Wednesday, December 05, 2001

A Fall Ride in the Redwoods - Mike Maul

The trails near Woodside are a mix of redwoods and manzanita, a deep quiet where the hooves of your horse give a hollow beat from the ground as you travel over the single track trails cut from the side of the hills. I`m riding with someone who grew up here 45 years ago and hasn`t been on these trails for 25 years.

Now there are yuppie joggers and hikers, new trails with solitary hikers and large groups - with accents from the UK to the Far East - from our East to the heartland to native California.

Memories are brought out - she says that`s where my Dads horse went over the edge and had to be hauled out by rope from another horse. That`s where my horse dumped me at age 7 and my father came from home to find me. Here`s were we found the cold watermelons in the stream and "borrowed" one. I used to ride out here all the time on my first horse. You compare the distances to what we do today as endurance riders but you still think it was a lot...

You start out on a long uphill that gets the horses warmed up - several miles of nice open road that just keeps going on and up. The air smells fresh and cool - the sun is coming through the tall trees and spreading light that you mightsee in an old cathedral. Moss is growing on all sides of the trees showing that it`s not going to help you find North if you get lost. The trees give off a smell you never find in our cities.

You`re really not out for endurance conditioning but it happens anyway. You do all the things you would normally do - nice long steady trots, walk the downhills, try to get them to drink early in the ride with no success, take a break where you might have had a vet check, certainly trot all the uphills and don`t let them sneak into a canter.

You say hello to everyone - slow to a walk - when you meet those less fortunate hikers who don`t get to be on these spirited Arabians. Everyone says "what beautiful horses" - you agree and are glad to be out there on one of the last days in the fall. In one little girls eyes - you see her hearts desire showing through for one of these Arabians.

You pass old burnt out redwoods with new ones rising out of their black charred stumps. The new rises out of the old and the forest renews itself. You wonder what memories the old redwoods have of the mountains and all the life that has passed through here.

Yet just a few miles away bisecting Interstate 280 - you passed a straight - miles long - building where the Stanford Linear Accelerator peers into the depths of the atomic world. It looks at the future and the redwoods look to the past. They both have meaning for us today on our horses.

The trails turn to "kneeknockers" with nice turns that you lean into as your horse takes them like a four footed grey sports car. He seems to like them even better than you do. He`s sure-footed and never gets your knees as you drift through some of the turns and switchbacks. You feel like you could do this forever...

You also remain convinced that Arabians can see parts of the spectrum we cannot. They see shapes and things that we will never be able to see but they protect us even if we can`t see them...

We ride along roads with big houses and small houses hidden in the woods. Most have their American flag out at the gate. Again Sept. 11 is with us wherever we go - and always will be.

Looking at the hills toward the ocean - we see a dark blue fog rolling in with the coming storm. It smells like rain to come - but different than that of the thunderstorms of my heartland youth - more like the sea.

Given the coming rain - we`re happy we got in this ride in the last of the fall. Seeing the redwoods again and thinking back on the memories of many years ago on these trails - she says - perhaps you can go back - if you`re on a horse.

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