Trail Report: Bear Trap Loop – Fire Road 536 – 5/20/18

May 22, 2018

Since my competition was cancelled this weekend due to the massive amounts of rain we have been getting, and Sunday was the first clear day in a week, I needed to get on a trail. I decided to go south to Augusta county since they got less rain. I also wanted paved parking and an area that I expected to have drained well. So I decided on Bear Trap. I have not been here in years but it was one of my favorite places to ride at one time. There are tons of side trails to explore and plenty of rolling fire roads.

Parking: from North River Rd make a right onto Bear Trap Road. Maybe a half mile up the road on the left hand side is the entrance to 536. In the winter the gate is closed, but the gate was open today. It’s still easy parking across from the entrance on the shoulder of the road. I include the turn and parking on the video in this post.

This is a nice area to ride. It drains well and is lightly frequented. I have seen another person here a few times but not very frequently. I have run into Bear here. One time in particular was during a very dry summer when everyone seemed to be running into Bear, assuming they were coming down more in search of water. I ran into three Bear on one ride. The first was on the ridge top. The second was on the trail back down and the third was on the fire road back out and she had two cubs with her. It was a very memorable ride.

This location also has a lot of mushroom growth in the spring and fall. Lots of colorful jack o lantern mushrooms! Very pretty to look at (but not eat). I have also seen more than one turtle here.

For today’s ride, I decided to do the loop. This runs about 7 miles, is rather slow going, but has a big climb.

Ride in along the fire road, which is nice to move out on. Is smooth and well maintained. The gravel is not too big or bumpy. No bad washouts.

About a half mile in there is a creek crossing. It was pretty average for this time of year considering all the rain we have had. I expected it to be deeper.

At about a mile in there is a specific turn off for the loop. It is pictured above with the sun glinting down on it.

Straight ahead here – the left hand side of the fire road. Today there was an old metal trashcan there.

Years ago I called and asked the Forest Service about some of the side trails in this area and I was told that these are old logging roads that have grown back. I was encouraged to enjoy them, ride out on them, but know thy are not maintained. Some are still marked on maps and some are not. Which can be confusing. In this area there is on on the left we already passed that is marked on the map that is not there.

This is a well used bit of trail. It is a bit uphill but not bad. After a short while it comes to what was probably the end of the logging road. Or more likely a circle, parking area. There are two old parts going left and right that I have ridden in the distant past, but for the loop we want to go over the berm and up the hill. This is where the climb begins.

The last time I was here this circle area was more of a clearing than it is now. The under growth has taken over more in the past few years and it takes a tiny bit of imagination to picture the “circle” part.

Up and over the berm and up the climb. It is still a pretty established trail, easy to follow and clear. And it is a good workout. Simon needed to stop and catch his breath.

I came down it once and it sucked. I got off and hiked, meaning slid down. I did not enjoy it.

At the top, the trail runs into a ridge top trail running perpendicular right and left. For the loop we want to head right. There used to be a very clear mark on the tree ahead to help mark the turn from the other direction, for those going down, but it was mostly washed away now. I wonder if this is a less traveled trail these days. The turn to the left looked pretty over grown too.

The ride from the fire road to the top of the mountain was just about .9 miles I believe. I call it out on the video.

Off to the right it starts off a bit over grown here too. Luckily it clears out after a bit and there were no downed trees to obstruct the path, but there were some branches in the way.

Not too far on there is a rocky area. I used to ride below it easily but it is much over grown below it so I dismounted to check it out and decided to lead Simon over it instead. It’s very short and not that bad at all. I could have stayed Mounted. Honestly I was more likely to fall leading him than the danger being on his back would have posed. I did video this bit and purposefully did not replay it before loading it here.

Most of the trail is like the photo above. Simple. A bit tight, with a few knee knockers. But mostly clear of over growth. Some rocks but not bad.

Eventually it spills out onto the fire road. Going left heads up to the picnic area by the cell phone tower. Which is not far at all. The new 432 is also just to the left as well.

For this loop we turn right and go just a very short ways down to pick up 439 on the right. It’s down hill, slightly steep at first and then less so. It was also a bit over grown at first and then cleared.

Nothing too impressive along here.

It pops back out on the fire road and we make a right. Of course left is another option for miles and miles of fire road.

This is still a nice bit of fire road, with an easy to set good rolling pace. The creeks on the side are generally dry in the deep summer.

The only true fire road turn off you pass is on the right, 536E Shanks Road. But there are tons of unmarked trails. Lots of exploring out here. I remember that’s why I loved this area so much. But I am not as excited about this loop as I used to be.

and eventually back out to the road where parking is. Then drive straight ahead and the road wraps on back out to North River. Simple.

It was a nice ride. And if I lived closer I would enjoy exploring here all over again. But it’s a bit far now so I’ll keep exploring the areas out my way.

Video part 1/2

Video part 2/2

Litter Scoop. Initial Trial

May 21, 2018

At our Emergency Games Practice we got in a lot of different races. One race we wanted to play was the new “Litter Scoop” recently approved by the IMGA Rulebook Committee to be introduced into the rulebook in 2019. We suspected this race would be a fun challenge with the need to scoop a litter straight on, right after a hand off.

Initially we felt it would be similar in skill to the scoop in Twitter, but in practice I felt like it played quite different. I actually quite like it. I think it will be one of those races (which most are, but some more so than others) that just feels wicked when the skills come together to play smoothly. It has the potential to be incredibly fast as well. Of course there is plenty of room for error, especially as riders get used to the new skill and technique.

I actually think it has some potential to be more of a technical race for some of the less speedy teams, at least initially while riders work out perfecting their scoop at speed.

I am very pleased to see IMGA introducing a few new races. I like Bottle Exchange and think it plays well. I think Litter Scoop has the same potential. To the poo-pooers out there, I think you need to give it a chance. Certainly try it out before you smear a negative prospective all over it.

I tried it. I like it. And I am eager to try it in competition!

The video of us playing – it’s a messy little video. We were trying to play and video each other. I think Jon and Sadie did the best but I only caught one of Jon and I never managed to catch Sadie on a video that didn’t make me sea sick to watch.

Emergency Games Practice 05/19/18

May 20, 2018

It’s been raining and raining and raining all week and this has caused crazy record flooding up and down the east coast, trees uprooting, mudslides, power outages, bridge and roadway washouts, and just craziness. In response to mother nature’s outburst our big Mid-Atlantic #2 competition in New Jersey this weekend was canceled pending a reschedule date. This is the first time any of us can remember a major team competition being cancelled in advance.

This is never an easy call. Carl, part of the organizing committee, went to the grounds Thursday to investigate and the ring was already wet and he sighted puddles, with heavy rain pending still before the competition start and more scheduled rain for the entire Saturday of the competition. Not only is riding in the rain and slop not as much fun, but it can pose a safety hazard. We were faced with ponies pulling up lame during monsoon like rains back in 2011 during MGAA Nationals held at the same grounds. The footing in the arenas could not hold up to the amounts of rain we were getting then. Which we are getting again now.

Photo: Poe does love his job. I swear.

All that said, I would certainly still have ridden. I know my pony and I am comfortable bringing back my speed and adding support to my pony in compromised conditions. But, I know not everyone else is. And even so, no mater how much I bring him back, it’s still a risk. And I certainly respect the organizers decision. I wouldn’t want to see anyone or any pony get hurt. And it sure is nice being dry!

Knowing we had some flexibility this weekend we decided to set up a practice at the indoor at Frying Pan Park in Herndon Saturday afternoon. $15 a rider, 2pm till dark. We got a group of nine of us together and two lanes of equipment and we met up for some fun!

We ran through at least a dozen races, riding for about three solid hours before our group really broke up. In the end it was mostly the ponies who were done, not so much the riders. When Poe was done, I switched to Simon, who could have gone all day! But by then most everyone was about done with games so I only got to do a few races on him.

Video of Pony Pairs:

It’s been a while since I have played games on Simon but he felt good. He was responsive and ready.

Video of Simon doing Four Flag – outside and inside turns:

But since everyone else was done, Zoe, Jessie and I decided to hack out and around the cross country course for a bit. This was a really fun time. The course has some massive jumps. Most are not very well kept up but there are quite a lot of them through the woods and fields. We played around at a few, measured a few to our ponies, and gawked at others. We saw a fox, twice, some ducks too. And there was this crazy crow that really was all about attention.

Video of Zoe and Jessie playing on the cross country course:

We finished riding and headed out of the grounds around 7 and decided to stop for Tai for dinner. It looked like just a little place from the outside, nothing special, but inside it was so neat and the food was amazing. This was a really nice cap to the end of an awesome awesome day.

Photo: the bears were wearing costumes!

I love my games family.

Now we have to wait two weeks until Mid-Atlantic #3. Lets hope for dryer conditions. I don’t think it has ever been this wet around here. At least not in my memory.

Road hack Feb 8, 2018

February 8, 2018

Two days ago I went out on a road hack and Simon was in one of those afraid of everything moods. So after two miles of two fists full of mane I turned around and we power trotted back.

Today we gave it another go. He was still a bit tense. He decided he is afraid of cows now, and the cows did now help by stampeding and mooing. And one particular older lady filling her bird feeder was about the end of him. He could just see her over a hill, and we spent a few minutes discussing that he would go forward. After that he got a bit more courage and we were able to move on some.

I will give it to him, the first two miles of the ride are through a much more closed in section of road with a lot more to look at. It’s a very tranquil two miles and I wish I were able to snap a few shots, but again I was riding with two fists full of mane with no hands free to snap photos.

After we got into the more open he relaxed more and we were able to move out more which also burned off some of his nervousness. So I did get two quick shots of our view. And also a quick shot of this giant pencil in someone’s yard. I love that pencil.

It’s a nice little loop, the only car was right by my house, and I am eager to be able to put a bit more leg into it as Simon settles down a bit more.

2017 Mid-Atlantic #1

May 11, 2017 

The mounted games season really kicks off with MA1, which has historically been at the PG Equestrian Center in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.  This year it was moved to Mullica Hill, New Jersey in response to an equine herpies outbreak.  

Gone Rogue, my Over 25 team, hit the field with our full usual team of Matt, Val, Averi, Kristin and myself.   Val was on her new ride, Babyface, and the rest of us were on our usual rides.   Game on.  

We held strong through our two qualifying sessions, stepping cleanly into the A final for Sunday.  All in all Saturday was relatively clean and smooth.  We had our usual jell, mostly clean, with just a few fumbles divided up pretty evenly between us.  

We went into the A final and we played hard. We battled it out through the whole session with two teams in particular, Time Flies and Boarder Patrol.   The three of us were race for race, taking turns holding the lead and then swapping back and forth in the top three positions.  It was an awesome final.  We ended in a very respectful third place ahead of Chaos, and left the ring feeling solid.  

The mistake that sticks out to me the most was my bottle during the final.  I am usually a clean center setter, but I pulled the bottle over, and when correcting, knocked it off the barrel.  Booo.  But, focusing on the positive aspects, I did remount relatively quick and without much difficulty.   

I also did inside turns for my end pick in 4 flag, and I am really pleased with how they worked.  The first one, during a Saturday session, was not as smooth, but still felt solid.   We played this race again during the final and this time we asked for the yellow flag to be propped in the #1 pick up position and I started, selecting it on a smoother inside turn. I am very happy with this change in my play.  I credit the Bluegrass Open team I rode with earlier in April for this confidence.  They encouraged me to try it and then praised it’s success.   So thanks Bomb Squad.  

Babyface was awesome.  I am not sure if Val was able to recognize how amazing he was, always expecting the best from herself, but that pony shined.  He is wicked fast and has such a good (although young) head.  He got “stuck” a few times on his end turns, and he got upset in the barns when his buddies left him.  But otherwise that pony has games champ written all over him.  

Another pony I want to comment on, Peyote.  That stinker was so good.  He has had most of his winter off, and he is not the straightest running or smoothest pony even when in work, so I was really floored at how well he did.  I am still apprehensive to say more and jinx us, but he looked like a real games pony out there.  

Matt and Jitter and Kristin and Tex, bah, those four are always amazing, so what can I say? They were just as amazing as always.  

The Open A final was also super hot.  Just like in o25, three teams were really fighting it out hard, race by race.  

I am excited to see how this season goes after MA1 having a head to head final in both o25 and Open (I am sorry I missed the majority of the intermediate and the novice finals).  

Photos: 

This one cracks me up.  Val was like “I need all the rope” and I was like “got ya dude” and just neck reined Poe along.  But you might note, she literally kept 1/2 the rope.  Lol.  We were clean in the qualifying heat but we busted up in the final. 

Averi brought her bottle goat Marshall.  I am not a huge fan of goats but this guy is so cute.  If she walked out of sight he called for her.  So sweet.  

I do not like how I look in this photo (sort of like a cartoon shaped character) but I love Val and I smiling together.  Love that girl. 


My hover pony. Haha 


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