It's been a minute since I trailered off property to go anywhere with the horses. Which is a shame because I have a literal 10-minute trailer rider to so many incredible spots!
This past Saturday, Kate and I enjoyed a lovely 15.5-mile ride on Q and Stan in Dolly Sods Wilderness Area. We were going to ride with Dan, but ended up riding just the two of us after Dan and I rehashed the trail junctions so I could refresh my memory on our preferred loop. The Sods are a beautiful place to ride - and riding is my favorite way to experience them! - but not all of the trails are safe for horses. It was pretty critical that I was clear on our route before setting off. (Backtracking is of course possible, but never my preferred method.)
Funnily enough, I always doubt myself before heading into the Sods on horseback. It doesn't matter how many times I go. I still question myself on the route. However, once I'm actually IN the moment on the trails, I rarely question anything. It's all so obvious to me once I'm in the moment. Maybe one day I'll quit doubting myself during the planning stage? Hopefully!
This was Stan's first trip in the Sods sans shoes. Both horses had front boots only, and we took those off for the middle section that is predominantly free of the crazy-rough rocky terrain that makes up the start and finish of this ride. Stan was outstanding! I am SO proud of where I've gotten his feet since bringing him home. He's not nearly as smart about foot placement as Q is (she's the real professional and has some stellar fecking feet, too), but hopefully he'll learn with time.
So before I go off on a complete tangent about how much improved my horses' feet are and how wonderfully perfect they were all day, I'll instead just bombard you with beautiful photos. That's what everyone loves anyway. 😉
The ride began with a 2 mile climb up a gravel road to the trailhead. This was right after we entered what I believe is called 'Wilderness Way'
And thus, our schlep up the Wall of Tears begins.
This is by far the roughest section of trail for the day.
But thumbs up for good horses!
And thumbs up for gorgeous freaking weather, too.
Entering a tunnel of spruce and mountain laurel - still on the Wall of Tears
Classic Dolly Sods right here.
Is it a trail or a creek? The answer is both.
I love Q's studious expression here as she decides the best place for her feet. Stanley, meanwhile, is just motoring through the mountain laurel lol!
He lacks the ability to make quick decisions about safe, soft places to put his feet in between the rocky chaos like Q can do
And finally, we've reached the top and gain our first view into the Sods
SO GORGEOUS. Ugh. I am beyond grateful to call this HOME.
Kate and I were both gushing about how awesome this place is and how much we love living here when she struck this pose
Looking over to Red Creek Canyon
Kate on the trail for perspective of where we are on Blackbird Knob Trail in relation to Red Creek
Flora habitat changes so much within a short distance up here. It is super cool to travel through so many ecotypes.
Taking a short break to snack (humans and horses) after crossing the Left Fork of Red Creek. This is also where we took the horses' boots off because I knew the trail wouldn't be as wr
Snackamore for Staniel!
No snackamore for this wee beastie. She gets too strong for it these days thanks to her newfound confidence.
I told Kate to stand Q up on this rock for a photo. I did the same thing 6 years ago when I brought her here for the first time. Kate was hesitant at first, but I assured her Q was very accustomed to my ridiculous requests to do silly things.
Little valley within the center of Dolly Sods created by Red Creek
lol @ Kate's smirk
But there's a smile!
Entering a copse of red spruce after our lovely gallop
I love the stands of spruce
They provide a great escape from the heat on warm days, hanging onto cooler air well into the afternoon
A sweaty Staniel - very typical for him.
Looking down into the valley created by the Left Fork of Red Creek
We're traveling along Beaver View trail here
Such a gorgeous spruce specimen in front of Kate!
Left Fork of Red Creek in the bottom of this wee valley; Rocky Ridge rises up on the other side and Canaan Valley drops down from it
Ugh, it just makes my heart go pitter patter looking at this view
Vanna White-ing the gorgeous scenery
Look close to glimpse the many rocky outcroppings that give the ridgeline its name
Climbing up a super cool little gully
And yes, the horses are still barefoot here! Stanley was a boss!
Q was a wonderful leader all day long. She only gave one semi-significant spook that almost unseated poor Kate. Thank goodness this little mare doesn't pull her head/shoulder drop and spin maneuver like she used to do so often!
Another trail/creek nearing the summit of Rocky Ridge
And yep, they're STILL barefoot here. We ended up putting their boots on about 5 minutes later.
After lots of hand grazing at the trailer following a bath, we headed back up the mountain to our little farmette. Grif was overjoyed to see his barnmates, and all three horses enjoyed a few hours of grazing before the sun set.