My equine adventure along the California coast came about in an interesting way. I live in Ramona, California, in the foothills of San Diego County. We lost our corrals and shelter in the 2007 Witch Creek fire. So when Tecate, my bay gelding, needed a place to lay up following colic surgery, I boarded him with my dear friend, Deb.
During Tecate's convalescence, Deb and I talked about our "bucket lists." Mine was to race a fully healed Tecate down a beach; Deb's was to ride the historic 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach. While cleaning the barn many a late evening, our trip was born. We decided to invite our friend Lisa, who's always up for an adventure.
In early August, after Tecate received a clean bill, we hit the road with our ponies for a week of exploring the coast of California.
A Taste of California
Our first leg consisted of two nights in Pismo Beach, which is located approximately 320 miles north of Ramona. We stayed at the Pacific Dunes Ranch in the recreational-vehicle park; our horses were housed in comfortable pipe corrals with arena access.
The half-mile trail through the dunes led directly to the beach, where we found beautiful waves, long stretches of sand, and a bagpipe player! We were surprised that the beach also allowed cars and RVs, but our horses took this in stride as we galloped along.
Two days later found us back on the road, heading up U.S. Highway 101 toward Monterey. As an amateur wine-maker, I wanted to stop at a winery. Wild Horse winery naturally caught our attention.
I called ahead and spoke to Leslie, the tasting-room manager, who assured me they could accommodate our large rig. When we pulled in, we were graciously greeted by Leslie and enjoyed tasting the various wines. We had a picnic, then headed north.
After a long haul through the mountains of Monterey, we stopped at the historic Holman Ranch. This ranch is made up of a hacienda, stables, and vineyard, all nestled in the rolling hills of Carmel Valley.
The staff welcomed us with open arms, and our horses enjoyed the well-kept facilities. We felt like rock stars. After settling the horses in, we headed over to Carmel, where we were booked at the Wayfarer Inn. We cleaned up, strolled around the cute town of Carmel, and had an early dinner.
Pebble Beach Ride
The next morning, we picked up the horses and hauled to the Pebble Beach Equestrian Center. With lunches packed and a trail map, we set out to explore 17-Mile Drive.
Folks seemed surprised to see us riding along the golf course and beach drive, despite the fact that the equestrian center has been there since the 1920s. The deer took our riding party in stride.
We rode about 13 miles of the 17, enjoying the varied terrain, which included deep-sand trails, hard-packed foot trails, grassy footing, and even pavement when we were temporarily lost. The horses handled it all like the gentlemen they are, staying calm around cars, joggers, bicyclists, and golfers.
We hauled the horses back to Holman Ranch, then headed to Monterey for seafood on the pier at sunset.
The next day, we took the boys out for a quick bareback ride on the historic ranch trails, enjoying the view of the valley, and surrounding mountains and vineyards.
We then headed back south on the 101. In Paso Robles, we stopped at Tobin James Cellars. This winery, built on the grounds of a former stage stop, has a Western flair, so we fit right in.
We pulled into Tejon Ranch around 7 p.m. At nearly 270,000 acres, Tejon Ranch is the largest continuous expanse of private land in California. It's located along Interstate 5, approximately 60 miles north of Los Angeles, on a hilly portion of the interstate known as the Grapevine.
We camped at Tejon overnight. We knew we'd be back to ride the trails.
The next day, we stopped for tacos in Lancaster, which is in the Mojave Desert north of Los Angeles. We found a place called the Lazy T Ranch, built in the 1940s. It has a beautiful 40-plus-stall barn, arenas, and round pens, along with 85 miles of trail access.
We were again welcomed with open arms. The high-desert trails were perfect, as we explored the old stagecoach tracks in the evening sun, then retired to the onsite saloon.
The next day found us pulling back into San Diego, tired but happy. We were very proud of the adventure we'd accomplished, our horses, and the friends we'd made along the way.
For more information, contact: Pacific Dunes Ranch, (888) 908-7787 or (805) 489-7787, http://pacificdunesranch.info; Wild Horse Winery, (805) 434-2541, www.wildhorsewinery.com; Holman Ranch, (831) 659-6054, www.holmanranch.com; Carmel Wayfarer Inn, (800) 533-2711, www.carmelwayfarerinn.com; Pebble Beach Equestrian Center, (831) 624-2756, www.ridepebblebeach.com; Tobin James Cellars, (805) 239-2204, www.tobinjames.com; Tejon Ranch, (661) 599-0741, www.tejonranch.com; Lazy T Ranch, (661) 947-2664;http://avlazyt.com.