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Ride gone Awry

Published: 5/14/2009
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By Maddy B. Gray

We got lost.
I don’t mean Real Lost, like when you use the North Star as your guide and leave bits of clothing for someone to track you.
No, we just got seriously off track.
In my neighborhood, it’s pretty hard to get Real Lost because the woods (about 15 square miles of them) are bordered by roads and highway. But them woods sure can get thick, I’ll tell ya!

Listen to a podcast of this piece!

Shea, my 8-year old PMU mare, and I headed out around 5 pm for what was going to be a quick little jog.
My kind neighbor had told me about this old tote road:
“If you go up to that For Sale sign on the ridge and head into the woods, you should be able to pick up that nice, wide tote road that goes clear to Durham Road…”
‘Course, my kind neighbor failed to mention he hadn’t actually been out to that nice, wide tote road in a while, say 10 years give-er-take.

So we headed into the woods at the For Sale sign. We’re picking our way around stuff almost immediately. You know what those property lots look like after they’ve been cleared but haven’t sold for years:
- Downed trees
- Stump remnants
- Deep, boggy tracks left from excavators
- Secondary growth galore (thorny brambles and alders mostly).

Early on, I was enjoying the versatility training:
Yes, we can step over that 2-foot log!
Yes, we can slog through that swampy area!
Yes, we can back up between these tress and go another way!

Who needs an arena stocked with obstacles when you got a ride like this?

After 20 minutes of this stuff, we picked up a tote road of sorts and start down it. Hooray!
Two hundred yards later, it ended.
There seemed to be another one... It led us for a while and then petered out into the woods.
Still, we were heading in what seemed to be the logical direction, along a ridge and keeping the distant sound of the highway in front of us.
Shea was handling it well. Last year, she wouldn’t have been so confident and I’m pleased with her progress. She pushed through brush no problem. And was cool with all the stop 'n' go action.
Yup, she’s a trooper but I can’t help wax nostalgic for my retired paint, Phoenix (who’s back at the barn, eating hay).
Phoenix has great instincts. She could pick out the best bog crossing, the best log crossing, and the best thicket negotiation. Any hesitation was solved with the gentlest of neck reins.
With Shea, it had to be discussed and we’re still working on better neck reining.

So, for some time we traveled in a direction which I supposed was going to lead us to a veritable trail. Intuition hard at work. No compass, no topographic map, no GPS device. And apparently, not much worthwhile intuition either!
As we reached each new rise, it seemed dryer and clearer. Super! I was sure we’ll pick up an old tote road soon.
But we didn’t.
The log-hopping, tree-squeezes, and limb-ducking were starting to get old. I mean, it'd still be fun if we knew where we were going. But, after an hour, I had to admit I had no frggn clue.

- I got off to pee. (Good ground tying exercise.)
- Then I got on Indian style (extra points in some cowboy events)
- Then we just stood there and looked around (patience practice)

Yup. I definitely had no clue. Shea knew it, too. I think I heard her say, “You got us lost, dumbass.”

Ok, I had one clue: the distant highway noise was now at my back. So we headed down a gulch away from the highway. I got off and walked to give Shea a break and to avoid having my hat come off yet again by all those low branches.
Maybe I could call home and have someone drive down the road and honk the horn like mad. It might be a mile away but I would probably hear it.
Then again, how obnoxious would that be? And what a cop-out!
I started thinking about dinner. It was dinnertime and we were, um, misplaced. Even more significant, it would start getting dark soon.
Yes, I was feeling like a bit of a dumbass. How could this born-n-raised Maine girl let herself get lost?
Just then, as I was scanning the opposite ridge, I picked up the smallest glint of vinyl siding.
We moved down the little ravine and climbed up the other side, eventually finding the backyard to go with that house. I got my bearings right away and figured we were about a half-mile from that blasted For Sale sign. Half mile as the crow flies, but it seemed like five miles for us!

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5/14/2009 kim & olivia
i'd like to join you next time please!
5/14/2009 Cindy
Oh this story is a keeper, I am proud of you for sticking with it. Good job!
5/14/2009 BarbWire
Hey Maddy, What great fun to go along on your ride to no where! You are a fantastic cowgirl but apparently not a girl scout. We should talk about using a GPS or at least a compass. Keep those trips a coming.... I enjoyed the ride without the bugs and mud.
5/16/2009 Bub
Great story. I've often felt that getting unlost should be a school graduation requirement.

"Speak kindly to your little horse, and soothe him when he wheezes, or he may turn his back on you, and kick you where he pleases" - Anonymous