Badger stopped and stood stiff legged. His ears and eyes turned towards the old coyote den. I couldn't see what had disturbed him.
But he is a mule, his hearing is much better than mine, his senses are sharp, and because of that, I listen to him.
So I sat and waited.
Soon enough, whatever had bothered him had moved on. He sighed and stepped forward.
We were headed for the 'Lost Valley'. The 'back' valley as I've always called it.
However today I'd chosen to explore the Lost Valley by using an old trail...one that hadn't been kept up for the 4 wheelers. The trail in years past was very difficult, I expected it to be impassable after last year's storms and this year's repeated flash floods and winds.
We wandered down into where the entrance to the trail used to be. A large oak tree had fallen, twisted and wrenched from its roots. We bypassed the fallen oak and edged near the fence. The trail was nearly washed out in one spot.
Badger calmly found his way around.
More trees down, more detours. I was half way 'down' the trail when we got to a portion that was literally overgrown with berry briers. Badger refused to go through them.
I sighed nearly ready to give up.
We edged up towards the fence line again and I found another detour around the sharp brush.
Suddenly I was on the old trail. It looked clean and brush free, in fact it looked as though it had been mowed.
This trail gives 'steep' a whole new meaning. I was grateful that I'd used a britchen on Badger instead of the crupper. We slowly made it down to the 90 degree turn and over the huge slippery rock.
I got down and checked my saddle and gave Badger a rest. The most difficult part of the trail was yet to come.
[No pictures!...I was watching what I was doing!]
We made it to the trail end...it disappeared into a huge rocky washout that was impassable. We used to be able to cross the small wash...it was now 6 ft deep and about 6 ft wide. The rocks were large and to attempt to take Badger across it would guarantee a broken leg.
Well I looked around and spotted a deer trail. I asked Badger to take it.
He smelled, he bobbed his head up and down to look...then...
We took a 'mule slide'. Badger dropped on his haunches and used his front legs to steer himself as we slid.
I must admit, it was a rush.
We were in the Lost Valley.
It had been two years since I'd been to this part of the valley. The stream had changed course from repeated flash floods.
We moved on carefully as the valley floor was sandy and 'unknown' territory. Some landmarks where familiar and some were new.
We crossed through an area that I call the dead place...all the trees are dying, the valley floor is deep white sand and rocks. All the undergrowth is gone, except for some straggling weeds.[after crossing the 'dead place...looking back]
Once, while weaving our way through, Badger encountered a 'hole'. Soft sand...he lurched out of it.
We carefully worked our way through, he checking the footing, me checking for other hazards.
I am enthralled by riding such a wonderful animal. He is so careful. He is so wise.
Our little trip down 'Hazard Trail' to the 'Lost Valley' will be replayed over and over.
we will do it again soon.