MeetUp Oso Canyon Exploration
By Pat Fish
Oso Canyon above the Santa Ynez River, off Paradise Road.
Six MeetUp riders, 6.51 miles in 3.21 hours on the trail.
As always a diverse group of equestrians with their mounts of many styles and colors.
We began at Rancho Oso, where we know the gatekeepers will guarantee our rigs from vandalism. We started out with a plan that was quickly derailed when Jamie saw the sign for the Waterfall Trail.
She's one of those gals who just has to check out a place she's never been, so off we went to see what there was to see.
This astonishingly huge tank appeared at the end of the trail. The last time I rode out there all that existed was a flat cover over a cistern.
Come to think of it that was quite a few years ago.
So now we know what's there!
Curiosity satisfied we got back on the main Bath Tub trail and passed by the mare pasture where one of the horses traveling with us lives.
Her pasture mates called out to her.
But we passed by.
The spring grass was abundant, and it was a pleasure that some rocky places in this trail that had always been a challenge have been repaired nicely.
Of course even as we headed into wilderness there were the inevitable signs of civilization, antivirus face masks on the trail.
But we were breathing the pure fresh air of nature, and glad of it.
We passed through the camping area, and headed down to the Arroyo Burro river crossing.
The shady oaks on a hot sunny day were very pleasant.
There was just enough water to get the animals' hooves hydrated before climbing up into the canyon.
For comparison, this is what this exact spot looked like 5 years ago.
Tobe Mule was in the middle of taking a drink when suddenly 3 bicycle riders careened around the trail corner and skidded to a stop at the water's edge.
They were pleasant enough, but when they were informed that good trail etiquette encourages them to announce their approach when riding up on equines they seemed to have never been informed of that.
Thankfully we met lots of other bike riders who slowed down and did announce themselves, nicely sharing the trail.
We let them speed on ahead and started the ascent to Paradise Road.
The road is filled with bicycles and cars, amazing how differently humans behave. Some slow down graciously as they pass us by, some, not so much. Tobe Mule is a steady fellow. He will track their passing with his ears but he keeps his feet on the path.
From Paradise Road we could look down, across the Santa Ynez River, and back to where the rigs were parked on the grounds of Rancho Oso.
We stopped in some shade to let the animals rest a bit before continuing on.
Finally, onto the trail and up into Oso Canyon, fording the stream that joins the river.
Lots of the path was very dry, and I tossed the last of my California state flower poppy seeds out onto the waste areas. It may be too late in the season for them to take root now, there may not be rain to sprout them.
In which case the ground squirrels will thank me for delivering a treat.
So many of the trees that should be budding forth Spring growth looked dead, just like we see on all the trails.
BUT once we got into the Upper Oso Campground it was astonishingly green. The pole paddocks for horse campers had been repaired, and were very overgrown, waiting to be used.
In contrast to the giant motor homes filling the campsites at Rancho Oso, here the place was deserted.
The roads were still in poor condition, as they have been for several years.
There is a lot of evidence of flash flooding washing away roads and campsites.
But traveling on the four-legged as we do this was no deterrence.
Water spilling over what used to be a road made a nice waterfall.
Having reached the end of the route we wished to take we turned back toward home.
It would have been nice to see families out here teaching their kids about nature.
Less than an hour above the cityscape of Santa Barbara, the restorative quiet of the mountains.
So down the canyon, across the road and back to Rancho Oso. Just enough for one day's adventuring.
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to."
"I don't much care where –"
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Mar 27, 2021 11:35 AM
Thanks Pat - I was really curious to see what the River was looking like this year, with such little rain. Great photos. Might be a tough spring fishing season back up that way by the looks of it. Too little water.
Mar 28, 2021 09:43 AM
Thanks for this report although yet again it makes me wish I had a horse or mule and could be there too! Btw, how should bicyclists “announce” themselves? I’d guess that a bell could startle a horse?
Mar 28, 2021 11:16 AM
BIRD It is actually required by law that bicyclists have a "bear bell" on their rides in the forest trails, that give off a little jingle. But few do. If you have them you'll never see a bear, never surprise one, which you'd definitely rather not do. The bears will hear you coming and hide. My mule can hear a bicycle on dirt a long distance away, this time because we were moving through water we were making noise that covered their approach. Good courtesy is to call out something charming like "Hey what great looking horses!" so the animals know you are coming and most importantly know you are a human. Horses are hard-wired to respond to predatory behavior, and do so VERY quickly, without stopping to figure out WHAT it is rushing up on them.
Mar 29, 2021 05:30 AM
Thank you, Pat, for this information! Makes total sense - I have a bell on my (street) bike and assumed that most bikes do. But I was also concerned about scaring the horse!
Maybe your group of equestrians could develop a short flyer with one of your pictures and distribute to bike shops and, if there was a way, have available at selected trailheads? It's probable that most of the bicyclists aren't thinking about others on the trails needing warnings. Hikers would also appreciate informational warnings, at least on some trails, especially where there could be serious harm to horse and rider ...and bicyclist.
Mar 28, 2021 10:23 PM
We took our young preteens to and along Upper Oso trail regularly to experience Nature’s joys and “sense sublime”, in Wordsworth’s words. They have never deviated far from that edifying and humbling path as they have grown into successful adults. Thanks for sharing your inspirational and assertive commentary!