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California Mission Riders Arrive in Santa Barbara

Group will finish mission journey by horseback in San Diego on Oct. 20

California Mission Riders Arrive in Santa Barbara

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The California Mission Ride team made their way to the Santa Barbara Mission this weekend and are on their way to Ventura.

The group of 11 riders and two children decided to ride the mission trail just as people did years ago by horseback.

After their two-day trek from the Santa Inez Mission, they arrived in Santa Barbara and were greeted by a priest and dozens of visitors.

"Bless these beautiful horses that have carried them, that are so representative of this great history of California," said Fr. Larry Gosselin as he sprinkled holy water on the riders and their horses.

The group was tired after their harrowing trip down the Tunnel Trail, off East Camino Cielo.

"And the Tunnel Trail is not for the weak of heart, I'll tell you. I don't know when the last group of people rode through there on horseback. I'm guessing at least 50 years," said Rod Rondeaux, a mission rider.

Tourists at the mission were delighted to see the group.

"It was the perfect time because we got here right when the horses came in. I'm glad I didn't miss this. This was great. This was awesome," said Tonya Smith, a Modesto resident.

This September kicked off the second leg of their journey.

"We started last year in Sonoma, and it took us 30 days to go from Sonoma to San Miguel," said Gwyneth Horder-Payton, the group's co-founder.

The riders are traveling down the coast, learning about California's history and sharing their experiences.

"I think that it's just incredible that I get to be able to ride California and experience everything in a different way. People drive it, but we actually get to walk on it," said Daisy Payton.

"It comes with a lot of endurance, a lot of fortitude and a lot of treacherous elements that they have to enter into. I think it makes us realize the significance and the dedication of the first missionaries of California," said Gosselin.

The ride will end on Oct. 20. After they arrive in San Diego, they will have visited every mission in California, all by horseback.

"The history is in the land. That's the most amazing thing about this journey -- to go from mission to mission -- because you can actually see the history shaped by the way the land is," said Leslie Dunton-Downer.

The group will arrive in Ventura on Tuesday.

For more information, go to the California Mission Ride website

Slideshow: California Mission Riders Arrive in Santa Barbara

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