Yesterday my sister Jill and I took our horses on a trail ride with my friend Natalie. Jill rode Topper, her off-the-track-Thoroughbred turned trusty amateur adult hunter and of course, I took Wally.
That's right. I said my sister rode her Thoroughbred hunter... although you'd hardly recognize him in his western saddle and bridle.
Natalie was aboard one of her foundation Quarter horses and served as our trail guide, since she'd been to this particular park before. Our destination? Bonelli Park, a rather rugged area in Los Angeles County that includes barely maintained fire roads, a number of water crossings, a pair of dark tunnels that skulked beneath underpasses, and a wooden bridge. Ultimately the trails traverse over several hilltops, around a lake, through a campground and alongside a municipal airport. Needless to say, it was a 3-hour adventure.
The trail head started at a riding stable and right off we had to ride through a dark, dank tunnel. I was lagging behind on Wally, trying to decide whether I wanted to wear my jacket or simply tether it to my western saddle. Meanwhile, Jill and Natalie entered the tunnel... only to exit backwards, thanks to meeting a group of mountain bikers coming toward them head-on inside the tunnel. Their two horses weren't too happy about being asked to go inside the tunnel again. Brave, macho Wally took the lead instead. I know he's never been through a tunnel. But he pumped himself up and stepped into the darkness. I gave him a big pat and we all headed up the trail, a trio of happy horsewomen.
So that I don't revisit the entire ride, I'll just summarize and say that our day included the following:
~ Encountering the entire spectrum of Mountain Biker Etiquette, ranging from one lone biker pleasantly calling out, "Hello, biker behind you," to another group led by an extreme pedaler who thought merely tinkling a little tin bell was enough warning before he rode his troop up Wally's rear end. (Thankfully Wally is officially Spook Proof about bicyclists).
~ Crossing muddy standing water that was up to our horses' chests; crossing clear running water that was slowly eroding the trail; and crossing trickling water that coursed through a tiny valley of sandstone and granite. Go ahead. Ask my sister how much fun it was to be astride Topper while he was trying to balance his little Thoroughbred feet on a boulder of wet sandstone. Ah yes, nothing like the unmistakable sound of aluminum shoes slooooooowly slipping down an abrasive surface!
~ Reaching an abrupt end to the trail at the back of the lake's dam, where the original trail that snaked high atop the earthen spillway had collapsed, requiring us to create our own detour. That was the moment that Natalie pulled her grulla gelding to a stop, pointed to some hikers in the distance and said, "We want to be over there." To whit I said, "But we are here, and I see no way to get there." Fast forward ahead and the three of us were starring in our own version of that long downhill scene in The Man From Snowy River.
~ Enjoying nature at its best: wildflowers in full bloom (wild mustard and lupine), clear March weather and an abundance of bunnies, squirrels and blue jays. Also enjoying nature? The naked man we rode up on. Yup, that's right: We were quietly riding through a verdant cluster of oak trees, the sound of our horses' hooves muffled by a carpet of golden leaves and acorns, when the trail took us alongside the river. The ever watchful Topper noticed the fellow first, and then we all did. And there he was, bathing in the river, him and his bar of soap."Well, that's something I've never seen before," Natalie said.
Our trail ride ended back at the riding stable. We hosed off our horses and let them have a long drink before we loaded them back up to head home. No sooner had Jill started up the truck than I turned to her and said, "So. At what point did you think you were going to die?"
We both started laughing so hard we had to sit in the parking lot for a minute. And guess what? We're already planning another ride. But at a different site. One without a lot of mountain bikers. And preferably without nude sunbathers.
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