Sunday, June 23, 2019 – First Ride Since April!! At Challenging Honey Creek Horse Camp

Sunday, June 23, 2019 – First Ride Since April!! At Challenging Honey Creek Horse Camp

Whew! What a day! I started off with great intentions to go riding this morning, got dressed in riding gear right off the bat, then heard thunder in the distance, darn it! The next few hours was very frustrating. The sun would come out and I'd be just about ready to start saddling Flash, then there would be MORE thunder in the distance. It happened three or four times before the radar finally showed the storms were no longer training in one place, and had finally cleared through. I finally saddled Flash and left camp around 11:45, heading up the gravel road on the west side of the camp. We followed the signs pointing to the trails until they split, then took the farthest west one. While I had a map, it wasn't too clear, and wasn't an exact match to what was on the ground, as is so often the case. We eventually followed the signs to the Double Arches, which is one of the good linear destination trails that I found, but not very far in, it started getting really steep, really narrow, and finally, we hit a couple of huge, steep rocks, and Flash slipped on them and fell on his shoulder on one of the rocks. I managed to grab a handful of mane and hung on while he righted himself, but he only did that by turning around and climbing back above the rock he had just slid on. I decided it was too treacherous, certainly for so early in the ride, and the rock was really slippery with all the rain and mud that had washed down, so we uncharacteristically headed back up the trail. We turned down another trail, and that got a bit dicey in spots, too, but we managed to make a small loop out of it, that brought us right back to the gravel road that led back to camp. We had only been out about 40 minutes, so I knew that wasn't enough, Flash was barely warmed up, and still prancing around, like I expected he would, since he's been off for more than two months. I came back through camp and picked up the "new" trail that left on the east side, and that was actually quite nice. Slippery because of all the rain, but mostly dirt, none of these big slippery rocks, and not too steep most of the time. That took us out to a logging road and an overlook, then I decided to take the Panther Creek loop, which had been part of my original plan that I had abandoned early, only going in the opposite direction. That wasn't too bad, though there were still a few sections that were quite challenging, and would have been even on a dry day! The big rocks here have been worn smooth in many places, which makes the going rather tricky at times, but it is also very beautiful, with ripples carved into the rock in many places. We completed that loop with no real trouble, and headed back on the new trail, but then I decided to take a logging road in an effort to avoid the mud for a while, and also to try to find a shortcut that was less treacherous for when Hubby is ready to ride with me. Well, that logging road took me in the right direction for a while, then I saw a trail marked for the Double Arches and HCHC, so I went down that for about 50 yards before I started hitting more of those treacherous rocks, so I turned around again. I kept going down the logging road, and it started to look familiar, and I realized I had done that road early, going in the same direction, and didn't think I wanted to do THAT again, so I turned around and went all the way back to where I had turned off the new trail, and took that back to camp. Over 10 miles by the time we got through, and it was a good workout, for both of us! I washed Flash down and put him in one of the pipe corrals that hadn't been used over the weekend (the camp was nearly empty by this time, of course), gave him a bucket of water and some hay for a good job done, patted Apollo as I passed him by (explaining that horses that stand around all day don't need extra hay, he'd get dinner soon enough), grabbed a beer, downloaded my journey from MapMyHike, an app on my phone that evidently works even when there isn't a cell phone signal, because the whole route was saved, thank goodness, and sat down to get my breath back! It's quite warm, and there's another line of storms heading our way, so I'm thinking of just putting the horses in a stall tonight to keep them dry. The area where I highlined them is getting pretty muddy, and most of the pipe corrals are pretty deep with mud, too, so stalls it is! Settled down for a quiet evening.

Sunday, April 21, 2019 – Another Beautiful Easter Ride at Wind Creek State Park

Though the morning started out cool, the bright sun quickly warmed things up a lot, and I was looking forward to my last ride on Flash here at this beautiful park. I had planned a long ride on a lot of the sections of blue trail that I had missed the other day, and wouldn't you know, I got turned around again somehow. Nevertheless, I managed to get in most of my plan, even though it wasn't exactly in the same direction or the same order that I had planned it! What's the difference, it was a beautiful ride! I was glad to see this section of blue trail was quite a bit wider, or at least the trees weren't so close on the trail that it was a knee-knocker. Still mostly single-track, and one part took me to an overlook that was just spectacular. You could see the lake and the regular campground on it's shore, maybe a half mile or more away, beautiful. After standing around in the cold and rain (though I had put their rain sheets on Friday night), Flash was quite ready for the ride, no hesitation and willing all the way. He's taken to hopping over downed logs, and even did a full-on jump over one. I've never actually done any jumping, but when I realized what he intended, I just grabbed a handful of main, leaned forward like I always see the Olympians do, and did my best to stay balance, and it ended perfectly! So proud of him, and myself for surviving it! Just glad he didn't go sideways at the last minute or anything, that would have been trouble... Anyway, it was a great ride, 9.39 miles according to MapMyRide, at just about 3 hours. This is SO how I want to spend as much of my time as I can! Spectacular! After we got back and I put up Flash (and, of course, the campground was mostly empty by now), I got busy dialyzing Hubby and packing up what I could for our departure tomorrow. What a great week! We will come back here!

Thursday, April 18, 2019 – Exploring The Other Side of Wind Creek

For the last two days I've been riding on the north side of the park, as there are plenty of trails here, but today, I decided to explore the south side of the park. I planned a route straight west until the crossover to the black trail, where there was a large loop around the perimeter of that section of the park. Flash saddled up fine, but it took a few minutes to get him to leave camp. I guess three days in a row was unexpected for him, but since there's a storm front coming in tomorrow, I figured this was our last chance for a few days to ride, and he'll get plenty of rest then, so I pushed him up the trail until he stopped fussing. Once we headed out on a new trail he settled down a bit. The shortest route to the beginning of the black trail (other than the orange trail, which I was planning on coming back on) was a dirt road with some gravel on it, and I wish I had put his boots on, because it was getting a lot harder to avoid in some spots. Once we crossed the road to the black trail, though, the footing was lovely, no problem and very little stone. This is my favorite trail so far. It actually doesn't look as if it gets used as much, but it was a bit wider overall, but a bit more overgrown, if that makes sense. No knee-knocking trees, thank goodness! Several creek crossings (one which Flash didn't want to go over, so I did what I always do, make him go over it backwards, which, for some reason, he's less reluctant to do. Go figure,) lots of hills to climb, some beautiful lake views, simply perfect! These last three rides have been so exhilarating, so relaxing, so spot on for soothing my soul after a year and a half of anxiety, stress, tension and dealing with just too much stuff in too little time, it's really hard to describe the wave of pure joy that's washing over me right now. I think it comes from living your life the way you want, on your own terms, and being simply joyful at the heart of it. In Costa Rica some years back, we learned the expression Pura Vida, pure life, which I think just about captures it. I'd forgotten how much I missed this feeling, having been distracted by all the uncontrollable events that had found their way to us, but now we're back, for a while at least, and it just plain feels GREAT! After we finished the black trail, we crossed back to the orange trail for a nice finish to the ride, completing nearly 8.25 miles in just under two hours. Gave Flash some extra food, then got Hubby started on dialysis, and settled in to the rest of the day in no time, feeling happy, contented, satisfied, joyful and grateful for the Pura Vida!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019 – Another Knee-knocking Ride on Flash

Today I planned a longer ride on the blue trail, and was out in plenty of time to do that, but that plan changed a bit as we got a few miles out. Much of the blue trail in this section is narrow, single-track, more like a hiking trail than a riding trail, and as such, many trees were very close to the trail. I found myself constantly having to push on the trees at the last moment in order to prevent my knees from crashing into the tree, which would have been very unpleasant! After a few miles I kind of got tired of that, so I reconfigured the route to actually go along an old road for awhile. Eventually I got back on the blue trail, but it was more of the same so I backtracked (something I hate to do!), and eventually got back on the orange trail and headed for home, with a little side trip onto part of the yellow trail which branches off toward the lake. It ended up nearly 7 miles and about 2 hours, and it was mostly enjoyable, with lots of woods and hilly terrain to keep it interesting, and again, we thoroughly enjoyed it. Another morning of riding, followed by another afternoon of dialysis, more updating my online diary, followed by another quiet evening of relaxation. Who could ask for anything more?

Tuesday, April 16, 2019 – First Forest Ride on Flash in Ages!

Perfect weather for a ride today! In the 70's and sunny, I planned a fairly short ride today, just to get Flash used to the terrain. After all, we've only been riding on flat Florida canal trails for the entire winter season, so the hills around here should prove challenging! We saddled up and headed out, leaving a whinnying Apollo behind, as we started out from camp on the orange trail, which made a nice 5+ mile loop around the woods. We definitely had some grades to climb, but the trails were nice, a lot of them two-track wide, but many single track as well. There were a few more rocky areas than I had expected, but not too bad, and Flash seemed fine with them, though he did try to stay off the worst of it. What a beautiful park, and a beautiful day to enjoy it! Now THIS is what I'm talking about! Picture perfect! We both thoroughly enjoyed our ride today, and were back in camp in about an hour and twenty minutes, just right for a first day out. Once I got Flash settled back on the high-line and had lunch with Hubby, we got him set up for dialysis, which went brilliantly again. I'm so glad we had his fistula cleared out, it's making his buttonholes work perfectly every time, making the whole process simple. I just hope we can get hooked up with an i-pad at our next "home" clinic, it will make it easier, and I won't have to be hopping up and down every half hour to get the numbers off his machine. Fingers crossed we'll figure a way around that! The trouble is, currently each i-pad is assigned to a clinic, not a machine or a patient, so every time we change clinics, theoretically, we need to change i-pads. That's problematic because we'd have to ship back an i-pad every time we get a new one at the next clinic. Hopefully, though, we can devise a system where we can just re-program the i-pad as we switch clinics, but that will take some logistics which I'm not sure they're ready for. But we'll see! Settled in for a nice evening, the perfect end to a perfect day! I even had time to start updating my long overdue online diary! Whoo-hoo!

Sunday, March 31, 2019 – Short Ride with Brother Jeff

As we start gathering everything together to head home in the next couple of weeks, brother Jeff and I went on what is likely to be our last ride together this season. He wanted to see the 5 mile loop I found out back in Hungryland, so we headed out that way in the early afternoon. It's been a good stay, though not as relaxing as we had hoped because of all the in-center dialysis we had to do, but I'm hoping that next year will be better, with more time in other horse camps around Florida, dialyzing "at home" rather than "in-center," which will give us a lot more time for other, more fun things. Jeff's long-time girlfriend is flying in later this week, so we'll be staying here long enough to look after his critters while they take a short jaunt to a beach hotel along the coast, but we're hoping to be out of here shortly after that. A lot depends on what kind of weather they're expecting at home! But the plan is to spend some time getting up there anyway, to try to relax and get caught up on our sleep and rest time.

Sunday, Mar. 24, 2019 – Ride Day with Hubby

So happy Hubby was feeling well enough for a ride today! Had a nice strawberry and cream breakfast before saddling up the horses, and off we went on a 5-mile loop around Hungryland, so even Lola dog was able to join us today! It was a gorgeous day, mid 70’s, hardly a cloud in the sky, precisely the reason we come to Florida for the winter. Everyone behaved themselves beautifully, no problems whatsoever. Flash and Apollo are getting along fine, and Hubby and I are working out how to ride a quarter horse and a paso together. Trying to get a gait that’s good for both has been interesting, but I’ve always worked on a nice slow jog with Apollo, and that seems to just about be right for Flash’s walk, with the occasional cordo to catch up, which Hubby doesn’t mind at all. Unlike the last time when I took this loop and was knee-high in water for three 100-yard sections, the swamp had dried up and a bit, and we were barely ankle high in just two of those sections. We all had a great time, so glad to be back in the saddle! Arrived back about 90 minutes later, put the horses away, then worked on the Buick for a bit. This past week, it’s been stalling out whenever it went down to idle, so we took a look at what the problem might be, potentially a solenoid, but we found a chewed bit of vacuum line that we thought might be the problem. We temporarily taped it up, hoping that would prove that that might be the problem, which we’ll know for sure tomorrow when we drive it. Spend some time out by the pool playing fetch with Lola before retiring for the evening.

Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019 – Day Three of the OTL Ride

Up before dawn, loaded up Flash (who I thought by now would be reluctant to get in the trailer, but he went in just fine!), and off to Jupiter Farms Park for the start of the 3rd and final day of the OTL ride. Sunday is the day that attracts the most people, and there were a lot more folks there than on the previous two days. Of course, once again they were still trying to round up people for the (now) 9:00 riders meeting, and when someone next to me asked the organizer if they could go, I went right along with them when they got their yes. I headed back out of the park the way I had come in yesterday, in first position, going on trails Flash and I both knew very well, as this was all in the area where we had been training for the last six weeks. We kept a nice pace, though I didn't push him too hard considering he's already got over 45 miles under his belt in the last two days. We stayed in the lead until just as we reached the Cypress Trails parking lot and headed north on the official OTL trail, when I was passed by a couple of tall, long-legged Arabe/Standardbred crosses, once ridden by a guy from Venezuela and the other a woman from Zimbabwe. They blew past me and I thought I would be left in the dust, but Flash decided he wanted company, even if he had to work for it, and he promptly started racing after them! No matter what pace they did, Flash stayed up with them, and if they got ahead, he'd catch up to them when they slowed down again, even after some very long stretches of cantering. Seems Flash was determined to stay with the herd! It turned out that the woman was a retired endurance rider, and she gave me some excellent tips when I told her that it was my plan to condition Flash for that. Once she laughingly joked (with an English-African accent) that Flash looked "like a little puppy following along," and it was true. Too cute! Anyway, we kept on the entire rest of the 19 miles like that, all the time I'm thinking, well, this is great practice if I want to come in 2nd or 3rd in a race, but it won't help me get a first! The last quarter mile or so we all cantered toward the finish, except my companions all pulled up about 100 yards out, but Flash was having none of that! It seems he sensed the end was near, and he wanted to reach it asap, so he kept right on going, passing up those two other long-legged critters, and once again, arriving at the checkpoint first! How's THAT for going out with style! Now THAT'S just exactly the kind of attitude I want in my future endurance horse! Once again, Hubby was waiting for me with the trailer, but as there was a lunch being served for participants, I stuck around and socialized for a while, chatting with the organizers, making a few suggestions for next year, which they were quite open to, and even managed to sell a copy copies of my horse camping book! I was very pleased that we made it, Flash and I, and was able to chalk up the experience. It was great having so much time together, and I'm looking forward to when we are finally back on the road full time and we can plan our travel accordingly. We packed up Flash and headed home, enjoying a nice quiet evening of well-deserved rest for both of us!

Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019 – Day Two of the OTL Ride

Another early start today. With the condition of the road at JW Corbett, it actually took us longer to travel there than to Dupuis, even though it's a much shorter distance as the crow flies. Much more relaxed today, as we have no dialysis to race to, in fact, there's nothing but this to do, so I plan on taking my time and enjoying it more. I left camp with a couple of other ladies who were organizers, and rode along a well-marked (by Corbett) trail for a long way. I finally moved off from them when they stopped to solve a shoe-loss problem (they were nice, but a bit chattier than I am comfortable with for long stretches-no offense!), and rode with just one other girl for a while. Lots of water to cross, lots of wading, then a nice canter as we pulled into the conservation camp, where a lot of people stopped for lunch. I kept going down the canal until we reached the Beeline Highway crossing, and half a dozen of us crossed at once. There wasn't anyone stopping traffic, though there were a couple of folks at the checkpoint there. There were enough gaps to make it through okay. Eventually we got into Loxahatchee Slough, where I caught up with a cowboy and his girlfriend who weren't afraid of moving out, so we did some nice cantering and trotting (for me, cordo and largo), a refreshing change from everyone else who apparently only wanted to walk the entire 21+ miles. As soon as we broke through the forest on to the canal trail on the north side of Loxahatchee Slough, which Flash knew VERY well, I could really tell he suddenly knew where he was, and knew the way home from there (even though that's not where we were going this time), but he picked up his tempo and we did a lot of moving out after that. We finally settled down for the last mile or so through the neighborhood, arriving at our end point of the Jupiter Farms Park near the arena. Hubby had already arrived, tucked away in a corner, and after checking in (I was first in camp again, just like yesterday, where I heard it was nearly an hour before anyone else arrived after me), and once again, trailered home, this time just a short ten minute drive, with a stop at Publix for essentials like ice cream :-). Got home much earlier than last night, thank goodness, and had a relaxing evening, though off to bed early, of course!

Friday, Feb. 22, 2019 – Day One of The Ocean To Lake Ride

Today is the big day! Everything that Flash and I have been working towards for the last two months, it's finally here!! Got up bright and early, had a quick breakfast, then Hubby and I drove out to Dupuis WMA where the ride begins, arriving just after 8:00 as I had planned. Got Flash all saddled up and ready to go, then waited for the 8:30 riders meeting. That time came and went, then I heard it would be 8:45. At 8:50, still nothing. I knew that I was already pushing my luck with a 9:00 departure, so I found a woman who was marking up a map for someone, and explained that I needed to leave right at nine, so she gave me a copy of two separate maps, one of Dupuis and one of JW Corbett, and briefly (and rather vaguely, I thought) ran through the trails with me. In the end, she just said, "Follow the teal trail to the south end of the park," and the rest would be self-explanatory. So right at 9:00, I headed down the main road until I hit the teal trail, then followed that until it came to a dead end. Great. Nothing on the map helped me figure out where I was. I changed directions a couple of times before finally picking up a red trail that I thought was going in the right direction, but that looped back on itself. I ended up going cross country to the east, because I knew the teal trail did cross the entire length somewhere, and I was bound to pick it up. Finally, I did, but by then I'd lost almost an hour and added several miles to an already longer than expected journey. I pushed Flash hard to the south end of the park, where I met up with a couple of other organizers who were supposed to be marking the trail ahead, but apparently they left 20 minutes after everyone else did. Despite their late departure, they were still the first to arrive at the south end of the park that leads to the trail to Corbett, so evidently, I wasn't the only one who gotten lost. Grrrr! It won't matter Saturday or Sunday, but today it was critical to make Hubby's dialysis time. I headed out the trail toward Corbett, now well in the lead, and kept pushing Flash as much as I could to make up for lost time. Now there was only one trail to follow for a long time, so that made it easier. There was one water stop, but there was a cable strung between two posts we had to step over to get to it (no one had a way to remove the lock) Flash walked up on it, then backed away panicky when he struck it. I suggested to the women at the checkpoint that they put a plastic bag or something on it so that people and horses could see it, surprised that no one had already thought to make it somehow. From there it was up one canal and down another, missing another turn because of poor directions (I was told a certain number of electrical poles, but that turned out to be wrong.) I finally saw some pink ribbons, which I had seen along some of the way, and finally figured out that they must be the trail markings for the ride. Would have been nice is someone had mentioned that to me before I left this morning! Still managed to be completely lost in Corbett, again because the trail markers were not good, but fortunately, I managed to stay on trails that, according to the map, would take me to I camp. Many of the trails were under water, so we were wading a lot (thank goodness I had schooled Flash on these earlier this month!) And FINALLY arrived in camp after 2:00. I practically threw Flash in the back of the trailer after I unsaddled him, jumped into the truck, and went as fast as the crappy, pothole-ridden dirt road would let me. It was 3:00 by the time we emerged from Corbett and it's dead cell zone and called the center to let them know we would be late, ran home, dropped off Flash, jumped in the car and finally made it to Hubby's dialysis center at 4:00, an hour late, but they were very gracious about it, thank heavens. Of course, that made it a very long evening, not arriving home until 9:30, and barely had time to grab a bit and crash into bed, with the alarm set for another early morning tomorrow! Whew!