... continued from June 21, 2014 ...

The ferns and low brush completely hid the footing on the easier hillside but my experienced trail mule, Boston, carefully felt his way along a safe path with a little help from me in my higher up vantage point.  With every step, he knocked down just enough of the thickly growing ferns and small brush to give the other horses confidence to follow and see to step over other obstacles.  We regained the trail on the other side of the downed tree and soon came out  on the pipeline.  After lots of splashing in the creek and munching the lush grass at the bottom of the last climb, we got to the dirt road and soon were back at camp.  The half-day ride was exactly 3 1/2 hours.  The all-day riders were out 7 1/2 hours including a long lunch break.  The campfire was well underway and eats and cold ones ready after all the horses were taken care of.  The remarkable "zero gravity" lounge chairs occupied chosen spots around the campfire and soon the delicious banquet was assembled for the longest astronomical day of the year 2014 at Camp SMOGR.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Today G & L attempted to find the bottom of Right Mill Run trail.  Since the first attempt in May, the leaves have fully emerged and hidden what had been a fairly clear trail.  We made an easy creek crossing and soon found ourselves blocked by impossible terrain.  The real trail must have been hidden by the vigorous bushy growth before we crossed the creek and we missed it.  So we turned around and bush-whacked our way up to the McCarthy trail and surprised several deer who were browsing in the clearcut.  At the top of McCarthy we turned right on to Old Supply trail and next explored a new logging road branching off to the southeast.  G knew the area before the logging road was built and said there was a grave and an old gas well somewhere out there.  We found the grave - or maybe it's a memorial site - and it has a cross atop a cairn and an engraved plaque which was inaccessible for us to read.  I'll find out more about it another time so we can name the trail after the person.  The old gas well was right in the center of a new log landing area and was protected by piled up boulders and officially marked by a plate with numbers and the name of Pennzoil.  The logging road ended out on a knob, so we turned around and headed back.  Later, on the internet, I saw the satellite view of the gas well and it showed no old trails leading off the knob.  Finding Right Mill Run trail will get another attempt another day, and we had a lovely Independence Day ride anyway.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Another beautiful, cool morning for a ride from Camp Smogr.  G rode from her home to camp along Jula Trail and stirred up a large forest dweller - most likely a bear altho she didn't actually see it, but it made more noise than a deer. Then, as we both headed out on Jula trail, my mule, Boston, leading on the narrow trail, stopped in mid-stride and froze, focusing on a dark object on the ground and moving across the trail about six feet ahead.  At about the same time as G and I saw the snake and heard the tell-tale rattle, Boston very slowly and quietly backed up.  I also was quiet - more speechless than stealthy - and could only point at the large Timber Rattler moving off the trail into the brush.  Now we were all moving in reverse and finally stopped at about a ten foot distance of retreat.  The snake was so large that at least one section of the dark, sleek body was visible as it moved along under the brush.  After a period of negotiation and tight navigation on the narrow trail, G's good Arab gelding agreed to lead the reluctant party past the Demon.

‚ÄčThe planned destination for the ride was an old trail shown on the topo map called Benn Gully, which was rumored to be overgrown with small saplings.  Nearby to the trail was a very recent logging operation, so a connection of the two would make a nice loop if Benn Gully was usable.  We didn't go onto the logging road, as the dozers were working there, but found the trail which turned out to be an old roadbed - or perhaps a railroad bed - and we made a note to check out the lower part another time when the dozers were done.  The ride back to camp was along the old stripmines and we were extra watchful while still enjoying the cool forest and our dear and trustworthy four-hoofed companions.