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December 27, 2016: In Ponies we Trust

Yesterday, Pete and I embarked on our daily ride. We planned on riding to Grizzly Camp, and then, if weather and trail conditions permitted, do the entire loop. We made it Grizzly Camp just fine – we did okay crossing the pond – a lengthy expanse of -ice covered water. The top layer was soft, so the ponies had traction. Crossing the creek was trickier. There was open water at the onset, but there was a snow covered path next to it, and as well, further down was a snow covered ice bridge.

I was a little apprehensive in crossing the creek. However, I didn’t have time to consider the alternative, which would have been to turn back. Raudi surged ahead and first went across the snow path, then up and over the bridge. Once across, I heard the bridge creak as Pete and Tinni crossed it.

Alys and Raudi navigate ruts left by 4-wheelers

The loop trail became increasingly more uneven as our trek progressed. We’ve gotten at the absolute most, six inches of snow this year, so the ruts are visible. At the same time, the rain and mud have formed a thin crust. The crust was shallow this year, so the ponies weren’t in danger of breaking their legs they did punch through.

Riding through the usually swampy area of the Grizzly Camp trail is like riding through the forest primeval. The trail winds its way through stands of gnarled old spruce and birch trees, and lichen, clinging to the trees, blows in the wind. There are no signs or picnic tables in this area, and it’s usually overcast when we ride through. The silence here feels ominous – and I sometimes worry that Ryder will get her paw stuck in a trap.

Raudi, who from the onset wanted to be out front, maintained a good, steady pace. She’s more animated when we ride in those areas that we seldom frequent. To her, our close to home trails are just the same old same old. I shudder to think what her attitude would be like if I kept her at the Sindorf Center and did nothing except ride her in the arena.

My apprehension did get the better of me at one point, and so I got off and walked the toughest stretch of the trail. The roughest part of the trail is at the swamp’s end – there are some knee-deep ruts, a sharp downhill, and a narrow ice-covered bridge. Raudi hates being walked – never has in this respect been cooperative while out on the trail. This time, and in the past, she pulled me forward and pushed me to the side of the trail in her haste to keep moving. She listens far better when under saddle. I was reminded of this as I attempted to keep up and stay on my feet.

Once we were across the bridge, I got right back on her. She always stands still for mounting and will not move until she gets a treat. Add to this, Tinni, mouth open, teeth exposed, angling in for his share of the goods.

Pete again took the lead. Raudi, now that she’d worked off a bit of steam, was content to follow her buddy. We hopped off the corridor trail and took a ski trail that Gene put in a few years ago. It was the high point of the ride, winding through the spruce trees, the ground underfoot soft and unrutted. I heard chickadees and squirrels and saw two moose at the distance.

We came to the Moose Meadows, and continued to ride the untrafficked trails. We finally came to Four Corners, and from there, to Raudi’s Racetrack, which, sad to say, has been discovered by the ATVers. We rode home on Murphy Road – I remained deep in thought. At this point in time, what many of us have feared has come to be. No other recreational users, that is bicyclists, hikers, snowshoers, or cross country skiers can safely use these trails. They are just too trashed. This is a real shame because these are the individuals who do the least amount of damage. The 4-wheelers, especially during hunting season, are an inconsiderate lot who don’t ever think about the damage they’re doing. The few (and most are gun toting fools) that I’ve talked to clearly don’t get it. Their argument is that they’ve been using these trails for many years and therefore should be able to keep using them. This makes no sense to me.

I was pleased with how our savvy trail ponies did, but saddened by the fact that the Matanuska Moose Range Trails now appear to be the exclusive domain of the ATVers. This isn’t fair or right. I would like to see the area be off limits to motorized use during the hunting season, but I seriously doubt that this is ever going to come to be.

Next: 115. 12/28/16: The Bridge to Everywhere

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