that does such an effective job stabilizing the dunes and at this season is a carpet of yellow and pink flowers.

The golf course is planted with Monterey Pines (Piunus radiata) that take on their characteristic wind-blown appearance from the onshore breezes.

Always amusing to watch golfers beetling across the grass in little carts, or concentrating on their shots.

Several of the huge pines seem to have succumbed to the rains of the last two winters, and have been left toppled over in place with root balls raised.

And soon we come to a sign that shows a human and canine on this trail.

Humans and equines proceed toward the sea.

Following a ridge above a slough, tracking through multiple trails, we come out to the sea which in this photo is relatively indistinguishable from the sky.
Now for the ultimate in relaxing riding. So lovely to be allowed onto the beach, stepping outside urban life and onto the simple ebb and flow of the waves.
Combined shot of the slough, and a tiny life guard tower in the distance, no doubt empty today.

Time to introduce the riding krewe. 

Kris Parton, riding Miguel, a tiny BLM mustang. He likes to walk slow, and so do we, so that made for a nice ride for Kris who says on a lot of rides people nag at her to keep up.

I say going slowly you see the flowers and notice details.

And here is Jamie Buse, on the forever racehorse thoroughbred Mosca.

Jamie grew up riding the beaches of Goleta so this is a flashback of her girlhood.

And of course, the blog narrator and all around MeetUp organizer Pat Fish on Tobe Mule, a Rocky Mountain Pleasure Horse and Mammoth Donkey hybrid.
Not that I would ever say Tobe Mule is anything but perfect, however, truth is, in Kentucky lakes do not behave like surf and he harbors deep suspicions.

The weird and unusual thing about this beach is that people are allowed to drive right down onto the sand, spread out the kids and have a picnic.

We saw one car and trailer being dug out, a big money-maker for local tow trucks.

Nice local tradition.

I specifically scheduled this MeetUp on a Wednesday to be here when there would be less vehicular traffic. 

But astonishingly large travel trailers did come roaring along. On weekends you have rented dune buggies to contend with, putting an equine's "bombproofing" to the test.

A group was tossing a Frisbee, another family had a kite, many had dogs with different levels of control over their enthusiasm seeing horses walking by.

A very holiday vibe.

A beach is there for everyone. Co-ed athlete or tie-dyed throwback. And even a clam digger, a pastime this beach is known for, searching for the delicious Pismo Clam.
This fellow was digging a series of holes looking to pull up clams.

If the clams get tossed up on the sand by the surf they can't rebury themselves, so they are frequently visible.

Last year a woman came with her kids from Fresno and the were delighted to collect what they thought were "seashells" on the beach. Oops, they had living clams in them that were below harvest size.

That'll teach ya.
Really? Tricky?

I saw her interviewed and she said she was going to get a clam tattoo to remember this expensive error. I sent her a postcard offering to do it for her, thought it would make a good story to tell.

Well, unfortunately she didn't come to me and, oh, tricky!!! She ended up with a scallop shell instead of a clam. I guess the gasoline logo is the only shell that tattooist knew.

But enough of making fun of other people. Silly us, we are so simple minded just going for a walk on the beach is making us very happy.

We are all three ladies of a certain age, and deeply appreciative that for this sporting event we have four good strong legs beneath us.

And what a nice way to leave politics and impending world war and pandemics behind us, even for just a few hours.

With every MeetUp ride the attendees are slightly different, but always the goal is to have a chance to get back to nature and relax in beauty.

And now it was time to ride up the inside of the dunes to return to our staging area.

Bushy masses of Indian Paintbrush (Castelleja miniata) flash hot pink rising from the ice plant, with California sage (Salvia apiana) and a carpet of others in full Spring flower display.

The trail meanders back and forth, soft sand weaving between all the plants.

It was a still day,

but I've ridden out here on a windy day when all these grasses move and give the impression of being on a ship at sea.

Way up on the Northern horizon is the city of Pismo.
But we are only going as far as the Grover Beach parking lot, our starting point.
And there they are, our metal machines so vital to this exploration by hoof. Load 'em up, move 'em out, and good-natured critters that they are, they oblige our curiosities and take us on our adventures.

Until next time, and the next Mule Trail.

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### PAT FISH ###

Sunday, May 26, 2024

2024/5/26 Gaviota Pass Las Cruces Cruise

The beautiful mountains that rise above the Gaviota Pass, where coastal Hwy 101 and Hwy 1 split apart, 35 miles North of Santa Barbara. Thousands drive through every day, and a lucky few stop and take the time to explore the trails.
Under a cloudy sky four riders from the MeetUp saddled up to do a short ride. It is a perfect time of year to move across the landscape at 2mph, observing all the wildflowers blooming in succession.
Past the school is a parking lot for rigs, and then the road has this gate blocking vehicular entry. The Park Rangers use it for access, and a special step-over opening on the left allows equine access. Jamie Buse and Mosca wait on the other side, eager to get going. There is a glimpse of Hwy 101 on the left, the first part of the trail parallels it.
A kiosk at the side of the trail shows the choice: to bear right and continue on the main Las Cruces trail, straight up to the ridge, or turn left and go down the Ortega trail, a challenging traverse.

Because both humans and their mounts are still legging up after a lazy rainy winter, we opted to take what is essentially a jeep trail.

No rock scrambling today.

Then two of the riders decided they needed to go fast and took off.

Tobe Mule and Mosca Thoroughbred were just fine taking the slow lane. 

We think the experience of the wild is best savored at a slower pace, remarking on the views and the plant life.

Periodically the trail opens up to plateaus with lovely views of the mountains, and as we climbed the grasses and flowers were at different stages of seasonal development.
Looking across this valley from the ridge you can see another part of the trail system that winds down into the valley between.

We started to see groups of hikers, mostly Mexican families out for a walk on a holiday.

Mosca was not at all happy when one sun-conscious woman came toward us under a large black umbrella, but thankfully she was savvy enough to unfurl it as she approached.

No bicycles, no dogs, just some nice humans whose children got to pet Tobe's nose and add an animal encounter to their day's adventure.

About this time we see the two other people we thought we'd ride with coming back toward us on the trail. 

This is Diana Osberg on Tango. Savvy observers may recognize the Rocky Mountain horse coloring that Tobe Mule shares, his mother having been of that breed.

And this is Diana's niece Alexa Kemalyan, riding Blue the Quarter Horse.

They were rarin' to go and apparently had scampered up the route on the ridge all the way to the ocean view and then were coming back. 

Lucky thing life is full of trails and we can choose the speed at which we travel, and what experiences we are having.

We soon got to this high point where we could see out to sea. Unfortunately, the maritime haze that keeps Santa Barbara such a garden spot was obscuring the islands, and we could only just glimpse one of the offshore oil rigs.
If you REALLY squint at the big photo you might be able to see the blip that is the oil drilling platform Harmony.

There are many oil platforms in the Channel, huge when you are near them but just a twinkle of lights in the night from shore.
But we are far above, looking down into the exclusive enclave known as Hollister Ranch. You can see one of the estates on the ridge line to the right. Hollister Ranch is a 14,400-acre gated residential community amidst a working cattle ranch. Click the link to see parcels for sale.
Right about now Tobe and I were slowing down, we'd been out an hour and I called it. So we went to the top of this path and then turned around.
On the way back down Jamie pointed out this rock formation that channels water down into the canyons below. In the rainy season it has a significant waterfall.

Now that I've seen it a goal is set to return in the winter to see it in full flow.

Just like seeing plants at different seasons, the landscape as a whole has details and features to reveal on multiple visits.

But for now, we head slowly back down the hill. At some places the trail is eroded by water, in other parts the grass that has been mowed down makes for a slippery surface. But I can count on my mule to take very careful steps and get us back to our starting point safely.



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Mule Trail Blog by Pat Fish