The woods are ours again, with the orange-clad hunters stuffed back into their alter-egos as regular folk once again (though you do still see quite a few pickup trucks around town with a blaze orange cap on the dashboard, or someone out clearing snow in his hunting jacket - I totally get the desire to hang on for just a little longer, refusing to believe it is over for the next 50 weeks). Tuesday was our first bright, sunshiny day in a very long time, and Rhio, Kelso, & I were all itching to hit the trail. It was only about 15 degrees, so bundling up was a necessity - with toe warmers in my boots and mittens instead of gloves, the only part that got cold was my nose!
|We were the first to make tracks across the unbroken snow|
The open areas were somewhat crusty as we'd had some freezing sleet before it switched to snow, and Rhio didn't care for trotting through the crust. The trails in the woods were totally soft, though, as the ice seems to have formed on the trees and not really made it to the ground. Rhio was thrilled to trot and canter where we could - though that wasn't very many places due to all the downed trees and overhanging branches & shrubs. In fact, we got to practice our side passing many times, as small trees were laden with snow and leaning over the trail; Rhio & I sidled up to them so I could reach out & grab them, shake the snow off to lighten them, then push them up while we ducked under. A couple of times we had to do this in quick succession, pivoting around this way and that way to reach the smaller diameter, unattached-to-the-ground tops which were actually movable. I was very happy to have chosen to ride in my saddle (for more stability while doing all these contortions and reaching) and was extremely pleased with Rhio's responsiveness to my requests for lateral movement. It is something we've only been seriously working on recently, but he seems to "get it."
|You can see the sparkling ice in the tops of the trees|
We rode all the way to Red's farm, where Thanksgiving turkeys were being distributed (yay! no more wading through that flock of gobbling, strutting birds to get my pony from his pasture! well, 'till next year at least...) and visited with some of the turkey buyers and the dogs. I could have brought a backpack & picked up my turkey, but I hadn't thought of it - that would have been fun, though! In the end, I got a 16 pounder, so I probably wouldn't have wanted to ride home with that much weight on my back (it really throws my balance off to wear a backpack I've found, especially a heavy one).
We got home just as dusk was falling (4:15 pm - ugh!) and in time to feed the ponies before retreating to the beauty of electric illumination and central heating for the duration of the long, dark winter night (which, yes, includes the afternoon here in northern Minnesota!).