Over time the idea came together. I wanted to visit two friends living in North Carolina. I had the bug for riding in many place throughout the country after reading Trail Rider Magazine. So, the plan was to load up the motor home, the dog, and the horse and head south. It felt indulgent, but Mic pointed out that it was a “pilgrimage.” In November I found some time to get away, the trails wouldn’t be crowded and temperatures would be nice and cool with no bugs!
November 5, we hit the road! We only made it as far as McClean county Illinois due to some bumps along the way. I stopped at a county park, that although they didn’t normally offer accommodations for horses, the let us stay the night. We had a quiet night, Ferrous stayed in his portable electric pen, which we frequently use when camping.
The next morning there were a couple more hang-ups and my plans for daily drives and nightly stops were totally out of whack. But with my map and pages from the Trail Rider directory of places to ride, I started making calls. I reached Joe at Timber Ridge Horse Campground in Jamestown, TN in the Big South Fork National Recreation Area, who said, “Come on down.” We didn’t arrive until 10pm that night, but the lights were on in the barn and there was a fresh stall ready for Ferrous.
In the morning I could see the beautiful colors of the leaves on the trees in the deep woods of Tennessee. Ansel met the farm dog and actually played with Sonia, a Golden Retriever/Akita mix. It was raining, so I spent the morning reading, practicing some new techniques in the round pen with Ferrous, and a leisurely walk with Ansel. Late in the afternoon, it cleared enough for a trail ride with Joe’s daughter Danielle.
My goal in the morning was to reach Maiden, North Carolina, home of my friend Lynn. My friend, Rachel, from Raleigh joined us as well. It was time promised to be full of animals; Lynn has a Border Collie, Maya, and a great cat, Grey Ranger. Rachel brought her Border collie, Luke, who I’ve known since this first day with Rachel. Ferrous settled into a lovely pasture with a fresh spring of water and visits from miniature ponies over the fence.
It was a lovely, relaxing time. The dogs enjoyed playing ball, walking along the stream, and rides in the “gator.” Maya was fascinated by the horse and it was fun to see her herding instincts kick in keeping a close eye on Ferrous.
On Sunday, Rachel and I drove to Latta Plantation near Charlotte. We rented horses and went for a crazy trail ride! Our guide, Tracy, looked every bit the redneck cowboy, and he had a gift for gab. It was a private ride, just the 3 of us, and lots of cantering and galloping on the trails. It was fun, top speed through the trees. We also visited the North Carolina Raptor Center, where I saw a Mississippi Kite, which I hadn’t seen before. Rachel gave me pointers on how to identify Turkey vultures and Black Headed Vultures.
On Monday, Rachel headed home and Lynn and I drove to the mountains and stopped in Blowing Rock, a quaint tourist town. On Tuesday, we visited “The Pottery Capital of America” in Seagrove, NC. The Native Americans made lots of pottery there because of the high quality of natural clay. When people form Staffordshire, England settled there, it became a center of pottery craft, providing financial support for the area and local art.
I hated to leave Lynn’s, but Wednesday we headed for Westmoreland, TN, just northeast of Nashville. That night after a long drive we settled at the Long C Ranch. We had the place to ourselves, as it was so late in the season and in the middle of the week.
The next morning we saddled up and went for a ride. This was the first time Ferrous, Ansel and I went out on our own. We had a great ride; the trails ranged from open pasture to narrow and steep trails in the woods. I was more than happy to bundle up and ride in the cool weather. We went for another ride in the afternoon, and saw a couple of deer including a six-point buck.
Friday was another travel day. I called ahead to several places in northern Illinois, but was thwarted by hunting season. Most of the places were closed for riding and camping. I finally found my way to the Big River Recreation Area equestrian Campground in western Illinois where Ferrous had a nice pen to himself, but no shelter.
In the morning it was cold and windy and I saw warning signs of the hunting here as well. So we hit the road again. The consolation prize was that the route took me through Muscatine, IA! I had many great memories of this place as this is where my great grandma raised my grandma and my mother, and my great grandfather worked in one of the many pearl button factories. I had visited Muscatine many times in my youth and young adult years.
The rest of the drive home was windy, but it meant I would arrive home a day early. It was great to be home and took most of Sunday to unload. The trip was great; I loved being on my own with my “boys.” Both Ferrous and Ansel are such willing travelers, providing companionship, security, and adventure.