Part 3: Wild Ponies
On the second day it was most important that we find water. We weren’t running low yet, but we certainly didn’t have enough for our entire six day trip. We decided to hike back to the open field and then head down the valley. After descending down a winding path for about three hundred meters the trail flattened. The land was dry and rocky. Though there was some vegetation, it was clear water would still be a ways away. The trail eventually headed back upwards mounting a new hill. It was one of those hills which never seems steep and constantly feels as though you are just around the bend from the top. As we mounted the hill we headed into a lightly wooded section. This was not as immersive a forest as the one we had walked around in before; the trees were smaller and the type that needed less water as well as somewhat further away from each other.
As we kept walking the underbrush around the trees turned from average tall grass into blackberry bushes. The trails we were on were infrequently traveled. Eventually the blackberry bushes were surrounding us so tightly that we were forced to scratch out way through a patch. As soon as we did were were confronted by a view of the entire other side of the hill. The blackberry bushes continued down all the way to a small pond. The pond was still another twenty minute walk, but we were too distracted by snacking on blackberries that it passed quite quickly.
We got our water bottles ready. Generally there are two ways to purify stream water. You can either use a water pump which purifies the water as it passes through, or you can collect it and put iodine in it which disinfects it. Pumps take forever, can be tiring to operate, and take up space in your pack, but the water tastes pretty clean. Iodine requires no work, but it gives the water a distinct taste. Personally I’ve never minded the taste of iodine, so we dropped some in. We dunked our shirts in the water before heading back. We decided to take a different route back.
The next two days we continued roaming the area. We had been paying attention to which trails we were taking and in which directions, but by now we had mastered our area. Even when we were three or four hills away from our tent we knew the best way to return home. The fourth day was incredible. On this day we were ready to make the most out of our adventure. After light breakfast and some snacks we headed around for another hike. The sun felt especially hot this day. As we started hiking down the valley we decided to stop under a large pine tree. It offered us the perfect resting spot; there was a giant bolder that jutted out of the ground at just the right angle to form a reclining back rest for us. Eventually we continued on. We mounted a hill we had seen but not hiked on yet. At the top we found the perfect boulder. It was one of those rocks which is surrounded by nothing and seems as though it might have been used to give speeches on centuries ago. After relaxing there we headed into the deep forest. It was nice to be in the cooler climate under the trees. We stopped at different areas where moss and fungus grew on top of rocks and trees. As the sun started to turn golden we returned home.
As we passed through the large field we came across a herd of wild ponies. There were perhaps nine or ten of them all grazing and hanging out. At first neither of us believed what we were seeing. This was AWESOME. At first we admired them from where we were standing. Eventually though we headed closer and closer. I was sure that they would scare, but was pleased to find that not only were they fine with us being around them, but they would let us pet them as well. We decided to run back up to our tent and bring back our food and make it around our new friends. Typically the loop from the field to our tent would take about thirty minutes, but we were able to do it in twenty. It was about fifteen minutes until dusk by the time we started making our pasta. As we were eating some of the ponies became a little too curious about the food, so we lightly pushed their heads away.
Over the next two days we never saw those ponies again. Eventually we packed our bags up and headed back through the forest to where we had parked the car and drove the nine hours back home.