Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Turn Left

Another gorgeous day to ride in February!  Heading out of the parking lot, we made a left instead of our traditional right...and what a ride we had.

36 degrees, a light wind, and full-on sunshine made for a perfect ride day with softened but not mushy snow under foot.  This portion of the North Shore Trail hasn't seen any snowmobile traffic at all from what we could tell, but a die-hard cross country skier had tried his or her luck, as well as a mountain biker with snow tires, and several dogs with their humans.  Wildlife use of the trail was abundant as well, with snowshoe hare, red squirrel, and tiny creature tracks scuttling left to right (or right to left) across the open expanse between safe zones beneath brush piles, downed logs, and thick pines.  We also noted possible wolf tracks (awful big for a dog) and followed the determined trail of, perhaps, a bobcat as it used the trail corridor to move from point A to point B, clearly not wavering from its purpose.  Other riders had been out as well, perhaps yesterday, and the boys enjoyed a sniff or two at the obvious evidence they left behind.

This side of the trail winds through a lot of low country, clearly totally impassable in the warmer months.  We traversed several bridges, which had remarkably steep approach ramps compared to what I'm used to seeing on snowmobile trails.  Several times the trail climbed to the flat top of a short, steep-sided ridge affording views down into the depths of the woods on either side.  I wondered if perhaps this was an esker?  Much of the trail has an easement through private property and no trespassing signs clearly marked their owners' turf.  Some of these owners evidently felt the need to decorate for trail users, and we enjoyed an American flag hung from a branch, and a tree trunk wrapped in a big red bow.

I was out of batteries for my GPS, so we relied on our best judgement to determine how far and fast we travelled.  We'd hoped to reach a point on the trail where it reaches a corner with two well-travelled roads, and we succeeded in our quest.  By the time we returned to the trailer, I'd estimated we'd covered about 13 miles, and later, using the remarkable tools provided by the MN DNR website, I was able to measure out on the map 12.7 miles.  We'd set out with a goal pace of 5 mph, and our calculated average speed was 5.08 mph.  I guess we did pretty darn well without a spec of technological help at the time!
Paco sampled a fluffy cattail head - and didn't like it very much!
Today's ride was about enjoying the day and our horses, but I also started my new plan of actually training my horse, not just riding him.  He wasn't very happy about that part.  Here's the thing about Rhio: he really likes to lead.  Paco really likes to follow.  You can guess what we normally do - Rhio leads and Paco follows.  It's easy, and the horses like it.  We don't have to think about it too much.  So, Rhio got to lead on the way out, but once we turned around, Paco had to lead and Rhio had to follow the entire way back to the trailer.  Neither of them liked this arrangement, and Rhio threw in most of his aversion behaviors and even got frustrated enough to give me a little buck.  But, to no avail, as I never let him get ahead.  The horses were clearly communicating to each other, and were doing their best to reverse their order.  Paco kept slowing down and moving over, inviting Rhio to pass.  Rhio kept easing his speed up, pretending I wouldn't notice, and would cut corners to take the shorter path and beat Paco.  Well, they didn't win this battle and by the end, Rhio was begrudingly accepting his position as rear guard.  Good.  Guess what, Rhio?  You get to do the same thing next time!

Many thanks to Gesa and Paco for supremely enjoyable companionship today, and to my steed Rhio for carrying me on this journey - we both have lots to learn, but we're in it together.

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