We've only ran the trail loop around my farm this season. A couple of loops would give us two to three miles. It was time to find a new route.
There is a long 'rails-to-trails' path that is 50 miles long, between two major cites, and passes by about 20 miles from home. Last Saturday, I decided to check it out.
This portion runs down and along the river. High winds had knocked down several trees, and the floods of '08 took out a bridge over the river, leaving this portion fairly untraveled. There were trees we could go over, under and around. As I scouted it, it became apparent that without significant tree removal, I could only go about a mile-and-a-half before having to return to the trailhead. But it would be a start on this new trail!
Sunday, I loaded the dogs in the daylight, and took off. For Maggie and myself, it would be the longest trip with the dog boxes. Nearly half an hour.
We hooked up and headed out. The weather was in the upper 30s, the sky clear. A beautiful day in the woods! Almost immediately, a young buck jumped onto the trail, turned and saw the dogs heading directly at him, so he took off. Ellen was VERY interested, but the command of "On by", plus the fact that Nick would rather run than chase deer, kept us on the path. We went around obstacles flawlessly. The first time I turned the team around, we had a major tangle! But otherwise, no troubles. We ran back to the truck, and didn't want to stop - we were just getting warmed up! Nick and Ellen looked at me, and I said, "Straight ahead!", so we went across the road and headed into uncharted territory!
This segment was fun, although I knew that there was a large tree blocking the trail near the next road crossing. But I figured if we could add a mile or so (round-trip), then it would be worth it. As we approached the tree, I saw that we could get around it, as long as I didn't dump the quad into the ditch. "Easy!", is an important command, and the dogs know it well. Nice and easy and slow - no problem! The next road crossing - "Straight ahead!" and we kept going.
I knew that the next crossing would be in town, and I was thinking we'd turn around well before that. We came to a large clearing, so I pulled over and gave them treats and a drink of water. But they were raring to go, and so we continued down the trail. It was humorous to me that we ALL were leaning forward, trying to see what was around the next bend, time and time again. I kept telling myself that it was time to return, but we were all so motivated to see where this trail was taking us. Finally, we came to the road crossing at the edge of town. I thought we'd go across and turn around in a parking lot, but the leaders were unsure about the road, and there was a car coming. I knew they were getting tired, so I decided it was time to return to the truck. This time, as I turned the team, I made sure to grab Alice and Maggie, the middle team, and keep them from rushing ahead and tangling the team. Success!
Drinks and treats around, and then we headed for the truck. A little slower going, but no issues to speak of. Then we were back to the truck, getting unhooked. The GPS read 6.05 miles. The girls went in their boxes, Maggie and the boys hung out at the trailer, eating grass. Nice and leisurely time packing the gear and loading the quad, finishing up with my pal Browning hanging out.