|The leaves are starting to fall already. I think it has more to do with the fact we haven't had a drop of rain in all of Sept than it being fall. Typically the leaves remain until November.|
A few moments later a man with grey hair, a wrinkled face and a matching wrinkled plaid shirt with dirty jeans came limping over to me. He said something about how empty the lot was and then hung around as I tacked up Gem.
Southerners tend to be on the friendly, no personal space side and so I wasn't too worried as I just walked around him and finished tacking up mumbling answers to his questions and pretending to be polite. He was so annoyingly in my way though that he had to back up when the fly spray came out as the first few puffs hit him.
|Nature has better aim than any man.|
But then his questions started to creep me out.
He asked if I was riding alone. I said yes, but then quickly added that my husband typically comes out with the dog and kiddo to hike with us. He then asked me what trails I was riding and remarked that things can happen when you ride alone and that it is smart to have someone know exactly where you plan to be.
|I always dismount and lead Gem across the river. I don;t enjoy riding the next 10 miles in wet shoes though.|
Now, I am pretty sure he was just being a friendly old man who was worried about seeing a young woman riding out alone, but it seriously started to get a little creepy as he kept trying to figure out where I was riding and I kept giving him vague answers. He asked if I wanted to join his group when they arrived, he was apparently waiting for some friends, and I bowed out of that by telling him I was going to be moving quickly.
Eventually I was all tacked up and led Gem away to hit the trails and said my goodbyes. I typically let Gemmie walk the first bit to warm up, but this time I egged her on and we moved out to the far side of trails that has a lot of intersections just in case.
Nothing else of note occurred during the ride. I didn't get lost this time and made the loop as I planned. The first half was empty as it is a more technical portion and farther out from the trail head and Gem and I made good time for the first 7 miles.
Once we hit the main loop that goes around the barn, the traffic picked up and our pace slowed significantly. We were about 9 miles in or so when I came across the old man on his mule leading a group of 4, consisting of another older man and two middle aged women, down the trail. We said hello and he asked if the hubby had showed up to hike with me.
I said no knowing that I would make it back to the trailer before he ever did and the trails were super busy by this point anyway. I carried on my way and ended up a while later at a filled parking lot.
Gem looked great at the end, a little more sweaty than I'd like for the exertion although it was 85F and she has declared it winter so her coat is getting pretty fuzzy and thick already. I keep hoping she will realize we are not up north anymore and stop becoming a yak, but I doubt that will ever happen.
|Beautiful Lake Johnson.|
The only other memorable moment occurred as I was rinsing her off. Croft hosts horse shows every month in the summer and boasts a wonderful arena, four wash racks, bathrooms, showers and a concession stand open during the shows. I was hosing her off when some guy came flying into the bay right across from her on his mountain bike causing Gem to jump. I glared over at the intruder wondering why anyone would come flying in at near top speed next to a horse.
I watched as he proceeded to rinse off his mountain bike as I finished scraping Gem and then I heard him mumble something. I asked him what he said and he responded in a delightfully thick Irish accent "nice horse" which I barely understood. We proceeded to have a lovely conversation and I later told Dusty he was lucky because he almost lost his wife that afternoon. I do love me an Irish accent. :)
As I was walking Gem back to the trailer, a loose horse came galloping over to us. I had noticed him earlier by the picnic tables and he was a looker. Tall, brilliant chestnut with four high white socks and a thin blaze down his face. He screamed at Gem the entire time I washed her off and I wondered if he was a stallion. Well, I found out he was as he charged over to us, but he was easily caught by his dragging lead rope. The Irish man came over to offer help although he had no clue what to do, so I just grabbed the lead and walked him over to his clueless owner who was eating a sandwich in her truck. I handed him over as she explained that he knows how to untie knots and I recommended she get a snap hook instead.
Then I loaded Gem up and headed to the barn. It was an uneventful ride, but an eventful day at the trail head.