|Best view of fall foliage is between ears of a horse.|
Normally, I keep my grands over the Thanksgiving holidays. But I wanted to go on a weekend trail ride with Outback Saddle Club at Wind Creek State Park. So I kept my grands the weekend before, packed some Thanksgiving leftovers and my riding gear, loaded Mallory and headed for Alexander City Friday morning.
I had called 10 days before to make reservations, but was told Wind Creek doesn't accept reservations. I'm not sure whether that's true throughout the camp or just the horse area, but it only has 16 spots. "They're nearly empty every weekend," the clerk assured me. "And we have an overflow area, too."
My experience with that "overflow" area hadn't been good. There is no "legal" trail between it and the horse camp, so when I was there in February 2015, someone had to trailer my horses to meet our group at the trail head.
I had a bad feeling about the trip while packing. An email to the club newsletter editor about who was going to be there brought up one couple. Perhaps I would be the only one there. I don't know the trails well enough to ride alone, and besides, it's dangerous to ride without a buddy. But I had put so much effort into getting ready, and I was so psyched up to ride, that I ignored my gut and went anyway.
The two-hour drive was uneventful, but when I went to the Wind Creek Welcome Center to register, I almost came unglued. The equine camp was full! "You can camp in the overflow area," the clerk informed me. "There are two horse people there now." I was furious, argued about why they don't take reservations ("That wouldn't be fair," a ranger said. Huh??), stomped and fumed about getting from one camp to the other via horseback, and started to turn around and go home. The clerk told me to drive through the equine camp and see whether I knew someone I could buddy up with.
The camp was packed, but the trailer doors were open and empty. Almost everyone was out riding. I found one woman named Lauren Ruark from Georgia who listened to me rant and rave while encouraging me not to leave. Then I found someone who was breaking camp, and claimed her site. Whew!
I’m so grateful to Lauren for talking me out of leaving. It turned into a lovely weekend. I saw only two other campers from Outback, and I didn't really know them. I prevailed upon one guy to "help" put up my picket line, which means he did it for me. Lauren waited until I had set up camp and saddled my horse, then we started a two-hour ride. Half an hour into the ride, we ran across some folks she knew, and joined up. However, the few she knew turned into a group of about 45, which is way too many for my tastes. Saturday, I linked up with a horsewoman I knew and three of her friends, and rode four hours. Sunday, I got in another hour. I was a happy camper.
The weather was perfect, the leaves were gorgeous, and we saw several deer, including a buck with at least six points. The drought had dropped the water line so low on Lake Martin that we were able to ride the "beach" for a while, although I'm not sure whether the park officials would have approved. I snapped a photo of a picnic table that used to be high up the bank. It appeared as if the gnarly roots of an old pine tree were the only thing keeping it from sliding down the bank.
What could have been a misadventure turned out great, thanks to some horsey friends old and new.