The smell of the grasses and pine trees began to intensify and temperatures dropped. I repositioned my feet in the stirrup as the trail steepened. Cautiously I unzipped my saddle bag and pulled out my bright orange rain shell. A drizzle had begun, however the darkening sky was telling me that there would be more than just a light rain on the way. A deep rumble in the distance confirmed my suspicion. Cigar kept a steady pace, even when the trail began to become rocky and uneven. Her body temperature radiated a warm glow of warmth. I could feel it under my legs and whenever I adjusted my body closer to her neck, assisting her on the short sections of climbs on the rocky trail. The leaves of the lush and green forest began buzzing with the intensifying rain, almost silencing out the trotting of Cigars hoofs against the trail. Her body was wet with rain and sweat and she was steaming in the cold air. Her ears perked up moving this way and that way, listening to the sounds of the forest and turning toward me whenever I gave her words of encouragement.
I pulled the rain jacket over my body, being careful to keep my balance in the saddle. We were climbing up to the great divide, a section of the Colorado Rockies that separates water ways flowing to the Eastern and Western United States. We had already climbed a 1000 feet marking our halfway point to the top. I glanced forward to see the others riding intentfully up the winding trail. I was ponying Freckels behind me, one of the youngest horses on the trail with us. His kind composure and strong need to satisfy humans gave him the job of carrying the heavy burden of our camping gear. His skinny legs seeking balance on the loose rocky trails with every step, were not as sure as those of Cigar. The load of gear shifting lifelessly from one side to another bogged him down. He loved words of encouragement. A shout of “Come on Frekels, Yeah, Good Boy” accelerated his step. I knew he was suffering but his faithful strides told me his desire to stay with the herd was more important than slowing down to rest.
I realized where I was. My senses seemed no separate from Cigar’s; this is a moment where horse and rider become aligned in motion and intent. The rain, now a down pour crept under my protective shell, the thunder, as consistent as the chorus of a song, became the audible backdrop of my world. The smell of horse, pine, grass and rain meshed into a perfume of adventure. I took a deep breath of cool mountain air. I was alive.