Tips for Fall Riding and a Great Trail Riding Destination Point – East Fork State Park
As published in Horsemen’s Corral – November 2016
Fall is one of my favorite seasons to ride. The colors, the brisk breezes, and the lack of bugs and humidity make this a fabulous time to go out for a long ride. Every season brings its own set of considerations to a trail ride and Fall is no different. Here are my top five tips for a fab fall ride!
The Weather is Changing
Night and mornings are becoming brisker just as quickly as the nights are becoming longer. Be sure to dress in layers to accommodate for cooler temps in the morning followed by summer-ish temps is the afternoon. Protect your horses (and mules) by making sure that end your rides early enough that they can dry completely before dark, or by keeping a light blanket handy to prevent chills.
The fall season often means the return of rain. If you’ve stashed your rain slicker over the summer now is a good time to dig it out lest you discover first-hand how chilly an afternoon shower can be.
Winds are Blowing
Falls changing temps often bring along breezes to carry horse eating leaves. My animals sometimes act as though the woods are full of equine eating monsters at this time of the year. Where we see glorious golds and scarlets our horses are seeing flying monsters.
Hooray! The mosquito and fly populations are starting to drop and trail crossing spider webs are becoming somewhat less common. One insect that hasn’t quite wrapped up their season yet are the yellow jackets. Peak yellow jacket activity occurs in late summer and early fall as their food interests switch from protein to sweets (which is why you see them buzzing around soda cans). They are also becoming more aggressive as they prepare for a long winter.
Leaves Obscuring the Trail
What last week was a clearly defined trail through the woods may now be hidden beneath a golden carpet of fallen leaves. Unless the trail is well signed you might find yourself late for dinner if you become disoriented. Make sure that bring along some sort of navigation aid (I think a traditional map and compass is the best) and the knowledge to use it.
Those leaves may not only obscure your intended route. They might also be hiding holes or unsafe footing waiting to trip your horse. Be aware and be careful.
Hunting Seasons are at their Peak
Fall is not only ushered in with leaves of golden hues but also jackets of blaze orange. Autumn and Fall are the prime hunting season in most of the US. With hunting season comes the need to be more alert and informed. Know which trails are in hunting areas and also know which riding are closed to hunting. Regardless of whether hunting is allowed or not it’s a very good idea to be seen so brush the dust off the orange and wear it.
Trail of the Month – East Fork State Park, Batavia, OH
Located in southwest Ohio just 25 miles from the metropolis of Cincinnati, East Fork is one of Ohio’s largest state parks. At nearly 5,000 acres in size the park has plenty of space for riders to roam.
The best time to visit East Fork is right now before the snow falls! Fall not only brings fabulous colors as the resident maples, oaks, and hickories turn brilliant shades of gold, yellow and red but the trails have had all summer to dry even the boggiest areas. As an added bonus the worst of summer’s heat and humidity is but a memory.
Quick Fact – There’s gold in them there hills! Glaciers brought gold to this area as well as clay. In the late 1800’s gold was mined in two locations near East Fork; Elklick and Twin Bridges.
A well-appointed and comfortable horse camping experience awaits horse and mule riders who visit East Fork. The horse camp sits nestled along a forested area and boasts 17 campsites each with highlines, fire pit, and picnic table. Centrally located water spigots, restrooms, electrical connections, and even a shower house round out the comforts to be found here. Of course the best part of the park are the many horse friendly trails are easily accessed directly from camp. The day use area at East Fork is located away from the main camping space and has its own restrooms, mounting block and even an expansive open area that is often home to events.
Of course it’s the riding that we’re interested in and East Fork State Park won’t disappoint in this regard. Almost the entire northern portion of the park is the domain of horses and hikers. Bicycles are limited to the south end of the park where they have their own trailhead and parking area. The majority of horse trails radiate outwards from the day use area and most are well marked and maintained. Trails meander through dense forests across the rolling hillsides on both sides of the access road. One of my favorite rides at East Fork is the Red Fox trail which offers fabulous views overlooking Harsha Lake from numerous areas including a great lunch spot complete with picnic tables!
The rolling hills that make riding here so enjoyable are due in large part to the glacial forces during the Illinoian and Wisconsinan glacial episodes that occurred eons ago. These glaciers are also responsible for the deep clinging mud that East Fork is known for. Yes, it’s true East Fork can be muddy at times with thick sticky goop that threatens to pull shoes. The best riding is in the fall after the trails have had time to dry.
For more information including accurate driving directions, pictures, GPS tracks, and more from East Fork State Park, and many others, visit www.trailmeister.com/trails/east-fork-state-park.