Whalechaser's Musings

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Saturday, January 5, 2013

Horse Program, Shawnee National Forest, Illinois

After I finished my whirlwind trip to the Pacific Northwest, I continued on to Shawnee National Forest located in southeastern Illinois for an All About Horses Program which was sponsored by Road Scholar, a non-profit organization that focuses on travel and education.  It was all I had hoped it would be and more, since it took place during the most picturesque time of the fall and the weather was absolutely perfect the entire time.

Camp Ondessonk was our home base for the week and for a retreat/summer camp it was downright comfortable with large rooms, private bathrooms and beautiful views of the surrounding forest from every room you found yourself sitting.  They prepared very interesting meals for us and we even had a campfire sing-along that lasted a lot longer than I thought it would.  We were all having too much fun to leave.

There were two programs that week; one for horses and one for hiking and both groups seemed happy to share their day over the joint evening meal.  We each tried to bring folks from the other group to our activities, but there were no takers.

 We learned a lot about horses from grooming, to feeding, saddling and bridling, using curry combs, riding, walking and turning, cantering and trotting. Then we found out just how delicate these animals are and for those who might have be harboring thoughts of actually owning one, the time, money and effort far outweighs the ability of most to even consider it.

Here we are preparing for a lesson of the day in the fenced area.  A safety check is made before we proceed to more complicated maneuvers.  That is me on my horse Smokey.

 We took a two hour ride through the forest on day two; a preparation for the all-day ride later in the week to the waterfalls...
 The retreat grounds have lots of interesting attractions including zip lines, tree houses, many open air bunkhouses, several lakes and loads of trails.  This covered bridge looked so nice on that beautiful day

The hikers were looking forward to the long hike to the tallest free-falling waterfall in the state of Illinois and the riders were anticipating the ride to the same place, but on different days.  As luck would have it, the hikers went the day before the rain, so there was no waterfall to view.  The riders went the day after the nighttime storm so not only did we get water, but there was also a rainbow.  Perfectly fitting for my birthday, I thought.

This was a most enjoyable way to wrap up my Pacific Northwest trip.  Now I guess I better start thinking about what I will do next year.  So many places, so little time!

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