Last Tuesday I had an amazing opportunity to ride a new horse! This is sweet Rocky, above, and we are out on a secret trail in my own neighborhood. Rocky was the absolute best boy for the whole ride. He was the perfect horse to help make a 16 year dream come true. He and his horsey friend, Smokey, and my new friends, Jen and K., all spoiled me by taking me out riding on a trail that has been a fantasy I never thought possible.
I discovered this trail accidentally in November of 1996. Out for a run from our farm, I ended up on a grass path in the woods. The path went through a large tunnel under the turnpike and seemed to stretch out for miles. It was overgrown with jaggy, wild raspberry branches, but I was still able to run a long way. I soon realized that it was an old railroad. Coincidentally, I was the zoning officer for my township at that time, so after my run, I did some research on the history of this hidden greenway.
The railway stretched from our town to a neighboring town and had been abandoned in 1972. A judged ruled that year that the 12 property owners in our township who abutted the railway would jointly "own" the strip of land. The railroad ties were pulled up and the land was mostly used by farmers to hunt. I ran back there for some years because it was a great shortcut to get from my horse farm to my home. The trail was gorgeous and quiet and forgotten. I constantly imagined what it would be like to ride a horse back there. Unfortunately, one day after a long absence, Brian and I ran on the trail only to discover that the Turnpike Commission had closed in the tunnel under the turnpike. I was devastated and stopped running on the trail at all. That was probably in 2004.
This September, though, I was out for a run nearby and happened to look at one of the trail access points. It was newly mown and the thorny brambles had all been trimmed. I turned onto the trail and was able to run easily for one mile until I got to the turnpike. The tunnel was still shut, but the trail was wide and maintained! I was delighted and on the way back I started my perennial daydream of riding out here. Just then, I looked down to the right and saw two horses in a paddock and a family unloading hay into a small barn! I squealed and ran right up to them beaming with excitement. When I think back on that day, I laugh at how I must have looked - appearing out of nowhere, in the deep recesses of their property comes this crazy, sweaty woman who is talking non-stop of horses. I found out that the family recently moved to the property and they and the other neighbors had decided to clean up the trail. The mom, Jen, and daughter, K., are riders and were looking for riding friends.
A pasture shot of Jen and K.'s adorable geldings - Rocky, above on left, and Tennessee Walker, Smokey, on right.
Jen came to meet my horses one day this fall, and then on Tuesday, all the planets aligned and Jen invited me over to ride Rocky! K. was off school so she rode Smokey and I rode Rocky and we all headed out to the trail. The day was chilly (K.'s teeth were chattering) but it was sunny and beautiful out there on my dream trail.
Above, a summer shot of K. standing with her Smokey sweetie pie and below, Jen is walking with K. and Smokey on the secret trail! I took this photo from Rocky's back - just look at that gorgeous view!!!! This trail is in the middle of nowhere so it makes it all the more special. Where I ride normally it is terribly loud with truck noise. This trail is quiet and very close to my own home.
The horses were so good and seriously seemed happy to investigate their special trail. K. and I rode bareback which was fun and helped keep us warm on such a chilly day. I had a blast and it seemed like everyone else did too! Thank you Jen and K., Rocky and Smokey!!! I can't wait for our next ride!
UPDATE: There is more to this story! Click here.