Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Friends Old and New

Saturday, October 29
Amity Creek/Hawks Ridge trails
Companions: Karen & Duke (we miss you guys!!!), Mandy & Moon, and Christine & Blaze

On Saturday, Rhio and I made our way along the road from home to the parking lot at Amity Creek/Hawks Ridge, which I was surprised to find was 2.75 miles.  It doesn't seem that far, and so I hadn't left us enough time to get there, since the traffic can be a little heavy on the route and the shoulder is narrow, hence I didn't feel comfortable traveling at a very high rate of speed.  We were running late, but conveniently so was one of our riding companions, who was coming directly from work while her barn buddies hauled her horse over for her.  With everyone converged and ready, we headed up the Amity Creek trail.  Luckily I had a partial roll of vet wrap stashed in my saddle bag, because Mandy and the metal sign proclaiming "No Motorized Vehicles Except Snowmobiles" were in the same place at the same time and her hand suffered mightily from the encounter.  After that inauspicious beginning, we were on our way, chatting and laughing and having friendly encounters with the other trail users we met, including intimidating the heck out of a couple of dogs.  This is a very popular trail for runners, bikers, hikers, and dog walkers, in addition to being a designated horse trail within the city limits, and so user conflict can be a real issue, but on this day we had all positive interactions (yay!).  The weather was marvelous (I'm sure you, reader, are getting tired of this refrain from every post I've written this fall - but I have to keep mentioning it because it has been the most delightful fall for riding in several years, and after the summer of mega insect populations and the spring of wet and cold, we deserve it!).

We made our way all the way up to the top of the trail, took a little side trip at the ford in the creek to get the horses' feet wet (good practice), and turned back down the trail when my companions suggested it might be time to move out a little.  Wa-hoo!  Rhio was more than happy to take the lead and motor down the trail, but I tried to keep an ear out for any signs of trouble behind me.  Everyone kept their heads about them, and we turned up the snowmobile trail toward Hawks Ridge itself, taking a short but scenic detour along the North Shore Trail portion of the snowmobile trail (the out trail for the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon in January every year - I come up with my dogs in the winter to walk and find many brightly colored but nonetheless lost dog booties after race start).

Continuing our route in a rough triangle, we left the trail to ride the shoulder of the road, part of Skyline Parkway, up to the main raptor viewing overlook, with a breathtaking view of Lake Superior and eastern Duluth spread out at our feet.  The bird watchers gathered here, at the tail end of the migration, were friendly but more than a little surprised to see four horses in their midst.  We continued on down the road to an informal trail which cuts back to the Amity Creek trail, then finished our ride back where we started.  As we rode into the parking area, a lone woman was walking her sweaty horse to cool out before loading in her trailer to head home.  As most horse people do, we had lots in common so took up a conversation, before she and I realized we knew each other.  I used to do some vet work for her when she owned her previous horse and I was still doing regular vet work.  I should always remember to carry business cards with me, as we seemed to have a mutual desire to become reacquainted and possibly pursue riding together sometime, but I had nothing to give her my contact information with.  I hope we are able to locate each other for riding in the future.

She also gave me two tiny lights called "finger lights," which were completely new to me.  They are single LED lights with a switch, disposable when they run out of juice, and come equipped with a small loop of elastic so they can be worn around one's finger.  Apparently they are marketed for parties and raves, but their usefulness for anyone out after dark is immediately apparent.  And, they come in a bunch of different colors!  I see no reason why everyone on my Christmas list wouldn't receive these this year.  It was getting pretty close to dusk at this point, and I had the road to ride to get home yet.  I had Rhio's blaze orange rump rug and he is a gray horse, but I hadn't planned ahead well and didn't have his reflective leg bands on.  We placed one light on the back of my saddle and one on the breastcollar, and when I got home and dismounted, I was surprised to see just how bright they were.  Many thanks to Theresa for the lights!  We made it home safe and sound, and I will be getting some of those for future low-light rides as well as after-dark dog walking.

Tuesday, November 1
Ye Old Stomping Grounds
Companions: Christine & Red, Dawn & Secret, and Pat &... [insert pretty mare's name here - but I can't remember!]

Tuesday morning Christine brought the truck and trailer to pick me, Kelso, and Rhio up at the barn, then we made the short drive to Red's barn and picked him up as well.  We were meeting two women at our old farm to show them the riding in the area.  Dawn was already waiting for us, and we visited while getting the four horses tacked up and waiting for Pat.  It was cloudy and blustery, and threatening precipitation, but none of us let that deter us and off we went for a sedate trek around the farm property, then down the road to the gravel pit.

Christine asked to ride Red because Tomas had just had his shoes pulled and would have been sore footed on the gravel.  She'd also never ridden him before, despite numerous invitations to do so.  I am still hoping to get her into endurance, and experienced Red would be her perfect introduction to the sport.  Plus, Red loves to compete so much, that if I could find someone to do a few LDs on him next year, I would be thrilled.  No matter how hard I try, I just haven't been able to keep two horses competition-ready at the same time.

After touring around the farm trails, we headed over to the gravel pit and even ventured down the little-used short trail through the woods off the back of the pit.  I think it goes to someone's deer hunting grounds, but I have never followed it past a boggy area that has a sheet metal bridge - not horse friendly. It was very overgrown, and so we all got to practice our in-saddle ducking and weaving ability.

It was a short ride, and the weather held out for us.  We enjoyed each other's company, meeting new horse people, and I especially liked seeing Christine enjoy Red so much.  I also relished being back in the old neighborhood; I certainly do miss living and riding out there.

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