Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Winter Ride in the Piney Woods of East Texas

     When I was 37, I left Pennsylvania for good. I hate cold snowy bleak days and long star-less winter nights. I followed my heart and eventually bought a cottage in the Piney Woods of East Texas. I love winters in Texas. The warm gulfcoast winds usually chase away the northern fronts the next day.

     Today was one of those warm southern wind days so I decided to pick up Topaz and go for a ride in the Piney Woods near my place. Topaz is boarded at my friends Sally and Boyce's place. Those two love to love their animals! Seems like every time I visit, there's a new mouth to feed.

     And Boyce is as loving as Sally. They visited the dog rescue center together last week and brought home a mama and her three puppies. Their cats all get along with the dogs. This cat on Boyce's lap was born without a tail.

     I loaded Topaz in Boyce and Sally's trailer. When we arrived at the private forest, I parked behind the padlocked gate so I wouldn't have to worry about a runaway horse and vehicle traffic.

      A few weeks ago, I had purchased a brake controller for my 7-pin connection on my hitch. It wasn't an easy hook-up assembly (doesn't have plugs on both ends), so I took the controller and pigtail wiring assembly to the ProMaster dealer and they installed it for $240. This way, my van is still under warranty.

     I saddled up Topaz.

And away we go . . . . . Topaz' ears by the way are distinctly Arabian. Other breeds don't share that ear shape.

     The black thing velcroed on top of Topaz's bridle is a bear-bell. It gives squirrels, deer, feral hogs, roosting vultures and hawks and anything else an opportunity to hear us coming long before it's suddenly surprised by our presence. Horses can spin 180 degrees or rear suddenly if they're spooked, so the bear-bell offers a safer ride.  Up ahead on this trail is a deer plot (specially planted grass for deer) and a hunter's blind where birds roost sometimes and suddenly fly out of the blind and spook horses.

We cross a sandy creek. I'm really impressed with Topaz because we're alone and she's not intimidated by anything out in the woods. Many horses get nervous and refuse to go anyplace new and unfamiliar to them.

We pass another creek.

These roads by the way were undeveloped subdivisions that went bankrupt about 40 years ago. It's now leased to hunters.

The original developer built this concrete bridge which sits high off a slow-moving creek below. My Thoroughbred horse was spooked by this bridge and refused to cross it; I had to dismount and lead her across the first several times until she gained confidence. But Topaz crossed this bridge easily.

Yet another creek passing, this one has a tiny waterfall.

All the roads loop around and connect with little trails. Easy to get lost!

We rode about 7 miles. Up ahead is the van and trailer.

I love winters in East Texas!

Several days later, I was paddling Baird's Bayou near Beaumont.