By Pat Fish
The group now has 467 members, of which about a dozen come on the regular Sunday rides.
We have NO idea who the rest of them are! We look forward to meeting them in 2022.
Today we chose La Purisima Mission for our ride because recent rains had closed or made difficult other trails.
It is always lovely.
My mapping program was wonky, so it only recorded the gold track but we also rode the green I have drawn onto the map.
Altogether about 7 miles in 3 hours, all the way around the central valley and then up to the water tanks for the Mesa view, then back on the sandy overgrown trails past the water treatment plant and then back down.
The statue of the padre holding the dove greets us as we come into the parking area, and always seems like a sign that all animals are welcome here, human and equine.
The property is a California State Park, and a wonderful resource for the Lompoc area. We share the trails with families walking with dogs and children, bicyclists and other equestrians.
We consider these trails safe and reasonably well maintained, although there are some that are not trimmed back and riders are well advised to wear long sleeves lest the manzanita and other plant life scratch them up. There is also a LOT of poison oak.
Many of the trails travel through chaparral woodlands and we make sure not to stray off the designated paths.
Mostly the horses and mules are on the deep sand on the hillsides, and the rest of the visitors are on the paved areas.
The winding sand trails let us see magnificent specimens of plants that are the essence of the California front country. In summer this area is redolent with the aroma of sage. In winter we enjoy how moisture brings out the mahogany color of the manzanita.
Tobe and I are OK with roads or trails, the important thing is getting out of the city and into nature.
And no problem sticking to the 15mph restriction.
Mules like to walk 2.2mph, but if encouraged by faster companions he will kick it into a faster gait and keep up.
No mule left behind!
But then… we had two encounters.
We like to think that sharing the trails nicely should be a goal for all we meet, and to the great extent we enjoy letting little kids pet the horses on the nose or ask us questions.
But then there are the bike riders who we often fear.
This fellow exemplified what we always hope for.
He stopped his bike, said hello, thereby defusing the fear that equines have, as a prey animal, when something behaves in a predatory manner, especially rushing up on them at top speed.
He greeted Mosca with the deference to which she feels due, as former racetrack royalty, and she deigned to kiss the ring.
He was Gallant.
Then we let him whirl off ahead of us, since his progress was much faster on the road.
But no sooner had he gone but we met the next fellow on a bike and had an opposite encounter.
Inexplicably he first rode towards us at high speed and when we shouted at him to “STOP!” he pulled up in the middle of the road and assumed the pouting stance of a 5 year old.
As we always do we calmly explained that an onrushing bike can cause a horse to bolt, and the risk to rider is great.
And, of course, the Rules say we have the right of way. It really isn’t difficult.
His response was to argue that he shouldn’t have to stop riding just because we can’t control our damn animals.
He shouted at us for quite a while, and finally said the telling thing:
“I’m afraid of horses, their brains are too small for their bodies!”
Well fellow, we might say the same about you.
HE was Goofus.
So we left him to the turkey vultures to sort out.
We set our goal to ride to the highest point on the property, two humongous water tanks at the top of the Mesa.
There the unusual color of the metal challenged me to do portraits.
Mosca was not sure she wanted to pose next to the fencing as if having just made a jailbreak.
Marcos is always ready for the get-away
and Miss Kitty is forever obedient.
But these photos looked too industrial, so I asked everyone to walk to the end of the overlook for the landscape background.
This is how Jamie likes to remember her rides with Mosca.
Sharing the beautiful vistas, here looking out to Lompoc and the coastal mountains topped with clouds.
And Marcos looks every inch Andalusian royalty.
Miss Kitty is unpretentious and loyal and eager to please.
Then it was time to turn around and head downhill back toward our starting point.
Since most of the walk so far had been on roadways, it was time to head up into the chaparral. And bashing through the overgrown bushes, yelping as tree limbs bonk me in the head or branches scrape me, is not conducive to photography.
At one open area I did get this lovely shot of several trees, the front oak hung with Spanish moss and quite dry, the ones behind thriving. Overall the oaks here are in much better shape than the ones at Live Oak Camp, but still some show the stress of drought.
But all too soon we were back on the central road, and now greeting walkers and letting the animals pick up an easy pace, knowing they were on their way to the finish line.
Of course, the ever alert Tobe Mule saw and was baffled by this artifact in the asphalt.
Evidence of some small mammal passing this way.
But for now time to relax, everyone have a snack, and then load up into the trusty BrenderUp trailer and head back to Santa Barbara.
Another year stretches out before us, and trails old and new to explore.