We awoke early to the sounds of other guests bustling about, horses and mules being harnessed up for the covered wagon trail ride along the 76 mile long Greenbrier River Trail—a four day trip for those eager to experience covered wagon traveling.
There were 3 wagons and many horses. We were invited to follow the wagons but after saddling our horses and walking them around the loud commotion, they seemed a bit too excited and nervous so we decided to leave ahead of the wagons on our own to maintain a safe distance. Their snorting and blowing at everything finally settled down after about a mile and we enjoyed the leisurely pace along the river. We decided to go south along the trail for about 5 miles and then return back, knowing this was their first exposure to this trail and all of its sights and sounds.
A few minutes into our return trip we met a few riders heading south and then our horses came to a dead stop, clearly hearing something! Around a slight curve in the flat trail, there were the covered wagons approaching. It was a narrow section so we decided to “play it safe” and dismount, then lead our horses on foot past the wagons. As we began our dismount with one foot still in the stirrup, Lucky sharply bolted in the other direction which left Dennis hanging on the side of a galloping scared horse, which then spooked Sly and together they bolted from the wagons,causing Jane to fall backwards immediately, sustaining a small cut on her hand.
I probably covered 20-30 yards before finally letting go and tumbling to the ground! Of course now the saddle is on the side of Lucky and both horses are at a dead run away from us and the wagons on a 76 mile long trail in the middle of the mountains of W. VA. So, we started walking after them. As we walked, we found an apple that had fallen from the saddle bag and then came to a water bottle, and then a chicken salad sandwich all spaced about fifty feet apart. We counted our blessings that we were not hurt but concerned about our “runaways”!
At about that same time, a man who was on an ATV along an adjacent narrow road came to a stop and inquired if we had lost our horses. He told us that his son saw our horses running past them across the ravine on the trail and his son quickly jumped on his ATV and took off after them hoping he could then cut them off and catch them. And this is exactly what happened as no sooner did we round a curve on the trail and there was this young man holding the reins of both Lucky and Sly. Lucky’s saddle was completely under her belly, as was the saddle bag, surprising us that she was as calm as she was. Dennis undid the latigo strap to get the saddle off as quickly as possible.
About this time, the wagons were upon us again but stopped about 50 yards away and waited for us to get saddled up again and then walk our horses on foot—this time holding firmly the reins. We continued to walk them about a quarter of a mile to a path leading to the river’s edge to let them drink, then remounted, rode a bit, but then encountered bicycles and rafters and swimmers—as one splashed into the water, Lucky stopped, reared up, spun around and snorted “I’m out of here”! Jane yelled at the swimmers to please be quiet so we could pass. Dennis dismounted again and led Lucky, again, past the “boogie men”.
Dennis mounted again only to meet up with more bicyclists and another rear-up. He managed to stay on this time and we finally had some peace and quiet on the trail….but only for a few minutes because we suddenly felt some raindrops and a gathering thunderstorm was soon upon us. We decided enough was enough and it was time to run at a full tilt back to our camp—still 2 miles away. We arrived drenched from the rain, but feeling fortunate that we—horses and all—were safe….the only thing lost were our lunches which had fallen out of the saddle bag during Lucky’s gallop away, but we did manage to find Dennis’ glasses and water bottle.
So, our first trail ride was really more of a series of lessons—a real learning experience for both of us.