Archive » December 24, 2008
HORSEBACK RIDING, HIKING AND BIKING AT LA PURISIMA'S PARK
By Wendy Thompson, Staff Writer
With 25 miles of trails along the ancient aqueduct system, La Purisima Mission State Historic Park in Lompoc, just 16 miles west of Buellton, is not only easy to access for horses trailers, cyclists, runners and walkers, but offers its users an outdoor experience saturated with history.
The weather pattern of the Burton Mesa, the geographic name of the 1,800 acres where the mission is situated, lures outdoor adventurists. The mesa, located in Los Berros Canyon, is a transitional zone of north and south chaparral plant communities and is home to 27 rare plants.
Six trails have been assigned unique names. Vista De La Cruz (Trailmark to the Landmark Cross) is one-third of a mile and is a moderate uphill climb to the huge cross at the top, offering a hawk eye view of the Lompoc Valley and Tranquillion Peak in the distance. El Noque (the Tanning Vat) leads to the mission’s hide-tanning vats and is a moderate, flat, one-quarter mile hike. Arca de Agua (reservoir) leads through wetland to chaparral plant communities and is a little more than half a mile in length.
Las Zanjas (The Ditches) is 1.4 miles and follows the park’s aqueduct, eventually joining up with the El Camino Real, The Royal Highway, which is the original trail between the mission and presidios of early California. Las Zanjas and El Camino Real form the lower section of the intertwining trails, popular among horseback riders and runners, as well as Cuclillo De Tierra (Roadrunner), which is 2.71 miles and forms the park’s service road and the upper loop trail.
Historic travelers on their way between Mission Santa Inés and Mission San Luis Obispo used the Royal Highway, stopping off at La Purisima as a half-way point on their journey.
Mission La Purisima Concepcion de Maria Santisima was founded on Dec. 8, 1787 and was the 11th of the 21 Alta California missions. The mission site was relocated to its present site when the great earthquake of 1812 destroyed the original structure in Lompoc. Several sections of the original adobe walls may be seen off of Locust and South F streets. The California Conservation Corps was rallied to restore the decaying La Purisima in 1934.
The trails along the aqueduct highlight the mission’s advanced water system. According to the park, water flowed through the aqueduct and pumped into the cisterns, then was filtered through sand before flowing into underground pipes that filled the mission’s fountains for daily use.
“In the future, we’d like to offer tours along the hiking trails highlighting the native flora and fauna,” said Theresa Armis, supervising ranger.
A historic walking tour guide through the mission is $1 and includes a map of the trail system. Park admission is $8 per vehicle. Living history is big at La Purisima. The docents, Prelado de los Tesoros (Keepers of the Treasures), which is comprised of more than 100 docents, enjoy playing their parts by baking bread, showing how soap was made and blacksmithing demonstrations, to name a few. Purisima People Days are held six times a year with costumed reenactments of life at La Purisima. Guided tours with a park ranger are offered daily at 1 p.m. or a self-guided tour gives the park user a good background of what life was like in the 1820s at La Purisima with informational plaques providing plant identification as well as their historical use by the padres and Chumash Indians who called La Purisima home.
Reach Wendy Thompson at email@example.com.