One of the best trips I've been on was the one three years ago when we headed out right from our cabin with three borrowed mules and a bunch of cobbled together riding gear that was also mostly borrowed. We rode to Happy Valley which is one valley over from where we live. Bernie had heard that there was supposed to be some sort of music festival going on there. We didn't even know where.
We left with breakfast in our bellies and a jar of peanut butter in the saddle bags. We had a bit of cash between us and open minds. We decided to see what we might find as an unplanned adventure. We brought Bernie's tepee and 2 sleeping bags. In all, we were gone for three days.
We ended up not being hungry. We found the music, which was the Happy Valley Fiddler's Convention. We found good food both bought and donated. Someone even gave us two cold beers when we didn't think anything could get any better.
This travel right out the front gate on foot, with a dog, on a bike or with an equine partner is a vacation, a challenge, an adventure with so much untapped potential.
That's why we are trying it again. This time, starting on August 31st, we will be gone for a little over a month, just wandering the hills near home and learning new things, seeing old things from new perspectives, and seeing so many things we didn't know were right here. Plus we will meet a lot of new people on our journey and the good thing is these people if they become friends won't live far from our own home.
This adventure will also start with a ride to the Happy Valley Fiddlers Convention. Below are two emails I wrote to Bernie's brother three years ago about that mule trip. I hope it might inspire you to walk down the road from home a piece.
First email to Bernie's brother:
We are having a great time. We decided to let work fall at our heels for a few days and just play together. We went down to Ronald's and picked up three riding mules...two to ride and one to pack. We are planning to head out over the hills together right from the farm and be gone for a few days...only a tepee, some coffee, a jar of peanut butter, water and a stove needed to start.
We have in mind to get to a little blue grass festival in Happy Valley but we don't know if we will find it or even arrive in time for it, or be allowed in. We just wanted to go...to kick up our heels and be free and spend some time together. The kind of time you might someday regret you did not take. So off we go. Tomorrow around 9 or ten we will swing in to the saddles and be gone. We both said one day how fun it would be to have you on that third mule. Hope all is going well.
Lots of love,
Second email to Bernie's brother regarding the mule trip.
Perhaps you know the whole tale by now. We left in the morning...up the logging road and then up the quickest trail...then up in to the woods on what used to be a trail, then down on something we were never sure was a trail...then to the end of where there was never any sign of a trail ever existing...then back up and down and all around in circles looking for a trail....mule behind mule...woman behind man...round and round in a sweaty stir. Then we come to our senses, time to head home for some lunch...back down all the trails to the cabin.
We tie up the mules and eat lunch. Feeling better we head out by road. We travel a very slow but beautiful, stunning, sensational eight miles on mule back. Mule ears rocking back and forth, the pack saddle swaying to and fro with the mule's stride, B's saddle squeaking. People come to the front of their lawns to see if we need anything and to just say “hi”.
Finally after bridges and corn fields, ground wasps, logging trucks, barking dogs, running horses, duck crossings and a few fast moving cars, trucks and campers we come to an arrow and a sign. “Fiddlers Convention straight ahead on the left”. We can see the campers and tents down below us...B yells a friendly “Howdy” greeting and lets those below know that he has come for the fiddlers convention. They shout back, such friendly enthusiastic greetings. We turn in, get our official convention bands, green for Saturday, orange for Sunday...Camp any where. We find a perfect spot along a back fence line, make friends with our new neighbors who think we are cool or poor for coming the way we have on mule backs.
Everybody is so friendly and nice. I only dip in to the peanut butter once at the camp site. There are concession stands, one run by the boy scouts cooking hamburgers which we are both craving. We splurge, getting two and loading them with all the condiments.
We listen to great music and realize just how deep the talent runs in the hills of the South. There are a lot of young coming along and starting to win prizes away from those who have taught them, mandolin, violin, fiddle, base, washtub, harmonica, banjo and beautifully hilly sounding voices with accents you must be born to and grow up with. We dance together, check on the mules and sleep deeply.
The next day we visit with people and they visit with us. We listen to a whole lot more good music, take a nap by a cool running creek in the heat of the day and watch some boys playing and throwing rocks in the river which reminds B of you and he as boys.
Then on Monday we are near the last to pack up and leave. We roll up, saddle up, pick up and then step up. B gets on using Laura Foster's grave as a mounting block. To me she is too sadly famous and with respect I climb on with out the aid of her grave.
Laura Foster might have been killed by Tom Dula or maybe it was her cousin who killed her out of jealousy and Tom who saved a life rather than took one and in the process gave up his own...crooked history that will never be set straight, but a history of those very hills none the less.
I loved the "just take off adventure". Now I am home and trying to catch back up.
Lots of love,