Saturday, December 14, 2013

Don’t count on us

Along with neglecting my own blog, I’ve been neglecting others’ too. But fortunately I had a little time to kill the other day. I spent it cheerfully catching up with the group you see over in the righthand column.

Endurance Granny’s tale of being a pariah when asking ahead of time for a riding buddy touched a bit of a nerve with me… and also reminded me that I never really told you guys about our ride at Foothills. These topics are somewhat related.

Foothills was way back on October 19—several centuries ago in house-buying time.
It was a beautiful weekend. The weather was custom-made for riding. It was in the 60s. Sparkling sun on fall colors.

And I was escorting a newbie. (Not a junior, just a newbie.)

I have been a lot of things over the years. I have been the newbie who doesn’t know how to get through a vet check. I’ve been the one on the young, green horse. I’ve been the one on the crazy, dangerous, fire-breathing spook monster. I’ve been the one using other people as a backstop. I’ve been the one using other people to drag me along. I’ve been the person who didn’t think electrolytes were necessary. (I’ve been the one who didn’t even know what they were.) I’ve been the one who rode into camp oblivious to the hopping-lame horse. I’m the one who has fallen off… a lot. And I’ve gotten caught up riding other people’s rides instead of my own.

That last thing is why I always hesitate to commit to ride with another person.
At Foothills, I offered to escort a first-timer who had come with an experienced rider who was doing a different distance. I hoped that it would end up being a lot like my ride with Evita and Corky at OR100. A young person and an athletic horse would keep me and Blue interested and steadily moving forward.

Instead, my partner at Foothills turned out to be delightful company… and a terrible match for me and Blue.

I’m going to give you a list of some of our incompatibilities for educational purposes. These are things to think about before you try to ride with a partner.

Our horses’ gaits didn’t match up. Her horse had a slow walk and a powerful trot. Blue is pretty much the opposite. When we were walking, she couldn’t use me to block her horse’s energy because Blue kept getting ahead too far. At the trot, her horse would get frustrated at Blue’s steady 6 mph. He’d then pass us very fast before getting worried about being alone and having a mini-meltdown.

Our horses’ fitness didn’t match up. The experienced rider who brought my newbie was fairly sure that her horse could do the 25 miles, and pushed her to do the LD instead of the trail ride. I will say the little guy valiantly tried.
Unfortunately, he spent way too much energy on his racebrain at the start. There wasn’t much left at the end, and we were very close to going overtime. I put myself in a very hard position—where encouraging this newbie was pitted against my knowledge that I could easily complete the ride on time if I left her behind.

She didn’t know what to expect from her horse. As the newbie’s horse began showing signs of tiredness, she would ask me to slow down to a walk, or would get down and try to jog with him. She was waiting for his breath to even out or for him to offer energy like he had at the beginning.

I asked her what he’s normally like after a long ride like this, but she didn’t know. In much the same boat I was last year after 36 miles, she was trying to do right by the little guy without knowing if anything was wrong.

My own horse is lazy and tends to pant. That’s just the way he is; I’ve learned not to worry too much when he pretends that he is about to drop dead on the trail. So, frankly, I was annoyed to be slowing down for a horse that might or might not be in any distress. I was especially miffed because these little episodes kept happening on nice, level areas where I would have been making up time if I were by myself.

Foothills is a very cerebral ride in that you have to judge the safe places to go fast—there aren’t a whole lot. You can’t waste those opportunities if you want to complete.

We had different e-lyte protocols. Eventually, I asked her how much electrolyte she had given him because am imbalance might explain why he seemed sluggish. I think you can guess the answer. She hadn’t given any. I assumed (foolishly) that she had been using powder in his feed the same way that I did when I was new. Well, no. She was very near tears at this point as her horse seemed to be giving up… and so was she. I gave her one of my spare syringes for him. I was pretty sure that camp was nearby in case of a real emergency.

We were a personality mismatch. You might make the argument that my confidence and determination on the trail are a result of being an experienced LD rider. I tend to believe that it is more my cold-fish nature coming out in a time of stress.

I have yet to experience the emotional extremes of distance riding myself, so I don’t really know how to react when I see it happening to others.

My newbie partner was frustrated, tired, worried about her horse and just unprepared overall for the grit that distance (even relatively short distance) demands of you. I’m fairly certain she spent the last two or three miles of the ride thinking terrible things about me, my horse and our sport, glaring daggers into my back.

No, I wasn’t mean to her! But I’m also not exactly a motivational speaker. I was pragmatic:  This is roughly how far we’ve gone. This is how much is left. There is nothing I can do for you or your horse out here in the wilderness. Camp is where the real help is. It’s just a few more miles. Focus on finishing.

I could tell she really needed someone more motherly and understanding. Sorry, toots. The only way I’ve ever finished is to just keep riding.

With much cajoling, we finished with about 10 minutes to spare.
It was a relief in more ways than one.

Here’s the thing about personalities. Remember that personality test I did for work? Basically, according to the test, there are four ways a person can be. You can be any combination of them from perfectly equal to split between two to leaning hard one way.

Analyticals look at the facts to make a decision. In their world, any problem can be solved by applying the correct information. On the trail, analyticals are the people who have mentally mapped out every step of the ride and stick to the plan to achieve their stated goal.

Drivers are goal oriented in the extreme. They are always in a hurry and often make snap decisions without taking time to think things through. On the trail, this is the person who planned on riding a steady ride but throws that plan out the window to gallop into the top ten.

Amiables are your self-denying, motherly types. They just want everyone to be happy, even if they have to hurt themselves in order to help others. This is the person who stops to help an injured horse or rider, often at the cost of her own completion. Bless the amiables. They are the glue.

Expressives are your daydreamers and talkers. They lose sight of finishing because they live in the moment. On the trail, this is the person who is more interested in photo opportunities and stories of long-ago rides than keeping an eye out for ribbons.

At work, I am the only “Analytical” in my office. On the trail, I’m still an Analytical…  with serious Driver tendencies. :) The people I most often ride with tend to be Amiable and Amiable-Analytical.

Do you recognize yourself? Your friends? Your favorite riding buddy? Tell me all about it in the comments!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Excitement served cold (with a side of guilt)

I’m not the most sentimental person in the world. In fact, not too long ago they had us take this personality test at my office to help the team understand each other better because of some conflict in the workplace blah blah blah. So now in addition to knowing I’m not the most sentimental person in the world I’ve been gifted with new descriptors in black ink on white paper: analytical, unfriendly, systematic, objective, withdrawn. 

Fine, I’m a cold fish. A loner.
I’m also a pretty decent social media coordinator for whatever reason. Fake it ‘til you make it?
So anyway, I’m maybe not the best at taking other people’s feelings seriously (because, c’mon, you guys, just suck it up and stop whining). But I am sort of worried about something I have to do this week. I have to intentionally hurt someone’s feelings. I have to give notice at the barn where I board.
You see, the long radio silence on the blog has been the result of buying our first home—a process that has been better than having my fingernails removed individually with pliers but worse than taking the SATs with double pneumonia.
Other things that I have bought over the years (horses, cars, raincoats, lunch…) have been easy to acquire. I take the money that I have and give it to the other person in exchange for the thing I want. But when you buy a house, it feels like NO ONE wants your money until the day that EVERYONE wants ALL OF THE MONEY. We’ve finished the part where we go back and forth:
Please take my money.
No. Someone else gave us their money faster.
Please take my money.
No. Someone else will give us more money.
Please take my money, but first fix that obvious safety hazard.
Naw. Granpappy installed that there water heater/sauna hisself. It’d be downright unrespectful.
And so forth.
But now we’ve finally arrived at the part of the process where someone said yes. And I just write check after check after check and hope for the best.
I recognize that I am probably jinxing the whole thing by talking about it before we’ve officially closed. But that’s where we stand. If things continue on their current course, we’ll be in our new place by Thanksgiving.
Ergo, I need to move Blue. The new place is in the south ‘burbs of Portland, roughly half an hour from Salem. Silverton is another 30 minutes beyond that. I’m not driving an hour each way to ride. Sorry. No. Especially not when I am spending ALL OF THE MONEY on the house.
I’m one of those freakazoids who actually likes boarding. I know so many people who hate boarding and want their own acreage so they can do things “their way.” 
I understand that impulse. I, too, crave the freedom to have things done my way. But for me, the definition of doing things my way is “pay someone else to do the things.” My way is to leave the area on impulsive weekend trips and/or come home from work and fall asleep on the couch. All without worrying that my precious horse will starve or be standing knee-deep in his own leavings.

So I started looking for full-care board that fit my budget and was within 20 minutes of the new house (to save time and gas). I wanted access to an indoor arena, trails, daily turnout, mud-free paddocks, lessons—the whole enchilada, if I could find it.
With apologies to Allie Brosh.
Not only could I not find the enchilada, but any place that even came close to my criteria charged the same monthly fee as my mortgage. Literally. The same. 

This is partially my fault. The area we chose is kind of… ritzy. The house itself is a townhome. Not much larger than our current place. Modest. Family oriented. Close to the freeway. But the neighborhood in general? Think of the Hamptons… Beverley Hills… The Stepford Wives. Give that mental picture a light coating of soccer moms, liberal guilt and high-end chain stores.
And then laugh because Brian and I couldn’t afford to live in a more “authentic” or “gritty” neighborhood. It is much cheaper to live on the fringes of wealth.
So in this pristine suburb, I found only two possible barns that fit a reasonable number of criteria, with an emphasis on budget and convenience.
The first one I visited (option #1) was dilapidated. No other word for it. The people are nice and thoughtful; they obviously care about the horses, but the stalls are dark little caves arranged along a shockingly narrow walkway. At least each one has a small attached paddock to keep the horses from going completely nuts. The indoor arena, about a third of the size of the one at my Silverton barn, appears never to have been worked. And it is the only riding space on the small property—no trails, no outdoor arena. The turnouts looked pretty good until it was explained to me that the way they keep the grass from getting stressed is by keeping the horses in their stalls 48 hours at a time. And I would be responsible for cleaning the stall myself. I left, full of warring desires. The place was cheaper than my current barn (!). It was very near the new house. I could probably make it work. But it just didn’t feel right. I thought of Black Beauty, when he talks about stables:
“I may as well mention here what I suffered at this time from another cause. I had heard horses speak of it, but had never myself had experience of the evil; this was a badly-lighted stable; there was only one very small window at the end, and the consequence was that the stalls were almost dark.
“Besides the depressing effect this had on my spirits, it very much weakened my sight, and when I was suddenly brought out of the darkness into the glare of daylight it was very painful to my eyes. Several times I stumbled over the threshold, and could scarcely see where I was going.”
OK, yes, BB was written by a human who could only imagine the suffering of a horse. But still. I wouldn’t have wanted to live in that barn. Blue shouldn’t suffer for me being cheap.
Option #2 could not have been more different from option #1 if it tried. This was especially striking because these two barns are, at most, half a mile apart. Option #2 has stalls with beautiful sand and gravel runs. It offers the option of full-time pasture board on a hillside with rocks and trees. The barn farrier is a well-known barefoot advocate and boot fitter. There is a world-class dressage facility next door for lessons. (How world-class? One of their horses was made into a Breyer.) The downside is that there is no indoor arena onsite and it costs $100 more than the other place. Nevertheless, I think you can guess pretty easily which barn I chose.
So here we are. I need to break the bad news at my current barn. The owner, an elderly man, LOVES my horse. I know everyone thinks that their horse is a favorite, but I kid you not: Blue is like a celebrity at the barn. The old man talks to him, admires him, studies his behavior, comments on his quirks and good-naturedly asks me where I’m taking “his horse” when I trailer out.
And now I’m about to trailer out for the last time.
On top of that, there are several open stalls already (no fault of the owner, just boarders like me with changing circumstances) not bringing him any income. Another empty stall going into winter is not going to help his finances. He lives on the income the property generates, such as it is.
So, basically, this feels like a really sadistic breakup. Like I am sending a note that says, “I am leaving you in 30 days, but let’s not talk about it in the meantime. Sorry about that. Good luck replacing me.”
It seems so cold…
…even for a cold fish like me.

Friday, September 20, 2013

A PSA for all the ladies out there

In case you ladies weren't aware yet, Jockey is making a product now called Skimmies. I like them roughly a zillion times better than my Smarty Pants.
  • They are thinner and lighter. 
  • They breathe!
  • They don't bunch.
  • They come down closer to my knees and don't ride up.
  • You can pull the waist all the way up to your bra-line, or leave it where it naturally falls (they are REALLY stretchy).
  • They do have an inner thigh seam, but I have yet to notice it while riding because it isn't bulky at all.
  • I can also wear them under skirts at work. 
  • They come in sizes that fit sturdy women like myself.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

OR100 (Part II: Don't cry for me)

Shortly after we arrived, I met "my" junior, Evita. (IKR?! I did my best to be cool and not the extremely lame adult who jumps in with a crack about show tunes from before she was born, but COME ON. How cool is it that her name is Evita?) (Wait, do the kids still say "cool"? Is trying to be cool lame now? Is calling something lame... extra lame?)

She was older than I assumed (16 in fact), quiet, respectful, friendly, and a good rider. I literally can not say enough nice things about her. I'd ride with her again in a heartbeat, junior or not.

At a quick conference after the ride meeting, I just told her and her camping buddies, Heather D. and Paige, that I wanted to let the hot-shoes get out of camp before we left. I'd wander over to her trailer before the start and we could leave together and under control. We'd be shooting for 6-7mph and sensible behavior. This felt especially important because this was to be Evita's first competitive distance (I think she said she did the trail ride at Bare Bones before this).

Flying the pirate flag in camp.

My plans actually worked. I was up by 6:30, shivering from the icy desert night but wanting to be sure Blue had food in front of him for when the 50s went out. We were camped right on the trail out of camp and I didn't want him to pitch a fit when the thundering herd went by.

The rare "sleeping on the horse trailer floor" selfie.

Looking the other way.

I shouldn't have worried. My horse is a consummate self-preservationist with a long memory. I am CERTAIN he remembered how far we went at Sunriver, because he was positively lackadaisical at OR100. He wasn't slow on the trail or anything,  but he didn't waste any energy on meltdowns in camp before the start. There was plenty of time for both of us to eat and have a good stretch before I mounted up and shambled over to Evita and Heather D.'s trailer.

We had a completely uneventful start. Blue and Evita's horse, Corky, bonded right away and marched out of camp in a line of slow starters.

From the left: Evita and Corky, Michelle and Chance, me and Blue and Tiia and Jackson. Photo by Kathleen Jepson.

Marching out of camp like the wonderful, sensible horse that he is. I really love him. Thanks, Kathleen, for such a great start photo!

Once we were off the initial single-track and the Blue was reasonably settled, we struck a brisk trot and started passing the slowpokes. We were only a couple miles in when we got to Jessica Anderson's photo spot. The result is that the horse and I both look fresh and eager. Note also that I was already sleeveless at 8:15 in the morning. The day was definitely warming up fast!

Booking along on a loose rein. Note my western Oregon "tan."

We left the group and made great time through the whole first loop. We caught up to Karen of Wren Loop at each water stop, but she'd inevitably get ahead again until the next trough. I guess we were going about the same speed, huh?

Before we knew it... and well before 10 a.m., we were back in camp for our 30-minute hold. Someone who had a GPS told us that the loop was a little short. Nevertheless, allowing for our late start, we still did a solid 8 mph. Frankly, Corky had a lot more in him, but Evita held him to a pace that was right on the threshold of Blue's ability. They would be tremendous training partners for us—the kind of training partners that would push Blue to speed up. It's a shame they don't live closer.

I rode most of the last little bit into camp, so Blue took a few minutes to pulse down. The half-hour hold flew by, but neither of us was in a huge hurry to hit the trail again, so we had leisurely potty and snack breaks before mounting up for the second loop.

By then, of course, it was quite a bit warmer and full sun. The footing, which had been well-traveled by then, was softer and deeper than the first loop, but there were fewer hills. Mostly we kept to the same pace as the first loop, except for a mid-loop walking-and-gossip break with Michelle and her greenie, Chance.

Michelle and a whole lot of desert. I'm pretty sure that next speck in front of her is Karen.

Evita and Corky waiting for me and Blue at the top of the hill.

Just trottin along.

Leaving Michelle for the last time, we entered the dustiest, loosest footing of the day. We wallowed through much of it slowly, floundering our way down the hills.

There just isn't a good way to show how dusty it actually was. Take my word for it.

Train robbing selfie.

Camp was in sight, as were several of the horses in front of us.

But poor Evita was desperate to pee at this point. Even with camp in sight, she really couldn't wait another minute. I had a selfish moment where I wanted to tell her to hold it and tough it out. We were almost in camp; we had a decent chance of placing, according to my mental tally. But good mentoring won out. I turned off my personal racebrain, thinking of all the times I've had to stop awkwardly along the trail myself. Evita was practical enough to know that she needed to put herself and her horse ahead of making a big, impressive top-ten finish her first time out. Good girl!

That out of the way, we got back on the trail and headed into camp. Minutes later, we stripped tack and pulsed down fast for 12th and 13th place. Not too shabby at all.

I think it was especially unshabby because Blue did the whole thing with no hoof protection of any kind. BTW, someone actually stopped me in camp to tell me how good his feet looked. That sure wouldn't have happened last year when he was still in shoes.

Blue vetted through like a champ, but as soon as the pressure was off he dropped the pretense and let me know he was good and tired. I tied him on the shady side of the trailer with a cool, sloppy mash, but he fell asleep without eating it. I was pooped, too. The distance was nothing new but the slight increase of speed certainly caught us off guard. I stayed awake long enough to make sure Blue was just too sleepy for his mash, not colicky. Once he was in his pen moving around and nibbling again, I figured I could take a little break. This break turned into a three-hour marathon nap (have I mentioned before that I barely sleep the night before a ride but sleep hard and heavy as soon as it's over?) that was only interrupted by the hot winds of midafternoon.

That 90 in the lower right is the temperature... and there was no shade within 40 miles.

Blue would roll, snooze, eat, snooze, drink, snooze, roll for the rest of the day. Over night, he ate every scrap of hay that was left. I'm glad I saved back some for the trailer ride, because by the end of the weekend, he had eaten literally an entire bale of hay and several pounds of concentrate food.

Sunday morning I was awake bright and early to pack up my camp. I wanted to have everything ready to go as soon as awards were over, and I managed it. :) Blue looked like a million bucks. If anything, he appeared to put on weight through the weekend. A second day might have done him good.

"Good morning, Mom! Is it time to go race again?"

A morning stroll before awards.

 As it was, we had an uneventful drive back.

By late Sunday afternoon, you wouldn't have known we'd even left for the weekend.

It must have rained while we were gone, because there was even a hint of green grass in the turnout. (Everybody say hi to Torgrim, the newest horse at the barn!)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Oregon 100 (Part 1: Pre-ride)

Digression the first.

So what happened with the blog is that Brian had a relapse. Maybe you remember, maybe you don’t, but he had been having chest pains bad enough to land him in the hospital a couple times this Spring. Over the summer, that was mostly quiet. And then, suddenly at the end of August, everything kind of went to hell all at once again.

As you may have guessed, I find this recurring illness both scary and annoying, like a spider in my hair. He’s fine. He didn’t land in the hospital this time (knocking very hard on wood) and seems to be on the mend again. The antibiotics and painkillers seem to knock it out. What I want to know is why it keeps happening.

Maybe we’ll talk about it at greater length another time. (I know how much horse people like to research obscure equine health ephemera, so surely some of you know of an uncle’s cousin’s brother’s secretary who had tubercular pericarditis.) (I don’t actually know if that’s what it is.) (I just can’t help looking at symptoms online.) (Even though my day job frequently involves telling people not to use wikipedia to self-diagnose.)

Digression the second.

September 8 was the Waldo Hills Heritage ride. It’s a 12-ish mile trail ride in the hills outside Silverton. Many of the endurance people in the area use it as an opportunity to introduce young, inexperienced horses to low-speed group riding.

While Blue and I were dawdling around the parking area waiting for Kara to tack up her youngster, we ran into Brenda. She offered us a ride to Oregon 100. I had been hoping she might have space, since riding with someone else saves me a little gas money and often means I can pare down my packing to the bare minimum.

Well that all would have been great except a couple days later Brenda got one of the worst yellowjacket stings I’ve ever seen. She couldn’t get her foot into a riding boot, let alone put weight on it.

So I was back to square one. I didn’t have a ride and my husband was seriously ill.

But, dammit, I already missed Bare Bones and Santiam. I was going to do the 50 at Oregon 100 if it killed me!



I had been working under the assumption that I would be doing a 50 at the Oregon 100. Both because I had heard it was a relatively easy ride and because I am sort of trying to legitimize myself as an “endurance” rider.

Well, as Brian’s health became scary and I started to feel the walls closing in, I thought maybe an LD would be a better choice. Neither of us was sleeping well, I hadn’t been to the barn all week, the stress was making me feel less than stellar. And then Brenda got stung, and I was suddenly back to driving myself. Another  50-mile ride all alone in an unfamiliar place seemed… not so awesome.

I really only needed to give myself permission to wuss out and do the shorter distance. Facebook presented an opportunity in that respect: Someone was looking for a sponsor for a junior in the LD. Although I’ve never sponsored a kid before, I decided to call it a sign and offer my help.

The drive from Silverton to Brothers is mostly a straight shot—a shot that takes about four hours and during which one experiences no fewer than three micro-climates. Going from the gray, misty, heavily forested foothills of Western Oregon to the Ponderosa high desert above Bend and then on to the shockingly barren “real desert” of central Oregon is really something.

Real desert.

The turnout surface of a barefooter's dreams.
The Oregon 100 takes place on a chunk of property that boasts a single living tree. Everything else is this talcum-consistency moon dust topped with a layer of kitty litter gravel and sagebrush. That is pretty much all you see in most directions. There are dark, mysterious mountains on the far horizon, but mostly this area has an excess of sky. It reminds me more of my Nebraska childhood than it reminds me of Walla Walla. But, oh, the smell. The sage-and-cedar smell on the wind was wonderful.

And the animals! Sorry no pictures, but I saw a herd of pronghorn antelope on the way to camp, and met a cute little horned lizard after I parked. The coyotes sang us to sleep at night.

I like the wooded mountains where we live now. I like the ocean (where we spent labor day). I like the cliffs in the gorge. I like the desert. I can only conclude that I like variety. Oregon has plenty of variety. Ergo (Latin!), I’m fond of it.

Blue seems fond of it too. There’s no way to know what he remembers of his foal-hood, but he was born in a place a lot like the course of OR100… probably within 40 miles of ride camp. He certainly knew to eat the bunchgrass and keep his eye on the horizon.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Feel free to gush in the comments

Model Blue is totally cool, huh?

Model Blue in Model Specialized Eurolight

You can see the individual hairs better in this one.

And I also finally rode real Blue again for what feels like the first time in ages. We did 6-7 miles barefoot at Willamette Mission in about an hour. It was way hot, and there was a combine harvesting oats (?) in one of the fields, which put Blue on his toes a bit.

It wasn't much, but it was a start!

Saturday, August 10, 2013


How now, August?

In journalism school, they teach you that August is a slow news month. Congress is in recess (usually). Everyone of importance is on vacation. The big summer blockbusters have mostly come and gone. Stories in your newspaper talk about how hot it is, how hot it was, how hot it might someday be. In short, we are just here to fill pages in August.

So how is it that August is so busy for me this year?

I really, REALLY wanted to go to the Bare Bones ride on the first weekend of August. It was perfectly spaced as a good prep for doing a 50 at OR 100 in September. But my husband had other plans for that weekend, and they included me.  The annual Pirate Party is always on the first Saturday in August, and for Brian, it is basically the social event of the season.

Don’t get me wrong. I like going to Walla Walla, visiting friends, dressing in my pillaging gear, drinking grog. These are good, piratey activities. Yarr.

The problem is that the second weekend is August is also home to a Walla Walla event: The Sweet Onion Classic model horse show. Because I’m absolutely going to attend the show, I will also miss the Santiam Cascade ride. This means there will be no LD for me before OR 100.

Anyone who knows me well will already guess that I was coming down to the wire trying to figure out how to do both. In theory, if someone else drove Blue to and from Santiam, I could just ride him in the LD on Saturday morning and then drive to Walla Walla in the afternoon. (Because there’s nothing like a six-hour drive after an LD for loosening up stiff muscles. Ha.)

So yeah, no Santiam for me either. But hopefully model Blue will win lots of ribbons and make it a happy horse weekend anyway!

Friday, August 2, 2013

100 Acres: A Travelogue

Leaving the barn parking lot

Lots of these along the way.

First we cross the bridge of doom and terror.

Then up a deceptively steep side-hill covered in tempting grass and flowers.

Along a pretty fence line,

shaded with old, mossy

oak trees.

On our right, an overgrown Christmas tree patch.

Out of the trees, we follow the fence until we reach

the waterhole of doom. Sometimes it is full of horse-eating cows, but today only contains crocodiles or possibly a giant squid.

We turn right at the waterhole,

then take a second right onto the gravel access road,

then left through some "new construction" where the barn owner is improving the trail,

and down into the woods.

On our right is one of the ponds, with the wedding gazebo/island.

Straight ahead is a logging road that was cut in the 1920s.

A fork in the road.

Going up!

And up.

and up.




Still up.

And up.

Guess what?

It's time for a break.
Now, where were we?

Oh yes.

Getting closer.

Almost there.

Whew! Back out to the access road.

But guess what?

We're still climbing!

We'll stop and turn around when we get to those big trees.

Looking back the way we came.

What goes up must come down.

So down we go.





And more down.

All the way to the creek.

Across the water, we enter the park.

Just kidding, this is the owner's back yard.
Now we skirt the edge of the yard,
up a short, steep rise to the owner's personal barn and greenhouse.
We cross his driveway,
pass some mysterious old equipment,
cross the driveway again,
and pick our way through the towering trees down to the the winter pastures.
A groomed bridle path encircles the pastures

and leads us back to the barn!

And here's the Google Map, if you want to see how we traveled more than two miles and didn't even use all the acres.