A new short film highlights a California horseback outfitting company that has thrived despite the death of its founder.
Imagine growing up in a light-polluted city, and then getting out into the country and seeing the Milky Way for the first time, the smeared cluster of stars in our galaxy gathered in a band across the night sky. Imagine your first time on a horse, having control over such a huge beast when you’d never seen an animal bigger than a dog outside the confines of a zoo. Imagine putting your phone away and just breathing in fresh air, surrounded by the hills, flowers, and wildlife of Los Padres National Forest in Southern California.
Graham Goodfield gets to see that wonder on the faces of children and adults alike in the groups he guides on multi-day trail rides with Los Padres Outfitters, and it’s his favorite part of the job.
“They’re on a horse, they’re away from their cell phone and their car,” he says. “It’s just neat to see their reactions. That part is real rewarding for us. … To see young people get to see animals — the parents are just as excited, but it’s fun for them to experience that together. That’s probably the most rewarding part for us.”
Goodfield says he’s never had a bad trip, that he enjoys getting to know people from all over the world. One group in particular stands out in his memory, though: a group of inner-city kids from Los Angeles.
“They’d never seen an open sky like that,” he says. Those kids also really enjoyed and related to the horses, he says, and seemed to become more confident and take on a different attitude once they were in control of the equines.
Los Padres offers a variety of trail rides ranging from wine-and-cheese rides along the beach to 12-day backcountry treks accompanied by gear-laden mules. The typical pack ride on the trail is three nights and four days. Goodfield took a film crew along on condensed version of one of these backcountry rides, complete with Dutch oven cooking. The result is YETI Presents: Los Padres, a five-minutes-and-change short film (shown above) that might just inspire you to plan your own adventure.
Goodfield has worked for Los Padres Outfitters for 21 years, and took over the operation 10 years ago following the death of its founder, Tony Alvis. Alvis was a surfer and packer, and he was a close friend and mentor to Goodfield. When Alvis was killed in the 2005 mudslide in La Conchita, California, Goodfield didn’t hesitate to step into his boots.
“It was always Tony’s and my plan for me to take over the outfit and continue,” Goodfield says. “That was my goal. I just didn’t intend for it to happen the way it did, obviously. So it wasn’t a hard decision at all. It was a no-brainer. I’ve just continued with what he was doing, expanded on a lot of ideas he gave me and what he was doing.”