On our second morning of breakfast in bed, we rolled out of bed to a crowd! Mike had brought Matthew, the barefoot trimmer we had met across from the miniature donkey farm, as well as a truck-load of guys who’d overheard him mention “cross country riders.” We stood outside in the pouring rain, eating our breakfast and talking to the group for quite a while. They were mostly retired and all loved to ride, so they had gathered at a nearby campground for the weekend to ride the trails. They were very supportive of Hearts Up Ranch, excited about our ride, and eager to help in any way they could.
After the others had enough of getting soaked and took off, Mike and Matthew stayed to help us pack up the horses and keep us company, despite their lack of rain gear. We were grateful for their company out there on the side of the road where we had camped in the dreary weather. We hugged them goodbye, then continued our muddy trail journey through the woods.
It really was beautiful. The rain brought out the green in the forest, there were turtles everywhere (much to Bella’s entertainment), and we even saw an orange snake! The violent weather that’s been going through knocked a bunch of trees and large limbs down, so we had some interesting obstacles to cross, plus the rivers were rather deep. Since Apache still had a saddle sore, Tiska was my short mount for the day and it made for some acrobatic riding to keep my feet dry while crossing the creeks!
We came out of the woods near Eddyville, and to our slight surprise, we were promptly met by a few of the guys we had talked to in the morning in addition to a few new ones! They escorted us down the road to the next leg of trail and two- David and Josh- continued with us. They arranged to be picked up in a trailer on the other side, and they showed us the whole way through the Lusk Creek Wilderness section of the River to River trail. We were very thankful to have them along so we didn’t get lost!
We were especially thankful they were there to help us when we had a scare with Bella. She’s always followed us very faithfully- either right at our sides while on the road, or checking in with us at least every minute while having a blast in the woods. It slowly sunk into our conscience that we had not seen her in a few minutes. We kept our eyes open, but still- no Bella. We started to get concerned and stopped and called her. Nothing. We rode slightly further and called. Still nothing. Josh had last seen her run down a little ravine, so we split up and rode opposite directions down the trial, plus I went to investigate the ravine down by the river. We met back up. No Bella. I was starting to get sick to my stomach with worry that we’d lost our sweet little dog. She never ever leaves our side. Just as we were formulating another plan, we had decided to turn on our cell phone to see if by some chance, we got reception out there in the woods. Josh had a moment of text reception just as he turned his phone on and immediately- he received a text from his wife who had only rode part way with us. “Their dog followed us back to the camp. We have her caught and will meet you with her when we pick you up.” What a wave of relief! We realized that not only did Bella grow up in Kansas where there are no woods to get lost in so this is all new to her, she also had never been with us off leash when other riders had joined us. She must have gotten confused who to follow and after exploring a little farther out than normal, tried to find us and went the wrong way. We were overjoyed to reunite with our puppy when we came out of the woods at “One horse gap trail rides” and I gave them a big hug for taking care of her for the afternoon and bringing her to us! We will definitely have to be more careful in the future when other riders join us on the trail!