Pismo Oceano Mule Ride
By Pat Fish
2021/8/29 Pismo Oceano
The tranquil waves of the Pismo/Oceano/Grover beach.
And much to my consternation everything went just fine until the last 10 miles of the 80 mile total took LONGER than the previous 70. OK, I had a good audio book, but my riding companions, who had arrived just a few minutes earlier, had sailed by the machinery being set up to weed the center divider. When I hit the jam just a few minutes later it had become a parking lot.
I get to the parking lot, we all tack up and set out, and I see that the traffic jam has proceeded to the kiosk where people enter to drive onto the beach. Is there no end to this press of humanity?
We start out for the dune trail, and there, hunkered down like a troll demanding toll for passage, is a guy in a hoodie lurking in the iceplant. Jamie yelled in no uncertain terms "DO NOT MOVE!" in her best motherly "Because I said so!" voice, with the result that the little fellow was frozen in fear, the equines were not spooked, and we started our ride.
These dunes are ancient, and wise city planners set them aside for the public's enjoyment.
We seldom see anyone else on these trails, even though the ocean is just over that rise to the right.
Jamie and Mosca like to lead the way, this thoroughbred's tail was made to fly in the wind.
Yvette's quarterhorse Breyer was feeling his oats too.
And Tobe Mule and I think any time out on the trail is well worth the effort to get there.
The plant communities change subtly as you walk along, in some places wind-beaten large trees shelter animals beneath them.
Tucked into some of these shelters are the trash middens of trespassing campers, but they are rousted by the patrols when they are noticed.
But we have no official capacity, we are just taking a grateful break from the Real World and going for a nature walk.
Even as the inland valleys are burnt grass and fire hazard, the sea grass here is lush and waving in the breeze.
This section burned last year, a vagrant's warming or cooking fire decimated an acre or more. Now it is making a comeback, but the skeletons of the larger bushes still mark the spot.
Turning to look on the other side of the trail this bright patch of iceplant was luminous in the sun.
Then we reached the access road, and it was time to turn toward the beach. Tobe is an old hand at the sand, but neither of our companion animals had ever been to the beach, so we took it slow.
Something new, orange fencing made a track down to the surf.
Looking both down and up-coast we could see that the vehicles were everywhere. At the price of a shorter ride I suggested we just turn up, heading back toward our starting point. Dodging cars, dogs and children was going to be tricky enough for that distance.
There were people surf-fishing, kids trying to splash around, people walking their dogs...... it was a full driver training movie for the horses! Tobe Mule on the other hoof is quite sure that the lakes in Kentucky never moved like this and it 'taint natural, so he will walk on the hard packed wet sand but not in the surf.
But today, kids of all ages are enjoying the simple joy of a day at the seashore. An innocent and timeless pleasure.
Sometimes I have to include a butt shot, since when I see other riders' photos from trail rides this is what they look like.
Then close to the entrance we found a dead seal.
The cars kept pouring onto the beach, and at the lifeguard tower up ahead we reported the seal. The two blonde lads looked at us bewildered, clearly it was not in their job description to deal with a carcass.
Well, we weren't the ones camping near it. We did enjoy rousting a large colony of seagulls. Another good training moment for the equines.
It is hard-wired into prey animals like horses and mules to respond to the agitation of other animals with a fast twitch. So it was nice to have them see the birds scatter and not be reactive.
There was a fire pit in the sand, reminiscent of the pits dug on the Santa Barbara waterfront on July 4th way back in olden times, giant craters 30' across and 10' deep, so everyone could comfortably lie back against the slope with beer in hand and watch the fireworks over the breakwater. Ah, nostalgia.
Then it seemed like a good time for beach portraits.
Yvette Porter and Breyer, who looks like a model horse
Jamie Buse and Mosca, who always knows when to strike a supermodel pose
And Pat Fish and Tobe Mule, the scheme team.
Then it was time to stroll further up the sand, while it was my job to sleuth out the tiny trail that would take us up off this beach through dunes, and then back to the starting point.
Glimmering on the horizon is Pismo, but we are not fated to go so far.
Thankfully I did find the trail entrance, and we turned inland once more.
These trails are nicely laid out, with asphalt for strollers and sand for runners and equines.
And the ever-shifting colors of the iceplant and other dune species.
With a nod to the golfers on the course that borders the trail, we continued.
And an appreciative nod to the city planners who had the forethought to build this elevated boardwalk, to allow the mobility challenged a nice way to stroll the dunes and see the sea.
All in all a lovely short ride in a classic slice of California.