Yesterday was the longest ride I've been on here, coming in at just over 4 hours and around 11 miles. The ride I intended for friend MS and me to take was probably only about 3 hours and maybe 8 miles, which still would've been longish . . . but would've involved many fewer unbelievably steep climbs up unknown clearcuts and also many fewer precipitous descents through abundant and scratchy conifers and thick underbrush in a desperate bid for something—anything—familiar (well done the mares!), so that we could return home and have (eventually, after a scheduled pick-up of G&N in Moscow) wine and hot food for dinner, instead of having to hope for a few leftover grubs in a bear-mangled, rotted, fallen tree.
I had my GPS on during the entire ride, tracking our course, and when I realized that I had NO IDEA where I was, I tried to look at it for information on where we should go. It's a somewhat rudimentary app, however, and doesn't actually include a map on it when it's mapping—you only get the map when you upload the file to your computer back in the safety (assuming you reach it) of your home—and so the best I could do was look at the line it was drawing and draw the conclusion that I somehow needed to figure out how to go south and slightly east, to connect up the more or less featureless circle growing on my screen.
We could've gone back, of course, the way we came, but it was a long and brutal hill we'd climbed, and we'd been on the road for almost three hours. Going back would guarantee that we would in no way even approach being on time to pick up G&N. I voted to go forward, and MS pointed out that the sun doesn't lie. Even if the polarity of the Earth's magnetic field had switched while we were out in the wilderness, that didn't change the location of home vis á vis our location—and since it was early afternoon and sunny, we could easily judge which direction we needed to go.
Hence the long, perilous descent down to what I now believe to be Boulder Creek, along a trail that may have been a game trail, and may have only been my mind's desperate creation of a game trail. It was not in any way a trail meant for human heads seven feet off the ground. Frankly, I'm amazed and not a little disappointed that my face isn't lacerated almost beyond recognition—that's certainly what I felt was happening. Once, a stiff young deciduous bush slashed me hard enough across the neck that I feared decapitation. At another point, MS actually got forced off her horse by a particularly acute combination of cliffside and pugilist branch, and only her skill in yoga allowed her to release her foot, caught perilously in the stirrup. That was really the only crisis point of our trip, however uncomfortable the bushwacking, because there was enough room for Snickers to drag MS if she had so wished, and instead of only bouncing along the ground and possibly getting a hoof in the face, MS just might have gotten her neck broken.
When we reached the creek—quite the tossing, splashing cataract at this time of year—MS suggested we follow it downstream, as that is what you do when you reach running water, because it comes out somewhere, and maybe we'll run into a town along the way, and so Shadow and I (occasionally following the lead of Dusty, who is familiar with these parts) forged a trail.
It is definitely at times like these that Shadow truly comes into her own—she knew where we were, she knew where we wanted to be, and she knew how to get there. She's rock-solid calm in the woods, allows me to help her check for the best routes around trees and bushes, but hesitates not at all to push through things and, before we knew it, we were on a clear, grassy Forest Service road, giddy and excited and joking about how much it would've sucked for me if MS had been killed by her horse.
Anyway, soon after reaching the Open Road, we arrived at a clearcut that I knew I knew, and then soon after that we were back on the Potlatch Road, and soon after that we were retracing our steps with a joyous gallop up the hill and over the trail K&A put in several years ago, the shortcut back to their house. We got everyone put away, briefly exercised, by swimming then in the pond, the two elderly labs who'd stayed at home, and made our way to Moscow in a fashion that allowed G&N just enough time to buy some groceries before we brought them back up here and served them a delicious homecoming dinner of putanesca. And wine.
Last night around 8pm, just before dinner, I went out into the pasture to bring the horses back in to their pens for the night. Usually they hang around down below in the evening, but this particular evening they were nowhere in sight. To collect them easily before our big ride earlier that day, I had left them in their pens, each with a flake of hay. The mares had worked hard for several hours after that, and Sikem had probably spent the hours in his pen bored and annoyed out of his mind (if one horse is left behind he or she is left in a pen), and so they had decided they were going to stay out. I began hiking up the hill to get them (about a 1-mile round trip) as a squall came over the hills just to the west of the farm, and suddenly I was out in a t-shirt, jeans, and my felt clogs, in a sleety, windy, hail-filled downpour. It was exhilarating, that's for sure, but completely fruitless as far as bringing in the horses. They ripped and snorted and galloped away, and I gave up and came home, assuming they would come and get their grain if they wanted it. And today, the weather has continued erratic—sunny one moment, hail the next, in five to ten minute intervals. No problem, Weather—we're happy to take it easy today.