Saturday morning we met bright and early at 7 am to beat the heat, though it was already quite humid. Dawn was planning to come over and ride with us, as we're preparing for Mosquito Run next weekend. Last minute she picked up a friend, Deidre, and so as Gesa and I were ready before they were unloaded, we headed out to start the ride at a slow pace and check out the status of our short cut hill trail. Rhio and Paco seemed happy to be heading out, and we took our time, giving Dawn and Deidre plenty of time to meet up with us (they took the shorter road route to our rendezvous.)
Our normal route heads over about 1/2 mile of trail up a steep hill, then a mile of gravel road, then 1/2 mile down the shoulder of a county highway. Currently, the highway is closed to through traffic because a bridge (well, really a very deep culvert) which previously carried the asphalt and vehicles over the Lester River was washed completely away in the flood, leaving a monster hole where the road used to be. This is heaven for us, as although our horses are traffic safe, it is always more dangerous to ride near traffic than without it. It is also heaven for the bicyclists! We saw several groups in the 1/2 mile we traveled to get to the final gravel road section before we hit our favorite trail. Luckily our horses are pretty good with bikes, too.
Our timing was perfect, and we met up with Dawn and Diedre just at the corner of the county highway and the gravel road. Now a foursome, we picked up the trail and set off to see what damage it had accrued in the rains. A little more than half of our normally accessible section (we are cut off at the northern end by bog) was in great shape, although it could stand to be mowed. The long grass makes seeing the footing (and occasional culvert) difficult but Rhio seemed perfectly confident and set a forward pace for the group. ATVs are not allowed on the state trail, but a few locals use this section routinely. The environmentalist part of me wants to be annoyed, and perhaps make a stink about this. But, the equestrian part of me appreciates that their tires help keep the trail open in the height of summer when it hasn't been mowed, and since they do not seem to be the make-huge-mud-pits type of ATVers, I am pretty content with the status quo. I would also like to point out that when we do encounter them on the trail, they have all been more than polite.
Unfortunately, our trail did not survive the flooding on June 20/21 unscathed, and we were brought up short gazing at a 10 foot wide chasm with a rusty metal culvert laying serenely in the bottom. There wasn't much time to ponder the sight, as the instant we slowed from a very brisk trot, we were swarmed by deer flies. Turning around, and motivated by the threat of exsanguination via hordes of flies (and perhaps the 3 weeks of rest he's had), Rhio led us back down the trail at a forward canter, which became a hand gallop, and then perhaps a slightly-out-of-control gallop. Somewhere Rhio has learned to jump, and we cleared several mud puddles and at least one culvert. It was really fun, though I wasn't entirely sure he was listening to me. I didn't hear any shouts from behind, so evidently everyone else was ok, too. (Ok, yes, this is pretty poor horse etiquette, but I knew these ladies and their horses could handle it.) Back under control, we took a left turn and headed up to the county road works building, where we could skirt around to come out on the county highway again. Normally we would turn around here, but with the road closed, we decided to make a loop out of it, and headed back to our earlier route via the road. A walker and some gardeners seemed a little surprised to see us clip-clopping down their normally busy road.
|Thank goodness Rhio didn't even think about jumping this! It's way out of our league.|
|My lovely companions - Deidre, Dawn, and Gesa riding Danny, Secret, and Paco.|