Today we did a short amount of Naturing at Rancho.
I have been fascinated by the history of the area after I randomly found a paper detailing it (from 5500-8000 years ago and through the time of the Californios). And after seeing the area East of Montara State Beach, I was intrigued to explore the area East of Moss Beach after seeing there was actually an “Easy” hike at Rancho on the Parks Conservancy web site.
We started out from the entrance when I spotted a gorgeous Red-tailed Hawk feather on the ground. Great sign, I thought! Didn’t see or hear any during the rest of our time out there, but the feather was a nice welcome anyhow.
We walked the Ember Ridge Trail, which is essentially walking along the myriad of horse stables and whatnots that seem to go on forever right there. I got to thinking that anyone with a horse within 35ish miles likely housed it here. There are THAT MANY HORSES.
The walk on the road was relatively uneventful, though I was happy to see some lovely blooming Thimbleberry and Pacific Aster and Orange Bush Monkeyflower among the Willows that managed to shine despite all the dust from the road that covered both sides.
After getting very excited about a black beetle that crossed the road in front of me (a Darkling Beetle, love the name), I spotted an unusual-looking Red-shouldered Hawk perched up on a wood pole that had a light on it. It was ruffled up in such a way that it looked like a Skesis from The Dark Crystal! It must be very comfortable with people, as we walked past it without it minding one bit.
On the opposite side, where more horses were of course, were a handful of White-crowned Sparrows. They seemed content to occupy the shrub side of that horse enclosure.
Then we got to the end of the road, which ended at some super old-looking barns and stables. One of the stables had a Victorian window, and the end of it even had a roof facade that seemed to indicate it was a store of some kind way back when? Very “Old West”-looking. It was exciting to see and think back to what I’ve been reading about in the area’s history. The main barn even appeared to have what looked like pigeon/dove boxes. Further on, a llama and goat were roomies near some fenced-in chickens. Two house cats chased each other. And I think I even saw a couple ponies running a bit in the distance.
We found the trail up and got to a fenced-off pond when I wasn’t feeling so great. No cold or flu or Covid symptoms, but I wasn’t up for continuing on. It looks like it’s not too steep right there, so it might be worth returning for.
On our way back, we kept hearing the scariest whinnies of a horse EVER. It sounded even worse that Barn Owl cries. It was DISTURBING! Fortunately, it seemed to calm down and whinny more normally? More normal? I don’t know, but it wasn’t freaking me out, which was a preferred way to leave a place, I felt.
After crossing back over San Vicente Creek (and this time, notcing a bit of water in there below the California Hedge Nettle), we found a trail back that paralleled the road, which was so much better. Apparently, all the trails are used by what looked like all the horses. So we were keen on watching where we stepped. But it was nice to see the valley below us and feel more like we were on the beginnings of a mountain.
We walked by endless Coyote Brush and Trailing Blackberry and Pacific Poison Oak. Brian spotted a small brown/black spider crossing the trail, as he often seems to do lately. And soon after that, we heard A HOOT.
Okokok, so it was just after 5:30pm or so. Sunset wasn’t until near 8pm. I assumed it had to be a pigeon or dove or something. Then, we heard it AGAIN. I was still in disbelief, so we walked a bit then had to walk up and investigate.
Sure enough, there was a Great Horned Owl in the pines up the hillside! Because of the incline and the particular place this owl was (behind numerous layers of pine branches), there was no way I was going to get a clear view of it. Not without getting quite close, and I don’t ever want to do that.
So we moved on after I got some crap photos to just prove it was there on iNat (crap owl photos below for the owl fans), but we discovered there was another trail parallel to ours! Wasn’t able to see the owl at all from it, so we headed back to where we started. But, it feels like there is much exploring to be done North of there…
All in all, not a whole heck of a lot but horses there, but I very much enjoyed seeing the old buildings that echo the stories I’m reading about. And, THE OWL, OF COURSE. Never would’ve known it was there had it not hooted a couple times. Two and a half hours earlier than it should. It’s like it wanted me to find it, I feel. That’s Owl Witchery, folks. It’s pretty awesome.