The last two afternoons I've spent re-opening trails in our woods. I didn't mean to. I was clipping scotch broom and himalaya blackberries out of the arboretum yesterday and found myself at the end of the arboretum, by the path going into the woods. My feet just kept going on that path. My excuse was to check on my newly planted trees down in what we call the lake pasture, which is now the Subalpine Forest and Meadow (Alaska Yellow Cedar and Bear Grass) plus the Northwest Rain Forest (Sitka spruce, Pacific Yew, and Western Hemlock). After checking the trees, I noticed what looked like a deer trail through the formerly impenetrable wall of blackberries. I wondered if the deer had opened a pathway to a trail we used to have that has become blocked by downfalls. The storms of the last couple of winters have been tough on our woodland paths.
The deer path led nowhere, but Shirley Puppy, who was ahead of me, kept going anyway. I followed her, crawling under and over brush and trees. She led me to the old trail, still hopelessly blocked at both ends. However, there seemed to be the possibility of cutting a new trail around the impediments. So I did. That took the rest of the afternoon. Here's part of my new trail: I may have to duck to ride under these vine maples. (That, you see, is what I primarily like these trails for: horseback riding.)
Today, to get out of work I should have been doing, I used the excuse that I needed to clear a little of the stickery stuff going down to Agency Creek for the kindergarten class that is coming next week. They are studying beavers and want to see beaver habitat. We definitely have beaver habitat here. But I don't want to make the path down to the dramatic beaver sculpted trees (photos in "Birds, Bone, Beaver and Bear") look like a path or the horses will use it and destroy things. So I did a minimum of clipping, then invited Johnny to come help me figure out how to get small children across the little creek. While he was contemplating that problem, an otter swam downstream past him. What a surprise!
While I had been trail blazing, Johnny had been sawing up a large tree that had fallen over the gate near the pump house. I wondered if the old abandoned trail beyond that gate could now be opened up to meet the one trail I've been able to ride on since the storm damage. They used to meet, although the pump house trail was never horse friendly. A few hours and many sore muscles later, I did, indeed, manage to connect those trails, although the one is still not horse friendly (too many low hanging limbs to get under and large logs to get over.)
Next, I bravely dove into another long-lost trail, one I rode regularly, before storm-damage. Here's what it looked like before clearing.
That one took the rest of the afternoon and has much work, including chainsaw work, left to do. Johnny was, by then, creating his own sore muscles by sawing up huge stumps out of the creek that goes under our driveway. One day soon I'll talk him into bringing his chain saw to my trails. I have hope that my bridal paths will be ready for riding by the time the ground is dry enough to put horses on them.
For now, they are walkable, sort of, and already beginning to have blooming wild flowers. Only one trillium was open today, but the ground was carpeted with these little pink flowers that I call spring beauties. It's worth clearing the paths just to see the flowers.
And it sure will be fun to ride those paths come summer.