Fun in the Forest – Sarah

Since there haven’t been any competitive rides in a while, I have finally been able to venture over to the Dufferin Forest to blaze my own trail around there.  For 2 glorious weekends in a row, I packed some snacks, and saddled up Bentley for a trip around home.

May 31st was supposed to be my “Birthday” ride – my birthday being on the 30th however the rain convinced us to schedule the big ride for the next day.  I had planned to ride over to the forest, meet a bunch of friends (who were either riding in or trailering in) for picnic and cake in the parking lot, go for another loop, and then at some point head home.

Wouldn’t you know it, the forecast changed to a dreary downpour at 5 degrees Celsius.  For the sake of those who hadnt already backed out, I cancelled the event and instead went to the barn with an open mind.  Julie and Karen showed up, so we tacked up with the intention of diddling around until the rain came.

We headed out, and decided to go to the entrance of the forest, so that if Julie came back another time, she would know the route in case I was working or something.  Done, we all trotted happily along to the edge of the forest.  Still no rain.  Nice!

As we entered the forest (our originally intended turnaround point), Karen had an “Ah Ha!” moment, recognizing the junction as a key spot on her quick forest loop.  “we are about 45 minutes from my place,” and it was decided that we would ride to Karen’s place.

She showed us the way, and I got the full farm tour.  Its lovely!  We stopped for a bathroom break in a real toilet!  Then before heading on our way, I took advantage of her lovely sand track and let Bentley out for a quick sprint.  Boy is he ever fast!

We headed home directly, and managed to get there before the rain started.  Much better than anticipated, a good 15 miles and a “destination.” I keep saying that I need a destination when I ride… like an ice cream store or poutine joint (which sadly is no longer operating… dreams quashed).  We had cupcakes waiting when we returned, only one had been eaten by Lee in my absence (had it been reversed, the whole cake would be gone!)

The next weekend, I set my sights on the elusive 25 mile ride again (birthday weekend goal).  I set out with Carol and Laura for the slowest first 5 miles ever.  Seriously.  But that was ok.  Good company passed the hour and change faster.

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After separating, Bentley switched over to Mach 1, very unhappy to be separated from his buds.  So we had a long gallop (and boy did I ever hurt the following days – those muscles havent been used in ages).  Eventually he settled and was happy to truck around at a good trot, and even wanted to explore the forest.  Occasionally he would make a dash to a side trail, so I just went with it, and we had a great time.  He even found a trail with a scary bridge, trolls not included.

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As we neared the magic number 25, I stayed near our home junction, and Bentley got out of sorts again knowing he was close to  home.  Opposite effect however, instead of Speedy Gonzalez, he plodded along the moment we passed the junction, trying to turn around any moment I let the reins slack. “Just one more climb of the red hill Bentley, then we go home.”  He really didn’t believe me.

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We survived the mood swings and I had the brilliant idea to try to find our way back home from the bottom of the “chute,” as we had tried to find our way in that way in getting to the forest, and ended up on a parallel trail.  It was a little over grown, but I followed the trail I had guessed faithfully.  Came to a fallen tree and I pondered “its too spikey to jump, can I see around the side? I think I can go to the right, but whats over there?”  when all of a sudden, I had a wonderful view of Bentley’s side as I tumbled out of the saddle… all appendages splayed out like a starfish.  I managed to land on my feet, and thanks to the reins in my hand, I stayed upright.

What happened there?!  I was answered when a fat ugly bird went flailing across the path, flipping itself around and over the bushes and long grass, disappearing quickly.  Ok Bentley, that was not an unreasonable spook, and I should have been paying better attention.  Not sure if it was a wounded quail type bird, or a baby turkey, but the thing couldn’t fly or walk much at all – could only fling itself to get from one place to another.  I briefly considered running off and scooping up the bird, but then realized I was not prepared to carry a broken bird home on horseback.  I let it be, swooped up on Bentley, who had gotten over the commotion, and went back home with a bemused giggle.

Oh and yes, the path I had followed was the correct one and I now know the turnoff.  What a great few weekends of getting to know the forest more intimately instead of just following the trail.

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Side note: Spell check wants to change poutine to pouting.  The audacity!

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