Nostalgia for the Live Oak Trails we are in danger of losing

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Nostalgia for the Live Oak Trails we are in danger of losing
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By Pat Fish

This blog is meant to be a testimony to the pleasure of four-legged exploration in the front country trails of our marvelous region. But now access to the best of the local trail systems, the ONLY exclusively equestrian area, is being "modified" to become multi-use. I drew the logo above to publicize the effort to stop this change.

That tiny red area is all we have that is exclusively equestrian. We are not greedy, we just don't want the trails, which have been set aside for us since Lake Cachuma was first created in 1953, to be ruined by hikers, with off leash dogs, and bicycle riders careening at high speed down the trails.

Today the MeetUp had 9 riders and we took a leisurely stroll in the beautiful weather. We traveled through a variety of riparian and chaparral zones, as the map shows, both wooded and open spaces.

Truthfully we were on the trail 3 hours, because it was nice to stop, give the animals a rest, and appreciate the views.

HOWEVER the day did not start out all that well.

As I entered the equestrian parking area I immediately saw a group of people with a large German Shepherd walking through the grass. Not only hikers (currently still forbidden) but with a dog (always verboten.) 

I told them it was illegal to be hiking there, and they said they had special permission, that they were training a Search and Rescue dog.

Of course I called the Rangers, who said they knew nothing about these people, and came out to talk to them. Eventually they were told to use the upper Campground area and not the trails or the equestrian area. 

Then the Ranger told me that hiker access has been put off until May, and encouraged me to continue to lobby against opening up the trails. The Rangers don't want the extra work that conflicts will bring, and I also spoke with the Camp Host who was in a tizzy about having to add picking up trash to his care taking duties. Currently you can ride for hours here and NEVER see any trash. The Host told me the total amount of trash he currently picks up will be 3-4 water bottles per YEAR, ones that may have fallen unnoticed out of a saddle bag.

So, we parked and I began greeting my pals in the MeetUp and we all saddled up. But then just as we started for the trail head

We saw this woman with two little kids heading out on the trail. We called to her, saying it was illegal, and again, of course, she said she was special and had permission from the Rangers.

And here we go, calling the Rangers to come back again.

She took the kids down to the Santa Ynez River at the crossing, where they proceeded to squeal and splash about.

Not really safe with a large number of horses coming through.

And she was adamant that she was special, the Rangers would let her stay.

This is exactly what we fear will be our every riding experience here if multi-use is enacted.

Not my circus, not my monkeys. We rode on.

But, having called in the troops, I turned around to watch the drama unfold.

The standoff was loud enough for me to overhear. She claimed that because her husband was "on a trail ride here" she had permission to also be on the trails. Uh, no.

Meanwhile, the group was waiting for me up the trail, so it was time to move along.

All the MeetUp rides are a loose confederation of individuals, and I am not a bossy Trail Boss. I only ask that everyone do what they can to help everyone be safe on the trail, and be courteous in the Cowboy Way.

Once we cleared the first hill I turned Tobe to look back at the rigs, and was pleased to see the Rangers were firmly escorting the woman back out, and we hoped she would have a nice afternoon at their trailer waiting for her husband to get back from his ride.

But it is with a sigh that I document these encounters. What has been half a century of trails dedicated for exclusive equestrian use may very soon be like every other trail system, where people stop riding because they no longer feel safe.

But for now, it was a beautiful day and Lake Cachuma was shimmering on the horizon.

Having the lake to navigate around on the many trails adds so much pleasure, and our gentle explorations leave nothing but hoof prints.

Many of the trails here are former ranch roads, kept open for emergency vehicles should there be a need to rescue someone on the property. 

There are single-track rocky spans, but frankly, when Tobe Mule is picking his way through them, or down a steep slope, I'm not taking pictures.

In sections like this I continued my new botanical whim, tossing California poppy seeds into the scruffy margins of the trails. If we get some more rain and the seeds have a chance to sprout before being found by ground squirrels, I look forward to riding here in Springs to come and seeing poppies blooming where they have not been before.

SO many of the oaks are dead now, and the sides of the trails are filled with their fallen limbs.

When I started riding here this tree had a whole section to the left that I had to go around to photograph the lake from this vantage point. Oaks have a way of "sacrificing" limbs to preserve the whole. We see it everywhere here.

Another view, another shimmer on the horizon.

There are fences that prevent us actually going to the edge of the lake, which is at best tenuous anyway since the margins recede in drought times leaving expanses of mud.

I think what I like best is the feeling that after so many indoor days spent typing away at a computer or working doing tattoos at my studio THIS awaits. The horizon, the sense of landscape untraveled, that my marvelous four legged gives me access to.

Funny thing about riding a mule or horse, how relaxing it is while at the same time you are always vigilant and alert. Obviously the equine is doing the hard work, and it is amazing that they do it so willingly.

Here we are looking toward home, at the seaside, on the other side of the coastal mountain range. But for just these few hours we are in country.

This mud flat used to be a finger of the lake, back a decade or more ago when I began to ride here. And with rainfall it will fill again.

But it was time to turn back, so we retraced our steps across the flat land.

Here we were almost at lake level, catching glimpses of boats and the pontoons that section off the shallows.

One last look out to the inland mountain ranges, trails for more ambitious days.

And the pleasure of crossing the river and cooling the animals' feet before we all enjoy a lunch together under the oaks in the parking area.

We vow to do what we can to preserve the dreamlike quality of these trails.

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Cabomark Mar 07, 2021 09:09 PM
Nostalgia for the Live Oak Trails we are in danger of losing

I think what Pat Fish fails to realize is that the "hikers with a German Shepherd" , if you notice in the pictures she posted, they were all were uniformed members of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Search & Rescue K9 team, who had authorization (thus the gates codes provided by the Rangers) to train there. Maybe , taking some time to get the facts before you start your venomous diatribe would be something to think about in the future.

CreekMoe Mar 07, 2021 12:19 PM
Nostalgia for the Live Oak Trails we are in danger of losing

Seems the area of the Live Oaks Trail is big enough to add new trails for hikers and bikers. Just find some old cattle paths or old Chumash trails. And make
the routes more challenging than those for ranch vehicles and horses or mules.

And i now know why horse and mule riding is so popular: only the horse gets its feet wet in the stream or creek. Plus the rider can avoid exercising. Also the
horse can carry more weight than a hiker or the homeless campers.

And once people are allowed, the Handicap Laws kick in. Or trails will need to
be paved and hand rails added? Plus some schools will schedule student outings to see the snakes and birds.

Then Rangers should paint the trails green so they are easy to follow. And
add some signage too.

Jkkemp58 Mar 07, 2021 10:50 AM
Nostalgia for the Live Oak Trails we are in danger of losing

The US vs Them attitude here is lamentable and counterproductive. I'm a biker (never ridden Live Oak) and my wife is an equestrian who occasionally rides there. The fact is, there aren't enough maintained trails for all users and this leads to conflicts. Demanding exclusive use for one user group because they were there first is a losing strategy. Equestrians are a shrinking group. Rather than demanding exclusive rights to public lands, I'd suggest collaborating with hikers, bikers and moms with kids to secure more trails, keep them maintained and establish guidelines for orderly use. This is what Sage Trail Alliance, Santa Barbara County Trails Council and others are seeking to do to expand outdoor recreation opportunities.

a-1615137370 Mar 07, 2021 09:16 AM
Nostalgia for the Live Oak Trails we are in danger of losing

Interesting how Pat and friends were quick to call a ranger to complain about a mother and her kids using the trail to get to the river, but when Pat came to ride on North Campus Open Space a few months ago, none of us watching from the "crackerboxes" (as Pat terms the homes around the preserve) called the UCSB campus police. Horses are not allowed on preserve trails. Also interesting how Hammonds Hound is worried about hikers spooking their mounts on hiking trails riders use, but they don't seem to worry about the hikers when riding around Ellwood or NCOS preserves or other multiuse trails or the beach.

Plapidus Mar 07, 2021 08:35 AM
Nostalgia for the Live Oak Trails we are in danger of losing

Pat
I have been glancing at your articles for the last couple months. As an equestrian rider, bicycle rider, E mountain bike rider, hiker & general outdoors person I think you are shining an unwanted ugly light on the equestrian community. Fortunately not all equestrian are behaving like you. The decision on whether to keep Live Oak trails as equestrian only is in process now. Whatever the outcome we will deal with it. The fact is there are rules on all trails that set parameters on use. For example some are no to bikes, Ebikes, Horses, motorcycles etc. All trails do not have to be open to all uses.
Last week you took a swipe at the Franklin trail in Carpinteria. Our only public access to the Los Padres in Carpinteria. Yes this. Trail can be crowded. The fact that it’s. Being heavily utilized is a testament to the fact that more trails need to be constructed to serve the needs of our community. It sounds like you need to find a more trusty steed that can take care of you on the trail and take some riding lessons to boost your confidence as a rider out in the big scary world.

Bird Mar 07, 2021 10:43 AM
Nostalgia for the Live Oak Trails we are in danger of losing

Very definitely there need to be more trails! And there needs to be greater respect to and from others; perhaps that will happen once this COVID period is over. Or, perhaps not. Given their special needs, it would be nice if there were one trail that could be equestrian only or at least one without bikes and dogs. One trail where there could be riders not afraid of their horse being "spooked" by humans and dogs. And, preferably, people who don't consider themselves special, more special than we all consider ourselves, who believe that the rules (no dogs, for instance) don't apply to them.

I am not an equestrian, although I have ridden joyfully on trails in NH and, one visit, in Hawaii; long gone family members lived and rode in the backcountry of Montecito foothills, when there was a back country Montecito accessible without the dominance of the mega rich of now. On reading of Tobe Mule, I have wished I had a mule whom I could care for and on whom I could ride the trails. I have wondered whether the equestrians Pat writes of pick up the droppings; she has not to my noticing mentioned that. I loathe the rudeness and self-centeredness, the mine, mine, mine of so many now. I hope that there can be a solution and think that the best would be equestrians on some days of the week and equestrians and hikers on most of the days. With signage to advise of these rules.

Hammonds Hound Mar 07, 2021 08:27 AM
Nostalgia for the Live Oak Trails we are in danger of losing

For those of you who have never ridden a horse on a trail, coming upon people, dogs and bikes suddenly can be very “spooky “ for a horse, and potentially dangerous for the rider. If a horse gets spooked, it can potentially be dangerous for the hikers and others as well. A spooked horse can be unpredictable, even for an experienced rider.

PitMix Mar 08, 2021 07:28 AM
Nostalgia for the Live Oak Trails we are in danger of losing

I don't think this is a good reason to limit access. If your horse is spooky, then it shouldn't be in public. Just like taking a dog that isn't socialized to an off leash area. I am not against limiting access though.

a-1615090161 Mar 06, 2021 08:09 PM
Nostalgia for the Live Oak Trails we are in danger of losing

So few folks have horses, but all of us have legs. So why limit a popular area trails to a group of rich entitled people with animals to ride? We have to put up with her horse crap on the hiking trails she likes to pollute, so can't she put up with a little crap from us?

Ahchooo Mar 06, 2021 06:55 PM
Nostalgia for the Live Oak Trails we are in danger of losing

I know nothing about this beyond what Ms Fish presents here. I also didn’t care for her attitude in the post that Artemisia mentions above. But it seems to me that we can afford to keep one trail for equine travel only. Why make the horses and mules deal with dogs and children? Aren’t there enough other places for non-horsey recreation?

Artemisia Mar 06, 2021 05:40 PM
Nostalgia for the Live Oak Trails we are in danger of losing

I don't always agree with Pat's diatribes (e.g. I was disappointed that she complained about a green but pesticide-laden, water gulping golf course being converted to a rich natural wetland habitat, restored at UCSB's North Campus Open Space, an amazing accomplishment!)-- but in this case, I gotta say I completely support her view: it's absolutely appropriate and desirable that one single trail be dedicated solely for equestrian use undisturbed by hikers and dogs. The rest of us have a myriad of other perfectly fine trails that we can hike or bike freely without distressing riders and their mounts. Go Pat!

Basicinfo805 Mar 06, 2021 05:14 PM
Nostalgia for the Live Oak Trails we are in danger of losing

I'm going to use the "OMG" for you Mr. or Mrs. Fish. I do like your last name...a lot. Your disdain for anyone other than yourself and your friends' mules/horses (which are certainly if not directly pooping in the watershed in which we all drink from...ahem) is very blatant. Let's, shall we, start we the very title of your diatribe - "nostalgia and for the live oak trails WE in in danger of losing". Your version of "we" is simply those very very few who have horses and want to trail ride through the santa ynez watershed, apparently IN THE WATER should you wish. Hint: WE, meaning all of Santa Barbara has to drink that water. I'll translate - you personally don't want others on what you consider to be YOUR trails. Am I wrong? You took the time to confront others and try and bring on a park ranger to hassle the people with a dog and a family trying to enjoy the outdoors. And the new you,called them a circus and monkeys??

I rest my case. And I do hope you realize a lot of others deserve access to those places at we all deserve and support, not just you and your horse/mule buddies. It's not your private estate Fish.

jimbo212 Mar 06, 2021 03:34 PM
Nostalgia for the Live Oak Trails we are in danger of losing

“The Rangers don't want the extra work that conflicts will bring”. It sounds like the easiest way to reduce the rangers’ workloads is for you to stop complaining to them about stupid stuff like a mom and her kids playing in the river.

a-1615149706 Mar 07, 2021 12:41 PM
Nostalgia for the Live Oak Trails we are in danger of losing

Jimbo, that is exactly what it sounds like you said... let the liars, cheats and thieves get away with it and stop bothering the law enforcement personnel charged with, among other things, keeping the peace. A parent lying through her teeth and breaking rules in front of her kids claiming to be special IS a menace to society.

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