Friday, January 8, 2016

Don't Let Me Do That Again

Some of the trails I ride needed a bit of cleaning up. And as the old saying goes, if you want something done right just do it yourself. A few other riders have discussed having a clean up day but good luck coordinating schedules and decent weather. After spending a good portion of one of my workdays thinking about it I decided to get in the woods and snip some branches myself. 

Once I left work I ran home, grabbed the bike and my backpack, and headed to the barn. The deep woods off was in the grooming box in front of Razz's stall and I stopped to spray myself down. Believe it or not we still have mosquitoes in the thicker parts of the woods. I've never had to use insect repellent on myself or my horses in January before.  I liked the way my bike looked at the barn so I snapped a pic.

Covered in aerosol bug armor I head for the woods. It was fun riding the bike til the wind met me head on. Not too much farther before I get to the trail head and into the natural wind block the forest provided. Here I will shift into safety mode. The pile of trash just inside the trees reminds me I may not be the only one in here. It makes me angry that people dump illegally rather than carry it off to an industrial landfill. But you can't escape it. I don't care where you are, trash piles like this are unfortunately all too common. There are random beer cans and a few fire pits along the trail. I think teenagers ride their four wheelers in here and party at night. Being in here by myself on a horse doesn't make me feel compromised like being on a bike does. Well, my bike anyway. It goes fine on the areas strewn with leaves and pine needles. However the tires are too narrow and dig into the sand in other areas and I have to get off and walk it. 

I'm not really anticipating any trouble in here. But just in case I bring out the cat gouger. What's a cat gouger you ask?

cat gouger

This thing ain't no joke. It's made of a super tough rubber and those ears don't give when they make contact with something. I slide the little kitty over my fingers and instantly feel safer. Meeting someone sketchy on the trail with her gives the impression that I will go on offense if necessary, please just leave me alone.

I also have a small strand of belly dancer coins attached to the backpack. This allows me to announce my presence to others in the woods, man or beast. I have ran into bears in the wild on five separate occasions. One learns the value of making yourself known after the first bear encounter. The coins chime as I pedal my way down the path with a new set of snips in tow. They are red in color and the foam grip handles are definitely grippy. Nice and sharp, they have the ability to cut up to 1 1/2 inch branches.

And I begin to put them to use on every nuisance branch I see. Initially they come one or two at a time since this part is more heavily used by all. The snips make easy work of the branches. The farther in I go, the thicker the overgrowth becomes. I start leaving my bike in one spot and clear significant stretches all at once, then walk back for the bike. Sometimes I would apologize to a smaller tree I felt I may have been impacting in a negative way. You can laugh and I won't be offended. It sounds funny I know. But alone in the woods, really alone deep in the woods you can feel an energy about you. Maybe its just a heightened sense of awareness. But there is certainly a forest vibe I can't ignore. 

I finally get to the flooded area of the trail. My goal today was to get this far along, and begin to cut a pass through the thicket beside the water. Razz will go through the water with someone in front of him. He will lead anywhere, anytime, on any trail except where the water gets deep. Right here its probably three feet at the deepest, and the flooded area is about fifteen or twenty feet long. The mosquitoes are here also. I begin to cut a nice clean path around the water, anticipating not to finish but still do as much as possible. At some point I started feeling blisters working up on my hands but I ignore them. I don't even give my hands a second look. I was on a mission, a natural high, feeling like Edward Scissorhands (you knew the comparison was coming, right?) and gittin' er done. I worked til 5 o'clock. Going back at 5 gave me plenty of time to travel the almost two miles out to the paved roads and then back to the barn safely while sharing the road with cars. It wasn't until my way back that I looked down and noticed the condition my hands were in:

Those blisters I felt but ignored turned into this. And I had been working so hard I didn't notice. The snips were red too. I guess it was all blending together. The right hand was even worse and I figured this picture was bloody enough so I will spare you. But people, please don't let me do that to myself again. 

I had water, bug spray, and snips in my backpack. No towels. Great. Before getting back on my bike I snapped a pic of her out in the wild. She's a city bike so this was a special occasion for the old girl.

had her forever, still going strong

Two days later my daughter and I hiked in from the other side of the trail. This side has always been especially thick. But my daughter can work as fast as I can and together we knocked it out. I wore gloves this time too. We saw one very long snake along the way. We made it to the flooded section after a couple hours. The rest of the new clearing in the thicket beside the water didn't get finished because we were just too tired. On our way back out we met a pack of three dogs. They had collars on but no one was with them. This caused me a bit of concern because I've never seen these dogs before and they were prancing down the path just like they owned the place. Running in a pack can bring out the aggressive, hunting mindset of a dog and I make sure I keep myself between the dogs and my daughter as we passed them. We never made eye contact, but walked with broad shoulders and our cutting tools in hand. They gave us plenty of space on the trail, then stopped and watched us walk out of sight. 

I've had my fill of trail cleaning for a while. Now it is time to ride. The micklem is working out just fine. We've taken four rides in it and Razz is happy. I kept the rubber reins on and I'm kinda starting to like them. I like how substantial they feel in my hands. Just wish they were a little longer since the place I comfortably hold them at is right where the rubber part meets the leather. Definitely taking the stops off, they serve no purpose for me. 

One of those four rides was the final "new to me" trail used by others at the barn. We went down to the river. Its a shorter trail, and to get there you have to cross a very busy rural intersection. The river isn't too much to look at. There's hardly any current in the black water. But the bank is neat and mossy, & the ride is nice enough. 

On our way home from the river I snapped these two images of my boy within seconds of one another, just when the ground changed from leaves to pine needles. The background change wasn't captured on purpose. But I couldn't help noticing how his coat blended well with both. The natural ability to camouflage into the environment. Pretty cool.

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