Archives for May 2012

Wednesday, May 30, 2012 – HORRIBLE Ride at Hoosier Forest

Today was one of those days when everything seemed to disappoint. After our auspicious beginning yesterday, we were in the process of saddling up in the morning when a rather rotund female ranger came by. She wanted to know why we hadn’t paid our fees yet. We explained that we didn’t know how long we were going to stay, and assured her we would pay the correct amount on the way out. After all, it is the honor system, after all. She seemed unconvinced, treating us like some kind of criminal, which fell in nicely with the mindset that would put in water spigots that have to be held open to be used, assuming everyone is a thief, doing things for their own benefit rather than the benefit of the park user. Anyway, she then asked about our horse riding permits. I said that I thought that those permits were only at state parks, not at the national forest, and she informed me that it was Congress’ fault that they didn’t give them enough money, so they had to charge a horse permit fee. I told her that we had been in many national forests, and never before had we been charged a “horse permit fee.” Then she said it was up to the local forest, which completely contradicted what she had just said, but she didn’t seem to notice that. Then we asked if she could sell us a permit, and she said, no, we had to drive 15 miles back to town and buy it from one of their vendors. I said I didn’t think it was very sensible to make us drive 30 miles to go get a permit every day we rode, since we didn’t know which days we were going to ride, and not knowing what the weather was going to be, etc., and we weren’t about to buy an annual permit just for the few days we were going to be there. She just said that law enforcement would be coming around to check, so we better get one, but she couldn’t sell us one. How stupid is THAT system?! I finally just shut up and she went on her way, but by then Hubby and I were both in a foul mood. We left camp hoping the ride would alleviate our tension, but alas, things just went from bad to worse. Hubby had put on Clio’s new Boa boots just to try them out, but I was hoping to get away without boots today, though we put them in the saddlebags just in case. Our plan was to go about 6.5 miles, just doing the first loop and coming back. The trails are set up with four loops piled on top of each other, like a snowman, but the maps didn’t indicate any different colors for each loop, just all one. We left, hoping for the best. Like many trailheads, it started out with some gravel, and we thought that as we got further along, it would thin out. Not so. The gravel was kept going. After a short while, I stopped to put on Apollo’s boots, since it seemed like it was going to stay gravel. Not natural stone, mind you, but deliberately spread gravel. It was nearly impossible to enjoy the forest, partly because we had left in such a foul mood, but mostly because the gravel just went on and on and on. When we came to our first intersection, we continued to follow the color blue, since that was the trail we were on, and because the alternative was a FULL gravel road, great honking, freshly laid gravel that I was not about to ride on. After a while longer, we started to suspect that we had gone wrong somewhere, because we were still heading north when we should have been looping east. I check the GPS and found that, indeed, we had gone too far north. Another intersection later, and we finally discovered the error of our ways (or should I say, their mapping system). All four loops were blue, but the common trail between each loop was called a “connecting” trail, and those were ALL ORANGE. No where on the map is that mentioned, but it IS mentioned on a couple of signs at intersections, in fine print. Another example of genius at work, just like the genius who decided that gravel is good footing for a horse… NOT! We were getting more and more frustrated with the place. Our 6.5 mile trip turned into 14 miles, ALL of it on gravel!! We were stunned, particularly since the ranger had said that their trails had been voted one of the top ten trails by some group somewhere. All I could think of was that it had to be by the American Gravel Association or some such organization, or that the gravel had been added afterward so that the rangers could run around on their ATV’s and “maintain” the trail that way. Anyway, by the time we got back, we were so disgusted with the place we decided that we weren’t going to stay as long as we had planned. We had been on most of the trails already, and I wasn’t about to subject my horse to another mile of gravel, I was already heartbroken that he had had to endure 14 miles already! Very disappointing. Indiana really fell down on this one. I was actually going to put the extra “horse permit fee” in with my camping fee, but frankly, considering the state of the trails, they weren’t worth a plug nickel. The only good thing was that we can check it off the list (state #32) and never come back again.  Oh, and I forgot to mention the vast areas of the forest that had been recently logged, and the logging crew that was hauling logs out that day, and the ugliness of most of the forest, with only a few areas that were actually pleasant to ride in. Very few. This National Forest has it’s priorities pretty screwed up.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012 – Travel Day to German Ridge Campground, Hoosier National Forest

  Got another early start (though not 5:15 :-), packed up and out of the campsite by 8:00. Headed north on IL 1 until we came to a little cafe that Hubby had noticed when he came out for generator gas over the weekend. They had been closed on Saturday, but open M-F. What a fantastic little place!! It was called the Crossroads Cafe and the SE corner of IL 1 and 13, it just opened up a few weeks ago, apparently, and it was clean and cozy, and had the best home fries we’ve had in AGES! The waitress was attractive and charming, and the cook did a fantastic job. Highly recommended to anyone in the area or passing through! From there we headed east, crossed the Ohio River again, stopped in Evansville IN at a farm supply store called Tri-State Pet and Vet Supply, who, remarkably, had lots of horse boots of all kinds and sizes in stock, so Hubby picked up a pair of Boa’s for Clio, plus other things we needed, like a new manure rake, fly spray, and a replacement bridle throat strap for Clio as well. East again to the Walmart at Tell City, where we did grocery shopping and picked up water for the RV, as we were told by the Hoosier NF office that all they had at the German Ridge Camp was a cistern with non-potable water. Followed a crude detour around some road constuction on IN 66, and soon found our campground, tarmac all the way, for a nice change. We circle the campground scoping it out, and discovered it wasn’t a cistern at all, but numerous spigots scattered around every few sites. Unfortunately, they were the kind of spigots that had been intentionally adapted so that it was difficult to use them. In other words, the threads were incompatible with a garden hose, and most of them had a spring-loaded handle, which meant you had to hold it open manually, you couldn’t just open it and leave it, which means you need two people to do any job dealing with water. One to hold the handle and the other to let you know when the tub (or whatever) is full. We’ve only seen it in a few places, but it truly is dumb, and obviously designed to keep people from “stealing” too much water, which I’m sure is a BIG problem in some campgrounds….NOT! Of course, a little clever engineering with a bungee solved that problem. Most of the sites weren’t level in the least, but there were some fairly large ones. After awhile, we settled on Site 14, next to a vault toilet and a spigot. There was a highline already there, but the previous occupant had apparently decided that cleaning out their own horses’ manure was too much for them, and it looked like an entire weekend’s worth of non-shoveling was left behind. I started to clean it up, but there was so much there, I decided it would take longer than I was willing to make my horses wait in the hot trailer, so we just picked out a couple of trees and set up our own highline. Really, folks, there nothing more rude than not cleaning up after your own animals, expecting someone else to do it. I can’t remember seeing a site this bad since the corral at Wild Mare Horse Camp in Oregon. We managed to get settled in, Hubby managed to find a partial satellite signal, and we relaxed the rest of the evening.

Monday, May 28, 2012 – Fantastic Ride Around the Garden of the Gods

Set the alarm for the earliest yet, 5:15!! Civil dawn was already breaking, we had a bowl of fruit for breakfast, packed up the horses and headed out to the Garden of the Gods. Arrived just before 7:00, found the parking area empty except for one fellow sitting in a chair apparently waiting for someone. We saddled up the horses and headed out, map in hand, across the road onto the River to River Trail (labeled 001) heading east. It was rocky, and we were glad we had put the horses’ boots on, but the trail followed under a ridge of rock formations that were truly spectacular. The trail was narrow and very interesting, and Apollo was immediately engaged, picking his way carefully up and down the terrain. Eventually we left the rockier areas and were surrounded by lovely woods. Par for the course these days, we made a wrong turn and got all the way to a road before realizing it, which unfortunately meant we had a steep descent and climb going both ways. Not sure why I don’t look at my GPS more, guess I just want to resist a LITTLE bit of technology. Oh well, it was only a couple of miles, so we got back on track, and the trails got even better, with lots less stone, mostly really good footing along the way, and beautiful trees, a very natural forest, no logging, thank goodness. We took the most outside perimeter loop to the west, including our favorite trail, I think it was number 652, that took us along some more gorgeous rock formations, which eventually led us back to 001. From there it was straight east back to the trailhead around 11:00, a fantastic ride, and done before the heat got too bad! Plus, it was cooler it the woods this time. A great way to finish off Illinois, the 31st state we’ve ridden in!! Headed back to camp, which we now found empty, as our two neighbors had already packed up and left, and we spent the afternoon getting ready for our departure tomorrow as well.

Sunday, May 27, 2012 – Walk Around the Garden of the Gods

Persuaded Hubby to drive with me over to the big attraction of the Shawnee National Forest, the proverbial Garden of the Gods, a magnificent grouping of rock outcroppings that provide a fantastic view and a nice ¼ mile walk. We also wanted to reconnoiter the area to see about trailering the horses over tomorrow, since it seems there are bridle paths throughout the area. It was a great time, the walk and views were fabulous, and we found the trailhead where apparently horses were allowed. As we were driving back, we noticed a group of horse trailers parked along a bare patch of the road, we thought it looked like a private campground so we pulled in to chat. Turns out there’s a small cabin and a lot of corrals which are shared by a group of riders, kind of a neat cooperative! Anyway, they were very nice, very helpful, gave us some good ideas, showed us some maps, which gave us some ideas. They also recommended we check out Pine Knob, a private campground with well recommended trails (a passing ranger had said the same thing ath Cadiz Camp), so we headed out there, if nothing else but to satisfy our curiousity. It was closer to the camp than Garden of the Gods, but we had to go up several miles of a dirt and gravel road to get there. It turned out to be quite disappointing, actually, little more than an open field with horse trailers parked willy-nilly, a string of highlines along each edge of the parking area, no notable features except that scattered throughout the area they had humorously put up facades of typical wild west buildings, like “livery” and “jail” and “post office.” They had an actual camp store (essentially a metal barn), and we went in to get the particulars. Had a chat with a girl with a stud in her nose about day parking, and she was nice enough to give us a Shawnee Forest Map, and to sell us a map of the trails that are around their campground. I don’t know if it was partly because of the heat (it was pushing close to 100 degrees by then) or just the atmosphere of the place, but something just didn’t sit right with us about it, so we decided that rather than park there the following day, we would return to trailhead parking at the Garden of the Gods. We figured if we got there early enough, we would have plenty of room the park the trailer, even though the lot was just about full when we had gone through there earlier, no doubt busier than usual because it was Memorial Day weekend. We wanted to beat the heat anyway, so early it would be! After some initial reluctance, Hubby ended up enjoying the day, the walk, and the exploring, so we celebrated with a steak and had an early night.

Saturday, May 26, 2012 – Ride Day from Camp Cadiz

Set the alarm for 5:25, just about the time the sun came up, though I actually was up a little before that. I heard the forest waking up about a half hour earlier, so I joined it. We had a quick bowl of fruit, then got the horses ready, were riding up the gravel road toward the trailhead at 7:00. It was still cool and lovely, and the hot sun hadn’t quite reached the tops of the trees when we turned west onto the River to River Trail. Fortunately we left the gravel behind when we did so, a nice dirt and grass footing most of the time we were on it. There was a long of growth on the trail, which made it feel almost like going through a tunnel, but there was a lot of low overhang which kept it challenging. At one point I even got down to walk under a limb, but Hubby managed to get under it without dismounting. Then we came down to a creekbed, and momentarily lost the trail, as there were orange arrows going one way, and we missed the blue painted marking going the other. Soon realized our mistake though, and managed to get back on track right away. This was a surprising nice trail once we got past the creekbed crossings and started to climb up some hills. After a few miles we came to a T, and the RTR trail was clearly marked to the left, but according to the map I had copied from the women yesterday, the road to the right should be a forest road that would form a smaller loop back to the camp, so we decided to take that rather than linear out and in. It was a forest road, but it’s been a really long time since any motorized vehicles have come this way, and I’m not sure they could make it all the way anyway, but it was great for horses. Mostly dirt and grass, a few rocky areas but not many, winding through mixed deciduous forest with a few pine stands along the way. Really lovely, though again, there were a few areas that had some pretty low overhanging branches. We came across a couple of trail markers, very old and faded, but sufficient to let us know we were on the right path back to the Camp. Eventually we landed at a family graveyard with several very large and nice stones, yet dating back to 1840-1910’s, and smaller ones even older. At that point, the trail turned back to gravel road, and we knew we were on the right road home. The horses didn’t like the gravel much (especially Clio, who was bootless this time, as she had lost one in KY last week), but fortunately it was less than a mile back and we made good time. GPS put us at about 7.34 miles, and we were back in camp by 9:40, just as the temps were starting to climb.

Friday, May 25, 2012 – Hot Rest Day at Camp Cadiz

   Spent most of the day getting caught up on bookkeeping and blogging, as it was too hot to go riding today, mostly because we slept late and it was hot early. Hoping to get up earlier tomorrow to get a short ride in before it gets too hot. Nice to relax, though, even if we’re sweating in our recliners. The fans are going, and if it gets too bad, we can always pull out the second generator and run the A/C for awhile. I spent much of the day tending to some rashes I acquired in the last few days. I’ve never been allergic to anything before, and I’m not sure where this came from, but I suspect either I touched something poisonous when I was putting up a highline, and may our latest batch of hay had some poison ivy or something like that in there, as the rash has spread all the way up my arms along the inside, right where I would carry hay over to the horses. At least I have all of the remedies to hand, cold packs, calamine, Ivarest, Gold Bond (cream and powder), hydrocortisone, coal tar soap, aloe cream, our medicine cabinet is filled with anti-itching stuff, though it’s usually for Hubby, and it’s usually for bug bites. I’ve never had poison anything before, when I was a kid I could walk through poison ivy and never get a reaction, but I guess those days are gone! Disappointed to learn it may take as long as 3-4 weeks to clear up! Well, you can bet I’ll be on the lookout for those kinds of plants from now on! And to wear long-sleeved shirts when we ride narrow trails, though I hate to do that when it gets this hot. Better than these rashes, though, that’s for sure!

Thursday, May 24, 2012 – Travel Day to Shawnee National Forest-Camp Cadiz, IL

 Set the alarm early, and managed to get out at a decent hour. As the site was a full hookup, we were able to do all our dumping right on the spot, and we were out by 8:00. We had an important phone call to make at 8:30, so we found a nice little restaurant in Dawson Springs for breakfast, had a cup of coffee before the call, then had breakfast afterwards before heading out on our short trip just 70 miles north. We had a straight shot on a back road, with a delightful ferry ride across the Ohio River (no fee!) to Cave In Rock, then a short 14 mile drive to Camp Cadiz. This is apparently a little used camp, but when we arrived, there was obviously a lot of work that had been done recently. The area had a lovely lawn, most of the 11 sites had recently had a new gravel parking pad applied to each campsite, and it looked very pleasant, and it was easy to get to. The only real drawback was that there is only one water spigot, but since the place was empty, we took the spot nearest the water, which also happened to be perfect for the satellite dish. We had a leisurely afternoon getting set up, letting the horses graze awhile on some long grass across the driveway before they came looking for a drink when we started getting the highline up. At one point a couple of women in a pickup truck came by, scouting the location. Apparently one of them has a cabin on the other side of the park and they’re looking for new trails to explore. They had a trail map of the area, and were kind enough to let me take a copy of it, just in case what I already have is insufficient. Doesn’t look like there’s a lot of choice, just the linear River to River Trail (which is over 100 miles long, stretching from the Ohio to the Missouri River), and some forest roads which the ladies didn’t know anything about, though it looks like one can make a fairly decent, shorter loop. Only problem we foresee is that the forecast is for temps near 100 degrees!! Not what you’d expect for Memorial Day weekend in Illinois! It’s actually cooler in Florida than what they’re calling for here. Seldom seem to be in the right place weather-wise, no matter what we do! Always seem to be breaking some record somewhere. Oh, well, small complaint compared to how fortunate we are in every other aspect of our life!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012 – Last Ride Day at Pennyrile, The Orange Trail

One more trail to do here, the Orange Trail, and as it turned out, it became our favorite! Much more “trail” than road, though not really much better marked than the rest, again, mostly at the intersections. One waypoint of interest was the Hamby Cemetery, a small family plot dating back to births before the Revolutionary War, 1774 pre-USA! We stopped there for a snack, a rest and a horse apple break before pressing on. This was a great trail. Again, though, when we hit a forest road, it was again poorly marked. The map indicated we should go directly across the road, but there was nothing there, a right turn up the road didn’t seem to take us anywhere, so we turned left, knowing that was at least in the right direction toward the center of the park, and thus would cross other trails. Fifty yards or so up we saw an opening for a trail on the right, though it wasn’t marked orange, we took it anyway, just to get off the road. A short ways in we realized Clio had lost one of her Easyboots (Hubby had made a repair to it a few days ago, but it was obviously too far gone), so we turned back a bit to try to find it, but then decided it was too far to go just to retrieve a boot that was probably beyond repair anyway (so if you see that boot on the east side of the Orange Loop, help yourself!) Got a little turned around at one spot, again, but managed to find ourselves back on the right track, and got back to camp safe and sound, delighted that we have found a trail as good as that one here, especially after our slow start on the Blue Trail. Once we got back to camp, we started packing up for our departure tomorrow.

A turtle on the trail

Tuesday, May 22, 2012 – The Pennyrile Yellow Trail

Saddled up in marginally cooler temps, and set off to explore the Yellow Trail. This time we knew the trailhead was by the field with the barns, so we took the camp connector down there and picked up the yellow trail, which followed a gravel road to the main highway. At the main highway, there was a tiny, vague little arrow indicating what seemed to mean cross the road, kind of to the right, but there were no markers on the other side of the road, so once again, we had to consult the map, which indicated the trail went straight across the road. It did not. We crossed anyway, and went to the right as indicated, and just before we were to cross another tarmac highway, we saw a tiny opening into the woods. As we approached, it finally became apparent that it was, indeed, the trail. We turned onto it, and about 50 yards deep into the woods, we saw our first marker, which has been typical of most of the trails here so far. The good news is that most of the Yellow Trail was more wooded than the Blue Trail had been, and more of it was like a “trail” than a road, but there were still some sections that were gravel/dirt road. We thought we got lost a few times (again, always at poorly marked intersections), but overall it was very enjoyable. Near the end, rather than take the combined Yellow/Blue section back the HQ, we managed to find the Camp Trail on the east side of the main highway, a much lesser used trail, but still passable. There were some sections throughout the trail system that need a lot more maintenance, as there is lots of windrow (leftover wood from fallen trees) on the trails, and a number of trees down over the road, possibly left to discourage motor vehicles, which we applaud, but so high off the ground you need a jumper or to follow sometimes rather treacherous detours around them. With a bit more TLC, this place would give Land Between the Lakes a run for their money!

Monday, May 21, 2012 – Shopping Day

Forecast called for a 50% chance of rain, plus we needed some supplies, so I decided to head into the nearest big town called Princeton, and did a bunch of errands. We had purchased a pair of walkie-talkies from a truck stop last week which claimed to have a range of 22 miles, so we decided Hubby would stay home with the animals while I took the walkie to test it out. If it really had that kind of range, we should be able to talk all the way to the town and back. Well, not surprisingly, they didn’t quite meet up to our expectations. In fact, they started to peter out after about a half a mile! I played around with them when I got back to see if it was some setting that was wrong, and we’ll have to try it again another day, though I didn’t find anything really wrong. Anyway, though it got a little cloudy, it never actually rained, but at least I got the errands done, and it’s supposed to be cooler for the next couple of days. More rides are planned!