11. What was that?

We woke to a rather strange sound early this morning. It was distinctly similar to Chewbakka, the Wooki from Star Wars; they weren’t on our list of indigenous wildlife! It was a bit of a roar but not aggressive or bear like. I looked out to the corral and despite Shirley prancing around and Two, the albino, bucking and rearing (showing off) all the other horses were stood around surveying their antics with and air of boredom. The main information was that they didn’t appeared at all perturbed so neither were we. On describing the sound later, Bailey thought it could be one of the rare caribou, so that was rather nice to know as it was definitely quite close.

We were up bright and early this morning as Ray had already left and so Bailey was doing the early morning feed. She resisted our offer to do it in her stead as she wanted to finish early today. We were going to check the trail this morning so she wanted to get her jobs out of the way early on but also we needed to extract our mounts from the corral before feeding time as she advised that we wouldn’t be able to catch them for ages after. We easily haltered Sonny, Sally and Buttercup. The former 2 we’d taken previously on the trail; Bailey on Sonny and I was on Sally, the same as last time but this time with the correct name and a few more years to her age, although there was no believing that she was 24. Roger rode Buttercup, a beautiful, if slightly flighty 4 year old.

We wove up the same path as before but it wasn’t long before Bailey had to dismount to clear a succession of branches and trees which, as suspected, had blown down in the recent winds. There was barely sufficient distance for her to remount before we encountered the next debris. Eventually we seem to be passed the worst and she jumped back on. We’d been climbing steadily since leaving the yard and finally Buttercup was starting to settle down as she was tiring. She hasn’t been ridden much so still requires some muscle development, particularly of her back which would assist her climbing hills.

The morning had been distinctly chilly and I was immensely glad of my gloves, just wished that I put on warmer socks. Sally is such an easy ride on these trails, with her nose up Sonny’s bottom she isn’t going to divert or stray. I was familiar with her little traits of ‘jumping’ over the higher logs so had no need to expend any effort and consequently didn’t really warm up. This has been the first cooler day since we arrived at a maximum of 12 degrees but with a significant wind chill. We dismounted in the pasture at the top of the hill and sat down amongst the profusion of wild flowers. It was difficult to find anywhere where something wouldn’t be crushed. There seems to be much more flora than our previous ride only last week. Indian paint brush, colours ranging through the palette of yellows, peach, orange and crimson, intertwined with vetch in the meadows and was joined by arnica and a tiny beautiful white flower I’d not noticed previously, with the budding prongs of forest orchids, in the woodland.

For our descent Bailey suggested I take the lead. After reassuring me that I couldn’t get us lost, there’s only one track in this wilderness and it leads straight back to the ranch, I agreed, wondering how Sally would be if she couldn’t glue her nose to Sonny’s bottom. I needn’t have worried she was excellent, sure-footed, responsive and steady all the way back. I started to wonder if Sonny actually got in her way with his slow solid pace. It was quite different being in front. Even though the other 2 were close behind there is a feeling of almost having the forest to yourself, just you and your trusty steed, celebrating nature at her optimum, oh and a dog; Brandy accompanied us again for her 2nd time ever. I was much more comfortable in the saddle than previously so was almost disappointed when the ranch came into view between the trees, unlike the relief I felt seeing it only just a week ago.

By the time we returned we were all a little chilled, even Roger who’d had to work the hardest, so it was back to the cabin to have some warm soup which we’d bought the other day. ‘Chicken broth’ it said on the carton, what emerged was merely chicken stock! Despite the immediate disappointment I threw in some rice, carrots, broccoli and celery and we were soon guzzling the soup whilst thawing out.

In the afternoon we returned to collecting rocks and loosening the more stubborn ones in the areas Ray wanted filling with soil. Brandy wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity for a comfy bed and in such close proximity to her new found friends even if meant risking a hole in her head!

Helicopters have been buzzing around this afternoon, trailing their payload of water from the lakes at the end of the drive (but hopefully no scuba divers!) to douse the forest. The flames on the other side of the mountain are still out of control and presumably fuelled by the strong winds we’ve experienced over the past few days. We haven’t noticed the smell since the other morning but the clouds have a definite brownish tinge which feels very sad although meets with apparent indifference from the locals and not even reported on the local radio news. On his return Ray was surprised to hear about the chopper activity saying that they didn’t usually come this far for water….unless there was another fire! He did not appear troubled and regaled being surrounded by fire on all four sides last year!  

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