Trail Report: 04/08/18 Gauley Ridge 423 – Gate Open

April 8, 2018

Today I went up to Turner Run / Gauley Ridge. The gate was open. I was thinking about it on my drive there actually, and realized in the years I have ridden up there I have only been there during the winter, when the gate is closed. I was wondering if the gate would be open, knowing most gates in the area open April 1st and some the 15th. I had already decided to drive in if it was open. So when I got there and it was open I kept on driving with a big ol grin on my face.

I drove in till just past my usual farthest riding point. I have ridden further, but rarely and not this winter. There’s so much to explore back there it’s hard to get too much farther with that gate closed. The roads connect down to Vepco off Little Dry River Rd and also to Slate Lick. It’s a very extensive network.

I was so excited driving in I didn’t even note how long it took me but I did on the way out. 25 minutes almost exactly from where I parked to the gate. It’s not a bad road. Not many potholes. But it is bumpy with small rocks. So that part is a little sucky. Not something to do all the time. But today it was totally worth it.

So I parked at a small pull over on the left. It had enough room for me to pull in, back up and turn around easily and then park facing out. There was a small camp fire rock pile there. Directly across from the spot on the right hand side of the road was an old old logging road that wound up and forward. I checked it out very briefly but it was pretty over grown and I had too much exploring to do to mess with it.

Above is a photo of the open gate as I drove on in! Woo!

After a bit there was a camp circle to the right. I do remember this from maybe two or three winters ago. There is a small cross and fake flowers marking a grave and a big rock fire pit. There is also a trail to the left of the camp site. I rode this years ago. It wonders up to side fire road. I note this in the video blog.

423a Gate Mountain. This is a side fire road on the right. I also remember this from the past. It works down pleasantly and ends at private property and a closed private gate. It’s nice and clear and obviously used. Shortly after the start there is a camp spot to the right and a trail that pops out above it over a berm. This is the trail that rides to the previous camp circle.

So back up to the main fire road and on we went. Eventually there were quite a few fields off to the left and lots of amazing views. This is my furthest point. I have not ridden past this point yet. So eeee how exciting! I cruised on.

I cant say enough how fantastic the views are pretty much everywhere I ride around here. It is mountain riding so you expect amazing mountainous views. The photos and videos just can’t even touch on them.

above is a photo of some of the fresh green buds on bushes. Fresh growth was everywhere.

On we went past the fields, lots of fields. Still nice solid clear and level roads. Easy cruising. There was some clear and obvious maintenance recently performed in the form of trees cleared from the road.

This little turn to the left led just over that rise to a small clearing. Nothing fancy.

Soon I came to another open gate and just past that was a Split in the road with open gates in both directions. So many possibilities.

Time to break out the map. You can spot the three orange gates real close together in the middle of the map, that’s the gate trifecta we found ourselves at.

To the right leads to Vepco and Little Dry River Rd. When I say that, it’s not close, we are talking miles and miles, nothing I would expect to ride in a session. And ahead turned out to also become Vepco.

Decisions decisions. Ahead had two trails marked coming off it. One specifically leading directly to Slate Lick. In a whim I decided to go forward.

Which quickly came to another unmarked but very clear road branching to the right that was not on the map. I assumed it led to the power lines which were just ahead. And I was right. So again an amazing over look in all directions.

I also found a trail down at the bottom of the clearing just past and below the power line, at the end of the road. I decided to check it out thinking it was probably a short ride to an over look.

The trail turned out to be a very prominent and solid trail. This was not a glorified deer trail or some hunter path. This was a legit hiking trail. I followed it for quite a ways. It was clear and pleasant. No blazes, flags or markings of any kind but still a solid trail.

After a while I decided to call it for the day and turn around. The trail was still going strong and clear. I am interested to explore it more some day.

on the way back I saw a white truck over the rise on the road and Simon got so excited. He whinnied over and over to the truck and wanted to chase it down. We were already trotting and gaining on it as they were slowly taking in the views along the open fields. We eventually caught up and passed them with a wave.

A bit later back into the woods they caught up with us and stopped to say hello. Simon was welcomed to stick his nose in the truck to say hello to their daughter, which we know he was excited to do. We had a quick friendly hello and went on our ways.

Twice later I passed enduro/dirt bike riders. I am going to assume the family in the truck stopped and let them know to expect a horse behind them because both times the dirt bike riders were waiting, bikes turned off, with smiles on their faces.

I thanked both groups for waiting for me to pass and wished them a pleasant day. What can I say but how amazing was that? I mean, this is proper trail protocol. Motorized bikes/quads are supposed to turn off and allow horses to pass. But the politeness and smiles I received, just wow. And the kindness of the family to give the guys a heads up to expect me. Sometimes the woods just brings out the good in people.

Which is something nice to be touched with in National Forest. On occasion you hear horror stories of criminals and crazies hiding out in NF and I have been warned by many to be aware of my surroundings, and to take much stronger precautions. So being greeted by such friendly and considerate people three times in one day is heart touching. Especially when I very rarely see anyone on a ride in these woods.

In part this is because I am mainly in the woods over the cold winter when others avoid the woods. And I also prefer areas that are less popular because I like being out there alone. Anyway I digress.

Simon continued to whinny to the truck for a while. He even tossed his head a few times. Silly pony. Soon we were back to the trailer and headed back out.

This was an awesome ride and I am excited to have another drive in adventure sometime in the near future. I think next time I’ll head in to the fields to park. It will probably add an additional five minutes to my drive but will be worth it. There is so much to explore back there. The Vepco road that branches to the right split a ways down again, adding even more to explore.

Video blog part 1

Video blog part 2

Games Practice 4/7/18

April 7, 2018

This weekend was suppose to be the first pairs competition of the year, but the was calling for a foot of snow so the competition cancelled. Then Friday night the snow cancelled! It was crazy enough to have a foot of snow coming in April anyway.

Since I had the day free I took Poe over to Carol Ann’s and met up with her and Natalie for a games practice. And note, it did flurry pretty much all day. Pretty heavy in the afternoon.

It was a good practice. Poe was a bit sluggish, and a little lacking in his responsiveness towards the beginning of practice. But we got our jell as we went along. I am particularly happy with our ball and cone. Each run was nice and solid. It’s still a total hit or miss in competition depending on Poe’s attitude for the session. But we are not playing it at Mid-Atlantic #1 next weekend anyway (no complaint from me).

I am also pleased with my mounting. I had quite a few mounts and all felt strong and successful. Sadly several of the mounts were so to oops in races. None were that bad except for my 3 mug. It’s not a good race for Poe and I to start with and I am trying it in the opposite position which is just stupidly painful. On past ponies this has been a race that has that sweet rolling feel. But Poe and I just do not have that slickness in this race.

This is the first time I have really gotten to meet Natalie (other than a brief hello I. Passing last year) and her pony, William. This would also have been their first competition this weekend. I was pretty impressed with how far along they are in their games training for being so new to the sport. I can’t wait to see how they do next weekend.

Carol Ann, as always, was on par. Her and Puck were rocking some skills. That pony has come a long way, and he is quick too.

I think we are all ready for the weather to clear and the games season to kick off next weekend.

Trail Report: Rt211 Parking9 trail 410 to 408 exploring 03/26/18

March 26, 2018

Location: I show this in the video – not super exciting but maybe helpful. I approach on 211 from New Market near rt81. Heading east on 211, I go up to the top of the mountain, this is where the video picks up, and the parking lot is a short ways down on the right hand side. Again this is easy bound.

From this lot there is a trail – which I point out in the video – on the side of the parking lot. But for today’s ride I crossed the road, directly across. There is a break in the hill, with a road through it with a closed fire gate. Can’t miss it. It is well marked on the map, fire road 410.

Parking: it’s a big lot on the side of Rt211, paved. It’s a park and ride type of lot, smack on the side of the road, plenty of space to get a big rig in and turn around.

I headed out on a brand new trail today. From the parking lot it’s directly across the road, and around the closed fire gate. There is actually a wooden bridge built on the right hand side of the gate to help go around it.

It’s a nice rolling fire road ride for a while. Really pleasant and simple. Well groomed and clear.

White blaze!

After a bit the white blaze turns off to the left onto a very clear and well maintained trail. There is an arrow on the tree and it’s very easy to spot. The fire road continues ahead. I check it out on the way back.

This trail is lovely. Still white blaze and just simple, clear, maintained. Some recently called trees were cleared. Wow. I am not often on trails this well kept, or frequently used. I saw pony poo, fat bicycle tracks and boot prints.

At one point there is a clear trail branching off to the left, with s small pile of branches in front of it. We stayed straight/right and kept with the white blaze.

The trail eventually dips down and there is a sign, with clear writing still visible! I laugh about this because it is so rare for me to ride anywhere with a sign still standing, and on the rare occurrence there is one, the words are either vandalized or worn out. I had to take photos.

So this is where 410 hits the orange blaze 408. I can go right, or left towards Cressman Hollow Rd. Eventually I want to do this loop, but today there was not enough time and daylight. So I decided to go left and explore just a little ways.

Steep climbing up. Well not too steep, but it was going on. And Simon stopped to breath. At this point I whip my forest service map out and point out where we are on the video. And I realize the loop and back to the trailer is probs my something like 13 miles or so. Give or take.

I kept looking up, and then down and I decided to turn around. After a bit of slow down hill crawling I got off and led Simon. This is in part because I hate down hill and he is built down hill so it’s like double down hill. But he also crawls down hill. It wasn’t all that steep so I think we went way faster with me on foot. Hilariously. Usually when I do this I feel it in my legs the next day. Tomorrow shall tell.

So back to the sign, and I decided to explore the other direction. Super nice. There was one point where it was rather narrow with a bit of a drop to the right. I was fine but wouldn’t want to be on a stupid young horse I didn’t trust. But it was short.

There was a sweet little camp site along a creek.

Then over the creek. While letting Simon get a drink I noticed some hair on a tree. Probs my deer. Had to snap a photo.

I only went a short ways more than decided to turn back around and head back. I wanted to explore some of the side trails before heading back.

So back past the sign, onto white blaze 410, to where the pile of branches blocked the trail. I hopped over those and cantered up the path and it ended very quickly in a clearing. Nothing special.

Then on along to a clearing on the right hand side of the trail that had a path at the back of it. I zipped up that to another clearing. There appeared to be a trail at the back of this clearing too but I did not check it out.

On back to the fire road turn. I made a left and continued up the fire road. It was not much longer, but still. Ice and clear. It ended in a circle with a nice peak behind it.

In the back of the circle there was a double trail and I checked them both out. They sort of both ended but not hard. When I looked at the tracker later it looks like one met up with the trail I was on earlier and I think I remember seeing a spot that was a poor looking trail. I bet that was where it connected.

After turning back around to head home, and just after exiting the circle, there was another trail to the left. I did not check it out but would like to at another time.

Time was short so I headed on back along that lovely fire road. It was a nice trot, canter, gallop stretch back to the parking.

Check out the two part video blog of the ride if you like. I’ll admit I do. It watch these myself so I have no idea how bad they are. I save them for later when I can’t remember what a trail was like. It’s a great way for me to see different parts of the trail.

part 1 video

Part 2 video

Virginia Horse Festival – Mounted Games 2018

March 25, 2018

This weekend was the fourth Virginia Horse Festival held at the Meadow Event Park on Doswell, Virginia. Meadow Event is known as the birth place of secretariat and the original birthing stalls still stand today for touring. This is a nice facility with an open and airy 142 stall barn, 4 outdoor arenas and one covered arena. The festival is three days, with demos and clinics going in all of the arenas and vendors in the convention hall.

The first two years we had a demo, and last year I came and did the Cornerstone trail challenge and an obstacle challenge. Lots of fun. This year MGAA was invited back to do a demo and a clinic and we also had a booth. My usual teammate, Matt organized it all, which is a lot of work. He did an awesome job.

Matt put together three teams of riders from different divisions and levels, which shows our variety. And we raced through about 11 races showing our sport. You’ll notice in the photos, Hero Kids donated shirts in colors to represent the Police, Armed Forces and EMS for our teams to ride in. We even had little Dexter on leadline taking part and being helped along by his fabulous “driver” Leigh Anne.

We started off warming up around the ring while our wonderful equipment crew got us set up. I talked about Mounted games and MGAA over the PA during this time. Then I handed the mic over to Leigh Anne who continued to talk to the crowd, explaining what we were doing, all while leading Dexter. She did an amazing job and didn’t even sound winded.

After our hour of races we switched to clinic mode and had four clinic riders come in on their own mounts. Each one was paired up with a rider. Leigh Anne hoped on my pony Poe and paired up, Kenzie on Simon paired up, Matt on Hero and Virginia on her Buckskin. So each clinic rider had their own personal instructor and partner. John set up several races and each pair took turns going through the races.

Meanwhile I spoke to the crowd about Mounted games and MGAA and narrated what the riders were doing. Some of our remaining riders went to the sides and took questions and talked to interested parties one on one.

It seemed to go very well. Our clinic riders were all extremely successful with amazing horses. I was highly impressed with all of them.

After the riding was complete we headed over to the booth and talked to some more people about games for the afternoon and evening before heading home.

It was an excellent day. Good weather and wonderful people. Bring on the games season! Two weeks!

Snow – finally

March 22, 2018

Yesterday we finally got some snow. The first real snow in the past two winters. So I attempted to play with the ponies. It’s been so long I forgot how bad the snow balls up in shoes. So riding Simon sucked. I imagine it was like a horse doing the “big lick” with the wooden block shoes.

I felt like Simon was a good hand taller. The wind picked up and the snow really started to come down hard too and Simon started to get cold so we called it a super quick ride. It was really coming down so I decided I needed to call it quits too and finished my chores and went in.

Today I went out and played with Poe.

We lunged and then did some flat work. Boring but necessary. He is barefoot so no snowball feet. I did not remember to snap any photos of him.

The snow was melting like any spring snow does and will probably be gone by the end of tomorrow. Which is cool. I wish the trails would clear as fast. I would have liked to spend Sunday and Monday riding the mountains. But I don’t think that will happen.

And just a few snaps of the snowy day yesterday.

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