Every Fall for the past few years we’ve taken our Trailhead Wranglers for an end of Summer trail ride to Anderson River Park. It’s in some ways a reward for faithfully helping us each week work with the kids and families that take part in our ranch and horse ministry. Truth is, we couldn’t do our ministry without them. They are a very important part of making everything work. But, it’s also an opportunity to create a stronger bond between us and at the same time enjoy the beauty of God’s creation.
This year Erik and Courtney invited them to spend Friday night camping out at the Ranch. Of course, it’s always fun when you’re a teenager and you have a chance to sleep over with you friends. But, it’s also an easy way to get everyone up and ready to hit the trail early the next morning. I’m betting that this might have been in the back of Erik’s mind when he suggested the camp out.
Of course, camping out at the Ranch when there’s a full moon means a horse back ride on the Millville Plains after the sun goes down. When I got to the Ranch at 7:30 Saturday morning the moon light ride and the sunrise ride on Saturday morning where the main topics of discussion. That’s right, they enjoyed the moon light ride so much they got up early and took a sunrise ride. This is turning out to be a night and day none of them will forget.
After a breakfast of hot cakes, sausage, peaches, coffee and juice (thank you Erik), we loaded the horse into three different trailers and headed for the park. An interesting side note: This was the first time Courtney hauled two horses in her very own horse trailer. We pulled into the trail head parking lot at 10 and were horseback and on the trail into the park by 10:30. Our first stop was the first of three merry go rounds (Sixty foot round circles in the sandy soil where you can work you horse.) located along the park trails. You wouldn’t believe the cloud of dust ten people horseback can kick up trotting around a sandy circle in the ground.
After the merry go round warm up we headed deeper into the park at a trot along the Tree of Heaven main trail. This is a wide trail through a dense growth of Trees of Heaven. Of course, I always have to stop and make sure everyone knows what kind of trees they are, their significance to the Chinese 49ers and how they got where they are. Some of them have heard the story several times. I feel guilty repeating myself but then I remember: “It’s not what you say that makes the difference, it’s how many times you say it and they hear it.” This is why I try hard to read my Bible every morning.
We were back at the trail head parking lot at noon just in time for Annette’s wonderful lunch. After lunch it was back into the park for one last hurrah. This time it was thirty degrees hotter, dustier and Sugar my mule and I were both dragging. A little after two everyone was back at the trail head ready to repack and reload everything and everyone. A tired, dusty and sun burnt group of happy and contented Wranglers ready for our next adventure at the Jelly’s Ferry Wilderness area headed home with some great stories to share with their family and friends.
Tom is one of the founders of Trailhead Youth Ranch. He has been involved in Christian ranch and horse ministries since the early 1980s. Trailhead Youth Ranch is the culmination of 35 years of experience at various related Christian ministries.