Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Big View

                                                by Laura Crum

            A couple of days ago my son and I rode our “usual loop”. I’ve described this ride many times on the blog so will be brief today. In which we ride out my front gate, cross the busy road, scramble up the sketchy half mile of crooked, narrow, steep, poison oak-draped trail with the head bonker trees (my son says this trail is “radical”), drop over the ridge onto easier trails where we trot briskly through the meadow and up the hill (“It feels like flying” from my kid), and after a breather, climb a few more hills to get to the big view.
We’ve ridden to this place so often, in all seasons, for many years now. We call it the Lookout, and it is a much-loved place for all of us. My husband and I discovered it when we were first together. I took him riding and we explored our local trails. I’d ridden “outside” here a little, but not much, being obsessed with competing at team roping at the time I moved here. I didn’t trail ride much in those days. So despite the fact that I’d lived here awhile, I didn’t even know the Lookout was there.
Imagine our mutual surprise when we rode up a big hill and came upon this dazzling view.
Of course, my horse’s ears weren’t yellow in those days. I was riding Plumber, my little brown horse (still with me but retired), and my husband was riding my beloved Flanigan (who is buried here). I still remember the thrill we both felt at discovering this amazing place, not an hour’s ride from our home. From the beginning, we called it “the Lookout.”
There are no nearby houses visible from the Lookout. Though it is an illusion (because houses are not far away), from this place one appears to be alone in the wild woods, having reached a clearing from which one can see the whole Monterey Bay. I felt as I imagined the early Spaniards felt, arriving here on horseback. I absolutely never tired of riding to the Lookout, and went there in all seasons.
Over the years, as we explored the local trails, the Lookout remained our favorite destination. There were other pretty places to ride to, but none that equaled the drama of this spot. As our son grew older and started to ride the trails with me on his good horse, Henry, the Lookout was the first place I took him. And we have gone on many, many rides to the Lookout since. Here we are, about a year ago, gazing out at the view on Midsummer’s Day.

Gradually we evolved a regular loop ride that we took most often. It led to the Lookout and then home by mostly pretty trails that avoided the houses. And more and more the trails that ran near the houses were being fenced off. There were many places we could no longer ride. It’s sad, but things change.
The Lookout itself has changed, as the trees have grown up and to some degree obscure the view. Looking at the next photo, taken four years ago on a misty winter day, I notice how much more wide open the place seems then than it does now. Below you see my son on Henry, myself on Sunny, and our friend/boarder, Wally, on Twister, at the Lookout. I think the three of us have ridden here literally hundreds of times.
Here’s a recent photo, taken by my son at the Lookout, showing my new (but dusty) riding helmet. The fog is in over the bay (which keeps things nice and cool on the ride), so the view isn’t much, but you can see how the shrubbery has grown. Things change.

I guess in the end, that’s the big view. Things change, and we need to accept that. Sadly, some day someone will probably build a house on the Lookout, and it will be fenced off from us and we won’t be able to ride there any more. Certainly this has been the fate of many of our other rides. And yes, it will make me very sad. But the Lookout will always be part of me, and I hope, part of my son. And nothing stays, everything changes, us included. Clinging to things just doesn’t work out.
These themes and places (including the beloved Lookout and the “radical” trail) have been on my mind for a while now, and I’ve tried to incorporate them into my two most recent books, “Going, Gone” and “Barnstorming.” For those who are interested, the links will take you to Amazon’s page for each book, where you can buy them in print or on Kindle. I hope you’ll enjoy seeing some of my “big view.”
Does anybody else have a much loved riding destination? And is yours threatened by development? Any thoughts on the "big view?"

PS--For those who enjoyed my husband's first blog post on his Begonias in the Mist blog, he has put a second one up concerning his rather colorful life with plants. 


Val said...

I used to have access to a big field that I could canter or gallop my horse around. I loved riding big figure eights around the trees and feeling the excitement and energy of the open space in my horse's movement. The owner of the property changed and I no longer have access to the big, beautiful field. There are days when I know my horse needs to feel the open space again, but we just don't have an alternative nearby.

Loved your post, although poignant.

Laura Crum said...

Val--I had a similar experience at a place where I used to live. The neighbor had a big field that I used for an "arena", since I didn't have an arena. Then the place changed hands and the new owner would not let me ride in the field. I still remember how sad and frustrated I felt. I hope you and Harley discover some open space that works for you.

AareneX said...

We are (mostly) lucky here, in that our main riding trails are owned by the Pilchuck Tree Farm. They've got the land listed as "open space" (which means they get a massive tax break for allowing recreational users on it), but they also log periodically and of course the logging practice destroys trails. Unlike logging policy on public lands, logging on private property doesn't include a legal obligation to restore trails after the trees are removed, so sometimes our favorite trails get destroyed permanently by trucks and drags.

However, the presence of logging rigs means that the logging access roads are heavily armored, and thus accessible to riders even in the Swampiest of winters...not as lovely and poetic as dirt trails, but better than staying home.

As with so many things, it's give some/take some, and be glad for what you have. Your Lookout is beautiful, and I hope you are able to enjoy it for many years.

Laura Crum said...

Aarene--Another ride that we often do is on private land near my uncle's small horse ranch (where we have permission to ride). This land is logged and we have found the same things you describe. But the main access road is pleasant (not graveled, so not used in winter), and though, as you say, not as nice as singletrack trail, is pretty darn sweet on a summer day, when the shade under the big redwood trees is appreciated.

Alison said...

I was spoiled growing up, living in Potomac Maryland, which was true horse country before it became McMansions, where you could ride a 'loop' around the entire town and even go into town. When we had a huge snowstorm, we rode in to buy milk. Then moved to Howard County where we lived near a fruit farm and could ride through the orchards. Alas, here in VA beef and dairy cattle reign supreme so everything is fenced. I feel lucky to have a hayfield!
Great description Laura of the view. As popular as CA coast is, I am surprised there is any undeveloped land.

Laura Crum said...

I grew up riding around our family ranch, and though I love our local trails I miss having those big fields to ride in. I envy you your hayfield, Alison.

Anonymous said...

In the days before the McMansions were built, we used to ride a big loop around the farm, which included a nice small lake. Now we have to trailer to the trails, but fortunately we have a few choices within 10 miles.

I love that lookout, I would ride there everyday. I bet you can smell the ocean.

Laura Crum said...

redhorse--You can smell the ocean from my house if the wind is right--and hear the surf, too, on stormy nights. I love where I live.

Laura Crum said...

redhorse--I love the lakes of Michigan, too. Am sad I won't see them this summer.

White Horse Pilgrim said...

I'm fortunate in the UK that trails are legal rights of way where an obligation to maintain is placed on the landowner. This is enforced too. Provision of horse trails varies by area. Where I live the county was poor until comparatively recently so many byways were left without asphalt, and are now riding trails. In other areas there are plenty of footpaths but few trails for riders or cyclists. In general groups representing hikers and cyclists are vociferous in their demands for better facilities, so 'open access' land is available for them as a tax break to landowners. The British Horse Society, which is obsessed by 'health & safety' and competitions, and obsequiously kowtows to the landowners, happily takes riders' subscriptions but seems to do next to nothing for creating trails. (Why trail ride when one can compete and win things? Cynically, I suspect that BHS officials are more worried about their access to foxhunt, which is 'by permission', than our opportunity to trail ride.) However a few enterprising landowners have started 'toll rides' where an annual subscription is paid for access, and some of these are very good.

Laura Crum said...

whp--Where I live, trail access on private land is very iffy, even if the trail has been there forever. The best course of action, I've found, is to use the trail quietly, without asking permission and without making waves. Landowners in America are terrified of being sued (which happens all the time--idiot horse owner gets hurt while riding on someone's property and sues the unsuspecting landowner), and thus won't very easily give permission to horseman to ride on their land. My sympathy here is with the landowner, as being sued by some jerk who came off his horse on your land is totally not right. I do not believe in these ridiculous lawsuits, but sadly, they happen all the time here. So I ride quietly on private land (on trails that have been there long before the current owners bought the land) knowing that I will NOT sue them if my horse dumps me, and hoping that other, less responsible horsemen do not make problems.