After a few local day trips, I decided to join some people from the barn on a camping trip at Iron Mountain in Virginia.  They assured me that the seven-hour drive with a horse in tow was worth the effort.  They were right.   Virginia was stunning – even if the “horse” trails looked better suited for mountain goats.

Our first morning out, we planned to ride twelve miles with a group of four.  Within the first ten minutes, one of the horses in our group bucked off his rider and I started to panic.  What on earth was I doing in the middle of nowhere, with people I didn’t really know, with very limited riding ability (aka still learning to stay in the saddle) and a horse that had only recently stopped bolting in the opposite direction every time he saw me?  I had never seen trails as rocky, hills as steep, or drop-offs as severe in my nearly non-existent trail riding experience.  Not to mention the possibility of running across a bear or wild boar.  The first challenge was a sharp uphill climb through thick grass and brambles as tall as the horses’ chests.  The idea was to ride to the top of this foothill, on an unmarked path, to take a scenic overlook route that veered off at the top.

Once again, Atticus surprised me.  He was calm and sure footed, head down and ears forward.  He never hesitated to do anything I asked of him, whether the task was forging through thick underbrush, crossing moving water, navigating his feet through mud, or heading what felt like straight uphill.  He was strong and constant, and I could feel his back end powering us up every hill and holding us steady on every slippery descent.

Over the three days in Virginia, we did about forty miles and Atti never slowed down on the trails.  He was eager and forward.  In the evenings he was calm and quiet, resting.  I watched him munch alfalfa.  I sat in silence, both of us tired and sweaty.  Those were some of the sweetest moments with Atti – nothing but the sound of a crackling campfire and a horse chewing his grain.  I felt myself slowing down and coming undone.  For the first time in a long time, I was content.  No rushing, no planning, no worrying, no yearning for something or somewhere else.  Just clean air, the smell of a fire, and the sound of my Atti.