Thursday, January 20, 2022 – First Ride in Dupuis

Hey Babe!
Woke up to another beautiful morning, got my chores done, did some OTL work, finally saddled up Flash for our first ride here at Dupuis. My goal was to ride the newly marked pink trail (Anita and the gang came out and did some tree painting last weekend), to see where the problem were. While most of the southern part of the park seemed okay, there were a few sections close to camp that really were difficult to navigate, seems like it hasn’t been mowed in a really long time, so it was a bit tough to find the trail, even with the new markings. Once I reached the bottom gate, I had planned a nice loop on a couple of different trails back to camp, and that was even more of a challenge! Whole sections where the horse trail was indistinguishable from the numerous game trails, and the markings so far apart you couldn’t see them. I can’t tell you how many times I had to turn around and start going in a different direction, and that was only because I had the trail mapped in my GPS, otherwise I would have gotten utterly lost! Not a good feeling! Of course, we found our way back to the main trail eventually, but the number of squiggles on my GPS trail when I finished was alarming! It was a nice ride, though, but when we got back, it was starting to cloud up, and even though there hadn’t been any rain in the forecast when I checked this morning, when I checked again after having sprinkles landing on my head, suddenly there was a 20% chance of rain, surprise, surprise! I also met another James, the older guy who does all the mowing, and we had a chat about getting the pink trail mowed on Monday. In fact, he says he can get the entire park done in one and a half days! That’s like 50 miles of trails, I’d like to see that happen! But the pink OTL trail is the priority, that was made clear. I had another phone conversation with James I, making plans to meet next week to show him some of where the rest of the trail goes, he seems honestly curious about learning as much as he can about the equestrian’s needs, so naturally, I’m happy to play tour guide! He also said that in order to complete my volunteer application, I would have to submit to a background check and go to their offices in West Palm Beach to get fingerprinted. That’s fine, especially if I decide to do some campground hosting here, it’ll save me the trouble of doing it again later. It will also give me a chance to pick up the small horse trailer at Jeff’s, since I need it out here for my next ride. Rain in the forecast tomorrow, too, so it will be a good day to get these errands done. Spoke to Anita a couple of times, finally settled down for the evening, won’t be long before I’m ready for shower and bed! Good night, my darlin’! Love you!

Saturday, January 15, 2022 – Ride and Rest Day

Hi Sweetie,
Slept late again, though I woke up a few times during the night, don’t know why. Did some work on the OTL stuff again, then decided to see how my back was really doing, so I saddled up Flash to take him for a ride on about the only other “trail” that’s on the map that I can reach, Road 10. Had to do the same boring stretch along the road until we reached it, pass through a gate, then we had a nice long grassy straight-away between pastures for awhile. Ran into a couple of quail hunters with a pretty GSH, chatted for a moment before we went on. There was one very short stretch that got mildly interesting because it had cypress copses on either side, but then just opened up into cow pasture again. At one point, Lola apparently disturbed a snake, she was a ways ahead of me, and I saw it strike at her, but it missed her by a mile. I’m not sure she even saw it! The other week at Picayune she actually stepped on one that was uncurling to get out of our way, but we were moving so fast, it never knew what hit it. I’m more worried about gators, though I didn’t see any here, but I’m going to be so busy in the coming weeks, I’m not sure I’ll be able to take her with me, and I know they’re a bit more strict about dogs on the trail at Dupuis, though I’m hoping I can take her occasionally. It was a nice ride, though, we got in a lot of gaiting and cantering, and thankfully, my back handled it all very well, even without me taking any aspirin, so I’ll be ready to get to work next week! Got a call from Anita from the OTL this evening, they went out and worked on the trails today, said they were in the worst shape she’d ever seen them, which I guess shouldn’t be too surprising since we skipped last year, and apparently the guy who used to maintain the trails passed away last year as well, so we’ve got our work cut out for us! Actually looking forward to it, it seems like I’ve wasted so much time sitting around here. Weather is supposed to turn bad tomorrow, so I went ahead and put most stuff away, hooked up the truck so the ground would stay dry under it, brought the awning most of the way in because they’re calling for high winds and rain, then settled down for the evening. Heading to bed here shortly, so good night, babe! Love you!

Tuesday, January 11, 2022 – Short Ride on Apollo, Then OTL Work

Hi Babe,
A great night sleep and a morning full of computer work, then I saddled up Apollo for a long overdue ride. I had planned to take the last long trail I could reach out here, but decided that a shorter ride was better, because he’s such a slug these days, so I headed through a gate that was supposed to be a “trail” but was nothing more than an access to the multitude of cow pastures out here. We followed it about as far as we could, and yes, we got to go through a stretch of cows and the many babies, but it was really a boring ride. Might have been more interesting if I actually had a job to do out here, but just walking through a cow pasture isn’t much of a ride. When we got toward the end, though, it seemed as if Apollo got the scent of something more alarming, maybe a panther? We are kind of in panther country out here. In any event, he kept stopping and shying and it was getting rather annoying, so rather than go through another field that was full of cows, I decided to head back. Well, Apollo took that as a sign to bonkers on me, and he took off at a gallop like he hasn’t done in years! It caught me by surprise, and I couldn’t get him to stop, so I just grabbed the horn and hung on, figuring he’s wear himself out before long. You know I’ve never trusted his gallop, since he always tends to make sudden sideways moves and I usually end up on the ground, and these days, that seems a lot farther than it used to be! Well, once I got myself in control, I was able to finallly get him to slow down as we approached, but I was pretty nervous for a minute there! He was still a bit antsy, but at least he behaved himself the rest of the way home. It was only about an hour, but it was enough. This place is really boring, I can’t wait to get back on some real trails. I think it’s going to be a LONG week here, which is an unusual feeling for me, most of the time it goes by so fast! So now there’s only one more trail that I can take, and I’ll do that on Flash, then I’m going to let them rest until we get to Dupuis next week, where I expect to run them both ragged, hopefully. Flash is getting restless, he ran around the paddock like a mad horse when we got back, which I’m glad about because he’s been a bit sluggish lately, too. The rest of the afternoon was mostly me doing a bunch of messaging to folks who had indicated an interest in the ride but who weren’t on my mailing list, hopefully that will stir some more interest. Pretty boring day, actually. Then I watched a very funny short series on Prime called Jean-Claude Van Johnson, which literally made me laugh out loud more than I can remember any series doing in a VERY long time! The self-effacing and “inside the entertainment industry” pokes at himself were hysterical, almost melodramatic. I wish there were a lot more episodes, it was very clever! So now I’m ready for shower and bed, and a bit more reading. Good night, my darling! Love you!

Thursday, January 6, 2022 – First Ride Day at Dinner Island Ranch

Hey Darlin’,
A nice, quiet night sleep, then I woke up relatively early, did all my morning chores, and before long, was saddling up Flash for our first ride. The map indicates one large loop of roads that would be about 16 miles, with a bunch of little spurs and one small loop off of it, so I decided the explore the main road first, then do the spurs later. This is an interesting place, inasmuch as the road is fully lime-stoned, and mostly long and straight, so the actual riding is pretty boring, but we saw more wildlife here than all of the wildlife in the last few months combined! Birds of every size, shape and color, from wading birds to hawks. Saw an otter hop across the road. Saw a baby gator peeking out of the water, an adult sunning on the canal bank, and a dead one on it’s back with crows and buzzards making a meal out of it. Saw a deer running across a field, and saw scores of cows, since this is mostly leased ranch land, lots of calves of every color and type and even crossed some open range where the cows all ran away from us. Lots of birdcalls made the sounds rich, some lovely fragrances from somewhere, too. While it was mostly open plains here, there were thick copses of cypress, live oak with moss, magnolia trees and palms. We were making great progress, and had just about reached the halfway point, when we were suddenly stopped dead in our tracks by a cattle guard on the road with no bypass gate! We had gone through one earlier, so I just assumed they would all be like that, but nope! Had to turn around and go all the way back on the same track, with the exception of that one small loop, and you know how I hate going backwards! We stopped at the hunt check station for a quick rinse off, then I put Flash away and rested for a bit. Then I decided I needed to find out if it was possible to go in the opposite direction all the way to that cattle guard, so I jumped in the truck and headed around the road in reverse. Turns out there are several other cattle guards with no gates, so that severely limits our trail choices! I can’t even get to a lot of the spur trails because of that. Crazy! I’ve never been anywhere that had cattle guards without a bypass gate! Starting to rethink going to Okaloacoochee Slough, which is essentially on the northwest side of where I am, as their map looks like it might have more trails, but I’m going to drive over there and check it out first. No sense staying here if there’s no real riding. Got back, met another camper who happened to also be from upstate NY, so we chatted for a bit. Then, just as I was making dinner, the people who had reserved this spot showed up. Oh, well. At least he didn’t insist I move immediately, said we could do it in the morning, so that’s my first exercise tomorrow. After dinner, I attended an OTL meeting by phone, think we made a lot of progress, got most of the Volunteer list filled with names, so at least we know where the blanks are, and there aren’t too many of them. The biggest gap is shuttles and drivers, Anita still hasn’t confirmed a bus she thought she had procured, so we’re starting to look elsewhere. I’ve had a pretty good response for volunteers since I posted just yesterday, so I have high hopes it will all come together in the end. I have a very busy day tomorrow, I’m supposed to be meeting brother Glenn and wife and maybe Jeff for lunch tomorrow, but at a place that’s 80 miles away, farther than I thought when I suggested it, mea culpa. So off to shower and bed early, long day ahead! Good night, babe! Love you!

Monday, January 3, 2022 – Trail Finisher Ride at Picayune

Hi Darlin’,
Had a good night sleep, did quite a bit of work on the OTL today, then saddled up Flash so we could finish off the few official trails I missed. I also took a lesser “official” trail, a single track that leads right out of the campground, and which I thought was a hiking trail, but there was no sign prohibiting horses, and there was certainly a lot of indications that horses were regulars on it! So I tried that out today, and that was very nice. A bit tight in a few places between the Areca palms, but MUCH better because it paralleled the limestone road, so we cut a big section of that out, which was great! Someone hung a little horse ornament on it, too, so that confirmed for me that was the way to go! Another nice section, and it suprised me, was a long straightaway that on the map I interpreted to be another stone road, but turned out to be a trail right through a cypress swamp, but with all the dry weather, most of the trail was pretty dry as well, so it was lovely! Flash and I did a nice run through there, although it was beside a barb-wire fence. Anyway, it was a good ride, exactly fourteen miles, and that finished off the official trails, like I wanted to do. There are actually a lot of other non-motorized vehicle tracks that would make trails if they wanted to develop more here, and there’s a sign on the paddocks that the forest service is looking for input for an equestrian plan, so I may get in touch with them to see what they have in mind. Meanwhile, I settled down for the evening, the usual, and will soon be heading for my shower and bed! Good night, babe! Love you!

Saturday, January 1, 2022 – Long Ride to Bring In the New Year

Hey Sweetie!
A good night sleep, got more chores done, had a few words with the non-horse camper next to me this morning. First time he hasn’t left before the sun came up, and he was surrounded by a plethora of horse trailers. One livestock trailer was even parked diagonally in front of him, since is was very crowded and not a lot of parking space left. So I said to him, maybe now he understood why he shouldn’t be camping in a horse trailer area, and he looked at me and said, What do you mean? Not the brightest bulb in the closet, I guess! Anyway, I pointed out that horse people have only a few places they can go, where he and his tent and little boat could go anywhere. He finally got the point, and packed up and left. I figured he would just move over to some other spot in the campground, but he left entirely. Maybe that was his plan all along. Whatever, afterward I saddled up Flash and headed out with a pland that was supposed to cover pretty much every trail that I missed this week, but managed to miss a turn and screwed that up. That’s okay, I’m staying a couple extra days and get the rest done on Monday. We ended up doing just over 19 miles, in just over four hours. Not a bad pace! We ran into a whole parade of jeeps, evidently they’ve recently opened up some of the trails to multi-use, including motorized vehicles, but they were nice enough to stop and let me pass. I ran into some more (or maybe part of the same group) at the primitive campsite where they have a water trough. Last time I came through here, there was a coffee container in the trough which I though might be for dogs to use (and we did!), but I figured out that it’s real purpose was to prime the pump. I tried to pump some more water into the trough and quickly learned that wasn’t happening without priming it, so I did that and finally made it work. We got back before 2:30, and then I spent the better part of an hour tweezing out burrs on Flash’s fleece saddle cover. It’s not that there were that many burrs out here, but that I had accumulated a LOT of burrs over time. I can’t even remember the last time I did that, it could have been years ago. I think I have burrs from every state I’ve ridden in during the last couple of years, all kinds of different ones! I put Flash out on a line that was anchored, hoping to train him to be able to graze like that without hurting himself, but there was one time he managed to get the rope around his back foot and got a little excited, but I was right there and I got him out of it before any damage was done. Apollo understands this system very well, but Flash seems to be having some problems grasping it. I’ll keep trying, hopefully he’ll get it after awhile, and without damage. Finally finished all my afternoon jobs, put Flash away, fed them, fed me, watched a little TV, won’t be long out of bed, since I have to get up early and meet Jane and Bob, our friends from Ohio, who we haven’t seen in quite some time. Signing off, saying good night, my darlin’! Love you!

Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021 – Second Ride Day at Picayune, About 10 Miles

Hi Babe!
I couldn’t get to sleep last night for anything, have no idea why! Thought I’d be exhausted after our long ride yesterday, but it was nearly 3:00 before I finally got to sleep. Oh, well! Was up at 8:00, and we were out on the trail by just after 10:00, doing just ten miles, with me on Apollo, trying to hit the bits we missed yesterday. Pistol was really sore from all her bouncing around, her horse Tommy had to do a lot of jogging to keep up with Flash’s walk, and she’s evidently not used to that much speed, so her ribs and chest were sore today. She’s not even sure she can ride again tomorrow. Guess this old gal outrode the young whippersnapper this week! I had to keep jogging on Apollo to keep up with Tommy today, though, but of course, that doesn’t bother me, since I do so much riding. It was warm again today, but with a decent breeze, apparently it’s unseasonably warm this week but cooling down for next week. Found a few more painted seashells on the new trails today, too, very fun to find those! Gave Apollo a nice rinse off, spent a few minutes digging prickly weeds out of the two paddocks, then another hour mending Lola’s big bed, she’s been going on a real bender and digging out all the stuffing, so I had four different places I had to sew up after I restuffed it. Tweezed off a bunch of burrs out of Apollo’s saddle, that took me almost another hour. Had a couple of hikers come by and chat for a bit, from California, got into a chat as discussed the entertainment business, as he claimed to be an actor and she a line producer for a reality show. After they left I fed the horses, a bit earlier because I didn’t want to get caught outside with the mosquitoes like we did last night, then shared dinner, finishing up just in time. Watched a movie on Netflix, since I’m having trouble with Prime, it seems to require more bandwidth or something because Prime keeps getting stuck every minute or two whereas I had no problems with Netflix. Now I’m having my Sleepytime and mint tea blend, ready to take my shower, and looking forward to getting a much needed better night sleep tonight! Good night, my darlin’! Love you!

Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021 – First Ride Day at Picayune, Over 19 Miles!

Hi Sweetie!
I slept great, though I had to put in earplugs. Alligator Alley is only about a mile away, and though it wasn’t too bad, I always like super quiet nights, and that’s what I get with my earplugs! Got up around 8:00, and once I fed the horses, I immediately got busy fulfilling a book order that I forgot yesterday, and Pistol was nice enough to take it into town and mail it, since she wanted to fill up with fuel anyway. She got back and we got out on the trail by about 10:30. I remembered some of these long straight stretches, as well as the more jungle-like areas near the center. There must be some Michiganders nearby, because we spotted some painted, bedazzled seashells stuck in the trees, just like I saw painted rocks and gems up in Michigan this past summer! How cool is that? Nicely done. We reached a small campground with a water trough a few miles out of camp, and Lola had worked up such a sweat she jumped into the trough to cool off. The horses had a drink, too, as it was a pretty warm day, over 80, but not humid, fortunately. I was hoping that the further west we got the more jungle-like it would get, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. It really got more barren, with a lot less trees, and a lot of them seemed dead or almost dead. It was supposed to be Cypress swamp, but I guess it’s been so dry a lot of them are stressed. We did see a lot of animal tracks, I need to start learning a bit more so I can identify them better, but I know we saw deer, and something that could have been a small bear, a large canine or feline, not sure which, but this is panther country, as well as bear, so who knows? It was very dry on the trail until we finally hit a few big puddles, and by then the horses and Lola were really thirsty. We went all the way to the far west part of the park, to a day parking area across from a boarding stable. We didn’t run into the puddles until we were on our way back. We stopped at the camping area again and ate a snack, someone was kind enough to leave a container in the water trough to water dogs, and Lola certainly took advantage of that! We finally got back to camp after nineteen plus miles! Got our workout today! Rinsed down the horses, then answered a few emails and got the generator started so I could charge everything up, then it wasn’t long before we were moving hay that Pistol had brought for me, then finally making dinner, and shortly after, calling it a night! Watched an episode of The Expanse, now I’m ready to hit the showers and be in bed very soon! A long, tiring day, but a great ride! And we’ve already got 15 people signed up for the OTL, after only three days since I got the registration link online! Very happy with that! Anyway, calling it a night! Good night, my love!

Saturday, Dec. 25, 2021 – Christmas Day Ride

Hi Sweetie,
Despite being only a half mile from a busy road, it hasn’t done anything to bother my sleep, I got another great night in last night. Read a bit before finally getting up. My horses are mostly used to my late schedule, but Pistol’s Tommy was nickering from daybreak, though not enough to keep me awake! Finally got up and fed my guys, then got involved with sending an email for OTL, then made the shocking discovery that somehow my database, which I’ve worked hard to update and put together, somehow mismatched all the names from their email addresses! Not sure how that happened, and will take some doing to straighten out, but decided that today wasn’t the day to figure it all out. Once I gave up, I saddled up Flash, while Doc, who arrived this morning, saddled up Apollo and Pistol readied Tommy, and we soon were out on our Christmas Day ride, a nice five mile trip around both ends of the park, at least as far as we could reach. Once we got back, it wasn’t long before we fed the critters, then I made a nice dinner for us all with ham and yams and salad, finishing off the beautiful starry evening with a bonfire and a few shots of honey bourbon (I’m moderating!) before calling it a night. An episode or two of The Expanse, now I’m ready for my shower and bed. Another great day on the road! Love you, darlin’! Good night!

Friday, Dec. 24, 2021 – Christmas Eve Ride Day

Hi Darlin’,
Had another great night sleep, woke up and read a bit until Pistol turned her generator on and I figured it was time to get up. Did chores and had breakfast, then got involved with trying to straighten out a way for payments for the OTL to get directly into their account, and finally got that resolved later in the day. Meanwhile, after messing with that for a couple of hours, Pistol and I saddled up and took about a five mile slow ride on Apollo and Tommy. Some beautiful trails in here, I just wish there were more of them, or that there was a way to get to the south end of the park! Tried to send out an email blast but had some problems and only managed to get a few out, will have to work on that tomorrow. Finished the day with a nice dinner and sitting around the campfire for a bit before heading back to the trailer for an episode of Expanse, and an early night, which I’m getting used to. Not supposed to be as cold tonight, looking forward to more normal temps over the weekend. Hard to believe it’s Christmas Eve, not that that ever meant that much to us since we never really paid much attention to holidays, but I do miss having you here with me, no matter what day it is! Anyway, heading for a shower and bed shortly, need to find a new book to read. Good night, babe! Love you!