Our last several days have been absolutely wonderful! We finally feel like we are moving forward, making progress, and we hit our first 100 mile mark!! Woo hoo!!! We left the Dunlap’s home on Thursday and rode down a very busy road. It was quite nerve racking, but the horses handled it well. The long, windey, uphill of Sonoma Mountain Road was quite interesting. It was our first encounter with llamas – a very large herd of llamas! The horses barely held themselves together, but we got by without any major incident. (Horses in general are terrified of llamas, camels, and the like unless they are used to them.) Our hosts that evening were up on top of that mountain, and they graciously allowed us to stay in their guest house. It was a charming and artsy property with a beautiful view and peaceful setting. The horses stayed the night in the sheep pasture within sight of the llamas, so they handled walking by them much better in the morning. Thank you to Maggie and David for your hospitality, the bed and shower, and for sharing your food!
In the morning, we successfully passed through the gate for the Open Space District and met our escorts up on top of the hill by the radio towers. Pat, Denise, and Sue escorted us through beautiful Jack London park with their horses where we got to enjoy more redwoods, including a very large old growth redwood tree that still remained. We also met a man who knows a couple who is hiking East to West on the American Discovery Trail. It will be interesting to see if we meet them along the way! The day finished with a special permission ride through a vineyard, across highway 12, and onto Oak Hill Farm where we stayed the night in Anne’s beautiful horse pasture, complete with coyotes, wild turkey, and deer. We were very excited to get an “up close and personal” tour through wine country and vineyard areas not open to the public. But our unique tour was only just beginning!
On Saturday, we slept through the alarm (we are still not used to sounds of the night yet and tend to sleep much more soundly when the sun starts to come up). Then Jeannette got distracted hugging Apache while he was laying down in the pasture and taking lots of pictures and video! So we didn’t roll out until just after 11 am. Our route took us down Arnold St, which was quite busy, but had a good shoulder for most of the way. The horses are really starting to cooperate well on the road and are handling motorcycles, trucks, long trailers, and noisy vehicles well. Unfortunately, we realized we left our reflective orange vest that goes on the back of the last horse somewhere, so we’ll have to replace that soon. Richard had a great ‘victory’ this day as well. He has really been struggling with fear since the accident (understandably) and he managed to remain calm and collected on his horse and rode all the way down the busy streets and through town without getting off and walking. He even led us for a lot of the miles! Please continue to pray for peace, courage, and safety as we work through these fears. It was fun riding through the middle of Sonoma. We learned that this little town square was where California started, and we got our picture taken with statue. Being Saturday, the square was crowded with people who asked us all about our ride and Hearts Up Ranch. We met lots of nice folks, handed out stacks of business cards, and let many kids pet the horses. It took us an hour to go one block- but it was well worth it! Eventually we were kicked out- it turns out we were standing right under a sign that said no horses in the park- but we were too busy managing the crowd with the horses to notice! Woops! We met a sweet lady after that who drove behind us with her flashers all the way up to the property we are staying on now. Riding up that driveway was actually eventful! We rode right past several famous vineyards… and got stuck at yet another cattle guard with a locked gate next to it! (When you drive on the road, it’s hard to recognize everything that might prevent a horse from passing through.) Since it was a private road, we asked everyone who drove by if they knew the combination to the lock. Apparently it was very old, and it’s not every day that horses ride up their road! So between the neighbors and the Emery’s, our current hosts, plywood and boards were brought down and we carefully walked the horses over the cattle guard on the wood. I think at one point there were 6 cars parked on the road trying to help us- it was quite a community event!
The ride up the Emery’s driveway was breathtaking. We thought we were at the top of the mountain and would see Napa on the other side. We were surprised to see that we were entering a secluded valley up in the mountains instead. The views of rolling hills, San Francisco in the distance, and vineyards dotting the hillsides are phenomenal. The property is best described as exquisite, as are our wonderful hosts. They have graciously invited us into their guest home, where we are enjoying a bed, shower, laundry, and a private hot tub. The horses are getting a unique experience as well- they are being blocked in and allowed to graze between grapevine rows in the vineyard! We enjoyed a lovely lunch, wine made on the property, a hike, and conversation with the Emery family yesterday, and especially enjoyed letting the granddaughters help us with the horses. We definitely feel befriended by yet another wonderful family and know we will have to come back to this area to visit our new friends! We have one more day of rest today, then we intend to continue to Napa in the morning. Our tour through wine country has been nothing short of enjoyable and unique. Thank you to everyone who has helped to make it possible and special.