Saturday, November 7, 2009

The "Rake or Ride" Expedition

After my plans fell through to go kayaking on the Buffalo River today due to logistical problems, I knew that since I had promised myself I would get outside and absorb some of that much needed Vitamin D-supplying sunshine, the only other alternative seemed to be raking the leaves screaming for attention throughout my yard. I got out the rakes, but found it to be more fun riding them around the yard like a stick horse, than actually raking up the leaves! AHA! I remembered! The website for the kayak outfitter also had a section on horseback riding. That was it----I could "ride" instead of "rake"!

After phoning them to make a reservation, and using Mapquest to tell me how long my drive to get there would be, I kissed the rakes good bye, saluted the piles of leaves in my yard, and headed for Wild Bill's Outfitters (, just a few miles south of Yellville, at the intersection of Highway 14 South and Highway 268 East. The place is a modern-day version of the old-fashioned general store, with everything from gas to groceries, a cafe, clean restrooms, Ozark-made souvenirs, and you can even take the deer you just killed there, to not only show it off to your buddies, but Wild Bill's is an official wildlife check station. Upon arrival, the courteous gentleman behind the counter ("Bo"), handed me the mandatory liability release form, which reminds you that you might never return from this adventure, and then asks for the name of your next of kin. And of course, those horseback riding release forms always ask how much experience you have had at riding horses. I pondered: "Should I put down that I got my Girl Scout badge in horsemanship when I was in elementary school?" No, I decided, that was not as impressive as my real crowning achievement in horsemanship---surviving the two day trail ride to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and then back up again! Now THAT was notable. But then I remembered when I told my Grand Canyon tale to the wrangler of a horseback ride I took along the beaches of Honduras, the guy said"Yeah, dozens of my customers say they have ridden in the Grand Canyon." So much for bragging about that! But then there was that trail ride in Yosemite National Park---that was the only ride I have been on that required helmets---and rightly so! After it was over, I described it as rock climbing on the back of a horse, rather than a trail ride. It was incredibly challenging for me as a rider---not to mention what it must have been like for the horse! I have learned it is best to understate your experience, rather than overstate it, so I ended up not mentioning any of my previous escapades on the back of a horse. When I got outside to the corral, the trail boss for the day (her name was Kathy, or "Kat" as her friends call her) already had the horses saddled up and ready to go. She has several years of experience leading trail rides at Wild Bill's, and had the congenial, easy-going personality such a job requires. She introduced me to my horse for the afternoon, a lovely trooper named "Major".
The top photo above shows the typical terrain we rode through---dense hardwood forests on seldom traveled back roads. The great thing about riding in the Ozarks this time of year is that the leaves are off the trees, so you can better see the actual lay of the land. Also, since we had had a couple of hard freezes, the activity of pesky ticks and chiggers is down. The lower left photo shows Kat, and the other rider of our trio--a young lady named Julia. The lower right photo shows Kat and Julia on their horses at the edge of a tall bluff overlooking a deep canyon with a tributary of the Buffalo at the bottom. Notice the horse ears in the foreground of the photo. That is my horse and we stayed back several yards from the edge of the bluff. The reason being, I had seen the drop-off of the bluff as we approached it, and all I could think of was my First Place 4 Health memory verse that says: "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God" (Psalm 20:7) Since I had only met my horse named Major thirty minutes ago, I definitely did not trust him to stay away from the edge of the bluff! So, I opted out of that photo opportunity. We will just have to imagine how beautiful it was!
Besides, before starting my trail ride, I had made the short drive from Wild Bill's to Buffalo Point, and taken the photo of the gorgeous Buffalo River, that you can see above in the top of the collage. Kat took the photo of me that is shown below, when we reached the very scenic spot called Water Creek, that was at the midpoint of our ride. Seeing these pretty flowing bodies of water, makes me not feel so resentful toward the all those gloomy days of rain we had last month. The sunshine of today, and the opportunity to get out and enjoy God's great outdoors, has more than made up for it. HAPPY TRAILS! Tricia Posted by Picasa