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Rancho Ortega Blog discusses matters of public interest in South Orange County, including the communities of San Juan Capistrano, Ladera Ranch and Rancho Mission Viejo.

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Congratulations on El Viaje de Portola’s 50th Ride

We at Rancho Ortega congratulate the El Viaje de Portola equestrian group on their 50th anniversary ride. Created in 1963, a trip that was originally supposed to be a one-time horseback trek is now a tradition half a century old.  The annual three-day ride through rural Orange County pays homage to explorer Gaspar de Portola’s historic journey through Southern California between 1769 and 1770, including parts of present day Orange County.  Although the El Viaje de Portola group maintains a low-profile, the invitation-only ride is attended by a unique mix of real cowboys and California’s elite — businessmen, politicians and the like.  Some riders come from out of town or even out of state to attend.  The organization serves a charitable purpose, donating money from the ride to the Mission San Juan Capistrano.  According to Jan Siegel in this Capistrano Dispatch article about the group’s 50th anniversary:

In 1963, the owner of the new Saddleback Inn in Santa Ana wanted a Mission Bell to put in front of the building. The builder of the hotel, Bud Curtis, thought that bringing the bell to Santa Ana via San Juan Capistrano should be with some flourish. He had a horse-drawn cart with the bell, followed by eight riders. That core group became known as the “Big 8” and were the start of the Portola Riders.

Over the next few months, the group grew to 38 men who wanted to participate in a ride that would allow them to see the early rancheros before the developers came. It was never intended to be an ongoing event, but that first ride was so successful that the men wanted it to continue. But each year, space for riding was becoming more and more difficult. In 1977, Tony Moiso, president of Rancho Mission Viejo, offered space on the 40,000-acre ranch for the ride. Because of his generosity, Moiso joined the Big 8 as “Big 8 1/2.”

The group has now grown to over 200 riders.

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