Monday, December 26, 2016

Conditioning at Pleasant Grove Park

A friend of mine recently told me about Pleasant Grove Park, near Palmyra, Virginia.  Pleasant Grove Park is an 800 acre park that includes an historic home/museum, dog park (and separate off-leash area), community garden, butterfly garden, soccer and baseball fields. community center, picnic area, and 18 miles of multi-use trails that horses can be on (although I believe at least some of the trails are prohibited to horses).

Much like many other smaller parks in Virginia that allow horseback riding, the information on the website is pretty stingy.  So, for those who might be interested, here's the scoop.  Horse trailer parking is located in a grassy lot to the left shortly before you get to the visitor's center.  So, if you use your GPS to get directions to the visitor center at 271 Pleasant Grove Drive, Palmyra, VA 22963, you will get to the right place.  (There is a separate trailhead with parking for cars only that is about a half mile or so before you get to the main park entrance and that is primarily for the dog park.)  The cost is $8 per person to ride (except if you live in Fluvanna County - then the cost is free as long as you get a pass) and you need to fill out a waiver and deposit cash/check at a little registration area that is in the middle of the parking area.  Trail maps are also available there or you can download one electronically here.

I had a chance to check out the trails earlier today and they were quite lovely, although a bit slick and muddy from the recent rain we've had in many areas.  The trails are almost exclusively in the woods with views like this:


The terrain varies from flat to gently rolling to steep hills, so it is a great place to condition.  Which is probably why we ran into six endurance riders who were also out on the trails today.  We kept our pace a bit slower due to the sometimes slick conditions on the trail.  I think Nimo would have been fine to trot most of the trails, but the two ladies I was with are less experienced at faster speeds and were reluctant to do too much trotting.  Although at one point, all three horses just got in a groove and trotted up a couple of pretty steep, slick hills without an issue.  Even without much trotting, though, the hill work gave us a nice workout and aside from the other six horses and 4 trail runners, we had the trails to ourselves.

In terms of trail markings, the trails are fairly well marked, but much like Virginia road signs, the trail markers did not immediately seem all that relevant because there were weird loops and lots of short segments of trail, each with a different name and arrows pointing in two different directions.  All those signs were complicated by some Heritage Trail signs that seemed kind of random.  So we mostly wandered and explored and then when we got hungry after about 2 hours on the trail, we asked a group of endurance riders which way was the fastest back to the trailer, which got us to a point in the trail that we recognized and were able to follow back.  Here's what our meanderings looked like:


We only did about 7.5-8 miles, but it was great to get out and see some new trails.  And now that we know how things work a bit better, I think we'll really be able to use this park as a great place to condition!

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