Our God is an AWESOME God.  He sure drew us some awesome skies and views on this ride.  The weather was great; I think Debra ordered perfect weather for the day.  She got it.  Madonna did not show herself, whew-definitely a relief.  There were a few people, but mostly we had the world all to ourselves.  Definitely not a complaint, just commentary on how nice the weather was.  MANY times I would feel just on the brink of being warm and I would take off my long-sleeved shirt.  Within minutes, or even seconds the breeze would tell me to just put it back on.  Not to keep from being cold, but just to be as close to perfectly comfortable as I could get.  Hence, the On Again-Off Again Ride!

Since Debra is still learning how to tell time, she’s not adept at alarm clocks yet.  So after I arrived and woke her up, she finally got dressed, got her gear, got Clem and then we left for Fox Creek.  About an hour later we parked at the Livery lot.  It was empty.  There were a few trailers at Fox Creek, but still pretty lean.  We got tacked up and rode out at 1000a.  Sir Darth Winston – Kardashian-bred Extraordinaire even got the Livery gate.  We have a ways to go on that front, but we’re working on it, along with a few other things – killer coats, etc.  We left on the Livery trail thru the pastures over to VHHT.  After climbing on the VHHT for about an hour and a half, we got to the Scales, also deserted.  Next we took the Crest trail up and over to Rhododendron Gap and Rhododendron Gap trail.  Unfortunately we were too late to see the rhododendrons in full bloom.  Oh, there were some beautiful blooms here and there, but for the most part they were already done.  We lunched at the gap for a really nice break.  Winston got to snack while Clem enjoyed the shade of her beach umbrella.  Laura was supposed to be ‘dropping’ off our lunch (I assumed from a chopper) since she ditched us.  We got tired of waiting and just ate our own lunch.  Not too shabby actually:  Camembert, black grapes, salmon, sugar snap peas, chocolate granola squares, and yummy water to drink.  At least that’s what I had.  I think Debra had some crackers or something crunchy maybe.  Still we missed Laura’s food Laura terribly.  Anyway, back on track on Rhododendron Gap trail, aka Huge-Cramped-Boulder trail that has no place for a size 6 horseshoe to fit, back over to VHHT.  Then we took the ‘switchback’ section of VHHT back to the Scales.  We left the Scales, also on VHHT, and back to the trailer at 500p.

Be sure and check out the pics.  Hope to get Debra’s soon.  She’s busy working out alarm clocks just now.  I digress, again. The pics, or evidence if you like, can be found here.  Clem DOES sweat!  There was sweat under her saddle, and marks behind her girth that indicated sweat had been there some time this day.  No need to wonder if Winston sweats.  He sweats everywhere; also evident in the pics.  He was very good all day, but was definitely a whipped puppy by the time we were done.  He started out gainfully ahead, as usual, and remained so for much of the day.  I think it was somewhere on the switchback section that he was going so slow that CLEM passed us.  Just picture a turtle racing past you; that’s about the feeling.  I have no idea how or where he managed to put his feet on the Rhododendron Gap trail, in those tight sections of packed, wedged boulders.  I tried not to look.  I’m quite certain he prefers jumping round bales.  The good thing is he doesn’t panic and try to rush thru.

The Crest trail was very scenic, offering a lovely herd of Longhorns complete with mommas and babies, and DAD.  Be sure you read the ‘DAD’ with a really deep, gruff voice.  That’s how I’m writing it.  He was Big and Bad, still in deep, gruff voice.  I had (back to regular vernacular here) already put away my camera / phone when I saw him, but Debra got some shots of him.  Not too far past the Longhorns we ran (ok walked) across some ponies.  There weren’t many, at least not that I could see.  One little paint mare/filly was very interested and followed us down the trail for a bit.  They appeared to be faring well.

It was at the intersection of Rhododendron Gap trail and VHHT, where we turned left onto VHHT, that we encountered the lost crow.  As we got to the junction, with VHHT going left-to-right in front of us, straight ahead and over the fence on the trail that goes to Massie Gap there was a nice plump crow sitting directly in front of a park sign, staring up at it.  This particular sign was actually very low to the ground, as if intended for just such crows as this one.  He must have thought so as well.  He pored over the sign, then paced back and forth a bit, continuing to study the sign as if waiting for the direction it was giving him to become clear to him.  Must be written in some sort of trickle-down-crow-speak.  I can only assume he was able to garner the necessary information, as we had miles to go before we could sleep, or eat again; unless Laura showed up late.  So we journeyed on.

I feel it goes without saying, but I will anyway.  Clem did put in many dedicated hours of relentless training.  There were some stretches where the trail was more of a ditch than a trail.  Clem was right there taking full advantage, not missing a step.  Since the grass was at muzzle-level, she didn’t have to lower her head or even miss a step to graze.  Her Grab-n-Go salad requires no clamshell.  She’s not just another pretty face either.  She’s got Strategy (not from the feed store).  She gets the tall coarse grass and holds onto it for later, in her mouth.  She can still pick, chew, and swallow the nice tender sweet stuff when she has access to it.  When she’s going thru a lean patch, then she munches on the coarse stuff.  I think she learned all that from her bovine roots and relatives, back in the hills.

I’m not quite sure what kind of vibe Winston gives off when standing in a creek, but it must be something that messes with equine brainwaves.  There was the bit with Tango last time in the creek, about which I am still perplexed.  This time Clem’s brainwaves got some sort of signal that she should scratch her head on Winston’s neck/shoulder.  She was rapidly dissuaded from this particular plan of poor providence.  Again, I was sitting right there, literally on top of him, with Clem within reach.  She was scratching, then she was not scratching, and there was a loud smack/thud in between the two that was lightening fast.  I think there was one of those pointy-cloud shapes that popped up with “THWACK” written it it, the kind in violent comic books.  It was gone too fast for me to read it properly.  So, I’m not real sure what he did, but it was effective.  He could have reeked of catnip and been covered in shag carpet and Clem would not have thought him a scratching post any longer.  I could see no blood from this ‘meeting of the heads’.  That’s better than Tango fared with Toasty!

Click here for the picture album!