By Pat Fish
2021/7/17 Viva La Purisima Plantlife
Tracking through a little-used side trail on the grounds of La Purisima Mission, a pretty patch of ferns with bright poison oak.
A very short ride.
Went out for a ride with some MeetUp folks and the Santa Ynez Valley Riders. This was pretty much our view all day.
It was a very early trail time, and I discovered that in the morning before the heat is when all the nice people walking dogs are there!
This lady’s hair perfectly matched her two little yappers, who barked up a storm at the horses and then went silent in awe when the Big Mule strode by.
Dog people were everywhere!
It was like a racetrack of dogs.
And contrary to my más o menos trail experience they were all on leash and behaving beautifully.
I certainly went out of my way to compliment the owners on what well behaved dogs they had.
I know what work has gone into that level of calm obedience.
And how lovely to be out of the city and everyone just sharing the open air, no masks, just fresh breezes and sunshine.
Couples and families, all enjoying the wonderful community resource that the property is.
And happy dogs.
Then our trail boss took us down a series of trails that are severely overgrown. OK to bash our way through, I’ve got a helmet and long sleeves, and Tobe could probably eat his way out of a tight spot if it came to that.
We like to walk behind the crowd. It lets us be away from the dust and chatter, experiencing the trail and the birdsong, but with the confidence that should there be a problem our companions are close by.
Most hikers and walkers, and bicycle riders for that matter, stick to the paved oval around the inner valley.
But this is the real deal, following the sandy paths out into the landscape.
Sometimes the bushes have grown in tidy clumps, but for much of the trail we are pushing our way through.
Which actually adds to the experience, since the sage and artemesia and toyon all give off their heady aroma in the warm sunlight, the scent of the Southern California mountain chaparral.
This magnificent manzanita was the find of the day. A bonsai master would be so delighted by this. If the amount of dead trunk (and possibly dead branches situated on the dead trunk area) is large enough, the bonsai is said to be in the sharamiki or driftwood style, because a large portion of the tree has the silvery, weathered look of driftwood on a beach, or ancient tree remnants on a harsh mountain landscape. “Veins” of living bark connect the roots to the live branches, but large amounts of the surrounding wood are dead, free of bark, and weathered.
This is usually what a manzanita looks like, and the beautiful burgundy color of the bark contrasted with the bright green leaves is such a feast for the eyes.
If you wonder why we are behind everyone else, this is why.
The trails are sand, and Tobe complains quite loudly if he has to be in the herd and breathe that as we go along.
So we lag behind, riding drag.
It also gives us a chance for whatever deep thoughts a mule has, contemplating the skeletons of trees and plants on the side of the trail, so evocative in their stark simplicity.
Of course a fair percentage of Tobe’s considerations, not to be too anthropomorphic, is about what might be edible.
And contrary to his maternal ancestry, being a hybrid of great vigor with his donkey father’s adventurous palate, he sees poison oak as a delicacy.
Usually all California children must be taught : “Leaflets three, leave it be” because poison oak is a camouflaged green during most of the year.
But today it was a real pleasure to be far above it on my tall mule, able to enjoy the color display without actual physical interaction.
I think for Tobe Mule it is picante.
Coming across this patch of ferns mixed with poison oak was extra special. In the current drought conditions to see any ferns at all is rare.
But ah, our travels through the oak forest were coming to an end, and the trail was bending back toward our starting point.
And out on the Western horizon a fog bank was approaching, coming in off the sea and heading for the new Space Force base, but looking like a simoom, one of those hot dry dust-laded winds that blows across the Arabian deserts. A reminder that even on a sunny day in the Land of Climate we are all subject to the whims of the weather.
As we like to quote Mark Twain but it is not verified that he said: “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”