by Viki Papadakis
When first driving around the quaint Southern Californian town that is Ojai, I became quite hesitant as to just what kind of environment I was in. I was most certainly able to appreciate the beautiful landscape that the town itself was situated on, but the barefoot, unkempt residents that were loudly trumping about their front lawns didn’t quite seem to fit the soft-spoken beauty of the surrounding area. However, as we made our way off the main roads and veered onto the dirt paths that meandered around the horse stables, my mind was very quickly put at ease. Surrounding me was a lush natural landscape that was so beautifully majestic it completely overpowered the not-so-overwhelming stench of manure that was admittedly quite eminent.
The adventure began immediately. After passing some pens with cows and their newly born calves in them, our horses made their way onto a trail, which seemed fairly flat at first. We passed through a picturesque creek that had various boulders scattered about. The splash from the horse’s trotting in the creek was both refreshing on our legs and a beautiful image of juxtaposition to the calmness of the surrounding area. As we continued up the inclining trail, the terrain became much more difficult—and I became much more appreciative that I had a horse underneath me to take on all the physical work. With the weather being as beautiful as it was, one would not have even considered the fact that it was February—it was simply too beautiful out to be winter. Surrounding me were expansive meadows and large, colorful trees. A great number of the trees had recently bloomed a deep, purple flower, which not only looked magnificent but also provided a wonderful natural smell throughout our excursion. As we made our way to the more highly elevated parts of the trail, we came across black and white sage, which we even stopped to pick for a natural—and completely free—tea or incense.
After being submerged in the most breathtaking landscape I have ever come across, our horseback trip around Ojai finally came to a close. Unfortunately, the entire trip was quite pricey; $225 for two people for an hour and a half trip, to be exact. While this may be too steep for some, one can walk or bike along the trails in the valley of Ojai for no cost. Apparently, if one were to walk down the creek we went through during the summer months, they would come across a warm, secluded, and calm swimming hole. Even if the Ojai on Horseback experience isn’t for you, I would highly recommend visiting Ojai in general. While the town itself is somewhat drab, the surrounding areas are some of the most stunningly pristine I have ever had the pleasure of encountering. Whether merely a stop during a family road trip down to Los Angeles or the destination of a romantic weekend getaway for two, Ojai is certainly worthwhile to check out.
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