Virginia

looking at the new river from camp site

looking at the new river from camp site

our paddock and rig

our paddock and rig

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Dreamy from the deck/porch

Dreamy from the deck/porch

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train tressels to cross

train tressels to cross

picking up hay bales in the field

picking up hay bales in the field

cut hay drying out in rows

cut hay drying out in rows

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love this cool hay rake/turning thing

love this cool hay rake/turning thing

Ron & Penny's horses in their pasture

Ron & Penny’s horses in their pasture

my favorite view

my favorite view

WF perks up her ears for the big hole coming up

WF perks up her ears for the big hole coming up

cows taking a dip

cows taking a dip

tressel crossing the new river

tressel crossing the new river

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if you don't stack hay right...it falls down

if you don’t stack hay right…it falls down

on the river trail

on the river trail

grass, grass everywhere

grass, grass everywhere

napping cows along the trail edge

napping cows along the trail edge

5/25/14
JK Quarterhorses Camp, Ivanhoe, VA
State #24…I’m 1/2 way done!!!
Publishing without photos since internet here in WV is so slow…
Just when I thought a camp couldn’t get any better, I pulled in here to heaven. Its on a big river, large trees, grass everywhere and each trailer site has a huge wood paddock about 50’ square. This is the most important part of a camp to me. I hate putting them in a small pen or tied. Ron & Penny were off somewhere and Ron’s mom greeted me, found them, warm hugs. Very cool. And Key who I had met in SC also is here with his wife too, he came over and said hi. I am going up to the pavillion for burgers now. Just met 2 riders who came in and one came over, her name is Jo and she is visiting from Alaska. Her mom lives in Raleigh, where her 15 year old son is staying and she is here with a girlfriend from NJ. I’ve been here one hour and have met up with 6 people already. This is what I am talking about that I would miss when I settle down.

So at dinner there were at least 12 people, some of them relatives, some friends, some campers. I had a great time and Penny had rhubarb pie which I have only had once before, back in college when my art prof took us to his farm to paint for the day and his wife had made it. It was delicious! I met 2 other women campers on my way back to get Tommy for a walk. We went up to the trestle that we went under to get here, its super tall. I took some pictures of the signage at the trailhead parking area to find out about the area, something about the longest trail in the state.

5/26/14 (Memorial Day observed according to my calendar)
I kept waking up last night for some reason. Finally got up to a cool sunny morning. I was asked to join 2 women who are having Ron trail them to another trail 15 minutes away, 3-4 hour ride, gaited walk, thought about it but think I will not go. I want to paint and maybe ride Dreamy real easy with Key’s wife for a short one. Most people are pulling out today. Key and his wife (I really need to figure out her name, ahhh, Ron just told me its Chris) are here till Thursday (same as me). This will give me time to get to know them better again. Its so cool to have folks around that I met before. It feels like family kind of.

One of my children texted me last night about when am I coming back to LA. I think I’ve made it clear several times, but this question keeps coming up. I am not going back to LA ever. Maybe to visit but its not something I can afford or want to do any more. It is not my home like it is theirs. It doesn’t hold good memories for me. My kids don’t understand this I guess. I’m so sorry to let them down like this. But I need to make my resources, which are still unknown, last for the rest of my life, which is another unknown. And I want to live in the country, I want a grass pasture for my horses. The money centered life in La Canada is not something I want to be a part of any more besides the fact that I don’t have money anymore. I don’t think our divorce will ever be settled. If they want to be there for their friends or their “home” experience that is fine, they can be with their father. I’m sure he will stay there forever, his company is there. But its not my home. I don’t know where mine is but its not there. And I have my declining parents in FL and NJ. And my sister is in NJ too. For some reason I feel more responsible to them than my children now. My kids FYI are 18 to 24. They will be ready to fly on their own soon. In the country they would already of done this. I didn’t fly on my own till I was out of college, 23 maybe? And I probably wouldn’t of if my folks hadn’t gotten divorced and sold the family house. I moved into an apartment with my boyfriend, Tony, which was had a very ugly story to it, but I survived and moved on.

They will survive and move on too. Just a few more years, I wish I could of stuck it out till then but I really couldn’t, I thought I would literally die if I didn’t move out when I did. Not at his hands, but my own. For years I felt trapped, which is the worst feeling in the world. Like I had no options at all for survival or even death. Moving out was the most terrifying thing I have ever done. I had panic attacks all day long, every day. My therapist gave me some techniques to deal with them. I remember laying on the floor of my Pasadena apartment doing one, laying on top of sweet Tucker, looking around and saying out loud the colors that I saw…white (Tucker), brown (the table), blue (the sky), red, white, brown, blue, red…I am an artist and I couldn’t even seen the subtle colors around me, it was so basic, and it would get me calm enough to breathe again.

Its hard to believe that that was only a year ago. I moved out in November 2012. I left on this SHLEP September 2013 (10 months later when my youngest moved to college). Everyone thought this was an grand adventure, that I was courageous, but those close to me knew it was out of desperation that I left CA. I could not survive there, even out of the house. It was like I needed thousands of miles distance to heal. It is now May 2014 (8 months and 24 states later). I am half way on my journey, state wise, which is the gauge I am using. My therapist had said it may take 5 years to heal. That is such a long time. I was hoping that my SHLEP would be like a speed course. That as soon as I crossed the CA border I would be better, but that didn’t happen. But I see tremendous progress now, it just happened much slower than I would of liked. I had waited too long. I had become less than a door mat.

Enough of my transgressions, my son said I should keep a private journal, not share all this with the internet, so I did for the past few months. But the blog seems boring to me without this part, its the main part. It is not a travel log. It is about my journey which is much more than horse camping.

I told Ron that I will not be joining the women trailering to the other trail. He said the trail here has no rocks. From what I read it is an old train line that follows the river. That sounds perfect to me right now. The mares would probably agree. Tommy will have to stay at camp, the rangers are strict about leash laws and its not just that there is a fine, you have to appear in court which would really mess me up schedule wise. Tommy will be fine, he can learn to be a little more sedentary when the situation calls for it.

I have one bar of service on my Verizon phone, nothing on iPhone (AT&T) and no wi-fi so I won’t be posting on FaceBook nor publishing the blog for a while. Oh well, it takes up a lot of my time and I should learn to live without the interruptions and checking it all the time. I don’t need 100 likes to know that I am liked any more.

I fed everyone but me, and went to the very nice bathroom in the barn to take a hot shower. Its so nice to be able to move around in the shower and not turn off the water constantly so I don’t run out of hot water, altho this has taught me much better balance, movement and conservation techniques. If you’ve never taken a shower in a trailer you don’t know what I am talking about. I’m not always level and the space is about 2’ square. The hot water tanks is tiny. And all the water you use goes into your grey tank which has to be dumped. I usually fill my grey tank in 3 days. The black tank is a whole nother story…

evening:
I was going to ride Dreamy but she was resting her left leg some today so I didn’t. Instead I worked on her front feet to balance them some. I will ride her tomorrow on the flat crushed cinder trail to get a little more wear on them and then analyse them again afterwards. Her left front wears very unevenly because of her crooked leg but lately her right front seems to not wear as much so I took it down quite a bit, especially the heel since it looked very high. I’m not sure why this is happening, its new, she used to actually have under run heels a couple of years ago. It could mean she is walking on her toes or maybe that she is sore on the right now and not loading that foot? Its baffles me sometimes. But not enough to get a trimmer to do them, I’ve had some bad luck with that since I don’t know them and they don’t know how she moves and her history. Sometimes I text photos to my guru in CA and he gives me tips. Maybe that’s what I should do now.

I spent most of the day painting. I did our group ride’s lunch break from Ohio. I knew when we were there that it was what I wanted to paint for Ohio. It was so beautiful with the light filtering down thru the trees and all the horses hanging out while we ate. The little girls playing around their horses…

I asked around about hay and it seems there is hay that’s going to be baled Wednesday. If it doesn’t rain before that I can get some, if it does rain the hay will be no good for horses and go to the cows. Right now its laying on the ground drying, tomorrow they turn it over. I’d actually like to go help bale it on Wednesday, I’ve never actually seen how its done. Penny explained it to me tonight. She and Ron will go over to the neighbors to help do it along with their worker who has been with them a long time but has a drinking problem. He had come up to our dinner yesterday saying there was a bear up at the house (which was true) and that he had ridden it (which was not true). He is quite a character. The bear is 6’ tall and has 3 cubs, which means you better stay away from her. One of the neighbors encountered them on the road in her golf cart and snapped a photo. Anyway, back to the hay issue, I went to town to find hay in case it rains and I don’t get any. Tractor Supply only had 2 40 lb bags of chopped timothy (which I got anyway). I also got a shock collar for Tommy. I read the instructions and will do everything they advise to do first. I don’t want to hurt or scare him, I just don’t want to loose him on the trail again. It really scared me thinking about how close I came to not getting him back. His come response is not consistent enough nor immediate at times. And it has to be so he doesn’t get lost chasing a deer, or another group of riders and especially when we are crossing roads. And I don’t like how he is when food is being eaten. When we stopped for lunch on the trail he annoyed the other campers so I tied him to a tree. Its not that he just begs, he just dives in. I understand he is a puppy but we have to start somewhere and what I am doing with him has helped a lot, he has gotten a lot better, but I can’t take the chance of loosing him. I have gotten very fond of him, I really like having him with me. I really love him now. I keep whispering in his ear: don’t ever leave me again, I don’t want to ever loose you, I love you.

I stopped at the grocery store too and then set my gps to the fastest route back to camp. Big mistake. It took me up over the mountain on a 10 mile stretch of twisting narrow washboard gravel road thru the woods. This is a trucker’s gps! If I had had the trailer hooked up I would of freaked out. I told Penny how I came back and she had never been on the road and didn’t even know about it. This is a big screw up by Rand McNally. I can’t believe it would do this. I am resetting it to “prefer interstates”. It was a 25 mph road according to the gps, I was fishtailing at 25! But it did take me thru a beautiful area. The mountains here are gorgeous, thick woods. We are just south of Mount Rogers which all trail riders seem to know about. It supposedly gorgeous but rocky. We are also close to Cripple Creek (as in the song…up on cripple creek, she sends me, if I spring a leak, she mends me…) which is real pretty too.

I had supper with Penny and the gang but by the time I got back they had all eaten. They saved me a plate. She had made wilted lettuce which I had never had before, it was delicious. Potato salad, fresh corn and ham. I am eating like a king here. Tomorrow we are all going to ride together.

5/27/14
I am really moving slowly this morning and so are the horses. No pushing around for food at all. Odd. Even Tommy is just laying around quietly.

Another group left just now which included the woman visiting from Alaska. They gave me some hay. Key gave me some hay yesterday too. So now I have about 4 bales so I’m not worried about it, not that I was really worried. It always seems to work out somehow.

Its 10am. I think I’ll get the horses ready and go if Chris or Penny don’t show up soon to tell me they are riding.

evening:
I moved slow all day and I am wiped out now at 8PM. I ponied Wildflower and went out with Key and Chris on the New River Trail. Most of it was on an old railroad line, so it was straightish and flat with crushed cinder footing. There were several tressles to cross over. On the way back we went on the upper trail which was rockier and I couldn’t tell if they were sore or being difficult today, so when we got back on the cinder we trotted, no one was sore there at least, then we did a long canter, still no issues. Sometimes they quarrel with each other and me about where to walk, of course they want to grocery shop all the time too. And its hard to tell if there is a physical problem or if it is an emotional one. Back at camp I let them loose to graze, but hobbled WF. Key did the same with their 3 horses. We are the only campers here. Around 5 I put them back in their paddock and went over to watch the baling and putting up of a 20 acre field of hay that Ron & Penny were helping with. It is their neighbor’s field and they got most of the hay in return for caring for their cows when the owners are on the road (they are truckers so they are gone a lot). I found the machinery fascinating, the small bale baler, the round baler, the rake thing, and all the helpers that showed up to walk the field along side a big flat bed trailer, loading the bales onto it. The round baler was working while this was going on. That hay has more weeds and they use the round bales for the cows. Cows will eat anything apparently. Then they brought the bales to Ron & Penny’s barn and stacked it up to the roof for next winter. They did this several times back to the field, stack it on the trailer, back to the barn, stack it there. They will get one more cutting out of the field so I guess 500 bales will get their 8 horses thru the winter. Its amazing how much work and sweat goes into feeding horses hay.

I talked a lot with Chris today and showed her my paintings on my blog. She told me how she had been home alone, and pregnant, when an intruder broke in and assaulted her. She talked some about her recovery from that trauma and how it haunted her. She now has something that is causing nerve pain and is trying to get off the med that she was taking for it because of the side effects. You would never guess any of these things upon meeting her. She is so sweet and innocent, soft spoken and kind. She and Key decided to get horses late in life and learn to ride together so they would have something in common for retirement age. How awesome is that? They come here often, its only a few hours from where they live. They are quite close to Ron & Penny.

I hung around their barn taking photos while Penny & Chris fed the horses and moved them in and out of pastures. It struck me that their life here seemed perfect. I asked Penny if she loved her life and without hesitations she enthusiastically said yes. With no conditional explanations afterwards. How many people would respond that way? I don’t think I would of ever in my entire life responded that way.

I walked Tommy and we tried the electronic collar some. Mostly he responds to the 
“tone” button. I rarely used the shock button. But we didn’t see any deer, just bunnies so we will see. I can’t ride with him here and that is where I think it will be the most useful. The tone is very effective in getting his attention. Sometimes I think his hearing is maybe not so good because my whistle is very loud but he doesn’t seem to hear it if he is far away. The range on this is 300 yards, like 3 football fields long. I don’t know how hills and trees effect that but I bet they do.

I am invited to dinner again, but I am sooo tired. I may just shower and go to bed. But I didn’t, I went up and had a really nice dinner (and rhubarb pie!) again with Ron, Penny, Key and Chris. Ron relayed a story about how he got locked out of the house this afternoon by Penny. He was in the hot tub naked. He had to walk around to the back to get in and was worried the Jahova Witnesses would show up just then…or me to pick up my hay bales. Now that would of been funny. Then Ron told a joke about 2 southern belles explaining the often used “How nice!” around here. Ron is a sweet mixture of a cowboy and a gentleman. He can fix or build anything, yet is as polite and kind as can be. He has MS.

Afterwards I took a shower and feel much better. It began drizzling during dinner and the temp dropped. I guess it was the heat that made me so lazy again.

Tomorrow a FaceBook friend is coming to ride with me. She lives 1/2 hour away and is hauling her horse here. She also invited me to dinner but I think I should prep to leave at night. I go to West Virginia the next morning.

5/28/14
My last ride day here. It is cool and misty this morning. I have no idea what the forecast is since I haven’t had cell or internet here. Well I do in one or two spots but it comes in and out and the 3G is so slow its not worth using. Waiting for a page to load reminds me of when I was a print sales person and JCrew or the Gap, I forget which one, had the first internet catalogue. I went to it and downloaded an item to view, it took so long to load…I declared in all my wisdom that this would never threaten the print catalogue business, it was too slow. Boy was I wrong. That was about 20 years ago. It was another world then.

I went up to Penny’s barn to pick up my 6 bales for fresh grass hay. The big stack had fallen down. They have to restack the whole thing now. I had noted that it was leaning when they were stacking it yesterday, but as Penny says, a bunch of guys aint gonna listen to a woman. Inga Acres (I love her name, she hates it), her “old man” (he’s in his 20‘s and has fathered 4 kids and lost his drivers license due to not paying child support) and Glen (Ron’s alcoholic employee) worked on fixing the stack while Penny and I talked a while. Earlier she had said she was going to go ride, the guys threw the hay up in a mish mosh and left the barn. But she didn’t go ride and called them back to do it right. I really like her, she is such a capable woman. She and Ron ran a trip a couple weeks ago for a small group to do a 100 mile ride point to point (18-26/day). She’d haul all the rider’s stuff, set up camp and cook all the meals along their route. They ended up here at their camp. Its the VA Highlands trail I think. What a cool trip, but too many miles for me. We talked a bit about MS, dogs (long trail riding with dogs is hard on their hips, I didn’t know this), barefoot vs shoes and a bunch of other stuff. She doesn’t have kids, she would of been a great mother.

Since I can’t take Tommy off leash riding I took him for a long walk this morning. He was very good. We are getting the hang of everything so clearly now with the electronic collar. On the way back I ran into Penny who finally got out for a ride on her 26 year old gaited horse. Then I saw Key & Chris who came back to camp while I tacked up Wildflower. We went the other way on the river trail, north I think. We crossed the New River over a long tressle and later went thru a tunnel blasted thru the rock. Wildflower was good on both. At our break I hobbled her and when we went to ride again I mounted her and forgot to take them off. I was about to get mad at her until Key pointed out my mistake. Bad mom again…We all talked the entire ride, it was very relaxing, they are such a nice couple.

Its kind of hot, 86 in the trailer now. I gave WF a shower and turned them both loose to graze. I should get ready to go tomorrow but its too hot, I’ll wait for it to cool down a little bit first. And I said that the last night in Ohio too but getting ready the next morning went so quickly. These simple routine tasks are coming to me more smoothly and in a relaxed fashion lately. Its so nice.

I was hanging out by the river in the covered deck they built there, and Penny came by on one of her souped up golf carts with her 2 dogs, Socks and Bullet. I got in another one (they have a bunch of them) and Tommy got his first golf cart ride. He has been wanting one for a long time. We went to a secluded idilic spot on Cripple Creek to let them play in the water. And they did have fun! Tommy loved running along side the cart thru the pasture getting there. I wish I had my camera with me, it was such a cool thing to watch. The grass was over his head and he was running full out along side me. He looked so happy. She took us to a couple of vistas that were breathtaking. You can see the rolling hills covered in thick woods interspersed with the patchwork quilt of farm fields, dotted with farm houses, and the new river and the huge tressle that crosses it. And the cows and their babies. She said she doesn’t see how anyone could ever live in a place like NYC and not be able to see this every day, to walk in the dirt. I told her I had lived in NYC for 10 years. I guess if you never experience this, you never miss it. This is the kind of place I want to live in. The view was so pristine and peaceful. I would never tire of looking at it, it was so interesting too. I could see painting it over and over with different light and different seasons. Letting the peace roll over me.

When we got back to camp, Key came over to give me the 2 avacados I had asked them to pick up in town (they went to do laundry). He said they were the first avacados he had ever bought so wasn’t sure if they were good. I couldn’t wait to eat them! They were so delicious, I really miss having avacados every day.

Left over lasagna dinner with the gang tonight. Ahhh…another perfect day. Thank you Lord.

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