March 17, 2015
You have to cross 4 cattle guards to get all the way back to the trail head. Fire road 302A leads up to a handicapped hunting area. The two cattle guards on the road before this turn are easy to navigate a pony around. If you continue straight past 302A and directly over a cattle guard, and eventually a second one, you will come to a good parking area for the main part of 302. There is a gate just a bit past the second of these guards and parking areas. Both of these guards are not possible to ride around, at least not that I can see. There is room for a couple trailers to park as long as everyone is mindful of the others need to turn around (or pull through).
Sunday morning Rich and I drove out to Blue Hole to check the road conditions for trailering in. It tends to flood and also stay snowy and icy later than other areas and I didn’t want to get stuck on the one lane road in. Everything looked good. Just a little snow by the parking areas, one of which was pretty muddy, but the other was just fine.
I arrived at the area about two hours later with pony in tow and began the drive back into the National Forest. Since we had checked the road that morning a tree had blown down across the road. Uh oh. Not to be thwarted I put the truck in park and went to bust up some wood. Not to exaggerate my (wo-)manliness, the tree was small and it was so dried out that most of it had busted up on impact. I cleared the pieces away and was able to rotate the rest of the trunk off the road. The picture below is an “after” clearing shot. Go me.
Tree removal done, I finished the drive in, parked, mounted up and headed out.
They are logging the area so the initial fire road in is very well maintained, and has fresh gravel on it. There is also a new logging road that shoots off to the right a little ways in.
I noticed a lot of hoof prints (and poo) at the start, almost all headed up the fire road like me. I saw very few headed back down. Not too far along two very fresh sets of tracks headed off left to the side of the road and down the hill onto marked “Private Property”. It had the feel of a loop, and no tracks came back up. But being private property I moved on.
Most of the tracks eventually disappeared, and I found I was on the same path as one set of rather fresh tracks. I made a left onto the first real and pronounced fire road turn. There had been a few other turns and small trails that I would like to explore, but I wanted to make some distance and see the over all layout to start out with this new-to-me area. Plus I really wanted to know where these one way tracks went.
There were a couple turns on this road as well, some probably old logging roads. There were also quite a few camp areas on the sides, and even one in the middle of the road.
We found a mineral salt lick near one camp area. and quite a few old piles of tree tubes left behind.
At one of the large clear areas the fire road branched down to the left, straight, and there was a trail that branched up to the right. Unfortunately this area was heavy in grass and leaves and I could not determine which direction the other horse tracks went. I decided to continue straight. Eventually it became clear that the other tracks did not go straight.
It was an extremely windy day, but both dogs and Simon started to alert around the same time I began to hear a noise loud enough to be distinguished over the wind. At first I thought it must be a large flock of birds nearby, but then I realized it was spring peepers. Sure enough, there was a pond off to the left. Mixed with the wind they almost sounded like a whole flock of hens clucking about.
This seemed like a good time to turn around and head back. I figure the other horse had taken the first road down to the left. When I got back and looked at my GPS tracking vs the forest map, I suspect this is a loop of sorts and I am eager to check it out in the near future.
Behind the parking area is a trail that runs back along the creek. I followed quite a few set of fresh horse tracks back a ways, and crisscrossed the creek a few times before I decided Simon and I had enough for the day. There were a few large logs down that Simon was just tall enough to maneuver over. He is quite the little tank.
I am really interested to explore this area a lot more. I put a post up on a local Facebook equestrian group in hopes of finding someone that rides back there that can give me some insight on the possibility of a loop. I was also pretty pleased with Simon and myself doing a good 16 mile ride. I don’t think either of us were too worn out at the end.