Trekked over to Carter County Tennessee to ride on Holston Mountain.  Definitely is beautiful country.  46 miles from Exit 17 to the mouth of the hollow(holler) where we rode.  It took us about an hour and a half to get there, but it is good road all the way.  We were a troop of five teams:  Regina / Tango, Laura / Toasty, Debra / Clem, Walker / Banjo Triple-heart, me / Sir Winston.  We arrived pretty close to on-time at the Coon Club lot / trailhead at 1000a.  Not only is Clem’s Olympic training paying off, but so is ours.  We were all mounted and riding out at 1025a!  Of course, Laura and Regina had been mounted and patiently waiting for a good ten minutes by then.  We rode out on the trail at the map shed.  This started us out on the ‘stick’ of the lollipop.  There were at least two other trails that left the parking area.  No knowledge of their names or destinations, but I betcha they all go UP in a short distance.  Regina had accurately summed up the trail beforehand:  up to the top, then back down to the trailer.  There are some really nice stretches of trail, both ways, that are suitable for leisurely trotting with excellent footing.  Fortunately for all, this is an excellent training facility.  With only a few exceptions, there’s grazing in and along the whole trail.  All athletes were diligent in their training, rest assured.

Since we had complained about the lack of wildlife previously, it was addressed in this ride with a rebuttal from said wildlife.  I will probably leave something out, but we had:  the Fox Turtle at the creek – see in the pics, more commonly known in the world of marine biology, and the world at large as a BOX turtle; there was a deer off the trail to the right – a really big, fast, furious, fire-breathing deer, just ask Toasty; although we did not have, thankfully, any confrontation with the bear family, a bear family had recently this way come, for we did see the tracks – see pics; a nice considerate turkey hen was kind enough to wait until we were inches from her to shoot out of her nest like a cannonball.  She ruffled a horsefeather or two with her abrupt departure, but no permanent damage.  I’m not sure they count as wildlife, but I personally UN-INVITE all varieties of, relatives of, acquaintances of, any type of fly from all future rides, ever.  The trail was fine, but I think every fly in Carter County was at our lunch spot.  Apparently we crashed (or they crashed us) the great Be-the-Most-Annoying-Fly-in-the-World Conference of the Southeast.  I want a colony of bats.  I’m going to train them to hunt in daylight, and to go with me when I ride.  I considered guineas, but they would just make a lot of racket, then fly home before their job was done.  Yeah, I’m going with bats.  I may even look into a cape.  No, I am not getting pointy ears to set on my head.

We were in the woods all day and the temperature was great.  The forest was lush and beautiful everywhere.  Where there was a view, it was a fantastic view.  There are a few pics, but they won’t do it justice.  My HTC takes very nice pics, but has no real zoom ability.  We were on Rye Patch (I think) trail, and the Bartee Branch trail, for most of the pop portion of the ‘lollipop’.  I don’t know what the stick was called.  The connector trail that we took up to the Fly Conference had a name, and it may have been something like Taylor’s Ridge, or maybe I just filled in that blank randomly, subconsciously.  I should have paid more attention to the trails and such, but I was having too much fun.  I didn’t even get any shots of the trail signs.  50 points from Gryffindor.  Also be sure to look for the Temple of the Order of the Hanging Cargo Pants in the pics.  I got a shot or two, but Laura’s is much better.  Apparently there’s a longstanding society of tree-dwelling, outdoors people who wear and decorate exclusively with Cargo Pants.  They gather at this spot for their festivals, I suppose.

Sir Darth was very good.  Yes, he was quite tired when we got to the top, but he was very good all day.  Of course, I didn’t attempt to don my coat either!  He was not the leader at all today.  He was pretty much the middle child all day.  We started out with Toasty leading, as Tango didn’t seem to trust the trailhead.  Before long we settled into our positions with Tango leading and Toasty vehemently protecting her spot as first mate.  She has the gumby-style neck and can fold herself in half, give Winston a stern warning look, then bounce right back into her sashay.  She did this repeatedly throughout the day.  She never seemed to feel that she could trust him not to try and steal her spot.  She’s not just another pretty-faced Kardashian.  She’s got street smarts too.  So, we followed Toasty trying very hard not to crowd her.  He had to work at it, but he never got frustrated by it or anything.  He was very good with giving her space.  I, on the other hand, kept forgetting.  Maybe that’s why Toasty had to keep reminding me!  Banjo of the Three Hearts was behind the Heffalump with Clem making sure all training opportunities were seized, in her mouth.  Seemed to be a pretty good order of go.  Tango is a very good leader, but does suffer from auto-fecal-phobia.  No manure on the trail seem to concern him, u n t i l we came across (on the return stick of the lollipop) the pile, well not really a pile – more of a slick really, of his own excrement.  Now with this, he has issues.  He had a therapy session and was able to overcome his fears, but it was not-touch-and-not-go for a while there.

Don’t have Debra’s pics yet.  Hopefully will get them sometime this year; still don’t have her pics from last week either.  Official nag here.  Will update, when I get them.  Thanks very much to Laura for her pics, AND her prompt sharing of them.

Album from this ride is here.

Corrections or additions, on the off chance I may have missed something, please address freely in comments!