By Pat Fish
La Rambla del Rio Santa Ynez, a dry riverbed that could pass for high desert.
Our ride began in the Industrial Way section of Buellton and our guide led us for a couple of miles through the wide wash alongside the river.
BUT this was not the day’s intended ride. I first called in to Live Oak Camp to get the river and trail conditions yesterday, and was told they were fine for a ride. Then this morning when I called for the gate code I got the go-ahead again and alerted the MeetUp krewe we were on.
But when I got there I saw the unprecedented sight
of absolutely no cars in the equestrian parking area.
On a fine Sunday morning, the only living thing was a Great Blue Heron looking quite smug at having the place to himself.
Then I got a call from one of the riders I expected to be meeting and they were at Lake Cachuma getting their pass and were told that the trails were closed today because of recent rains.
With horses and mule already loaded we needed a new plan. So we drove through the tourist crowds flooding Solvang, past the Ostrich Farm which had more visitors than I’d ever seen in their lot, and went to a section of the Santa Ynez River 20 miles West.
It hardly looked like an inviting trailhead, but anyplace new is ok by me.
One of the breweries in the complex of buildings was hosting a Corvette concourse, so as we tacked up we saw a mighty fleet of hot sports cars pull into our cul de sac at unnecessary speeds.
Our trail boss Debi Lee lives nearby, and she promised to lead us into this unknown territory.
She tacked up her National Sport Horse GiGi and was ready to go.
Noe’s stallion Marcos is another matter. He needed to do considerable circulo groundwork before he was ready to be a good citizen on the trail.
He has more energy than he knows what to do with!
And then it was time to head out into the undeveloped land, the real estate that cannot be built on because of seasonal flooding.
With the green hills above us we headed into the river wash.
In recent years this area has become a camping ground for transients, but the city of Buellton spent much money and hauled out many dumpsters of trash last year,
with the result that we found clean trails.
The Drum Canyon Fire swept through here 2 years ago, with the result that many of the big trees look dead or severely damaged.
But many of them sport healthy clumps of mistletoe on their branches.
And lots of sections of the trails are over-grown with willows and other riparian plants.
Especially worrisome was the extremely soft sand, sometimes causing the equine’s hooves to sink in very deep.
But they took it in stride.
Apparently sections of this land are fenced off as private property, so we stuck to the main trail.
And I continued my Patty Poppyseed project, scattering California poppies all along the rough areas. If we get some more rain this year they’ll have a chance to take hold in a new spot.
The amount of dry grass makes it easy to see how easily a fire could rip through here.
Then the land flattened out to a wide area bordered by “river view” estates and ranches.
And here we had to tread lightly lest we antagonize ranch dogs barking at us from the distance.
Things like barking dogs get Marcos a little excited,
so sometimes he has to break into one of his dance routines.
We stumbled across a bit of rock art
That mystified human and beast.
Then we passed by a field that had been mechanically sewn in long thin strips of what looked like grass.
Eventually we came to the end of our trek, a swampy pond that none of the animals had ANY interest in wading into.
Tobe wasn’t going to argue with that, so we turned around.
At which point Tobe Mule took the lead and followed our path back out. It is almost eerie how well he can retrace his steps without any guidance.
And having avoided the Dismal Swamp he had a spring in his step as he aimed back to the East.
At one point we did see 3 other horse riders, but otherwise the entire area seemed deserted.
Every so often there would be piles of wood, perhaps left-overs from the clearances that depopulated this area.
There were signs throughout warning of petroleum pipelines,
but we saw no other evidence of them.
In fact the only residents who seemed to be watching us pass by were the crows.
So we rounded the last corner and returned to civilization having had a ramble on the rambla.