January 3, 2016

First ride of 2016

I edited the post after initial publication. While I love my Mac at home, the key board sticks something fierce and creates odd words. My apologies to anyone who attempted to read it yesterday.

After a week of heavy rainfall the world around SC is mucky, slippery and soggy. Not ideal conditions for a trail ride, but I needed to get out into my clear headspace, breathe deeply that wonderful horse smell and see the world fresh again.

Saturday night was spent scouring the internet for trails. I have grown tired of the local trails that I ride consistently and two were not even possible with the wet conditions: both are centered around lakes and/or rivers which have all flooded. I found a wonderful sounding trail system at King's Mountain State Park only an hour and 15 minutes away.

I sent Sheree a last minute text to see if she was game. She was, but her truck was dead, so I told her I would pick her up and drive us all up there.

Sunday morning was cold: 28 degrees Fahrenheit, but the day promised to be sunny and 50 degrees eventually. Even in the cold, pre dawn hours I knew this was going to be a good day. The trailer hooked up on the first go in the dark and Gem met me at the gate. I was loaded up and heading to Sheree's place in record time.

We arrived at the trail head around 9ish and I was really excited to get going. The online description said that it was a 20 mile loop, starting and ending at the trail head and was mostly within the Sate Park borders, but had a short section that went into the bordering King's Mountain Military Park with a Revolutionary War battlefield.

The trail head itself was really nice with a big open lot, picket areas, a bathroom and a nice large map.

We were the only ones there that early in the morning

 Dusty and Wyatt had driven up with us to go hiking while we rode and I planned on trying to do the entire loop. If the trails were not traveling well, we would turn around at the 1 hour 30 minute mark for a nice 3 hour ride.

We hit the trails with Gem leading and at first they were extremely muddy. We began to worry if we would be able to ride much at all as the horses kept sinking farther and farther and we could go no faster than a crawl.

Oh no! There is a stump in the forest!!! Must be on high alert!

Mud. Lots and lots of mud. 

 Just after the first mile, the trail hit an intersection where you can go straight or right. It is a long circle that brings you back to where you started and we looked both directions for which appeared to be the most dry. We went straight and began to find brief sections where we could trot.

Sheree on Linen leading

 The trail was my favorite type: narrow single track twisting through the dense trees. At times we were riding along the edge of a hill as we snaked along the mountains.

Eventually we came across another intersection with a map. Reading the map there appeared to be three trails converging here: one that went off to my right and across the road to continue along the large circle, one straight ahead that created a small mini loop and ended back at the intersection where we were, and one off to the left that circled back towards the trail head running parallel to the main trail and eventually joining it about a mile from parking.

The blue arrows show the way we travelled on the trail heading toward the three way intersection in the red circle. My paint skills are improving :) 

We were at about 1 hour 30 minutes and just shy of 4 miles out (I told you the going was slow!). We knew we wouldn't make the entire loop without any water or food on us, but weren't ready to back track just yet either. We decide to take the far left trail and parallel the way back to the trail head. In the above map we thought we were going along the blue arrows. This would create a parallel loop heading back to the trail head without actually back tracking on the same trail.

The area had a picket line for you horses and picnic tables for the humans. A great place to stop and have a  lunch on a nicer day. 

We headed off left and made a steep descent.

The trail was really fun, but super technical. There were several short, but near vertical ascents and declines along the trail and we felt like we were all twisted around as the trail never stayed straight. The girls were working hard though this section.

The technical trail was well worth it when we came across a cleared green space with a picturesque creek running through it. 

About a half mile or so later we ended up back at the intersection we had just left along the trail that was straight ahead. We were both very confused.

What we did in reality was to take the pink arrows to a small loop and ended up right back at the intersection in the red circle. We looked all over the place and never found the way to the larger loop above the one we took. 

Oh well. We made the choice to turn around and head back. My GPS read just over 4 miles and I knew it was a little off because the trail had beautiful mile markers which we reached soon than my watched beeped the mile.

The way back was much quicker. The trail had dried out considerably in the short time we had been out there and we were able to trot most of it. The only thing I didn't like were the very large, sharp rocks that littered the ground. Some sections of the trail were smooth and great footing, but those tended to be the muddy areas. The drier sections were extremely rocky and I let Gem decide when she was comfortable enough to move out and when she wanted to walk. It felt really good to be able to trust her like that.

We made it back in just under 3 hours and covered 8.14 miles per the watch, but closer to 9 in reality. The entire time we rode, we both kept saying how lovely it must be when the leaves are on the trees and in the fall when they turn.

I had a truly relaxing ride with good company and will be hitting those trails to do the entire loop again in the near future. It was a perfect way to calm the spirit and bring in the 2016 ride season.


  1. Nice. Getting out and being in the now is the best remedy for those things that make our heart ache. Great way to start your new year. I wish for you challenging but not too challenging trails, great company and a sound and happy horse.

  2. Good company, a (mostly) good horse and a good trail are great for the soul

  3. Such cute black-tipped ears!! Mud'll train ya for those days you're competing in the rain! Haha

    1. Exactly.I was bummed it didn't rain so I could wear my new rain coat.