Some sleeps ago Beel and Waneeta taked us- the horses- and put us in the rolling shed for what they called a "vay-kay-shun".
Vay-kay-shuns mostly seem to be a lot of work for us- the horses. But when we got to the far away place it was no work. And it was only fun and eating. It was good.
The far away place was called "Misery" I think. I do not understand why they would call it that. Riding in the rolling shed behind the stinky truck through "Kan-suss Chitty" and "Ain't Loo-is" was no good. But when we got to the farm it was VERY GOOD.
You may think I am crazy like a dog but there on the farm GRASS GROWS OUT OF THE GROUND. It grows EVERYWHERE. No matter where you look there is grass. It is the most good place ever. The first thing I did when I got out of the rolling shed was roll and roll in the grass in our new corral.
So much grass grows they ROLL IT UP IN BIG ROLLS SO YOU CAN EAT IT LATER. I have never ever see'd such a thing.
Beel only sat on me for a little while while we went to another big field that was covered with grass.
Then we- the horses- just walked around and ate. Beel went and played with snakes and turtles. Snakes I know and they can be bad. Turtles are rocks with legs. Very strange. It made me very happy that Beel was busy walking with the people and chasing worms that bite and legged rocks. I got to just eat and sleep. It was warm and sunny there.
We did not stay in Misery very long. Only a couple of sleeps. Then we got back in the rolling shed and went to work in Kan-suss again. Then we wented home.
When we gotted home a lady came and rided in the mountains on me. She was called R-H-L I think. She is a blogger like me. She was nice and not as strange as Beel. On the ride there was not so much grass growing out of the ground here like always.
For the last couple of sleeps the white-cold falled out of the sky. Beel sayed we had "a foot of snow in the last couple nights". He is wrong. It was WAY over my foot.
The trees are moving so the air goes fast and it gets cold.
I think I am ready for vay-kay-shun again. I liked being in Misery.
I think Bill left us having just arrived at our friend's place in Cape Girardeau, MO. My initial goal had been to ride the horses on/near the Mississippi River. Well, we made it that far and L & B graciously took us in, pretty disheveled from spending three hours sleeping in a rest area about 1 1/2 hrs from their house, having driven over 10 hours to make our 'escape'. The plan had been to advance to Eisenhower State Park to get nearer to our goal, camp there a night and continue to our friend's home for dinner the following night. Upon arrival at Eisenhower, it was foggy and rainy; we had NO desire to try to set up camp in the rain and Bill felt rested so we made the decision to continue on and pull over in a rest area just shy of the MO border. Did you know that you are not allowed to unload livestock at any rest areas in Kansas? So we crossed over into Missouri, headed for a rest area just on the other side, shown on our trusty 2012 atlas. Rest area? No? Our friends later explained that due to lack of resources, many of Missouri's rest areas have been closed down. We kept driving to the first one we came to - that close to their place - but it was 2:30 a.m., so we pulled into the only spot left between some mighty big semi trucks, crawled into the bunk in the trailer and crashed for three hours.
Our horses are such great travelers; a little hay, some water and a few short stops to rest their legs and they stay in great humor. We have a camera installed in the trailer, so I can turn on a monitor in the cab of the truck from time to time and check on them. Imagine our surprise when we pulled into L & B's place, opened the trailer and found - a brown butt standing at the door! Ranger loads first, so he is at the front of our three horse slant load trailer, then Jesse, and finally Washoe, with stationary panels locked into place between all of them. I had checked on them 20 minutes before arriving and they had been in place, standing quietly. How did Ranger get to the back of the trailer? All four of us stood with gaping mouths and all three horses stood calmly in the trailer, but NOT where they belonged! Finally getting our wits about us, Bill unloaded Ranger on voice command, we lifted out the panel that was now on the floor leaning between him and Jesse, then Washoe backed out on command, and finally Jesse backed out, leaving the last panel still on the floor leaning against the wall. It could have been such a wreck had any one of them panicked; tangling their legs in the panels or just getting tangled up themselves, but they stayed calm and just waited for the unload commands. I can't say enough about the great training methods we have been taught and the trust these guys have in us... and us in them!
All we can figure is that Jesse (who lifts wooden corral fences with her neck) lifted the panels off their hinges and let them slip to the floor. The gravel road had been really bumpy and may have jostled one loose and she just 'fixed' them. She does those things. Anyway, they weren't the least concerned and had a good roll in the round pen that was set up for them.
It was drizzly Saturday, L is a cross country coach and his team had a meet that morning, so we just hung out and napped until he got home. We had planned to be on the road this day anyway, so it seemed like a great way to relax. Sunday we went to church with them, then headed out on a sight-seeing tour. We drove down to the Mississippi River and walked the flood retaining wall. They have painted the town side of it with murals of local history, making a cement wall really attractive. This was my favorite of the paintings. Doesn't look like cement, does it?
We continued on the drive to Point Cape Girardeau, where we could get a good look at the local foliage, but look how low the river is! All that sand should be under water. In some places there are islands in the middle, causing a lot of difficulty for the barges delivering goods.
We decided riding the river was not a good idea and headed back to L & B's. L offered to let the horses loose in one of their pastures so they could just run, eat and enjoy. We agreed and headed out leading the horses, when I looked back and saw Bill. This is the only 'ride' that occurred in Missouri!
See the cute little dog following Bill? That's Dingo - who looks so much like Sophie that we often had to look twice. They ran around the place together until they wore each other out; Dingo is a couple years older than Sophie, who's eleven. While the horses were out we hiked all over the place; it was such a beautiful afternoon and their property is breath-taking.
Bill says he could live in MO, 'cause it has lots of play toys. He got to play with a Missouri Black Snake, about an eight pound snapping turtle, a big box turtle, and a garter snake. The six year old in him was delighted!!! B & I picked pecans off the trees next to their pond, so I got to bring home fresh pecans, which are now drying on our counter - with snow outside the window.
This is some of the pasture on the back side of the barn; Sophie and I were walking out to meet the horses. The trees were so pretty! They had four different pastures like this; this one, the one above it and one to each side;the horses were in one off to the left of us, but they met us at the gate when I called them. It's a good thing L loves to mow, because in MO this could get ahead of you in just a few days from all the growth we saw. It looked like spring here, except for the fall colors.
The next day we headed back across the state and into Kansas, for Eisenhower State Park. This scene was along the way.
It took us about eight and a half hours to get back to the state park, but still after hours for the visitor center, so we found a camp site - still daylight this time, and sunny - put the horses in a pipe corral with our number on it and cooked ourselves a feast for dinner. Since this was actually our anniversary, we treated ourselves to a movie, "Back to the Future". Bill remembered that in the movie, this was the future date on the 'time machine' car. It was funny watching what they had considered it would be like right now. I think the only major difference being kids nowadays don't ride hover boards - but wouldn't that be fun? We thoroughly enjoyed putting a disc in a laptop and kicking back in our camp chairs and having the whole park to ourselves.
The next morning we unhooked the trailer and drove back to the pay station, got officially checked in and was told we should stay through Sat. so we could do their benefit ride that day. Bill and I just looked at each other and laughed, then explained to the rangers we were on a mission to avoid people for the week. They gave us the heads up on the best trails, which had just been groomed in preparation for the ride, and asked for our feedback on anything they might have missed. We only found one little snafu - signs pointing in the wrong direction from one trail to the next at an intersecting campground. We spent some time hunting and back tracking until we located the trail.
We opted to do the trail backwards, as it wound around the edge of Melvern Lake, which is made up of lots of 'fingers', so you were weaving in and out along the woods at the edge and then ending with three miles of meadow riding. This picture is for Ranger's 'ear' album.
There were a couple of places that you could actually ride down to the lake's edge. I was riding Washoe this day, so we left Jesse tied to a nearby tree, not knowing how the horses would take the waves with the wind. Washoe preferred staying near the bigger rocks, as his feet would sink up over his fetlocks in the smaller rocks when the water came in.
Neither horse seemed bothered by being walked right up to the water, though. I think they are now officially deep-water certified.
On the second time down to the lake, Bill ponied Jesse along with him and she marched right down and stuck her nose in the water, until a wave splashed her face. The wind was blowing really strong, creating a lake's version of whitecaps. Ranger was trying to figure out what they were.
There were intersecting trails and we thought we could take one of the short cuts back if the horses got too hot or we got tired, but we did the whole 10 mile planned ride, plus 1.5 miles each way to our particular campsite, in just under four hours again. The horses did great and came back as energized as they had left. The new sights and sounds seemed to revive their interests. I really liked that they had marked these trails with mileage markers, every half mile, so you had a good idea of where you were on the map (markers on map, too) and how far you had gone. We are very impressed with the condition of the equestrian trails in the Kansas State Parks.
This was just another glimpse of the lake, over our shoulder as we rode cross country back to our camp, located on another arm of the lake. We hit the showers, watched another movie and got ready to head back home the next day. We couldn't have had two better ride days. The 50% chance of thunderstorms that day never materialized, as you can see from the blue sky.
After putting over two thousand miles under our tires, we were excited to get home, as blogger friends from Washington state were meeting us the next night, to stay at the lodge for the weekend. As you already know, Rachel and Mr. Daddy and IttyBit got to visit. Wow! A great way to end a great trip.
After finishing the ride in Kanopolis, Juanita and I un-tacked the horses and cooked a meal. I don't remember what it was, but I'm sure it was wonderful. So far the stay at the campground had been perfect, and so had the vacation, except for the cold that had gotten hold of me.
Yes, yes. I know that getting cold and wet will not REALLY give you a cold, but...
We went to the shower house to see if a hot shower would warm us up. The men's shower room was clean and well kept, but the showers themselves were not hot and cold running water. They weren't warm and cold. Nope, not even luke and cold. They were cool and cold running water. Did have lots of pressure, though. So I blasted the sand and mud out of my ears and hair as best as I could, and then fled the shower room. Juanita said the women's was no warmer. We made it back to the trailer and turned in for the night.
By morning I was really feeling pretty punk. It was a cold, dreary and rainy day and we didn't much feel like breaking camp, so we figured we would just hang out at the state park another day before going to stay with our friends in Missouri.
So, it's now about 1:pm, and we are sitting at camp, drinking coffee, when Juanita notices the horses are all staring intently off in the distance. A horse trailer was pulling into the camp grounds. No, there were two of them! Wait- three, four, five...
Arg! It's an invasion! Our quiet, "just us" campground was being overrun! Happy, giggling, twittering horse women were piling out of trucks, unloading horses and filling all available corals.
We really, truly, love our work at the lodge. But for just a couple days, we were DONE with seeing happy vacationers.
It took us 45 minutes to pack, load up the horses and flee.
We were on the road for EVER (according to the horses) and well after midnight finally stopped at a rest area to, well, rest. We couldn't unload the horses (according to the signs at the rest stop), so we just parked so they could at least stand quietly for a couple of hours, and we slept in the trailer for a bit.
We called our friends to let them know we would be about 10 hours early. We called them to let them know that about 1/2 hour before we got there. I can be a jerk like that. They were very gracious and didn't lock the doors and hide.
Disclaimer: This post is quite long and photo intensive. Allow yourself some down time.
We mount up, check the time – 11:00 a.m. – and head across the road to the trailhead (how handy is that?). It starts out winding around a big meadow, soon coming to some low lying bushes in bright hues of red and orange. What a great time to be riding! Bill is ponying Washoe with Ranger and I am leading out on Jesse, the fearless, when I glance down to my right and notice a small White Tail buck lying at the edge of the bushes, less than 15 ft. from us.
I quietly point it out to Bill, stop Jesse, and we both reach for our cameras. As we are taking pictures, we notice a doe lying deeper in the bushes another six ft. ahead. They posed so beautifully for us – for about four pictures, then they were done. They both hopped up and skittered away. And yes, the fearless and her two buddies did a super jump to their left, not quite dislodging either of us, and stood staring at the empty spot. I guess they were all so excited about being OUT of the trailer and on a trail, they sort of ‘forgot’ about wild life. You can bet they were very attentive on the rest of the ride!
A short time later, Bill whopped Ranger up along side his neck, saying, “Why didn’t you see that rattlesnake coiled by the trail?” Rattlesnake?! Jesse likes snakes, so she wouldn’t have cared, but for Ranger to walk right by a buzzing snake – do you think his hearing is starting to go? I’ve wondered about it before. He told Beel it was a ‘hay jumper’ he heard. About that time the batteries were dying in my camera so it would only stay on for a short time, so Bill and I traded cameras as I had the job of photographer.
We started following the ‘orange’ trail, which circles around the circumference of the park.
“Description: Two sections of the trail system, referred to as the Horsethief Canyon trails, connect the Rockin' K Trails to the Prairie Trails. The orange Horsethief Canyon Trail is one of the more difficult trails in the trail system. It has three relatively easy water crossings, but the trail is narrow in spots and goes in and out of rocky canyons. The blue Horsethief Canyon Trail is short and easy but has three water crossings that can present a challenge. These crossings can be very deep.”
Because of the above description, posted on their website, we thought we would switch to the ‘blue’ trail where they intersected, not wanting to do all 31 miles of trail.
We soon left the brush part and started upward toward the rocky canyons. These weren’t as bad as anticipated (not quite like ‘our’ rocky parts) and the horses maneuvered them well, still showing no signs of foot soreness, however Washoe had to ‘play’ at making them more difficult.
We topped out at some interesting rock formations. We don’t know what Jesse saw down the canyon, but her expression caught the others’ attention.
They were beginning to sweat a bit, though, due to the warmer temps and they were delighted to see the first of the shallow crossings that had water in it. The first two were dry due to the recent drought conditions the whole county seemed to experience.
After a good drink, they marched onward and upward to some interesting beaver ponds.
The colors were remarkable. I had no idea Kansas was this pretty in the fall; we were in total awe of all the flaming red bushes and orange trees. Soon we got to where the two trails joined for a bit, then we left on the blue trail when it veered off – and then another water crossing.
This was one of the ‘deep’ ones listed in the description. It’s a drought; how deep can it really be? Ranger sensed the difference and hesitated at the edge. Just to be on the safe side, Bill handed Washoe off to me and since Jesse likes water and Washoe has lost his fear of water, the two grays stepped smartly past Ranger and kept going, even though the water was very quickly more than knee deep. Jesse started pawing the water and thinking she was about to do a roll to cool down, I urged her forward and the water level was soon up to MY knees (well over the top of my boots). We were approaching the far bank and just as I was thinking of pulling my feet up to my saddle horn, the water suddenly receded and we stepped out onto dry bank.
Yeah, my horses passed the test of deep water!!!! I turned in my saddle, expecting to see Bill and Ranger emerging from the water. No Bill, no Ranger. The last I had seen of them was just a glimpse of Bill with his hand in the air, holding my camera, and looking like he was going to leap off Ranger at an odd slant. That was when Jesse started pawing and my attention returned to her. Soon Bill’s hat appears out of the water, followed by Ranger’s head. When Bill stood on the creek bottom the water was about 3.5 feet deep with sand and muck. When the water level had reached Ranger’s chest, he had started lunging (porpoise-ing, as Bill calls it), which caused a bigger wake that he thought was chasing him. When his feet came down in the muck, he slipped and sort of ‘jumped’ toward Bill – and they both went under! They both managed to wade out, thanks to the use of some ‘words of power’ and a true look of embarrassment on Ranger’s face. After the shock, all I could do was laugh, until Bill said my camera was buried in the muck and he was NOT going after it. Imagine: saving his cell phone instead of my camera! The best he could say was that he’d had a really great picture of me and the grays in the deepest part, showing the wake and everything.
Notice the water mark on Washoe's back side - and Bill's water stained hat.
After wringing himself out and getting back on Ranger (very difficult when his clothes and chaps probably weighed more than he did), he realized his hat was now permanently water damaged. I just think it looks ‘broken in’. It was good that it was a warm day, but there was a brisk breeze so Bill opted to continue the ride, thinking he would dry out pretty quickly. Personally, I think he just didn’t want to try re-crossing the stream just yet.
We climbed out of that canyon and ended up at a fence to the Prairie Trails, that had a really odd gate to maneuver. I handed Washoe back to Bill and had Jesse do her gate opening thing. It was a six foot gate on good hinges with a long, thin bar at a slant that ‘latched’ into a slot on the fence post. The top was bent and just the right height for someone on horseback to pull up on and let the gate swing open. That part was easy. It was a bit more challenging once you were on the other side to get the gate in the right position to push the latch back into its slot. After a couple of tries, Jesse seemed to know what was needed and leaned into the gate to hold it in place so I could lean over it and push down on the rod. Done.
We were now truly on the prairie and the breeze had picked up. After a couple of miles, Bill was getting chilled and we had somehow lost our map along the way (in the water?), so we turned back and Bill got to try his hand at the gate. He got it first try, but he only had to lean over and pull the rod up from the ‘wrong’ side, although he did it with Washoe in tow, so they did well.
As we topped the ridge we got a nice view of the end of Kanopolis Lake.
All of you thinking we are headed back towards the water? Right. I can guaranty you it was in the back of our minds as we approached the same water crossing. At least we now know how deep it is and how warm the water is; nothing like our lakes and rivers at home that log in at around 40*.
This time Bill wanted to take Washoe with him, thinking it would give Ranger confidence to tow another horse that liked the water. It seemed to work; I rode ahead so Ranger could see Jesse.
When Jesse started pawing as the water hit her knees, I let her be to see what she would do. She was just testing the depth of the water, because when she found a ‘shelf’ she stepped up on it and the water level stayed below my boot. I should know by now to trust my horse.
In this picture you see how much deeper the water is on Washoe, who is taller than Ranger by a whole hand. Last time we crossed, that is where Jesse and I were. Ranger and Bill were a little farther over and Ranger must have caught that small slope and it caused him to slip.
This time Ranger kept moving that direction and stayed in shallower water; Washoe chose to hit the deep stuff.
This was a very successful crossing and you can see the trust Ranger has in Bill to just step right back into the water without a fuss. Happy horse and rider!
It wasn’t much farther to the next water crossing and by this time Washoe had decided water was play time, immediately getting his feet tangled in his lead rope.
Bill turned loose of the lead and Washoe spent a couple minutes untangling himself, then splashing around like a kid.
He finally came to my side when I called him and was rewarded with grass, even if it meant I had to dismount to grab his soggy rope.
Now Ranger has to cross alone and ends up in a deep spot. Is that a death grip Bill has on the reins and horn?
Veering to the left helped Ranger before, so he tries it again.
He starts hurrying and oops – there’s that wake again.
He doesn’t panic though, and Bill gets him to shallower ground.
Congratulations Big Guy. You have truly been initiated to deep water and succeeded!
The rest of the ride can only be described as anticlimactic, even though we saw many more beautiful sights … and some strange ones, like the arrows they used in a few places to show direction. This one says “2 miles to Rockin’ K, and has a blue ribbon, so we figured we weren’t lost yet. When we came out on open flats again, Jesse wanted to get moving, setting a brisk running walk pace. The others kept pace, proving what more oxygen to breathe can do for you.
Almost back and …
....one wet but happy cowboy.
Ah! Home Sweet Home
Twelve miles and four hours later equals: wet horses.