Oct 26, 2014

The Best Fall Riding

Mary Hanson

This is my third year competing in the Distance Derby, an online riding competition for mileage.  The first year, I pushed pretty hard - riding all the way to the end of December - to hit just over 1,200 miles and placing in the top ten.  Last year I was tired.  I logged just under 700 miles and finished 25th out of 81 riders.  For those who think they ride a thousand miles every year, start GPSing your miles.  You will be surprised how much time it really takes in the saddle to reach 1,000 hours, especially when you work full time!

This year I have managed to pass what I rode last year.  October has been so nice that it is hard not to be in the saddle.  I can see 1,000 miles in site, but it will take quite an effort to reach it by the end of the  year.  But I'm going to give it my best shot.  There are more riders this year, so I hope to still finish in the top 25.

Tanya Lynch

Last weekend I did a quick 15 miles on Friday on Windy with Juanita, another Derby rider.  Then on Saturday, I took Fancy out to Pawnee Lake, northwest of Lincoln, and rode with Derby riders Mary and Diane.

I'm riding Fancy

Pawnee has never been my favorite ride and it has nothing to do with the trails but more to do with having bad rides on fussy horses.  But I have to say, this past year I have grown to enjoy it.  Not a lot of trails - about 8 miles around the lake is all, it is perfect for a quick ride or longer if you go around twice!

Mary coming thru the trees.  Yes, there is a person and horse in there!

What surprised me last week was the color at Pawnee!  While there are some wooded areas through the wildlife area, I never thought I would see such brilliant colors!  What a treat.

The campground at Pawnee

I told John when I bought this trailer and the new truck, it wasn't going to sit at home; I planned to use it.  He had things he wanted to do that didn't include riding so I spent the night at Pawnee.  Just Fancy, Nahla (my son's dog) and me.  It was a lovely evening temperature wise, but without having a heavy frost yet (for which I am grateful), the mosquitos drove me into the trailer earlier than I would have liked.

Nahla was like a dog with ADD.  She loved being out!

The next morning, Fancy, Nahla and I did a quick ride just after the sun came up and then I loaded up and headed over to Branched Oak to ride with the NECTRA group before their scheduled meeting.

Me on Zuni with Tanya

After reporting to my friends how pretty Pawnee Lake was, Kathy and Tanya met me out there Monday after work.  Time prevented me from hauling my own horses so Kathy brought me her fox trotter, Zuni, to ride for the evening.  Spots and gaited!  Something you don't see me on too often!

Kathy on Bugs

These pictures were all taken at Pawnee Lake over the course of three days and in no particular order.  I just wanted to show you the beauty that my eyes saw but believe me, it was hard to capture in the pictures.  I hope you are having a happy fall!


Oct 13, 2014

Rock Creek Station Revisited

When we first started trail riding, one of our first camping trips was to Rock Creek Station in Jefferson County near Fairbury.  We pulled in with our stock trailer, tack room filled to the hilt with what I thought we would need for camping, including a tent.  

I'd like to say that those were the good ol' days, but there was nothing good about it.  Case fell in the fire, burned his hands, then burned them again on a lightbulb in the truck trying to see the burn, then every time he would fall asleep, the ice bag would fall off his hands and he would start to cry.  Then the ice melted, the sleeping bags got wet...  well, you get the idea.  Frankly, I am surprised I ever wanted to camp again after that first weekend, but it was all about the horses.  The riding.  The scenery.

Rock Creek Station was a stagecoach and pony express station in the mid 1800's.  It was also the scene of where Wild Bill Hickok killed a man.  The locals reenact that at Rock Creek Days each year.    From the horse camp, the trails take you to Rock Creek Station and from their you can see the ruts of the Oregon Trail.   To the south of Rock Creek Station is Rock Glen Wildlife Management Area.  Riding is also allowed on that land from May to October.  Riders are not allowed in the Wildlife area during major hunting seasons.  Rock Creek Station proper is open year around.

John begged off from going, claiming he had too much work to do, so Pip, Windy and I headed down there early Saturday morning to meet up with my riding buddies.  We were saddled and riding by noon.  Although some of the area is wooded, a lot is prairie.  The fall colors were captivating.  I enjoyed taking pictures as much as I did riding.

It was fun to reminisce about riding here when the boys were younger.  The big burr oak tree that they would look for to find the gate back to the park.  The red rock canyon, the rail road canyon and hedge apples lining the trails.  So many memories.

Years ago, they held competitive trail rides at Rock Creek.  I have been interested in resurrecting the event and after spending the weekend there, I am even more excited.

It appeals to those who enjoy a piece of history and like the ruggedness of the plaines.  It won't be without work to get the miles, but I think it could be done.

I snapped close to four hundred pictures while riding those two days.  There is not enough room on this post to show you all of the beauty.

And there was a little goofiness, too.

Oct 10, 2014

Wyoming in July - In Conclusion

The horse camp was empty when we pulled in on Wednesday.  We picked the best spot and the best corrals and enjoyed the peace and quiet and having the place all to ourselves.  A little later in the day, we heard the familiar hum of a diesel engine coming up the hill; before long, we had neighbors.

We've camped enough to know that sometimes you luck out and have great camping neighbors and sometimes it is miserable.  We had enjoyed keeping our dogs of the leash and now with neighbors, it might not be possible.  The piece and quiet has been awesome and perhaps these new folks like to party all night.  You just never know.  

We watched as they unloaded three horses and started to set up camp.  They found a spot a good distance from us and when our dogs met; they weren't concerned, nor were we.  We started with casual conversation, learning their names were Kay and Duane, and got some tips on where to ride.  As far as camping neighbors were concerned, it looked like these folks might just be okay.  

Duane's son and grandchildren arrived next and Kay's husband would arrive later.  Watching Duane's granddaughters with the horses, I mentioned to Kay that my boys could ride, but it wasn't there passion and she agreed you have to let the kids find their thing in life.  She went on to tell me that her son was a pilot in the Army and was killed in Afghanistan this past January.  Immediately my heart ached for her.  As a mother, it is unimaginable and as a mother of a serviceman, it is our worst fear.  We spoke later on and agreed to exchange contact information and ride together if we are in the area again.

Duane is not only a horseman but elk hunts in this area.  He gave us some great information on the trails and was spot on with his direction.  Hans Creek, the Enchanted Forested, the swimming hole to name a few.  I meant to ask him if those were his names for the areas of the real names.  


The trails have been real diverse as his names imply.  Not only in landscape and terrain, but in level of difficulty.  There were some places that tested my fear of heights.  I found taking pictures helped my anxiety but then I would think WTH am I doing?  All my moving around with pictures is probably not helping Windy.  But she was a rock star for the most part.  I wouldn't have trusted any other horse like I trusted her this week.

Tonight we took a shorter loop that Duane had mentioned and like his previous directions, he was spot on.  We would "cross a creek when the trail ended and hit a cow path and follow it until we cross again and loop back through the trees".  Then we got to one place on the trails that stopped me in our tracks.  Windy and I were leading and the cow path disappeared into a lot of rock and shale with no real path. It was a severe downhill grade.  As I looked at it and consulted with Jules, who was behind me, Windy was most anxious to keep moving.  God, love her for her courage, but I was lacking it at this moment. There was a trail down but it was almost straight down and I didn't see anything we could connect with once we got there and wasn't sure how easy it was to get back up.  

John and Steve were behind Jules and could see my concern.  They asked if we could go up and that was not a possibility.  Windy grew more agitated and about the time I said "let's turn around", Windy had already done so.  It looks so benign in this picture but like John said - even if the first horse could make it, who knows what  could give way for the next horse.  We didn't have a chance to talk to Duane tonight but want to ask him "how the heck?" tomorrow morning.

It's been a great trip for John and me with great friends, old and  new.  Since we had a little problem finding the camp to begin with, we left a little gift behind for the next riders looking for the campground.  

I have to say we were embarrassed when we saw there really was a sign.  And to think we were looking for an RV?  

So long, Wyoming, until next year.