Trail Hunting

We are in the middle of a heat spell; not too terribly hot, but it’s gone on for days and days.  Riding is taking place from 6pm until dark and when the kids arrive, they are none too lively.   Not only was last Saturday one of the hotter days, Savannah and Jill had been made to go on a mid day hike with their family.  In their own words, “Our mom loves to hike!” – and is evidently not as affected by the heat as the rest of us.  I didn’t know about the hike until later, but the heat itself would have been explanation enough for their lethargy.

I had picked up Savannah, Jill and Julia.  As we drove towards Los Altos Hills from Saratoga, I did what I always do.  I asked them what it was they wanted to do.  Their reply was limp, at best.  I dropped them off at Campo, then drove on to take care of chores at Quail.  Sure enough, by the time I rejoined them at Campo, they’d come up with an idea.  Savannah said, “We think we’d like to go trail hunting!”

Some of the pathways are like promenades, but most of them are labyrinthine and obscure.  The girls have their favorite routes and usually stick to them.  None of them seemed to have energy to ride at more than a walk, so exploring the pathways, however circuitous or dead end, was the perfect solution.

Jill and Savannah were also too tired to tack up.  Jill, who was standing with one, long arm draped over Chavali’s back, turned her head towards me, leaned it against the horse and said, “Can I ride bareback?”.

Saturday evening is our favorite time to ride in LAH.  I miss out on numerous plays, concerts and other social events and more than a few times resent it.  On the other hand, the hills on Saturday evenings are empty.  No garbage trucks, no gardening trailers, nobody racing too and from a little league game; the roads are all but empty, making for utterly delightful riding AND if you are going to ride bareback, that’s the best time to do it.

Both Savannah and Jill rode bareback.

The girls didn’t stick to a walk, but they did go much slower than usual, which was a good thing as I was on foot and hard pressed to keep up.

They discovered a tomato garden and an open field high atop a hill that overlooks the entire bay area and also more than a few dead ends, but nothing earthshaking.

On a hot day, the later in the evening, the better the riding, with the best riding; almost perfect; being in the last half hour before darkness.  There wasn’t all that much to explore without adding another hour and a half to the ride.  But not wanting to go back to the barn until the very last minute, I suggested we take a little side route that would be boring, but would the best use of ride time at that moment.  I figured we could finally go check out the path at the end of Fremont.  I was certain it was a dead end, but it was one of those well engineered, manicured paths that runs straight and slightly uphill, which makes, if nothing else, for a very nice canter and canter they did.  Even my best jog can’t keep up with a horse’s trot and I was about half way down the path when I heard Savannah call out, “Deb!  There’s another path!”  At the end of the cul de sac was one of the four foot high wood post with with the white vertical letters P – A – T – H standing in front of an opening in the bushes.  This “path” turned out to be a use trail and a fairly steep one at that, but it connects that particular street to Shoup Park and the adjacent nature preserve/Redwood Grove, a small, undeveloped section of land that borders Adobe Creek, which, in this area is, most unusually, still in it’s natural state.

We succeeded in getting lost and stomping through ivy and low bushes to get back to the trail and had about five minutes left before we were really, truly in the dark.  Not wanting to take the same steep route back up to Fremont, Jill, who was in front on Chavali, rode past the trail we had descended, but she also rode past the second trail.  This left Julia, who had been in the rear, and on foot, leading Velvet, to go first up the second trail.  The second trail was, unfortunately, as steep as the first and Julia had to mount up.

Julia has the distinction of being one of the least verbal students I’ve ever had.  There are many kids who just don’t talk that much so she is no exception.  But even within that subset, she’s in a tie with Maya for least words spoken in my presence. When she does speak, her words are few and clearly very carefully thought out.

Velvet would have been unable to get up the hill with Julia leading her because she just needed a certain amount of speed in order to not loose her footing, but it was within a split second of her taking the first steps back towards Fremont that I had the sickening thought of, “Oh No! This path is not cleared for equestrians!”  This was immediately followed by a tone of voice I’ve never heard before out of Julia and one I doubt I will ever hear again.  It was spontaneous, immediate and must have been much like what she sounded like as a five year old.  All she said was, “Oh Gosh!” , which coincided with the snap, crack and thwack of about a dozen small branches being broken by Velvet’s charge up the the hill with Julia pressed flat onto her neck.

Having had the way cleared, Jill ascended with much less commotion.  Savannah, not wanting to miss any entertainment, had stayed with me at the bottom of the trail to watch the progress of the other two riders.  Freedom was not happy about this and I think Savannah got the worst of it because he is not only bigger and ran into branches still unbroken, but he did so as fast as is possible for him.

Savannah stayed on. If she’d been dislodged she would have only rolled into the bushes, though the bushes in that area are 50 to 70% poison oak so, in the long run, it’s a good thing kept her balance despite her body being used as a battering ram.

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