Saturday, July 30, 2010 – Ride Day at Northampton State Park

Set the alarm to get an early start today, as we headed out to Northamption State Park on the west side of Rochester. I had high hopes for the trails here, as the map I downloaded indicated not one but TWO horse trailer parking areas in the park, one in the middle and one on the west side. We arrived to discover there was a big weekend festival being held here, which included a barbecue cook-off and a blues and music festival. How cool was that! The horse trailer parking area had been cordoned off for $5 event parking, but they waved us through for free, since we obviously were headed for the horse parking area for a reason. I joked with the parking guy about having to suffer riding with the smell of bbq, but he echoed the same concern as he was manning the parking lot! We arrived to find two other small trailers already there, confirming our feeling that this was a good spot. Just as we were saddling up, two women arrived off the trail, and we chatted with them for several minutes about the condition of the trails and the efficacy of the trail maps. They were very helpful, especially in helping us find the east trailhead, as there were almost no real indications in real life where it started. Seems we had to go down the road a bit, across the top of a “sledding hill”, then turn right along the brush line to the edge of a cornfield, where the trail actually began. Good thing they told us, we would have been wandering awhile looking for that one! We maneuvered the horses around the parking areas, the traffic and the people to get to the trailhead, then entered a wonderful section of thick woods on a well traveled trail. Nevertheless, there was a time or two I pulled out the camp saw to clear a few low branches that made the going tough, but for the most part, the trail was delightful. Only problem was there were no markings, and once again, we got turned around, not finding the proper loops as they were marked on the map, taking one linear trail to a road that we thought would be a loop, and after backtracking, not sure which linear trail we took. I’m still not sure how much of the actual loop we took, or how much we backtracked! Eventually we ended up back at the trailhead, so it didn’t really matter. Any time spent on the back of my horse is a good time! Besides, how often can you ride your horse while listening to live blues nearby? That was pretty cool! We had only been out for an hour or so, so we headed back toward the horse trailer, discovering that both the trailers that had been there when we arrived were gone. After a few minutes of letting the horses munch out on clover, we headed out the west trailhead, which, thankfully, was much better marked, with numbered intersections that actually corresponded with what was on the map (miracle of miracles). We looped around, going all the way to the west trailer parking area, which included having to cross a road (though there was almost no traffic on this side of the park). The trails were truly lovely, again with dirt and grass footing, but what made this one side particularly nice was that the bridle path was about 10 feet wide and mostly grass, but it immediately turned into thick woods, so there was a nice tunnel effect most of the time. It was mostly shady, which was good because it had gotten rather hot today, but the wide paths made it easy to jog and canter several time throughout the ride. We circled the various loops, not having to take the same trail twice until the last 100 yards or so to the trailer area, and arrived back about 90 minutes later having thoroughly enjoyed the ride. One of the prettier rides in a “developed” park that we’ve ever been on. Once we unsaddled the horses, we walked over to the festival in search of ice cream (our new diet lunch, since we always seem to lose weight when we have ice cream for lunch lately, believe it or not! Plus it makes a nice change…), but we didn’t find them. We only discovered folks from all over the eastern half of the country from as far away as Iowa here to compete in the cookoff. Alas, BBQ wasn’t on the diet, and how would you be able to choose one anyway? We didn’t find ice cream either, so we headed out shortly thereafter in search of the nearest ice cream shoppe. According to my GPS, that was in a nearby town of Spencerport, so we headed in that direction. Just as we arrived, we noted that the main street was cordoned off for a street festival known as Canal Days (as in Erie Canal, which runs through the middle of this and many other upstate New York towns). We barely managed to find a parking spot big enough for the horse trailer, then walked to a coffee shop first, who had surprisingly excellent coffee with a touch of cinnamon, then over to another place for some Abbots frozen custard, a local favorite. Really enjoyed that, it was very nostalgic, as we used to get that a lot as kids. Finally made it back home late in the day, have had a very fun-filled day!

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