Three Creeks by Horseback

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Published on: Aug. 2, 1998

Last revision: Nov. 1, 2010

creek has undercut the bluff leaving a pool of water beneath the overhang, I think of Brynjulfson's description of the annual baptism ceremony that took place there. A choir would line the ledges, he said, as the minister would plunge the celebrants under the water. A string of mules would be tied nearby in the woods.

Brynjulfson died two weeks after our one ride together, but that day left me with a unique appreciation of the Three Creeks Conservation Area and of trail riding. I've returned to the area many times, and my rides always bring to mind the hooves that trod the trails before me and reinforce the value of viewing Missouri from horseback.

Today's trail-riding rhythm is a simple four-beat rap on the rock trails, as Chip moves into a working walk. Four beats-times two. Our other companions are a little black thoroughbred, who seems to skim the top of the rocks on the straight-aways, and his rider, Colby. We're in no particular hurry, and we let the terrain dictate our pace. Three Creek's 10-mile trail is considered an easy-even short-ride by more serious trail riding standards, but it is a perfect afternoon ride for those of us with not as much time as enthusiasm.

The trails follow a ridge that offers beautiful vistas. In the summer, each shade of foliage adds its own layer of texture, and I feel engulfed by its sheer greenness. The only sounds are birds, insects and horses. The trail ahead seems ribboned with sunlight draping though the canopy, and we try to follow the light, trotting in serpentine.

Two beats echo now as the sunlit trails lead along the creeks and up the banks. Big meadows beg for gallops, or at least a canter. Though Chip prefers to lead the charge, he offers little competition to his challenger, who was, after all, bred to run. A change in the rhythm, three beats, faster now, produces heavy breaths from the horses and exhilarated "whoops" from their riders.

As we trot slower along the meadow's tree line, my friend stops suddenly, eye to eye with a little bird nest, squirming pinkies inside. We stop, staring in the nest while the horses catch their breath.

"A cardinal's nest," she speculates, "at horse's eye view." We move on as the trail turns down to follow the creek.

I recognize a flat creek crossing and know we are nearing the end of our ride.

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