Tuesday, July 26, 2011 – Ride Day at Two Parks

 Today was the day we were going to try to get the horses’ feet wet in our final compass point, a beach in Lake Ontario. So far we’ve ridden the borders in the Atlantic, the Pacific, and the Gulf Coast of Southern Texas, and the only one left is the northern border. We headed out to Durand Eastman Park along the lakeshore near Seabreeze, a place I nostalgically remember from the days before my parents bought a cottage out at East Bay, not too far from where we and the horses are staying in Marion. I had called previously to learn where to park, and was told to go to the maintenance building off Zoo Road, which we easily found. As we were saddling up, though, one of the workers came over (and I think it was the same guy I spoke to, at least the voice sounded the same), who then informed me that the trails hadn’t really been maintained all that well lately, so we might have some problems. Not sure why he didn’t tell me that before we drove out here, but there you go. Anyway, we did have a few problems, but none were too difficult. Mostly it was just low-hanging branches and leaves, but there was at least one place we had to get down because the branch was too thick to move and too low to go under, though the horses had no problem once we were off. The trails essentially just edged along several ponds, and were pretty dry right now, though it was apparent from a parallel trail slightly higher up the slope that flooding was common here. At one point we even got to skirt a golf course, on which the horses gazed with interest at the various golfers, golf carts and golf swings. That didn’t last long before we were back in the woods circling the ponds. Finally we came to the road, which had to be crossed to get to the beach. We dismounted, and after waiting for traffic to clear, we managed to get them across safely. Unfortunately, we dicovered that the dropoff to the beach was too steep except in a few places, and those few places had families swimming and wading, despite signs saying No Swimming. We had hoped that being a Monday that it wouldn’t be that crowded, but no such luck. Well, we definitely didn’t want to have to retrace our steps, but a very short trip along the pathway took us to the end of Zoo Road, and we were back at the trailer in no time, a bit disappointed that we didn’t get to get our feet wet. We had only been out for about an hour, so we decided to head down to Ellison Park, near where I grew up, to go along the trails where I first learned to ride. A short trip down the freeway (sorry, they call it an expressway here, I remembered), and we were at the parking area the park folks had recommended. I had been looking forward to this for some time, but sadly ended up somewhat disappointed. By starting at the middle of the trail instead of at Heberle Stables where I was used to, I had no memory of anything. They had obviously changed the trails considerably, as we soon got turned around in a disk golf course (which hadn’t been invented when I was last here), despite the fact that there were several markers indicating we were following the horse trail. The markings were terrible! It took us twenty minutes to convince ourselves that we had to go back the way we came, even though the map insisted we were supposed to be on one side of the creek, and the obvious trail was on the other side of the creek. After much discussion and several false starts, we finally managed to find our way up to the stables. As there were multiple “No Trespassing” signs, we were deterred from going up the trail any farther than the arena, then turned around, once again hoping that something would spark my memory, but not luck. It was all a mystery, and it was all poorly marked. After about an hour, we finally gave up and headed back to the parking lot, though we had a lovely gallop along the edge of the playground area which made it all worthwhile. Not as enjoyable as we had hoped, but at least now we can check these two off the bucket list!

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