"Want to go for a ride?" he asked me.
I nearly fell over from surprise.
It was cold and windy, but the sun was shining and whispy clouds flew far overhead.
The last time I'd been out the temps were up in the 40's and it was rather nice in the woods.
I grabbed Fred, my husband's wonderful, dependable standby pony mule. He'd had Fred forever. If the going was tough, Fred was the one to take.
I also caught up Opal [the mule who hates people...]. I stood patiently in the paddock and she finally decided I was worthy of catching her.
I put on my 'skunk hat' and grinned at my husband, who merely shook his head and commented that ... 'Yes, I was a little stinker.'
The first part of the trail through the woods wasn't so bad.
Then we hit ice.
Ice under the snow from the frequent melting and refreezing.
Ice on the hillsides.
As we rode the trail ran parallel to the deep wash our mules scrambled for footholds. At times we'd slide a bit sideways. Good nerves, good mules, and good posture on top of the mule all kept us safe.
We could here the crunch crunch of the ice underfoot even in the first valley. Carefully we crossed the culvert that had been placed in the creek for the snowmobilers to use. It was glazed ice. Our mules tiptoed carefully across.
Heck, I wouldn't even walk over this while hiking!
Yet the mules took us safely towards the end of the valley.
We decided not to recross on the packed icy trail but short cut through the creek...I took a short video of my husband and Fred crossing. I crossed at the same place, but NO camera in hand. Yes, hubby would like to have a video camera that would attach to his hat brim...or my helmet, if I was wearing one.
We stopped to watch some creek trout flit about in the water.
...and I insisted that my husband take a photo of me in my favorite silly hat [that had been given to me by a co-worker the other day].
Next we headed up and over the ridge and down towards the ice cave. I really wanted to take some shots of the ice cave but the footing was so treacherous, I just concentrated on what Opal was doing. I could hear her hooves sliding and feel her 'catching' herself.
I was able to stop at the bottom of the hill and take a photo of hubby and Fred.
We walked our mules along the old logging trails until we came to an area that had some well traveled deer trails.
So we went our separate ways and hunted for antler sheds. [Any reason to ride is a good reason!]
We came to a steep ravine where the deer trails crossed. Hubby and Fred took one trail. Fred literally slid down and scrambled up the other side.
I gave Opal her head and she went with no hesitation. I could hear the ice underneath.
Most of the ride home was pretty casual. Both mules deciding that they would hurry since they knew they were going home.
However, the trail home was even more treacherous than when we'd left. The temperatures had dropped.
I watched Fred in front of me scramble sideways, his front left hoof crossing under his right front hoof as he kept his balance on the hillside.
I turned Opal up the hill in hopes of finding a safer trail.
What an odd feeling to feel your mule literally 'spinning' out as she tries to climb up about 5 yards to a slightly more level spot.
For a few seconds we went no where.
Then came the downhill into the dry wash. I watched Fred nearly sit down and just slide, his quick little hooves keeping himself and my husband upright.
Our turn was next. I gave Opal her head and sat in the middle of the saddle. Her hooves rattled on the frozen mud and ice, up through the wash we came.
We stopped then and stood for a moment.
I patted Opal on the neck.