Mule Trail Ride: Super Trail Sunday
By Pat Fish
The Santa Ynez River is flowing again, starting to fill with runoff from recent rains, so it was a joy to take to the Live Oak trails and know the landscape is readying for Spring.
This hawk or vulture is that tiny dot in the sky above. Reminding us we are just visitors here, and to travel with respect.
We are being observed.
We started as always from the equestrian parking area, crossed the river, and then did the loop to the right and went out as far as the end of the big flat area. When we came back we went down the steep chalk hill.
Recently there has been an unfortunate effort to change the nature of these trails. Since Lake Cachuma was created in 1953 the trail system of former ranch roads has been exclusively reserved for equestrians. But last Fall, someone complained to the Government that they wanted to bike or hike here and without any public input the announcement was made that as of 1/1/21 hikers would be allowed, then 6/1/21 mountain bike riders would be allowed in.
I created this logo for the quickly organized equestrians who have united to persuade the Board of Supervisors and County Park Staff to keep the trails as they are. Stickers and shirts with this logo are available at my shop on Redbubble online. As of now the "project" that would have opened up the trails is delayed. We hope to stop it.
For up to date information or to assist this effort please contact the Santa Ynez Valley Riders who are coordinating the trails advocacy.
There is bright shiny new signage at the gate that gives access to the trail system, someone paid a lot of money for it. Unfortunately, tax dollars paid for them, and the sign on the left is on unsealed chip board.
It is completely inappropriate for outdoor signage, so the fact that the very nice kiosk that used to be at this place, with a map of the trails, was replaced by something that will degrade quickly in the weather is a sad comment on the maintenance priorities here.
Tobe Mule and I like to show off how well we coordinate as a team to open gates. These wonderful stock gates were a private donation, and are easy to open and close while mounted.
If, of course, you are a Mule Team!
Today we were joined by 7 members of the MeetUp. I started it because I no longer wanted to ride alone, and the result is that whenever I post a ride I want to do, a different congenial group of people opts to come along. Often Tobe and I lag behind, that way we feel like we are riding alone in nature but have the safety of being with a group.
Another gate gives access to another part of the trail system, and one by one we pass through.
At the top of this hill is the first view of the lake, and I often stop here to take souvenir portraits of my companions. Those who ride treasure photographs of themselves with their mounts, and I am happy to provide them as souvenirs of our days together.
Bunnie Dunstone on Greter 3/4 Arab 1/4 quarter horse
Jamie Buse on Mosca the thoroughbred
Lisa Starr on her paint
Deborah Thorsen on Carbone the Peruvian Paso
On my last few rides here I have been scattering California poppy seeds in areas such as this, and I did look today with a hope of possibly seeing some of them sprouting up after the recent rains. But, no sign of them yet.
So many of the oaks have suffered terribly in the droughts of the last few decades, they make beautiful silhouettes against the sky but it is sad to know that with no evidence of spring leaf buds this is another ancient giant we have lost.
The fence on the left is the Beehole Corral, and directly in front is a dip down into a creek bed I always think of as Gelding Gulch, because one day I surprised a large group of frisky geldings at play in the water there.
I wonder if everyone who rides here has silly names for the memorable twists and turns of the trails?
Once down at the level of the lake, we see a herd of the Bucking Horses. They are not wild, but they are certainly not tame. Bred from rodeo stock known for bucking, they are left here on the land and reproduce yet more generations of horses not willing to settle into a civilized job. With rodeos being cancelled by the Pandemic, this year they have an easy life.
At that point we turned toward the end of the large open field and when the trail split I asked two of my cohort to turn around with me, because Tobe Mule has a crack in a hoof and our goal was to go no more than 5 miles.
We had run into Ms Sherlock on the trail, and when we parted ways she took this view of us heading back.
And I took this one of her and her companion.
As we headed back this burst of ectoplasm swooshed through Tobe's ears and was gone. The spirit of some long gone vaquero who rode these trails in days gone past?
Just like the mighty oaks, our days are numbered.
But the old timers say that days spent in the saddle are not subtracted from our allotted span.
When we got to the top of the steep trail cut into the chalk hill I asked to take it, a straight-away short cut back to base.
This gate is a difficult one, and Jamie graciously dismounted to open and close it for us.
The view is splendid, but the pitch is steep, and you can see the amount of erosion caused by the rains over the last 2 weeks.
Below is the Santa Ynez River, forming pools, not moving well enough to reach the lake, and the flat plateau above that is the Live Oak Camp, now almost never used except twice a year.
Back at the river's level, Tobe Mule is glad to know his day's work is done and he can get a drink of water and settle in with a bag of carrots while the humans have their lunch.
Another fine visit to our cherished favorite place to ride.
We will do our part to document it, support the effort to keep it reserved for equestrians, and encourage the Authorities to improve the camp and open it to overnight horse campers who would love the chance to travel here and explore, thus creating a revenue-producing attraction unique to California.
Feb 13, 2021 12:20 PM
So, are hikers allowed to use the network of Live Oak roads/trails? The signage doesn't appear to restrict hikers.
Feb 13, 2021 01:47 PM
I recently visited the Dos Vientos trail system down in Ventura County where trails are mixed-use so found this interesting. Here's a background story on the public lands use issue @Live Oak ..... https://www.santaynezvalleystar.com/live-oak-camp-trails-will-be-open-to-hikers-not-just-horses-and-riders-in-2021/
Feb 13, 2021 01:53 PM
Regarding the use of chip board for the sign ... perhaps someone at County Parks realized rules are going to be in flux during the pilot program so didn't want to invest in a more permanent/costly sign this time around?
Feb 14, 2021 12:08 PM
UPDATE: The idea to allow access to hikers and bicycle riders has been indefinitely postponed. Instead the Government is speaking with equestrian groups about expanding use, in the model of the Montaña de Oro horse camps.