By Pat Fish
The Lucky 13 riders who joined together to explore Live Oak trails.
But first we saw that changes are afoot in the parking lot where we tack up. A new porta-potty on site, and a billboard for signage that will cater to the hikers who will be newly permitted as of next week.
Long established as an exclusively equestrian recreation area, for many decades this has been the favorite riding area for horse and mule riders from Santa Barbara and the surrounding county.
As documented in the Lompoc Record this week, a sign at the entrance gate states EQUESTRIAN ACCESS ONLY. It did say hikers were allowed “Not Yet” and some wag amended it to say “Not Ever.” If only it were so easy. The politicians support equal access for all, not considering the conflicts that multi-use brings.
I drew this logo for the people who tried in vain to negotiate with the Politicians and Government Employees who proposed these changes last year.
This sticker is available for those who support keeping this one last trail an equestrian only preserve. Click here to buy
And meanwhile, we riders will make the best of it until the number of people on the trails with their non-permitted off-leash dogs gets to the point where we surrender and ride elsewhere. As has happened already to other local trails.
Already the scant amount of rainfall we got this “winter” has caused this crossing of the Santa Ynez River to go dry.
So we ford the rocks.
But our goal is to ride, and to that end I will introduce the members of the expedition.
Noe on Marcos
Rigo on Huarache
Jamie on Mosca
Pat on Tobe
Arturo on Reylámpago
Hope on Strategic
Christina on Kearney
Lenora on Bowie
And off we go.
The nice thing about riding in big groups is the opportunity to ride with someone and chat,
or work on some training your animal needs,
or just to ride alone and enjoy nature while having the safety of numbers should something go awry.
For me, the opportunity to be out in the landscape, away from the city and the details of my everyday life, is precious indeed.
I chose the route, and took us down a very long hill sloping to the plateau.
All of these trails are former ranch roads, and are accessible to the service vehicles of the Park Rangers. So riding here is not about cliffs with drop offs and scaling rocky ridges. It is a pleasant walk through oak woodlands and the opportunity to commune with nature from the back of your favorite beast.
Mine of course is my stolid Kentucky mule Tobe.
With his four legs and my brain we have quite the combo.
Or, I like to think so anyway. He probably thinks HE is the smart half-ass.
While on the trail periodically the animals and humans take a chance to rest up for a few minutes in the shade.
The creatures eat grass, humans have some water, then we move on.
And off to the sides of the trails are the vistas, the look of nobody home all the way to the horizon.
This gate intrigues me. I think that the enormous Rancho San Fernando Rey wraps all the way around the Live Oak property, and going through this locked gate would then give access to thousands of more acres of trails and cow country.
So many mountains, so many trails and cow paths and deer tracks, so many things to see.
In an area that shows on the maps as a basin of water coming up from the lake a now dry area had cows contentedly lying about.
And the log out in this meadow that has the appearance of a crocodile catches the eye of every passing equine.
It has been five months since we last rode here on my birthday, and in that time this tree must have fallen and then been sawed up by the park attendant, whose duty it is to keep the trails clear. Nice job.
Finally we completed the miles of the trek through the valley and came around to the edge of Cachuma Lake again.
A steep drop off at the water’s edge gave a view up and down the lake, which looks about 80% full right now. The posse peeked over.
But it was time to turn back toward the starting point, a change in direction that all the beasts recognize and it puts a spring in their step.
Having the lake come in and out of view makes this such a very special place. Artificially created by the construction of the Bradbury Dam in 1953, it is a reservoir for the drinking water for the city of Santa Barbara.
This curious mass growing out of a cut limb on this tree set us all speculating. I’m guessing fungus.
Another shady spot. By now we’ve gone 8 miles and everyone needs a breather.
And the animals are all glad for a little spring grass.
As we relaxed I couldn’t help but notice a kettle of turkey vultures circling in the air above us.
Incentive to keep moving.
This view of this set of mountains is one of my favorite parts of this trail. There is something so special about seeing the bones of the earth exposed this way, it speaks California to me.
And then we turned off the lake edge and onto the plateau again, and thoughts are starting to turn to lunch and resting up together before the ride home.
But FIRST we must conquer going down the very steep and challenging chalk hill. Back down to the river level.
And as the last act on the trail, the animals drank deeply and walked a bit in the cool water and let their sore hooves hydrate before getting stripped down and given their promise of carrots and bermuda grass and a rest before trailering back down the 154 to home.
And the award for Rider of the Day < Jinete del Día > goes to six year old Chuy who kept up with all the adults five or ten times his age with no problem. His proud papa Rigo is raising him to be a real Charro, in the traditional horsemen style of Zacatecas.