Yesterday I went with a new friend, K, to the canyons for some trail riding. When I'm by myself I generally just wander around and spot all my favorite interesting things, take a bit of a break in some shade, and take it pretty easy. Since K had never been there, I decided we should do a bit of the wandering and then actually follow the trails like you're supposed to.
It's literally been years since I've done the actual trails out there, and I had forgotten a few spots where it gets pretty narrow or steep, but it was a good ride.
I took Monkey and Rebel, figuring I didn't know what K's skill level really was, so I'd put her on my big reliable boy Rebel, and Monkey needed the exercise, since I hadn't had a chance to ride him much at all for a while.
Because Monkey is such a scaredy pants so much of the time, and it was a new place, I kind of expected him to be a little crazy, so I was prepared for a good battle most of the way through, but he did fantastic! My smart boy even started spotting the trail markers himself in places where the horseback trail hasn't been used much and has gotten overgrown, and heading for them.
He was as willing as I could have asked for to go up the slopes and down the hills, and started paying a lot more attention to where he put his feet after he had a couple of minor slips, which is great, because he's the only horse I know who can trip over an imaginary line on the ground.
We had one moment that was a bit hairy for both of them, riding along the trail with steep sides on either side, and a two foot drop to the right of the trail for a sometimes-watercourse. A whitetail buck came out of a couple of trees to our left about thirty feet up the rock-strewn slope, clattered down to the bottom, and took off up the other side, about ten feet in front of Monkey who was leading the way. I can't blame them for being startled, I was startled too! But Monkey gathered all of his courage and went on down the trail once the noise had stopped, although he kept a weather eye out for any more potentially carnivorous deer.
It was a great ride all the way around, we spent about four hours out there, even after our departure got delayed till around noon. Monkey got a little bit footsore from all the rocks, but nothing major, in spite of his playing it up for sympathy.
There's just something about the weather-worn rock formations and hidden natural beauties out there that make me love the canyons more every time I go. It's a whole world that most people would never guess is out here on the flatlands, and when you get down into them, it's like the rest of the world just goes away. The feeling of my horse's muscles working beneath me as he picks his way up or down a slope and the way he seems to enjoy the views just as much as I do. Standing at the top of the trail out of the canyon proper looking back and seeing all of the beauty and history spread out beneath me, it's like I'm in another time.
Maybe next time K and I will hit Picketwire canyon. It's more of a drive to get there, but I've never been, and I've always wanted a bit of an excuse to go explore.