By Pat Fish
It has been a LONG six months since last we rode at Live Oak. Tobe Mule and I were grateful for the rain that fell last winter, but that turned to dismay as we were told that the trails were made impassible and giant sinkholes appeared in the parking lot. So we waited. Finally today we rustled up our favorite two trail compadres and went to see how things looked.
Leaving the parking area it was such a pleasure to once again look out onto the trail system. But where we are used to having a small trickle of water a wide swath now showed signs of being scraped clean by rushing waters. The water at this point got to over 12′ high, and rose up and flooded the entire parking lot.
This shot shows how much gravel and rock had to be pushed aside to recreate the path down to cross the river. You can tell from the little ears this is Mosca’s viewpoint, but what you can’t know is she has a serious crush on the stallion Marcos, who has already crossed the water. We can be sure she will not hesitate to join him on the other side.
But first Mosca must perform her ritual splashing, a must whenever she is in water. All fun and games until, as happened last year, Jamie’s cell phone falls out of her pocket and lands in the river!
Tobe is always skeptical of water crossings. It is an anomaly of the equine eye that they have trouble seeing through the surface glint on water. So they edge forward unable to see how deep it is or what they are walking on.
But with his pals up ahead he must not delay. So a quick drink and off we go.
The trail stretches before us, so familiar but now with small changes, like trees that have fallen and been sawed up and moved off the path.
The view of a far-off horizon is balm for the urban heart. Looking off to the East and no one home but wildlife and a few cows.
Then we come to an overlook that gives us a first view of Lake Cachuma, where I like to take portraits of the people I ride with. So here is Noe on Marcos, a fine Andalusian/Azteca who owns the trail.
And Jamie on Mosca, the Appendix Thoroughbred who lives life at high speed.
From now on as we wind down the hillside we will catch views of the lake on the horizon, now over 100% full and spilling over the Bradbury Dam.
These two photos show the difference between 12/2022 when we last rode here, when the lake was at 17%, and now in 7/2023. We had grown quite used to the “bath tub ring” of white on the cliff edges, and the island being surrounded by mud flats.
Once down on the level of the plateau we were out of the trees and onto an expanse of dry grasses. The horses and cows live here as a fire mitigation, cropping down the grass, as do the deer. We always look for bear footprints, or signs that wild boar have rooted up the earth, but mostly we see the deer herds and birds flying above us.
Finally we were down to the level of the lake, our destination for today. It adds so much to our rides to look out over its calm expanse.
And this little group of lazy bovines apparently had the same idea.
We left them contentedly chewing their cud surrounded by an endless feast of grass hay.
I am so grateful for the good company of my riding companions, whose presence gives me someone to share the experience with as well as the safety in numbers in case something untoward should happen.
So we turned around and headed back, inching our way in reverse up to the trailhead. Such a pleasure to be out and about, I didn’t notice until I got off that I was as stiff as a tenderfoot who’d never ridden! Obviously Tobe Mule and I need more trail time!