Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Monday, August 8, 2011

Plan B

Friday was our first opportunity to ride together in nearly two months, and despite the high dew point and stifling humidity, Gesa and I loaded the boys up for the short trek to our local snowmobile trail.  This spot was a favorite training trail last summer, and the footing was great, barring a couple of dodgy culverts, for about 3 1/2 miles (giving us a 7 mile round trip).  Early this spring we discovered a side trail that will make it a 9+ mile training ride, and we can do it at speed, and it has hills.  Did I mention it's only a few miles from Gesa's farm?  Yep, pretty much perfect for a quick ride...  Except not this summer!  We haven't been over there at all since our difficult ride in the spring (mucky with frost coming out of the ground), and were dismayed to find that it has not been mowed at all.  The snowmobile trails are usually mowed to maintain their condition for winter use, as well as having trees cleared, etc.  The great state of Minnesota endured a government shut-down for nearly all of July, and I wonder if this was one of the many tasks set by the wayside.  I don't actually know who mows the trail, but the belly-deep grass was not conducive to a training ride, though the boys did enjoy munching at chest-level as we traversed the first long hill in hopes of discovering mowed trail at the top.  So, we decided to move on to plan B....which we didn't have in our back pockets, but the ride back to the trailer yielded one!
Good thing we left our skis at home!
We would drive just a few more miles, parking at the base of the Amity Creek trail, and utilize both the Amity trail and Lester Park trails for some conditioning in the heat and, we presumed, bugs.  Rhio has never been there, so it would be new to him, and neither of us had ridden there in over a year.  It is an extremely popular spot for hikers, runners, bikers, and dog walkers, but as it was a weekday morning we were in luck with just one car in the parking area.  It is designated as a city horse trail, but it's brevity (3 miles total) and inaccessibility for trailer parking (our one little rig takes up the majority of the available parking) means it's mostly used by locals with horses near enough to ride to the trail.  The non-horse users are somewhat used to seeing horses, though, and that makes for generally pleasant encounters.
Rhio says, "Really, Mom, you want to ride in this weather?  Shouldn't we just stand here in the shade and eat hay?"
The poor horses were dripping sweat just from a 10 minute trailer ride, it was that hot & humid.  We tacked up for the second time, applied more bug spray, and headed up the trail.  This trail was formerly a road, so it is a very solid gravel - dirt base and includes two stone bridges at its base.  It is entirely shaded, tucked into the backside of Hawk Ridge, and with the Amity Creek rushing (lots of rain recently, usually by August it's more burbling than rushing) along the other side, it stays relatively cool and fresh.  To our utter amazement, it was also virtually bug-free.  We didn't need the fly masks we'd put on the horses, and I think I only had to swat a half-dozen deer flies the entire ride!
The tip of the trail, near the ford

Given the other trail users, we kept our speed to a slow trot and just enjoyed our surroundings.  The boys were eager despite the heat, and once Rhio figured out that the noise was rushing water (we couldn't really see the creek at the beginning), he was constantly asking for more speed, ears pricked ahead to see what was around the next bend.  We stopped for a cooling drink at the ford used by a local riding stable, and got back to the trailer feeling great and ready for more!
Standing on the bank of Amity Creek

Heading back to the trail-side of Amity Creek

We had about 1/4 mile of paved road to travel to get to the lower trails, and being out in the full sun with the heat radiating up from the pavement was a whole 'nother world!  It would have been an extremely unpleasant ride in the sun, but was a magnificent ride in the shade.

There was a lot of water damage to some of the trails from our recent torrential rains, with deep fissures in the red clay which Paco was pretty wary of but Rhio barely seemed to notice (so much that I was worried he might step in one!), as well as multiple areas where the vegetation was swept all in one direction, showing how much water had flowed overland to get to the creek and river.  We crossed a metal snowmobile bridge, which was covered almost completely in run-off clay and made hardly any clanging noise because of it, and were off for another 5 miles of hill work.

We did a lot of walking the whole ride, with our overall average speed a mere 3.8 mph.  But, with the weather conditions and the hills, the boys were both panting when we finished our total of 9 miles, and had begun stopping at every mud puddle for a sip or three.
Does it taste like chocolate milk, too - or just look like it? 

I was very pleased with Rhio's loading on this trip, since it's been a few months since we've gone anywhere.  He walked on each time, calmly, instead of his customary leap into the trailer.  It still was not a shining example of trailer loading (like Paco), but his hesitation was probably only for 2 minutes each time.  I hope this was a sign of permanent improvement!

Looking ahead to a 50 miler in two weeks (fingers crossed that the logistics all work out to get there), I need a few more good rides on Rhio to feel confident for that competition.  After Friday's heat, humidity, and hills, he got Saturday off, and Sunday we went for speed work.  We did half the distance at more than double the pace, 4 miles at 8.2 mph - whee!  He feels great, now if only the last of his scratches will clear up and his leg will quit swelling up at every little thing...
The boys rubbing each other's heads after sponging.

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