Yesterday I achieved something big! I successfully completed a long ride which I planned for, cleared a trail for, and managed to stay on track for (i.e. did not wander miles out of my way by missing a cutoff)! Of course, since my previous long rides where I did get lost all involved guests and this one did not, you’ll have to take my word for it. Don’t listen to any of them. I totally know where I am at all times.
Anyway, yesterday’s ride ended up being about 8 miles, and took 3 hours, and we climbed and descended about 1000 vertical feet—in a couple of precipitous climbs and drops with long passages of level between them as we walked along near-cliffsides. There is nothing rolling about these here hills.
I took Shadow and the Young Pups, and I actually squoze Shadow into a saddle so that I could navigate the hills more easily . . . because I knew where we were going, you see (UP), and I figured we would both have better balance on some of the more difficult terrain, if I could wedge my feet against something. And sure enough, by the end of the ride, my legs were a little shaky. MY legs.
As the ride was going to take place midday, I packed a lunch. After considering either ham and cheese, or pbj, I went with the pbj—it somehow didn’t seem right to eat meat when out with a horse, and certainly, if I were going to share, which I ultimately didn’t, she would probably prefer peanut butter to pork. I also took an apple which I did share, as we meandered along a relatively level logging road in a recent local clearcut. I did this the other day, too, shared an apple on a ride, so Shadow knew what to expect the minute she heard me take a bite. Her ears swiveled back and she slowed her walking, to be prepared for me to stop her and hand her a bite, which I did by reaching down my left hand to her turned head. A bite for me, which I would chew completely, Shadow’s entire focus on my slowness at mastication (Ian can tell you more about this); then a big bite that I’d take out of my mouth and hand to her. She got a very juicy core at the end. The other day when we first shared an apple, several minutes after she’d finished the core she stopped, hopefully, turning her head back to me. Nice try.
It turns out that the section of trail I cleared was completely navigable . . . for Shadow and me. I let her pause as often as she liked to catch her breath—it was a warm day, and I didn’t want her to overheat but I needn’t have worried—she’s incredibly tough. We then tied in with a long, level forest service road that I’d driven to and walked on, and I ate my sandwich enjoying the enhanced views achieved with the extra horse-height beneath me.
There were two sections of my proposed trail that I hadn’t vetted before setting out, and sure enough, both needed work-arounds. In the case of the first one, I more or less expected it to need a work-around, but I knew that the woods it traveled through were not dark and deep, but rather well-thinned and airy, and that wasn’t much trouble. The other work-around, however, took place as we were beginning our return.
Two possible tracks headed off down the hill through another clearcut, on our way home, and I had run partway down the branch I wanted to take—the one that looked less steep—but just barely not far enough. Shadow and I reached the ridge where I’d stopped, peered over, and saw an impassibly long tree lying full out across the trail and way down into the brushy regrowth below. It was not something I could tackle with my saw, or indeed a dozen of my saws. We’d have to take the quad track.
I don’t know—I honestly do not understand—how people can find the nerve—let alone the vehicle—to drive some of the steep grades around here. I would think they’d just roll over backwards going up, and somersault forwards all the way down. Not Shadow, though. She shifted back into her rump and descended that ladder-like slope headfirst, carrying a woman on her back, with the grace and agility of a dancer in the Bolshoi Ballet (if that’s the kind of thing they do. Maybe I’m thinking of this instead.). And I was still finishing my sandwich! We must have made an incongruous picture in the wilderness, the two of us in our full-on English riding attire—breeches and boots and helmet; English saddle and snaffle and breastplate; lunch.
At the bottom, exhilarated, I shouted to the birds and the deer and my incomparable steed, “Shadow, you are a ROCK STAR!”
We made it the rest of the way encountering no further unexpected challenges, and had a joyous gallop through the meadow near home. G&N got home in time to put their animals to bed last night and I was off the hook so I sat on the porch with a glass of wine and watched the sun set, then took a long, much needed bath (and cleaned the tub after). In all, the ideal climax for the story of this visit.
K&A will be back late tonight and G&N are taking me to the Hoo Doo for dinner. I’m in a bit of denial about just how much I have to do to get out of here on Tuesday afternoon, but rather than worry about that right now, I’m going to take the dogs up the mountain and see if I can’t just tie a last couple trails together. It’ll be time to be civilized soon enough.
This link occasionally shows the trails I’ve been working on, and where I’ve been.