A beautiful sunny day and a triumvirate of riders took the opportunity to explore the recent changes to the terrain around the University of California at Santa Barbara campus.
We rode for 2 hours and covered 5.5 miles, glad to be out in the fresh air.
Every ride starts with the tacking up. The animals ride naked to the meeting point, and then patiently wait while they get saddled and bridled and readied.
Tobe takes longer, mules have significantly more gear, so I appreciate that my riding companions are patient with us.
And Tobe, in turn, is patient with me.
I genuinely think he enjoys exploring around, and also my mentors assure me that he forgets nothing. So he remembers this trail quite as clearly as I do.
But oh my gosh,
last time I rode out from here this was a big open field leading up to a golf course.
Now it is crammed full with cheap clapboard housing.
A distressing loss of open space.
And almost immediately we start seeing the signs.
This was a beautiful trail meandering through the eucalyptus grove, connecting to the Monarch Butterfly Preserve. Now it has been deemed too dangerous to travel through. The years of drought have taken their toll on the trees, and rather than selectively thin and trim them the Government has chosen to forbid public access.
And the massive Venoco oil and gas storage tanks are still here, even though it was my understanding that they had withdrawn from processing oil here and were paying for the restoration of the damaged wetlands.
Piles of materials tarped off and left as rubbish still hold puddles from Wednesday’s rainfall,
in an area that was actively being replanted with native perennials when last I was here.
And oh my gosh, the golf course has been utterly stripped. No grass, no trees, no brightly dressed men zipping around in electric carts.
It is now a desolate wasteland.
The trunks of the eucalyptus that used to shade the periphery are lined up alongside the road, and the only signs of life within are the tracks of machinery moving through the dirt.
On the ocean side of the road there are signs forbidding and limiting entry, but I see little evidence of the reintroduction of native plants that was so in progress just a few years ago.
And this CAUTIOn BEES sign is beyond pathetic.
Like the old joke sign “PLAN AHEAd”.
Presumably a college educated person scrawled this.
We saw no bees. Nor do I fear them.