Coyote Lake Harvey Bear Ranch

On Sunday we packed up the trailer with plans on heading out to the beach. It was high 70s and bright and sunny so we thought a beach trip might be nice. As an aside, I posted pics on Facebook last night and my east coast friends and family posted pictures of unplowed driveways and weather reports calling for 4° highs. I am very sorry for everyone dealing with the cold, but I will be suffering come summer so it's all fair in the end.

We started driving to the beach, but I was watching the map on my phone and there was an accident on 101 and what should have been a 1:15 drive was calling for a 1:45 drive. We kept driving south in hopes of it clearing up, but after we had driven 30 minutes, the trip length was still calling for another 1:30, so it would have been 2 hours at a minimum and possibly more if the time kept going up. Our biggest concern was being stuck on the highway and not moving with the horses stuck in a baking metal trailer. We need movement for cooling so we decided to get off the highway and go to a park we hadn't been to yet.

The name of the park - Coyote Lake Harvey Bear Ranch - maybe should have been a sign, but neither of us knew that the park was also a working cattle ranch and there were cows. We discovered this when we got there and could see cows on the hills. I always joke that cows in California have the best views. The TV commercials about how happy cows come from California were not lying.

Different cows from a different weekend, but these cows are beachside
Since we though we were going to the beach, I had not packed my breeching. Luckily the trails were decently graded with a lot of switch backs and we didn't have too many steep hills. We even managed to go down a few hills without Nilla trying to root and pull the reins out of my hands. She got lots of praise and pats for this, but I told my husband it's rather sad that I consider this an accomplishment.

It took us quite a while to get tacked up as there was a lawn mower roaming around the parking lot and Nilla was NOT having it. She nearly broke something trying to pull back so I untied her and lunged her in the parking lot for a bit. I then had my husband hold her while I finished tacking. I left her halter on under her bridle as I think she may have just taken off if given the chance so I didn't want to unhook her until she was firmly attached to the bridle.

Once we got on and headed out though, Nilla was the better behaved. I don't think Shasta has ever seen cows before and she was absolutely freaking out. She was jigging, snorting, and spooking every single step. At times, she would just stop and let out a huge snort/trumpet sort of noise like a stallion. She was so worked up about the cows (which were nowhere near us) that she was spooking at sign posts and rocks and just about everything she could think of. She was spooking even when there were no cows in sight because everything smelled like cows.

Scary-ass cows

Nilla was actually being quite good except when Shasta would especially freak out about something and then Nilla would get on edge and look around trying to figure out what the danger was. Since Nilla was from a ranch, I don't think she cared about the cows at all, she was just being convinced by Shasta that there was something to worry about.

Since we hadn't planned on being at this park, we hadn't really looked at a map or planned what trails to take so we basically just rode out and guessed as we went along. We actually ended up making a nice 7.5 mile loop. There's a whole other southern section of the park we can explore at a future date too.

Mad paint skills, yo
I really need a new GPS tracking app. I used to use EveryTrail, but I guess they went out of business. I haven't really found anything I like since so if anyone has one they like, please tell me.

We rode up to a hill above the lake and got a few pictures while Shasta looked around for cows of doom.

We then rode down towards the lake. Unfortunately, you cannot ride along the lake as the lake is bordered by a road, boat launches, and picnic grounds. So we took the Calaveras Trail which follows the lake and it was the nicest part of the trip: down in the trees with shade and no cows so Shasta actually calmed down for a bit. 

Once we left Calaveras Trail though, there were cows again and Shasta returned to freaking out status. She was slightly calmer than the start of the ride though so we were able to get a few pictures "near" the cows.

Those distant dots Shasta is watching are cows

Nilla is more concerned about the bikers

Coming down the last few hills was a pain though - literally. My saddle is not a great fit for me. I need a much more forward flap and this saddle gives me some pain over time. I can usually take my feet out of the stirrups and relax my joints, but Shasta was still spooking and Nilla would occasionally jump when Shasta did, so I didn't want to not have my stirrups. I actually ended up getting off for the last few hills and my knees and ankles felt better walking down the hill than they did riding. I'm going to need to look at new saddles. I really don't want to, but the saddle shape is also affecting my position in the arena so it's not something I can ignore forever.

Coming down the last few hills we encountered a few pairs of other riders. We got a bunch of compliments on having a beautiful mule. She's such a unique color for a mule, people are really fascinated at seeing her. Nilla was pretty convinced we should turn around and follow them, even though Shasta knew we were headed back.

I also got a shot of my husband standing by a huge old California Oak. These trees are amazingly big and they grow out as well as up in really interesting ways.

Back at the trailer, the ponies loaded quite nicely and we were shortly back on the road and on our way home. I think we'll be back to this park soon as we won't want to go in the summer heat.

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