Shenandoah Trail Riders – May 19, 2019

May 19, 2019

Today I went on a lovely little ride with the Shenandoah Trail Riders at Uncle Tom’s Park.

I should start by saying I was LATE! If you know me somewhat well you know I am always super early, like way too early, and that I start to panic when I am just running on time. But I have been working on this because no one needs to be 40 minutes early for a doctors appointment.

Today this back fired and I pulled into the camp ground at about 7 minutes after ride out time and everyone was gone! Ahhh. Luckily I was already tacked up and just needed to tighten my cinch and put on my helmet. Simon is simple and an excellent trail pony so no worries there, and off we went with Daisy happily loping along.

We cantered up the road and onto the trail and when it wasn’t too rocky we moved out until we caught up with Ellie at the back of the group. She was on new dog duty, making sure the new dog learned the ropes. It took maybe ten minutes for me to catch up and we were still in the woods part of the trail.

Its a lovely ride with several water crossings, shade for the majority of the ride, and of course, excellent company. I chatted with a few people, making sure to enjoy that good company.

Most of the riders in this club are on gaited horses, and those that are not are still on taller, more athletically built horses, leaving Simon as one of the few stubby legged mounts. So I usually end up trotting, walking, trotting, walking a lot. Sometimes he will roll into this nice leisurely western jog that manages to keep up but today we were walk/trot.

Uncle Tom’s Park is a neat location I probably would not know about if not for the Shenandoah Trail Riders. My history on the location is subpar and I should probably ask someone for details but after some googling I found a neat article by STRHA member Susan on Equitrekking.com where she gives some details about the location, including that it opened in the 1930s and was popular until the 1970s.

I absolutely love the pool that still has its old ladders attached. Today it was nice and full of that cold mountain spring water and looked very inviting after our ride since it was one of the first hot days of the year. But just as the covered dish lunch was being set out, and with blue skies, the rain poured down. Refreshing.

It was another lovely ride with some super people.

Trail Report: Vepco 240A to 240C Bible Run

April 29, 2019

I had such a good time exploring further down Vepco on Saturday that I went back Sunday to continue.

As mentioned in the previous post the turn for Vepco is off Little Dry River Rd in Fulks Run and has road signs. It is a left hand turn, about 2 miles give or take after LDR turns to gravel and just before the “end state maintenance” begins. 240 is marked just after making the turn.

I drove in the 20 minutes it took to get to 240A Straight Hollow, which is where I turned my ride around on Saturday. As a reminder, Saturday I parked at my usual spot at 240E Kritchie Mountain which has a closed fire gate but is a simple and enjoyable ride I have frequented. Saturday I rode from 240E along Vepco all the way to 240A Straight Hollow and then explored those side trails.

The drive in was fine. For a fire road it’s pretty well maintained and although there are potholes they are not too extreme or excessive. It’s still slow going and takes a while. I parked just after the second (concrete) creek ford. On the left there is a small side shoot that appears to be used for camping. It was perfect for backing in and parking. It is just before 240A.

For this ride I continued on past 240A along Vepco. There is an open fire gate just after 240A, which appears to be open for the long term since the actual gate part is busted off and down the hill, although it is not completely buried or aged and probably a super easy and quick fix.

I probably would not choose to drive my trailer in further than I did. The road remains mostly maintained, with a few rutted and narrow sections but it also has some rocky areas. I would certainly drive my truck without the trailer though. It was also quite a ways before I came upon another place I would feel comfortable turning my trailer around, which is another factor.

Simon has front shoes, but since I have not gotten him out much in the past six months, more like a year actually, I do not have back shoes on him. Because of this he was sensitive in the back on the rocky areas.

It was a beautiful ride, generally shaded, rolling up and down the mountain, popping out to amazing views and down into lush hollows. There were flowers and fresh growth and spring everywhere. I did realize after a while that all the trees I was bumping along the edges of the road were puffing visible clouds of pollen. I caught a little clip on video (it was a challenge to video, shake the branch and maintain Simon at the same time and it’s not the best video. But it’s at the very end of the video log at the end of this post).

After a while I came to 240C Bible Run on the left. This was just after a (non concrete) ford. The marker was knocked down and graffitied with a blue and yellow WV (presumably by a WVU supporter). There were a few other places this was found including on a tree a few yards behind the fallen post. I took this path, which was gorgeous until it reached a closed gate and poorly marked private property.

Across from 240C there appeared to be a trail, although I did not explore here and instead headed back. Closer to where I parked there were a few other side trails. One on the left going down into the hollow and one going up to the right through the woods, probably reaching the power lines.

240C nearly reaches Gauly Run, and I admit I was very tempted to continue but Simon and I were ready to head back and Daisy is also still building up her endurance. Perhaps another day when we are all a bit fitter.

On this ride I passed several dirt bike riders. 3 groups/pairs actually. They were all very polite and followed trail etiquette, stopping and turning off their bikes as I passed. Thank you.

The video:

Trail Report: Vepco, 240A Straight Hollow Exploring

April 28, 2019

I have dabbled with Vepco including plenty of rides on 240E Kritchie Mountain. This is where I have always parked, including on this ride. But one of my goals was to scout out a place to park farther in.

Vepco can be reached by driving down Little Dry River, keep going after it turns to gravel and it’s maybe a mile on the left. It’s marked with street signs and a 240 sign. It has a good road going in and shortly there is a concert creek ford that’s never been too high to easily cross.

Just past the ford is the Vepco marker.

After several twists in the road there is an open fire gate. And after some more twists there is a right hand turn which ends quickly at a circle (not suitable for trailers) and a closed fire gate. This is where I park. I pull past and back in and park on the side. It’s easy and smooth.

Usually I ride back 240E. But today I wanted to find a good parking spot further in. I looked a week or two ago but wasn’t solid on the spot I found and I had more time today so let’s explore. I rode off, continuing along 240 Vepco.

It’s level briefly then mostly grades down and up weaving back and forth under the power lines.

After a while there was another concert creek ford. Just after this, on the left, is a nice horse trailer sized back in parking spot. This is where I am going to park next time.

Shortly after the ford is 240A on the right hand side. There is another branch across from it and Vepco continues ahead as well. I began doing video clips from this point which are compiled at the end of this post. Here you can see terrain and footing.

We headed right onto 240A, Straight Hollow. It has a few creek crossing and some rocky areas but nothing poor or difficult.

This will be a nice place to ride in the hot summer. It was shaded and as mentioned, there was a lot of creek crossings. Although I suspect some will be dry come summer. Today was extremely windy but down in the hollow it was nice and calm.

After a short bit there is a branch off to the right with a camp area and the trail continues out the back.

I followed it for a while and it eventually came to some larger downed trees at a creek crossing. It was easy to work around it.

Here the trail continued ahead and to the left. We went straight until there was quite a bit of downed trees and then turned around. This is documented more clearly on the video.

Next we tried the left branch which counties on for a ways with some more downed trees at a creek crossing. I opted to turn around. Again, see the video.

Back to 240A we continued on.

It crosses some more creeks.

It is a lovely piece of trail.

Shortly there was a branch to the left, not as obvious as the others. I continued ahead and did not take the turn. Yet.

Just another bend and the road ended at private property and a closed gate so turning around I headed back to that left (now right) hand split I had just passed up.

This continued for a surprisingly long way.

It was very pleasant, a few creek crossings, not much down at all.

It was also pretty clearly marked by orange tags. Although the path was easy to follow.

It eventually came to a clustered creek crossing and some larger downed trees. The trail ahead, bending left, appeared clear beyond the downed trees but the ride was getting to the point of needing to turn around so I did.

The above photo is on the return from this side trail going back to 240A. So pretty.

Once back to Vepco I also hacked down the the trail opposite 240A. It was rather short and also ended at a closed gate to private property. Through the woods I could see an open fire gate along Vepco. This section is also documented on the video.

We hacked back up Vepco to the trailer and into the wind.

It was a nice ride. I’m looking forward to the new parking location and exploring further up Vepco. It eventually pops out at Gauley Ridge which can be easiest reached from the Turner Run entrance and which also connects up to Slate Lick and some other fire road networks. I have ridden from Turner Run to where Vepco connects so I am excited to reach this point from Vepco as well.

It was a good ride on a great pony with an amazing dog.

until the next adventure.

The video of this ride:

Trail Report: Tom’s Park, Old Man Run 1117

April 26, 2019

After work on Thursday I rushed out to get some mountain riding in. Daisy and I Loaded up Possum and zipped out to Little Dry River Rd in Fulks Run to Tom’s Park. It started to drizzle right as I pulled over to park. But it was warm enough to handle a little drizzle.

I hopped on Possum and off we went. It appears they have been working on the first section of this fire road and it was quite a bit smoother and certainly an improvement.

At the split there was a very large culvert that appears to have been freshly replaced, with the old bent up one sitting on the side of the fire road, presumably for future removal. It was shaped like a pony eating monster, and was quite a bit taller, wider, and longer than Possum. He was weary of it but he did push on past and we took the right hand branch of the fire road. The road improvements appear to have ended at the culvert replacement.

We rode on a bit longer before turning around and starting back. The ride out was primarily on an incline and therefore the return ride was mostly down hill. I rode for about two hours. It drizzled until the last thirty minutes or so, which is when it started to down pour. By the time we got back to the trailer all three of us were soaked.

Notable, this was Possum’s first solo trail ride and I was very happy with him. He marched along confidently and he happily splashed through water. He did look at oddly placed rocks with a weary eye but he didn’t spook or bulk at anything.

We did a lot of walking and some cardio trotting. Possum was a bit concerned about trotting. It didn’t feel like laziness, more like he has always walked on trail and was unsure why we would break the usual protocol. After a little encouragement he agreed trotting was acceptable. Cantering on the other hand was a different story. I felt like he was sure only bad ponies canter on trails and he was not going to be a bad pony. Unfortunately I didn’t have on spurs or a crop with me. I kicked quite a bit to get him into a canter which he kept breaking. I did manage a short but nice canter with me asking him to slow back down rather than him choosing to. After that I decided to stick with just walking and trotting for this ride and work on the canter when I have spurs on. You know, pick your battles.

It was a really nice ride and I plan to keep trying to get him out about once a week if possible. I feel the diversity is good for him (and all horses) and he really seems to enjoy and to be extremely comfortable on trails. Plus the mountains can kick a pony into shape mighty quick.

I just wish my trail saddle fit him. It is quite a bit more comfortable than my English saddle.

* I have not been using my Trail app to track my rides because it doesn’t work while I listen to podcasts. And recently listening to podcasts has been winning over mapping my tracks.

Spring – Let’s get fit!

March 30, 2019

This is the first winter that Simon has not been kept in shape. With such poor riding conditions preventing me from riding at home because it was either too wet or it was actively raining, and a new pony to get trained up, Simon sat out.

This week I managed to hit up some trails for a quick two hour ride after work. I went up to the VEPCO 240 fire road off Little Dry River Rd and parked at Kritchie Mountain trail and road back that way. I was about 10 minutes in when I heard a car horn from the direction I parked. I kept going but it wouldn’t leave my mind so I turned around and went back. Nothing was out of the ordinary and my mind eased.

I decided to head along the fire road instead, popping out into the electric tower trails and just enjoying the views and nice weather.

This was Daisy’s first ride out in a while as well. I kept it short and slower for her as much as I did for Simon and myself. We are all out of condition.

It was a nice ride.

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