A Day in the Woods

Equine trail riders in Colorado are lucky to have a great expanse of public land available for recreational use. Most of these lands are managed by the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. These lands are owned by the public – you and me – and are there for the enjoyment of many types of trail users.

I love to ride in the high mountains during summer, 10,000 feet and up. Designated wilderness areas are my favorite! At this time of year we have to stick to no more than 8,500 feet until snow melts and mud clears. Just east of Bayfield Colorado there are several easy riding spots where a person can get their horses in shape and do some moderate hill work.

Recently, we had a 70-degree day with full sun in the morning and cooling clouds in the afternoon.  My eight-year-old daughter wanted to trail ride, so we loaded up and headed east of Durango.

One of the most popular spots is a place called Saul’s Creek. There are a few steep hills but most of the area is easy riding forested with pines, firs and oaks. This time of year there are blooming Dogwood and abundant wildlife.

My daughter rode my 22-year-old mare Derby; I have had her since the day she was born. Derby is a mild mannered, left brained horse. She is not easily rattled and is great for a solid ride. I rode my Arab/mustang mare Velma and ponied my other pinto mare, Sunshine.

We first went south and found wild asparagus. Heading east we climbed the ridge and enjoyed amazing views of the snow covered La Plata Mountains. As we descended and headed north, we saw many deer. We enjoyed snacks and lunch in a shady spots where the horses leisurely munched on grass and tried to steal our granola bars. The sound of those wrappers is invitation for a big head to intrude on lunch!

As we finished the last loop my daughter wanted to ride longer but being old and wiser I knew that she and the old mare had had enough. It was a lovely day of blue sky, sunshine and my little girl now wanting to ride over three hours with me!

Wherever you are, find out what trails are available and get out to enjoy them. If you are interested in keeping equine trails open, be sure to join your local Back Country Horsemen organization. They do great work in an effort to maintain equine trail access.

Thanks for reading! Happy trails from southwest Colorado.