The Blue Tarp Mystery

Just finished:  Mind Games (A Diana Racine Psychic Suspense) by Polly Iyer.

My husband and I used to go camping with our horses at a wonderful spot in the coastal mountains south of San Francisco. While there are numerous places to camp with horses in California, Jack Brooks was unique because it provided 12×12 individual paddocks for the horses, lovely restrooms with hot showers, electrical hookups for campers and a marvelous group picnic area with a number of amenities. Since the horses were stalled in a hollow, downhill from the camping area, we didn’t have to have them right next to where we slept and ate. Altogether a very civilized way to camp.

The most important features, of course, were the marvelous trails that descended down into beautiful wooded canyons lined with Tan Oaks and Redwoods. We could ride for as long as we wanted—go on a one-hour loop, ride for a few hours then stop and picnic, or ride all day on an extensive trail system that went along the crest of the mountains with a view of the Pacific Ocean.

Jack Brooks wasn’t easy to get to. The dirt road off the main park road was so narrow the rangers set up a schedule for when you could use it. You could only drive into camp for the first 15 minutes after the hour or leave camp during the 15 minutes after the half hour. (It took approximately 10 minutes to drive the steep, twisty trail.) The narrow path could be quite unnerving—no matter how wide I tried to swing out, my long trailer always scraped the side of the hill at one spot. A couple of curves, with sheer drop-offs, took my breath away every time we went around them. Even so Jack Brooks was so popular you had to make reservations a year ahead of time.

JB developed one draw-back over the years—feral pigs. The first year it was kind of cute to see the huge sow with her batch of piglets trot up the hill to wait for nightfall when they would come down and rummage through the manure pile and scavenge for any feed the horses might have left. Unfortunately, pigs multiply very quickly, and they had no fear of humans. After a few years, they became so destructive and dangerous that the rangers hired hunters to thin the herds. These were domestic pigs that had gone wild, not native species, so they really didn’t belong there.

One year we had an unusual happening. I always kept our saddles and equipment next to our horses, covered with a tarp to protect them from the elements. One morning, I went down to feed and discovered my nice new blue tarp had disappeared. I searched all over the horse area but couldn’t find it. Some people had left after dark the night before, but I couldn’t imagine why they would take it. It was a real head-scratcher.

Later that morning as we rode out of camp and up the opposite hill, I happened to notice a patch of blue off to my left. We went over to investigate, and I discovered a ripped-up, mud-stained, blue rag that once had been my crisp, shiny tarp. Apparently the pigs had made off with it and proceeded to destroy it. I never could figure out if maybe a boar had hooked a tusk through one of the grommets and couldn’t get it loose, or if the pigs had simply decided to play with it. It couldn’t have been an easy task to drag it through a hole in an old fence and approximately a quarter of mile up the hill, but they did it. After that I kept our tack in our trailer. I didn’t want anything else to go missing.

Do you have a special spot in nature where you like to spend time? A great place to ride or hike? An unusual encounter with wildlife? Tell us about it.

Categories: Camping, Horse camping, Horses, Mystery, Redwoods, Trail riding, Wild pigs | Tags: , , , | 10 Comments

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10 thoughts on “The Blue Tarp Mystery

  1. Wow, that horse camping experience sounds really cool, Kate. I’ve been really getting into trail riding in the past year and the paths in the hills of Oakland where Maximus lives are just heavenly. Especially in the fall season the leaves are green and moss is growing and it is simply beautiful and peaceful. And if my sister-in-law would just stop talking, it would be perfect! Ha~

    • I know what you mean. Riding in the hills has always been my quiet time. I really don’t like riding with chatters. And people with iPods make me shake my head.

  2. marsharwest

    I’m more of an experience-nature-vicariously-person, Kate. I love to read about it–though reading the above blog about the narrow trail made me ill. Too much like our high, narrow, freeway overpasses I’m sometimes forced to travel. LOL
    I love looking and taking pictures. We’ve been forturnate to travel both to the west and east coast in the last several years, and I’ve got pictures all around the house of some of the most beautiful scenery. (Sorry, in the spirit of truthfulness, I confess I prefer New England to the northwest, but it’s more about the history than the views, because you have equally spectacular views. 🙂 )
    The rocky coasts of southern Maine are incredible. The massive boulders are hard to believe. The middle of Maine is dotted with these amazaing fishing villages and harbors. The views from the Inn at Sunrise Point with the sun coming over the horizon are breathtaking. I feel like I’ve stepped into a movie set. Then moving north and still on the coast you find Bar Harbor. Well, you just have to experience this beautiful area.
    There are many more gorgeous places to inhale nature and be rejuvinated and made whole in New England. But this is a blog and not a book. LOL Enjoyed the post, Kate.
    Oh, I have two animal experiences. One involved a wild turkey showing up in our back yard. My husband took a picture to document. The other is more scary. My older Jack Russle Terrier pulled a 3-foot-long snake out of the bushes, holding it in the middle. I nearly died. Scout is deaf, but I screamed loud enough she dropped it, and I herded her and the long-haired Chihuahua into the house and closed the doggy door. We’re having the flower beds cleaned out and trimmed up so I can see under there. No more of those surprises thank you very much!

  3. I love New England. Fondly remember Rockport–quite lovely. I’m most familiar with Boston area because my daughter went to MIT. Loved visiting her there.
    We get lots of wild turkeys around here. When our cat was a kitten, she “chased” a herd away from our backyard. Of course, they were 3 times her size. I guess they didn’t like her pouncing at them. She was so proud of herself. Came marching down the hill with her tail wagging.
    Don’t blame for being startled by a snake, but most are harmless and good for your garden–eat bugs.

    • marsharwest

      Glad you’ve seen Rockport. It is really something. Kate, the snake was 3 feet long! It belonged in a zoo. Not my backyard. We’ve had little ones before. I can co-exist with them, barely. My husband responded to my email saying wisely, “I understand you being scared, but black and yellow ones aren’t poisonous.” LOL Even swamped by my heightened emotions, I was able to appreciate what a good job he did of “listening” to me. 🙂
      Your cat sounds really cool and more than a little fiesty!

  4. While growing up we would drive up the county road by our property and camp up in the Wallowa Mountains. The one occasion that we didn’t have enough horses for everyone and my older brother and I had to walk the four miles up the side of the mountain to the lake where we were camping, it snowed. We woke to four inches of snow and it was still coming down. We thought walking up the switch back trail was daunting try walking back down on slippery snow. It was the last time my mom rode a horse. She was a fan of horses to begin with and that trip made her swear off them for life.

    We have a head of one of those feral pigs in our house. My uncle who lived in the San Jose area, killed and mounted a boar he shot down there. It is really ugly and I can’t wait until my husband gets a shop so he can put it in there.

  5. Wow, four miles downhill in the snow wouldn’t be fun walking or on a horse! Did you often camp in the snow? Never tried that.

    I wouldn’t want a pig head in my house either. Good luck on the shop.

  6. What a great experience it must have been camping there. I would have loved it. I use to pull a horse trailer, too, but can’t imagine doing it on a road like that. My daughter lives south of San Francisco and loves hiking and camping in the mountains west of her. She takes me there when I fly out to visit her. It’s a truly lovely area.

  7. She may well take you to the same area. Jack Brooks is in Sam McDowell Park off of Hiway 84. There are lots of neat places to explore in the Bay Area.

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