Horse eating rocks, water crossings, and trees that reach out and snatch you are all perils of mountain trail riding. It always spooks me when the horses’ heads and ears twitch and then they suddenly peer off into the brush. Like them, I’m certain it’s a bear or a cougar with a hankering for horse meat, but more than happy to snack on the stupid human who falls off when the smarter horse bolts. I don’t like long sideways drops off hillsides, either.
Give me sharks and ocean waves any day.
On horseback, my husband Kevin and I forded about six small streams reduced to a ghost of the ripping ice melt they’d been in the spring, passed beaver dams, and nimbly high-stepped over fallen aspens. About four miles and forty-five minutes into the ride my butt ached, the button on my jeans was poking a bruise into my belly, and I had to pee. I knew I shouldn’t have chugged that Diet Coke on the drive up. I rubbed my knee.
“Who rode my saddle?” I asked.
“No one,” Kevin said.
“Are you sure? The stirrups feel short.”
He looked back, considering. “Yeah, maybe they are. I’ll fix ‘em when we get to the campsite.”
“Look at the light on the mountains,” he said. “The new green from the rain mixed with the fall colors in the warm afternoon light.”
Kevin’s an engineer by trade and temperament, but like most Celts and Welsh I think he has a warrior poet’s heart. My eyes, previously laser locked on the trail as viewed between Marley’s ears—all the better to eat you with, my dear—looked up.
At his chuckle, my eyes snapped to my lover’s face. He was beaming.
“It’s stunning,” I stammered.
“I knew you’d like it,” he said. “It’s good to see you smile.”
A date, I thought. Not a trip to Costco or a quick movie in town, but time with my husband in the mountains and away from computers, television, kids, and books. He knew the mountains would look like this and wanted to share it with me. A horse ride so spontaneous I didn’t have time to create prior plans, but important enough with the coming snow that we had to go. Was his handheld GPS gadget even missing?
A few minutes later past the rocky ridge that always reminded me of a dinosaur’s spine, we turned up the hill and reached the campsite.
“Here,” he said. “Let’s tie the horses over there and walk around.” He dismounted, took two steps, reached down, and picked up the GPS from under a sagebrush.
“You’re kidding me!”
“Nope.” He wiped it off. “Battery’s still good.”
My jaw was still hanging open. “I can’t believe you actually found it.”
“Me, too.” He chuckled and held my horse’s reins so I could dismount.
“So what do want to do now?” I asked.
“Well, I got my girl all alone in the woods…” He reached over and unstrapped a .22 rifle. “Wanna shoot?”
It was my turn to laugh. “You are such a dude!”
“I’ve been married to you for over 26 years. I see the mud and ice patches and didn’t bring a blanket. I got you on up here on a horse. If I can get you to shoot a gun, it’s a banner year.”
I sighed and sighted in a yellow aspen leaf. The things you do for love.