Maybe it was the cooler weather. Maybe it was the new location. Maybe it was the horde of mountain bikers. I don't know, but those horses were on fire. I've never seen Gem so tense. She was about to jump out of her skin at any moment and kept flipping back and forth to be able to see everything going on around her. I was able to get the saddle on just fine, but she wouldn't keep her head down to get the bit in her mouth. Eventually I was able to just shove it in there (not my preferred method) and hook it to her bridle (I adore my halter/bridle combo!) so we could get going. The hubs and I decided it would be prudent to walk them a little down the trail on foot before mounting up.
Since I had stopped paying attention to the hiker lady I was pretty clueless on where to go. The hubs explained that it was one big 11.3 mile loop with several smaller loops and connector trails flowing through it to make it smaller or add miles. It was also broken into three sections by two dirt roads and a dam. I said I wanted to go left to find the bear. In retrospect that probably wasn't the smartest idea, but we never did run into him so it was a non issue. We headed off to the left on an orange marked trail which led downhill and began as a rocky double wide trail.
We were a little wary of the footing given that our last trail ride was such slow going, but it cleared up pretty quickly. I don't like trotting downhill much (that's an entire subject all to itself) so we walked for a ways. I remembered to get off at around the half mile mark to adjust my tack and then we headed down the last steep downhill. At the bottom things got interesting in a great way. The trail puttered down to a very narrow single track. By narrow I mean trees on either side close enough to crack your knee if you weren't careful as well as tree branches overhead at perfect eye level. The footing was sans (that word is just for you hubbybear!!) roots and rocks and we took one look at each other and took off at a brisk trot.
I giggled pretty solidly for the next hour. I think this one trail made up for the complete lack of switchbacks in the remainder of the state because it never went straight for more than a stride or two. We twisted and turned and ducked and dodged our way around a very pretty lake. Pete was having a blast too. Gemmie was uncertain as to why I was laughing so much. Pete would just plow through the low hanging limbs and dodge between the trees. Gemmie felt the need to duck beneath it all and so she trotted along ducking her head and glaring sideways at the closer trees. It was hilarious!!
We eventually made our way back up a ways and slowed down to a walk. Both horses were pretty drenched in sweat which was odd given the cloudy 75 degrees out and the fact we only had gone about 1.25 miles. I pushed Gemmie out front and we slowed way down as she slowly picked her way down the winding trail. I did start to ask her for a bit more than a 0.5 mph walk and we managed to even trot a few steps. She was a GREAT girl out front though. After the first minute or two she began to really stride out at the walk and take an interest. We made 90 degree turns around trees and up over fallen logs and down gullies without batting an eye. When a mountain biker came up behind us we pulled over and Pete ended up taking the lead again. To my surprise (and delight) Gem was kind of ticked off about it. Her ears went back a bit and she started trying to find a way around him! Good girl Gemmie!!!! That's the first time in almost 4 years that she has not wanted to just chug along behind Pete!!
At the 2 mile mark we began debating about turning back around. Since we really had no clue where we were or if this trail was a smaller loop or just part of the 11.3 miles and we knew the horses were already beginning to tire we worried that pushing too much farther would be trouble. The trail came to a fork and we went right which popped us out of the woods and back onto a nice wide uphill trail. We decided that we would ride to the top and turn around if it didn't look like it went back to the parking lot. The footing was superb and the horses had been so good and willing and so we gave them a treat and opened them up a bit. Gem pushed out a 16.1 mph canter uphill and wasn't even trying that hard!!!! Go Gemmiecakes!
Even better, once we reached the top we recognized it as the trail we headed down in the first place so it ended up being a nice little technical loop. We followed it back and took a short trail to the right which popped out right at the trailer. We debated pushing it a bit more, but the horses were just covered in sweat. We only rode 2.6 miles, but I think the technicality of the trail made it a harder work out than we thought. It was better to end of a good note and we headed home.
I must say that was one of the best trail rides to date and I am so glad we found it. The system is called Isaqueena and is definitely worth the extra drive to get to.