Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Birds Eye View of My Trails

Okay, so I had WAY too much fun with Google Earth and put together this ridiculous post for y'all to see the kind of terrain I ride on every day.

I use ArcGIS at work and don't spend much time on Google Earth ever. I'd forgotten how fun it could be to alter my POV on the landscape and get to see in 3D vs. 2D.

The following screenshots with my awesome Paint skillz help narrate the trails I ride and have discussed with you before. Descriptions of each screenshot will be below each photo. Enjoy!

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Beginning with the above image, you can see the pasture access the horses have, the barn, and several trails I use on the norm. It's kind of an overview of the property and its access to trails.

The haul road trail is wide enough to drive a car on. It's tougher footing because of the gravel that was laid years back when they logged the area. The top trail is wooded, wide enough for ATVs and the like. The footing is soft, though there are intermittent rocks.

The haul road has a very moderate to easy incline; no crazy up/down, just a steady incline as you travel to the right across the photo or steady down as you travel to the left across the photo. DEFINITELY a *safely* trottable incline.

The top trail has a steady, steep climb up the mountain, then some moderate ups and downs once you're on top. It slopes down at the log landing to meet the haul road, which climbs slowly and steadily to that intersection.

I use both the haul road trail and that top wooded trail to access trails further out. I like riding the wooded one more in the summer because it is much cooler due to being almost 100% shaded while the haul road is almost 100% exposure to sun.

While not shown in this image, the top trail and the haul road do intersect what used to be the main log landing area. To ride from the farm and make a loop out of these two trails is about a 3.5 mile ride. This is the loop I'll go out and do at speed no matter the weather because it is so fun.

So now, before going into the trails in more depth, let's rewind and take a better look at the pasture.

The horses have around 40 acres of pasture and they are on 24/7 turnout. There is stream access for them to drink from, though we have two troughs, too. The dotted line shows the fenceline that has a gate so we can close the horses off from being able to access the upper pasture.

The upper pasture is a ~100' elevation change and that change happens in almost as many feet. To march yourself up that hill is like climbing stairs if you do it straight up without meandering.

When I talk about "riding in the barnyard", I'm talking about riding in the grassy area to the right of the barn that is contained within that big U of yellow. It's fenced on three sides and the barn provides a good visual to create an imaginary fenceline on the fourth side. If you were to round that square area off into a circle, the circle's diameter measures almost perfectly at 100' (I've paced it out several times).

 The above is an altered view looking at the haul road and top trail. (Note that north is now located in the lower left hand corner of this image - circle in top right corner with the white dot demonstrates where north is in all photos.)

You can really see the terrain in this image! The top trail through the woods climbs up up up and levels off while the haul road winds along only a few contour lines as it weaves itself across the mountainside.

I love having the horses canter the haul road stretch if I'm traveling in the "climb" direction. Additionally, when we climb the top trail, I have them travel as fast as they can. Booty power!

The descent of the top trail is the area where I am getting off and running down with reins in hand and horse behind. Its a great little area for that.

Where the valley terminates in the upper left third of the photo is where I end up riding to after the haul road trail and top trail combine into one. That one trail meanders UP the mountain to the top of that vally. The bridge of mountain that connects the two mountains that makes the valley has phenomenal footing. Additionally, that area is where the forest makes a drastic change from successional (thick understory) to mature (open understory). I love galloping through there! It is so open and beautiful.

Where the haul road and the top trail meet at the log landing intersection, they combine and form the trail that I then climb up the mountain. This is that trail in one of its "less climby" parts. It'll climb up, level off, climb up, level off. Never very steep. It has much more incline than the haul road does, definitely, but it isn't *quite* as sustained as the climb up the top trail.

I typically have my horses trot this whole trail at a minimum. Lately we've been cantering and galloping it! Serious booty power.

The black area in the above image is the pond that accompanies the cabin we go by when we do the 10 mile loop. (The cabin is there, too, the pond is just easier to note.) 

This basin area has about a 600' elevation change from the top of the mountains down to the cabin. There are three trails that travel over that elevation change: one is VERY steep and does the elevation change in a hurry; one is steep, but not wicked; and the third is much more moderate. The middle of these options is the trail I use the most to ascend and descend. You can trot down the large majority of it, and it is a GREAT trail to make the horses canter up. Phenomenal workout as it is about 0.75 mile long with a relatively sustained incline (Saiph this is the one we ran up when you and Charles were in recently)!

All of the trails in this area are very well established, wide, have great footing, and are in mature forest with a pretty open understory. The basin area down by the cabin used to be an elk farm, though the farm died out when the economy crashed. My BO's husband's uncle owns the land now.

The whole area around this cabin is great hill training. I love it.

And finally, here is an overview shot of the terrain once I've left the barn and set out on a ride. 

You can see the haul road (the top trail is*just* out of view), the climbing trail, the cabin basin, the area right before the river valley, and the river I hope to reach. 

Remember, the elevation change from tops of mountains to cabin is ~600'. The elevation change from the high point Saiph and Charles and I reached to the bottom of the river valley is ~700'! And the area I'm going to try to find trail to get down to the river so I can play and swim with the horses descends that 700' in under a mile! Eep.

So while my Appalachians aren't as extreme as the Rockies, they're still quite steep! I do a LOT of climbing on my rides. 

I am BEYOND fortunate to have this kind of trail access from the barn. (Not to mention the rail trail, too!) It is an AMAZING training ground for endurance. AMAZING. I have all of the climbing that you'd encounter at the Old Dominion rides or any other ride in the mountainous east. I just lack the technical rocky/bouldery sections.

I hope you've enjoyed gaining a glimpse into my trail system and my horses' weekly workout realm!

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