Adventures in a Sandy Oasis: Singletree Annual Girls’ Ride 2016

Sorry we’ve been AWOL for so long. This past year we’ve been on quite a few adventures! The Rodeo Clown finally married the Hunter Gatherer, we completed some outside projects on the ranch, acquired a few new mobile pasture “decorations”, and collected some new toys for the ponies’ pleasure. We’ll be posting our adventures as we go along, but today I’d like to tell you about our most recent adventure to the sands of South Georgia.

Every year, we gather up our closest, most dependable gal pals for a weekend full of intrigue, mystery, copious libations, and a luxurious rented condo with all the comforts of home without any of the responsibilities. It’s a weekend of empowerment- of being able to hone what you have learned at home out in new territories on the trails, the opportunity to test your own abilities while enjoying the freedoms of a new landscape whilst enjoying the company of like-minded ladies. The Rodeo Clown (RC) cooks and does her best to entertain with a lively commentary of events, past and present while PPA (the Pretty Pony Addict) takes charge of accommodations and mothering duties. Our lady friends travel great lengths for this annual pilgrimage- Smudge comes from New York, Cinderella treks from Tennessee, and Bondo hails from North Carolina. This year some of our regular gals couldn’t make it so we made do with four: Smudge, Jules, PPA, and RC.

This past year, we chose to go a different route than normal. Most years, we heed the call of the Blue Ridge mountains and head north to our Mecca- that is the NC, SC, GA, TN convergence. In 2016 we decided to diverge from our routine and head south. We found out one of our friends, Vicki, had some land in a small town called Darien on the coast of Georgia. Dubbed Arrowhead Farms, she hosted our four ponies for a long weekend while we relaxed at our bungalow on the shores of Darien Creek when it meets the Altamaha.

We arrived after a 5-hour drive to see green pastures and the marsh grass in the distance. With a nice ring and five (or so) stalls, our friend Vicki had a nice setup that we were grateful to be able to enjoy. We settled the critters in and headed to explore our bungalow. What a fantastic place! With three bedrooms and a detached bunk house in the courtyard, it was the perfect place to break into the provided champagne and slip  RC’s first meal of the weekend (a sumptuous veggie lasagna) into the oven.

Just before bed, we received a call from our ponies’ gracious hostess. At bedtime, her rarely-used bungalow’s unknown nighttime resident had come out to play. Crocker the spaniel was NOT impressed with his new roommate- a giant south Georgia nutria! A panicked phone call later and they were packing their things into our bunkhouse. No way were they going to play with that bad boy! Quite a bit of laughter and a nerve-settling drink were required before bed that evening.

The next day dawned cool and beautiful. We had settled on a beach ride on St. Simon’s Island that day so we set about making ourselves some breakfast before packing ourselves and our trusty mounts up and trekking half an hour south to the old Coastie Station.

Entrance to St. Simon's Island beach

A long wooden boardwalk is no match for our trusty Paso Fino steeds!

Now I’m not sure if you know this, but our mountain ponies are very adept at climbing rock faces, sloshing through mountain streams and wading through rivers, but the ocean? That is a completely different animal!

Only one of our fabulous Paso mounts had seen waves and sand before. The rest? One look at that frothy abomination chasing the gulls and they slammed on the brakes- NO WAY! These stout and fearless ponies suddenly turned into quivering newborn foals on stick legs at the sight of this foamy expanse of wet desert. Quite a bit of coaxing was required to convince these boys that the water wasn’t going to eat them.

After terrorizing the ponies into submission, they found they enjoyed to cool salt water and frolicked madly in the surf. They still weren’t keen on the foam chasing them up the beach, but who can blame beasties that have to piece together their world with no context?

Ladies on Paso Fino horses- L to R: Jules on brave girl Donya, RC on Caballito, Smudge on Trebol, and PPA on Cortez

We spent the rest of our day chasing gulls, chasing each other, laughing, lunching, and showing off our individual Paso Fino mounts’ smooooooooth gaits. Smudge explored her borrowed beast’s uncanny ability to speed across the ground in a largo like a hovercraft at speeds only a cheetah on a mission could match, Jules let her girl loose to see how many times we could annoy the gulls before they found a calmer beach to inhabit, the PPA attempted to take pictures of our shenanigans to no avail because of her camera-hogging equine, and RC whooped and hollered her way across the surf at top speed. It was a day unmatched thus far. Even the beach combers and residents stopped to watch our antics with fascination.

After our long and eventful day, we headed back with dreams of warm dinner and cold drinks- though a stop at the Liquor Store for Fireball was required.

We found ourselves wandering the bustling streets of Darien and found ourselves at the most delightful fish camp- Skippers. The food was fantastic, the view even better, and our evening was almost perfect, but for our lack of jacuzzi.

Docks of Darien on the river

The view of the river from Skipper’s Fish Camp was fantastic!

Our second day of riding we strategized our way to Townsend Wildlife Management Area– a large tract of people-less land ripe for exploring. With RC doing her best to arrange satellites into a workable configuration for navigation purposes, we explored the sandy roads and barely-beaten tracks deep into the wilderness surrounding the mighty Altamaha.

Having gotten a late start, we decided to lunch early at the end of a dead-end deer trail on the banks of the expansive river. What a view!

Altamaha River Ludowici, GA Girls' Ride 2016

Jules on Donya and PPA on Cortez enjoying the view of the Altamaha river

 

Lunch while perched on the steep banks of the river

Our post-lunch adventures continued with the sun sinking rapidly and RC losing her mind over the indecipherable WMA maps on her phone. Luckily, our ponies are much less afraid of blackwater cypress swamps than they are of foamy sea waves and failed to hesitate when confronted by the questionable depths of the sandy road crossings.

Townsend WMA swamp crossings

Blackwater swamp crossings at Townsend WMA- Smudge on Trebol, Jules on Donya, and PPA on Cortez.

 

PPA on Cortez crossing the questionable depths of the blackwater swamps of Townsend WMA.

 

L-R: Jules on Donya, PPA on Cortez, and Smudge on Trebol bravely trekking into the unknown depths on the swamp.

 

L to R: PPA on Cortez, Smudge on Trebol, and RC on Caballito gamely posing in the terrifying blackwater.

With swift hooves, our adventures led us back to our trailers with precious little daylight to spare.

Townsend WMA in Ludowici GA

Caballito and RC blaze the trail while exploring Townsend WMA in Ludowici, GA

One last evening of quiet indulgence and a dinner of hors d’oeuvres before snuggling into our comfortable cocoons for one last slumber.

Our last morning of riding dawned warm and breezy with the scent of the Spanish moss mingling with the salty march air. We opted for a quiet ride on the sandy roads around our hostess’ land and found ourselves pioneering our way down half-abandoned (or so we thought) roads to the salt marshes. Count us surprised when we found a number of quaint bungalows at the marsh’s edge with fantastic, unspoiled views! We couldn’t resist the photo op.

Expansive views of the salt marshes

 

L to R: PPA on Cortez, Jules on Donya, and Smudge on Trebol

 

L to R: Smudge on Trebol, PPA on Cortez, and RC on Caballito- framed by Donya’s ears

As we headed back to our trailers on the last leg of our epic ladies’ weekend in a newfound oasis, RC spotted some delectable treats- orange, lemon and grapefruit trees bearing heavy fruit right on the road! Who can blame her for leaping from her steed (and hoping someone would grab him) for the chance to shinny up a tree and grab the rare treat to take home? All the girls stuffed every pocket, nook, and cranny with as much citrus as possible to take home. You’d think we were sailors on shore leave battling scurvy!

Our last attempt at adventure led us through some side trails off the “main” road. In a million years we could not have guessed that we had stumbled upon the haunted trails of the Christmas Tree and Event farm next door to our basecamp. Plastic bones strewn about our mounts’ feet were no match for the staunch steeds as they carefully eyed the giant fake spiders perched in the trees. Skeletons guarded each open gate we passed through until we found the entrance to the fall horror show we had just survived.

Jules made an excellent point when she pointed out that you never know what we’ll stumble upon during our travels and boy was she right! A large metal skull graced the entrance to the haunted trail with which we absolutely could not pass up the opportunity to prove our survival. Our ponies were less than keen on posing in a large metal skull’s teeth, but they handled their skepticism with grace and a healthy dose of fortitude (I might add that Jules’ mount, Donya was much less reluctant than the rest of ours).

Our creepy skull encounter- L to R: Rodeo Clown on Caballito, Smudge on Trebol, PPA on Cortez

 

The creepy skull that didn’t eat us- L to R: Jules on Donya, Smudge on Trebol, PPA on Cortez

The last moments before having to leave required amazing feats of resistance as we meandered through the trails to the entrance of the Tree Farm through the scents of baby back ribs roasting over open fires- it was almost Christmas and they had to entertain their guests somehow!

RC attempts a moving picture of Jules on Donya (L) and Smudge on Trebol (R)

 

Last leg before the long ride home with Caballito in the lead

 

Smudge (L) and Jules on Donya enjoying the last-minute scenery

While we wish we could have stayed longer, we will most definitely venture back to Arrowhead Farms sometime soon to enjoy the sights, smells, and adventures of the Georgia coast. We enjoyed our time thoroughly and can honestly say that the only other experiences that come close to matching our enjoyment on this trip are the other Singletree Annual Girls’ Ride trips we enjoy together.

A special thank you to Vicki for hosting us (and a congratulations on the eviction of her large, furry invader) and a guarantee that we’ll be back to check out all the progress she’s making on improving her small slice of heaven on the rich shores of the Darien coast. We thank her for her hospitality and can’t wait to enjoy it with her again!

If you’re interested in learning more about the Paso Finos we ride, the places we stay, the decadent food we indulge in, and the antics we enjoy, contact us, visit our Facebook page, or stay tuned for more additions to the website. We love to share our adventures with you!

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