Equestrian Trails, Inc.

Dedicated to Equine Legislation, Good Horsemanship, and the Acquisition and Preservation of Trails, Open Space and Public Lands

ESTABLISHED 1944

Trail Riding

Written by Pat Fish, Corral 36, and Tobe, the mule.

The first trail ride of the new year…a quite thorough exploration of the La Purisma Mission property with the Santa Ynez Valley Riders.

Thirteen riders, covering seven miles in a two-hour ride, with an ascent of 545 feet from the Mission at the low spot where we began to the heights in the barren above. This also marks the very first time I have gotten a SENIOR DISCOUNT. Now I am officially an OMG: Old Mule Girl!!!

We met up at the parking area at the Mission, and everyone quite efficiently got ready. This organization has monthly trail rides, and no one in the group causes drama. Thank heavens for that. All sorts of different horses, 2 mules, and nice people.

We headed out the trail road that winds behind the Mission, avoiding the courtyard and buildings where crowds of school kids and tourists have right of way and we on equines do not.

This is the big flat valley visible in the map, where the residents of the Mission grew their food in the olden days. The present State Historic Park covers 2,000 acres of what was once a 470-square mile land holding, established in 1787 as one of the string of Missions that thread their way up California. (More information http://lapurisimamission.org)

At the end of the valley, we struck out across the Burton Mesa chaparral. The dominant tree here is the Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia, and it was a great pleasure to see them making a strong comeback after so many years of drought. The scrubby bushes beneath the trees are Chamise, Adenostoma Fasciculatum, and they are scratchy and fragrant. Between the two in size are the Shagbark Manzanita, Arcostaphylos rudis, which was pretty much the only plant I saw heavily in bloom. But after the recent heavy rains, I predict this place will be filled with spring bloom this year.

Up and across the Mesa we went, enjoying the scents of the Chamise and Black Sage, Salvia mellifera, as the animals pushed through them.

In some areas, the skeletons of oak and manzanita are stark against the skyline, and testify to burns, but underneath the land is making a comeback.

And the little band of riders threads their way up the Mesa. Quite appropriately, the sky was filled with Mare’s Tail clouds, Cirrus Uncinus. And the contrails are a reminder that Vandenberg Air Force Base is only a few miles away.

The reason the club chose to ride this place now is because of the sandy soil. Where other forest trails are still muddy and the clay sticks to the hooves, this place is largely sand, and makes for a perfect rainy season excursion.

And you know you are getting back to civilization when the signs start telling you where you may and may not go.

For today, where we went was a fine two-hour stroll through the past, through the chaparral that essentially looks like it always has. A trip back in time, good exercise for mule and human, and a fine start to a year of rides and equine adventures.

Photos by Pat Fish.

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