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November 6, 2013: Happy Trails to You

The weather has continued to hold, meaning no snow yet. No one is happier about this than I am because this is conducive to horseback riding. The trails have now hardened up nicely, but making for easier and safer going. There’s also still some warmth in the sun when it actually shines. I have my fingers crossed that these trends will continue. Odd though, how weather patterns can change, and in so doing dramatically alter the landscape. Tomorrow it may (again) be overcast, snowy, and cold.

The lack of snow has enabled us to spend more time outdoors than we might have otherwise. It’s in fact like the window of opportunity was flung wide

open. This was something that we did not expect in making our plans to come home in early October. Had I known, I would have lobbied hard to spend even more time in the Lower 48 and Canada. We’ve got our hay in, the yard cleaned, things put away, and repaired the chicken coop. And today, Pete did work in the high tunnel, which was something he thought he’d have to put off until next spring.

He and I also both did trail clearing. I went running uphill and met him on the way down. And we cleared trail on the return trip. Pete was clearly in charge. He had a definite idea as to what area needed to be worked on. I followed him, of course thinking of many other things, like the proposal that I’m currently working on. We zig zagged back and forth along our chosen route, checking out this and that possible route. When finally, we had a route, Pete tromped and I stomped, making our path more identifiable and ensuring that it would be safe to navigate. Don’t want a horse to trip on a tree root or inadvertently put his or her foot in a hole.

We also obscured our trail entrance and exit points, so that the riff raff – ATV and snowmobile users – don’t mess up our pathways. And we used sticks as trail markers (as opposed to flagging) for the very same reason.

This afternoon we took Signy and Tinni out for a ride. We first rode our now older, and more familiar trails. Then we went onto the new trail. It went extremely well – we’d put in several twists and turns so the horses had to continue to think about where they were putting their feet (rather than barreling along at a near breakneck speed). I could tell that Tinni was quite pleased to again be off the road. He was attentive, lively, and maintained a good pace – this as opposed to his just shuffling along likes a very old man in a nursing home.

I remember that many years ago, when I was helping to get the local Back Country Horseman of Alaska chapter going – Nick Cassara told me that the best thing to do if you live near state land is to make your own trails. This is because the state does not have people who maintain them for you. Consequently, the ATV free-for-all attitude results in trashed trails. This now makes sense to me, although at the time I just wanted to continue to ride on known trails. I also (then) was of the mind that I could only ride on existent trails. In other words, I was not thinking outside the box.

I now see the big picture. Trails are initially made by someone, usually a hiker, and then taken to by others. Some trails then become miner, and later major thoroughfares. This is what’s happened around here. So quite obviously, we need to be making our own, but with one very important difference – our trails are going to be less obvious. This way, horseback riders can continue to use them. The payoff of what most certainly is a laborious, painstaking, and well thought out activity is that our horses are more energized after an outing than they would be if we rode exclusively on the road.

Next: 226: 11/7/13: Ryder – Oh Oh