Illinois

5/14/14
I am at High Knob Ranch in Illinois, the area is referred to as Shawnee. The drive here was long and the rain followed me about half the time again. The last 50 miles or so were hard, my back and leg were killing me. 6 hours and it just gets too bad to think right. I took 2 alleve in the morning but 6 hours is still my limit. Jo Jo had given me explicit directions on the best way in. The last 10 miles is quite narrow and rough, but paved. I was lucky to not have any approaching traffic. I don’t know how two big rigs could pass each other. But countryfied drivers don’t seem to have as much trouble pulling off the road as I do. I wish I had gotten 4 wheel drive. This camp is pretty cool. The pens we are in are covered and are on a courtyard, where that 4 rows form a square so they can all look at each other. They have shavings for sale and propane, a shower house and there is coffee in the office every morning at 7:30. Someone even offered to park my rig for me (especially nice service in my opinion). I got in at 4:30, got set up without trouble (moving around working helps fix up my back after a haul). I had discovered that my hay had gotten wet when I was at the overnight. I tried to mop it up and turn over the wettest bales to air out. I’ll feed them first if they’ll eat it. A neighbor here sells hay too. There is no turn out pen or arena for the girls to walk around in, which I like to do when they unload and on their first day, which will definitely be a rest day after the last 2 long hauls. So I may do a very short ride to get them around a little.

As Jo Jo and I waited for the “squall” to pass (pouring rain for a short time) she told me her story of leaving her husband, kids and big house 20 years ago. She lived in her horse trailer on 15 acres she bought near here for several years. I can’t wait to hear more.

It rained most of the night, I went to bed early I was so tired and my back hurt. And my 3G on my Verizon is spotty here. 4G on iPhone is “no service”. I finished the cowboy poetry book by Earl. I really loved it. Problem with going to bed early is then I get up too early. Well its almost 6 and its getting light out finally, time to feed everybody.

2pm It has been raining all day. I went to the 7:30 coffee gathering in the office and Jo Jo told me all about moving here and her property and buying the camp. Land here is pretty affordable. There is a for sale flyer posted for 15 acres, log home $150,000. She lives a few doors down from it and says its lovely. There were about 10 men there too but we mostly just talked to each other. I then walked Tommy on the trail. Yes it is very rocky and hilly. Definitely boots needed. I spent the rest of the morning painting the Iowa painting. Its still raining…maybe I’ll watch a movie, I have a bunch of dvd’s, all comedies. I haven’t watched one in months. Oh yeah, I’m supposed to be calling June’s camps for reservations, ughh…

Well I got in touch with several of the June camps. I’m a bit nervous about the CT one that is a walk up only (what if its full when I get there?!) and the 3 primitive ones (I have had generator/no heat in cold weather issues the times I have gone primitive, but it should be all working correctly now…I hope!). Its a bunch of tough states to find camps in. But I think it will all work out. These are all new england, very small states. I could only find a horse B&B in NJ. The woman on the phone said not to expect a secluded mountain top, its in suburbia. So I will be getting a variety. That’s actually good. I would like to see all the different kind of places you can go to. Except a Walmart parking lot (which does allow you to overnight in believe it or not). I did a fairgrounds in CO, I really do have to go back there and do a forest service camp some day. I’ve been in National Forests, State Parks, private camps, a ranch, a cabin, organized rides, big group week long rides, private barns on overnights, a polo barn…
I found out today that Jo Jo is the same person I read about on Facebook back in December that had a horrible wreck on the trail and was air lifted out of camp. She never even mentioned it to me, I read it in a magazine article in the office. There was a group in there playing Canasta and they told me the story. She had a collapsed lung and a bunch of very serious injuries from slamming into a tree when doing an emergency dismount as her mule headed full speed towards a cliff. How terrifying…

I put the mares in the pen Jo Jo said I could use to get them to move around some and all they did was huddle in a corner. So I put them back in their stalls. Later I pulled out my videos looking for something to fill the afternoon. I ended up watching a Buck Brannaman video about the hackamore training of a bridle horse. I’ve watched it many times before, it is so hard to see him move anything as a signal to the horse, his horses are so light and he is so quiet. It inspires me to work on Wildflower back in the bosal again. My last ride on her I went back to using it (I’d been using a snaffle the last couple months after she ran off with me a couple of times). She was good this last ride with it and I think she likes the bosal better… I don’t think it was only her problem (its a “I don’t want to be left behind!” problem for her), I think it was mine also. I think I’ll watch the dvd again before I go to bed. And avoid riding her with faster horses for a while.

5/16/14
Yesterday it stopped raining in the morning and I rode out on WF (much to Dreamy’s chagrin) with 2 campers that know the local trails. Sue was riding a horse she had just gotten, a gorgeous young palamino gaited horse. She lead the way. Sky is going to be an awesome horse, she already is at 4. I used the snaffle because WF seemed to be so high energy. She would NOT stand still to get ready at all. And turned her butt to me in her stall when I tried to boot her. That really pisses me off. It means she is thinking of kicking me. We were supposedly going for a 2-3 hour ride but it was more like 4+. WF was pretty tired by the end of it. But she behaved very well and came back to me always. I concentrated on keeping a constant feel on her mouth, no slacking reins until the very end when she was totally relaxed (exhausted, lol). The trail was rough for us anyway, very wet, not just muddy, water. And lots of big rocks. Some of the trails have had gravel spread on them and that actually is tougher on their feet. We lost a hind boot which didn’t surprise me. It got hung up around her ankle and she kept trying to kick me when I tried to get it off, then I tried to unscrew the gator which was the part stuck up there. I ended up cutting it off. Later I put the hoof shell back on when we hit gravel, but it got sucked off at the next muddy area. I didn’t go back to look for it, screw it. I give up on booting her hind feet. The big ripple is now very close to the ground and I just can’t get it hold a boot. We saw lots of water falls coming down over the huge rock formations. They reminded me of Tennessee, altho those are much bigger. There was a cave and we also walked into a very tight spot between two huge rock formations that led to a cool small totally surrounded rock area. Its hard to describe and the pictures don’t really show it well. Tommy stayed with us the whole time (except leaving camp, but he eventually caught up). He has turned into a great trail doggie! He came again with me on the 2nd ride, on Dreamy too. This morning he is still wiped out, poor pup.

Many more campers came yesterday and I went over to the other area, which is filled! There are a lot more folks here than I realized.

It rained again last night, but stopped this morning, I really don’t want to do those wet trails again. I’m going to garden of the gods via the nights of the golden something. It sounds like one of those fantasy games my boys used to play on the x box or the yugio cards they collected. WF will get a short ride later, but she’s gonna stay here. I’ll take Dreamy. I want to stop ponying so much, they have to get over this buddy sour thing. Dreamy was so animated yesterday, calling and prancing most of the time. Very obedient tho so it was actually kind of fun. Ponying takes a lot of the fun out of my rides. Too many children to keep in line, like being a mom of toddlers.

Later I need to think about leaving tomorrow. Or not. I need gas, laundry, groceries, hay…Next stop is Indiana and they are having a big weekend ride there, band, food. I will arrive for the Saturday night festivities. Hmmm…not really my cup of tea but we’ll see.

When I was mucking the stalls, Tommy went over to a woman who had a bucket of feed on the ground. I called him to me and he stayed with me. On my way back to the trailer she told me that he had come too close to her small child twice. I told her his story, I’ve had him a month, he was a stray, blah blah. She said she worked in a vet office and next time she was going to check him. I said that was ok. From a mother’s perspective I can understand being concerned about this. But honestly I don’t think he was being aggressive. He is playful puppy like. But I think I’ll just keep him tied up. He needs to be able to be tied up in the future so we can just practice it now. What is she doing here with a small child anyway? She tried to be nice but I could tell she was a bitch. I will stay away from her.

evening:
I rode Dreamy today and headed to Garden of the Gods. I never actually saw it but I had a great 4 hour ride anyway. Lost another boot in the mud (call me a baby but I like groomed trails, I am sick of mud and boulders for a trail even tho the scenery is amazing). I ran into a group of women from camp and their leader knew the trails pretty good so I joined them. I had already had to backtrack twice because I was not going the right way. They were a nice group of women, mostly quarterhorses, yeah! I had passed the sign to the G of G and it was beautiful there, obviously a lot less horse traffic because the trail was pretty good. When I went back to the correct turn it got very confusing with lots of intersecting trails with no signs. Again it was beautiful. Dreamy who normally is fussy about her choosing the trail path, scrambled up on boulders and thru the mud. I realized I was in the wrong area again and backtracking this time I ran into this nice group. They invited me to their fire. So did the couple I rode with yesterday. So did another group I met at camp that has a facebook group ride going on. I can see the office from my trailer and it is one rig after another arriving. The place is now packed. And I am leaving tomorrow. Or not, people keep insisting I stay to ride with Bull tomorrow to G of G and actually SEE it. How amazing could it possibly be? I am so sick of the mud and worrying about the rocks. I do not want my horses to get sore again and I do not want to shoe them…and its a 6 hour ride minimum. WF could do it tho. And Dreamy could use a day off after today, it was a good work out for her. And its so nice to ride without worrying about getting lost…but rescheduling everything is such a pain.

My sister’s son graduated college yesterday. It must be so nice to have successfully launched your child. I haven’t gotten there yet. I still feel responsible for them (guilty).

Hobble grazed for a little, trying to get a good photo for a painting, I don’t have one yet… and chatted at the couple’s fire nearby. He told me all about his cloclial (sp?) implant and how he is starting to hear little things again. It attaches to his skull via a magnet, so cool. He can’t wear it on the trail yet so that’s why he couldn’t hear me at all on our ride, but can at camp. Its freezing. So I am back in the trailer for the night at 8:30. Campfires are not that warming. I still think they are too much work to bother with.

Jo Jo’s mare and baby mule arrived tonight. I just love babies, he is so adorable. I love how he follows mom around. It makes me feel good watching them. Mother baby bond is so amazing.

Jo Jo took me over to Bull’s permanent campsite and I met him and his wife, Kathy. Bull is one of her best friends and has talked with me on facebook about trails here. He has been riding here since the 70’s. He and his wife have hauled all over the US camping with their mules. They were so friendly and gave me the names of a bunch of places to go. I didn’t have anything to write with but we can talk on Facebook. I met all of his mules. His real name is Anthony McAllister and is taking out a group of women I met to the Garden of the Gods today. He said it will be 20 miles so I declined staying and going with them. He knows all the great folks I met in Arkansas too. Dub went with him to South Dakota once.

5/17/14
I talked with my sister this morning about my mom’s medical and mental conditions. It now looks like she has cancer of the blood. This sent me into a tail spin and I questioned hauling to Indiana in that condition. Speaking with Sue at camp and later Jo Jo I feel a little less lost about the situation. But it seems so unfair to be loosing both my parents at the same time. I packed up and left anyway. Jo Jo made me promise 2 things, that I would drive safely and that I contact her sister in Michigan and tell her she said to take care of me (for camping there and if I need to find someone to take care of my animals if I have to fly to NJ or FL suddenly). And she gave me a warm hug.

Heart of Illinois Arena overnight barn

Heart of Illinois Arena overnight barn

approaching High Knob

approaching High Knob

fancy sheds

fancy sheds

tall grass next door

tall grass next door

so much rain! trails are rocky and muddy

so much rain! trails are rocky and muddy

Iowa painting

Iowa painting

Sue walking in between a crevace into this enclosed rock space

Sue walking in between a crevace into this enclosed rock space

Rice Hollow

Rice Hollow

Tommy at a waterfall

Tommy at a waterfall

Sue Wimp on Sky (4 year old beauty)

Sue Wimp on Sky (4 year old beauty)

IMG_7072

another waterfall & cave

another waterfall & cave

IMG_7084

young hikers on the River to River trail

young hikers on the River to River trail

a wall of rocks

a wall of rocks

Buzzard point

Buzzard point

some of the group I found when I couldn't find Garden of the Gods

some of the group I found when I couldn’t find Garden of the Gods

last night sunset

last night sunset

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