It's majestic at times. Last night I woke up and saw the mules sleeping in the moonlight. The other day we were on endless dirt roads just the mules, the beautiful blue sky, a gentle breeze, falling leaves and us. No cars or other people for hours.
Then later that day we found ourselves on a busier, faster road pinned against several long guardrails with no edge, desperately trotting the mules along them as surprised motorists in cars and trucks piled up behind us. Talk about stressful.
Then a day later we step the mules on to the Virginia Creeper Trail and the worry of riding on roads may have become history for the rest of the trip. We have landed in trail riding Paradise.
That's how this mule rambling goes. While it can be idyllic it can also be full of its own kind of challenges. Water may not be available at all times. Sometimes you don't have water when the mules are thirsty. Other times you have plenty when they aren't. Some nights there is plenty of good forage and other times there is little to none. Some roads we travel along are busy and fast moving but most are not.
Mule rambling demands flexibility both from the riders and the mules. The game is be flexible, be positive and take advantage of every opportunity. Well, also try to show a little restraint because you can over do it. Like eating fries, a cheeseburger and a piece of chocolate cake at 10 am when you come upon the Creeper Trail Cafe.
Mules are good animals for feast, famine and rambling. They don't need a lot of water. They can almost get enough from the heavy over night dew we have been getting. They seem to do well filling themselves with sticks and weeds when we can't find good picket spots with grass. Dusty is the only one not quite maintaining his weight and that's because even when we have found them good grass for the night, Dusty chooses to be on watch instead of head down munching all night.
Mules also don't often over eat like people and horses. They know when they've had enough. Well mostly, certainly they are better than horses at this judgement of not eating themselves sick. They can however still founder from rich grass. That's why last night, as a precautionary measure, we pulled them out of the lush pasture Mike Johnson had kindly lent us and stuck them in a less rich lot adjacent to his hay barn.
Brick and Dusty seemed fine after a night and a day on the lush pasture but Polly's belly was huge and she was drooling a bunch. She, like us, with the chocolate cake at the Creeper Trail Cafe, doesn't seem quite sure when's a good time to stop indulging.
This trip is a fine indulgence in many respects but it still also offers plenty of challenges. It's this duality that makes the whole experience so rich.