Okay, I've been home for ten days now, and I've given up on writing anything new about the horses from my last Jerome Creek trip, but I would be doing a disservice to Ian's parents if I didn't share how badass they are when it comes to long trail rides that include, well, a bit of difficulty at the home stretch.
First off, J is 65 and D is 75. They've both ridden enough before that they've retained muscle knowledge, and they are both healthy and active in their day-to-day lives, so an hour or so on horseback is a pleasure much more than it is a penance.
We went on an average-length ride (5 ½ miles) the day after they arrived, taking the fateful trail J and I had been on a couple years ago when she fell off her horse, I flew off mine, and we both had issues for months after (hip for her, tailbone for me). I cleverly took us counter-clockwise instead of clockwise, in the hopes that J would not feel the stress of returning to the scene of an accident. She assured me that she had absolutely no idea where she was; that she was pretty much following me blindly; and that she not only wouldn't recognize one curve of grassy road in a thousand miles of grassy road; she would also in no way be able to make it back home.
D thought that he had a pretty good idea of where home was, however, and pointed off in a direction ahead. "Nope," I said, "not even close. Home is almost directly behind us." It didn't help anyone's sense of direction that the sun was hiding, of course, but still—it's hard. It took me years to figure out where I was, and even now, it only (as I hope I've made clear here in this blog) works most of the time.
And so, Ride 1 was uneventful and beautiful. The next day we were all set for Ride 2, which was going to be a little more ambitious—steeper hills, narrower tracks, clearer clearcuts, sweepinger views, an extra couple miles—but still well within our purview, because it was a circle I'd actually taken before. Although not, as of yet, this year.
Have I mentioned that I clearly do not run a 5-Star Luxury Establishment, All Your Needs Met Before You Are Even Aware Of Them?
The first 2/3 of our ride were lovely. J really connects with Snickers and finds her to be a sweet lady, and Shadow behaves well for D. "See if she'll let you open the gate," I suggested to D, our first afternoon out, "without having to get off of her." He kneed Shadow up to the gate and reined her in, and she stood perfectly for him to unlatch it, then stepped back efficiently so he could ride through (we didn't need to close it until we got home). She does not do that for me—she makes me work for it, walking this way and that, standing with the gate just out of reach, backing at the last minute when I almost have the clasp worked out, then, around the 7th attempt, standing, bored, rolling her eyes and sighing, as if to ask "why didn't you say so???" Sikem was also behaving, only balking a little when I rode him away from the mares and up and down various side trails so that I could get them charted with the GPS. We all, human and equine, enjoyed the several-minute walk/trot through the clearcut, seeing the last snow on the distant mountains, the new barn being built on a nearby hill, various birds.
And then we came to the woods.
From the beginning, there was a tree across our path. A giant tree but, there in the margin between woods and clearcut, easy to walk around. However, there followed another huge tree, then a smaller tree that we could see down the hill. I sent my troops back to open air and left Sikem in the care of D, and the gorp (trail mix, for those of you not from the PNW) I'd brought along in the care of J. I was beginning to worry about them—going back the way we came would be a long ride, and it was approaching Taylor dinner time. Having been married to a Taylor for almost 9 years now, I know that this is serious business. I hoped the gorp would keep things under control while I scouted.
Well, scouting was ultimately completely successful because I'm writing this from my desk in Seattle, and the Taylors Sr are safely back home in Bellingham. But really all it did was allow me to clear one tree with my handy saw, just enough to get us deeply enough into the woods to be committed. The trail was AWFUL. There were trees down everywhere, and it's a steep hill. Even when we reached Maple Creek, downed trees kept us neatly away from the well-established road there. We ended up, with the assistance of Shadow, picking our way across the creek and up a slope to end up on the road we'd come in on, a place where I've always wished for a trail, but could never see one. There really isn't one. You can check out our route here on my map. It's JCR6 and JCR6part2 because for some reason the GPS cut off in the middle. More than 9 miles, guys!
I was able to take us the rest of the way home with no more mishaps, however, and I'm pretty sure that was the night we went to the Hoo Doo. Everyone's tradition at Jerome Creek now is to have one dinner at the Hoo Doo . . . which meant that I had three dinners at the Hoo Doo this time around . . . which might be a bit much, etc. etc.
Anyway, Well Done the Taylors!
(and with this, back to ITIW)