Get Back in the Saddle–Horseback Riding is a Fun Tween and Teen Activity

Trail-ride-ready at Seaton Hackney Stables in Morristown, NJ.

I love it when my nieces or nephew visit! My sister calls it “Camp Naomi” when any of her daughters stay over. Last winter, my brother’s daughter spent a few days in New Jersey, and we had a great time exploring the American Museum of Natural History, hand-building at a Visual Arts Center of New Jersey pottery class, and going on a trail ride at Seaton Hackney Stables in Morristown. Though I live in the ‘burbs and my town is a commuter-train-ride away from Manhattan, you don’t have to drive far to find horses. In fact, Watchung Stable is located in a neighboring county in the midst of the wooded Watchung Reservation.

Located in the Watchung Reservation, Union County’s Watchung Stable has a long and rich heritage. Owned and operated by the County since 1933, its goal is to provide the opportunity to learn how to ride, enhance equestrian skills or just enjoy the natural beauty of the 26 miles of bridle paths that weave through the Reservation, a 2,000-acre forest preserve.

Watchung Stable

My niece and I enjoyed the peaceful trail ride through Morris County’s Loantaka Brook Reservation. The stables have a low-key, friendly feel, and the staff and guide couldn’t have been nicer.

Hon, need an excellent tween or teen activity? This is it!

Me and my niece say hi to a stable resident.

Stables near Essex County, NJ: Seaton Hackney Stables, Watchung Stable, Mortonhouse Farm, Silver Bit and Spur Farm

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Horseback Riding in Montserrat, Spain

Trail ride at Three Rivers Ranch, Spain

On our excursion to Montserrat, my family hiked half a day and rode horses the other half. We descended the mountain and arrived at Three Rivers Ranch where we met Juan, a Spanish cowboy. His primary focus is his cattle which explains the variety of cows lazing in the sun adjacent to the stables. We learned that he leads trail rides as a way to exercise the horses. We enjoyed getting to know our horses’ personalities and learning best riding practices.

The beautiful countryside that is part of Montserrat National Park reminded me of Tuscany– rolling hills, vineyards, and gorgeous landscapes in every direction. Hon, I felt grateful that the day worked out so well, and that Hubby and I had an opportunity to share a full, active day with three of our four kids. We all love adventure, exploring, and being outdoors.

Writing this post reminds me of other trail rides, one of which was local and a great activity with tweens and teens. (info on that coming soon…)

Hon, do you like to horseback ride?

Hiking Montserrat, Spain

Montserrat, Spain.

Montserrat’s trails are rocky, sunny, and steep. Hon, I needed to catch my breath! We were lucky to be accompanied by a guide who knows the mountain well enough to re-route us when paths were blocked. You know what we saw? Mountain goats resting in the shade. The multi-peaked mountain range overlooks Catalonia and reaches 1,236m (4,055 feet) at its highest summit, Sant Jeroni. The other two main peaks are Montgrós at 1,120m and Miranda de les Agulles at 903m. 

The geology and nature of Montserrat Mountain Range are unusual and to preserve it, a nature park was established in 1987. In Mesozoic era, over 100 million years ago, the mountain top was under water, part of a delta area, and the sediments in the present day rock pillars were in the bottom of a river and lake. After the lake and river dried, the area was exposed to erosion, and over a long period of time, the mountain with several peaks formed.

Not just the geology is uncommon, but also the climate up in the mountain is unique, with different micro-climates. Wildlife of the park includes mammal like squirrels, boars and goats, a wide range of different birds, bats and geckos. Vegetation varies from oak forests to small flowery meadows, and altogether there are over 1250 species of plants.

Finnsaway
Climbing a vertical, rocky path.

Father’s Day Hike, Hacklebarney State Park

Hiking in Hacklebarney State Park

Last Father’s Day, Hubby requested a day hiking, so we packed a picnic, harnessed Lucy and drove to Hacklebarney State Park in Long Valley. The shaded trails range from easy and wide to narrow and moderately challenging. All follow the Black River whose cool and pretty water rushes over many small waterfalls . Our plan is go on another hike tomorrow. Yay for outdoor time in fresh air in summer weather!

Info from Hacklebarney’s website:

The freshwater Black River briskly cuts its way through rocky Hacklebarney State Park, cascading around boulders in the hemlock-lined ravine. Two tributaries, Rinehart and Trout Brooks, also course their way through this glacial valley, feeding the Black River. Even in the heat of midsummer, the temperature of Black River gorge is cool and refreshing.

Today Hacklebarney is a favorite place for avid anglers, hikers and picnickers, yet in the 19th century the park was a mined iron ore site. The gushing river against the grey boulders and dark green hemlocks creates a majestic beauty in any season.

Three rare and endangered plant species exist within the park: American ginseng, leatherwood and Virginia pennywort. Over a hundred bird species and wildlife such as black bear, woodchuck, deer and fox live in the park.

NJ Day Trip: Hacklebarney State Park

Hiking in Hacklebarney State Park

Hiking was Hubby’s Father’s Day request, so we packed a picnic, harnessed Lucy and drove to Hacklebarney State Park in Long Valley. We thoroughly enjoyed hiking one of the shaded trails that follow the Black River. Next time, I want take advantage of the boulders adjacent to the river by rock scrambling. I’d also bring my “good camera” because the mini waterfalls, towering trees, and foliage are a nature photographer’s dream.

Info from the website:

The freshwater Black River briskly cuts its way through rocky Hacklebarney State Park, cascading around boulders in the hemlock-lined ravine. Two tributaries, Rinehart and Trout Brooks, also course their way through this glacial valley, feeding the Black River. Even in the heat of midsummer, the temperature of Black River gorge is cool and refreshing.

Today Hacklebarney is a favorite place for avid anglers, hikers and picnickers, yet in the 19th century the park was a mined iron ore site. The gushing river against the grey boulders and dark green hemlocks creates a majestic beauty in any season.

Three rare and endangered plant species exist within the park: American ginseng, leatherwood and Virginia pennywort. Over a hundred bird species and wildlife such as black bear, woodchuck, deer and fox live in the park.

Emeralds and Angels, Hiking in Zion (Part 2)

Stunning Striations.
Stunning Striations, Zion, Utah.

If you read Emeralds and Angels, Hiking in Zion (Part 1), you’ll know Hubby was not thrilled (umm, extremely nervous), about hiking Angel’s Landing.

For good reason.

It wasn’t the extremely steep 5-6 hour hike with tons of switchbacks that made his heart race, it was the hike at the top of the mountain, on narrow ridges with deep chasms. Did I mention that you get across the most narrow parts by holding onto a chain anchored into the sandstone?

Guess what I found out?  THERE ARE BREAKS IN THE CHAIN!

Wind and water have carved interesting designs as well as caves into the rock.
Wind and water have carved interesting designs as well as caves into the rock.

We warmed up by hiking Emerald Pools. Our guide then led us to the bottom of the Angel’s Landing where we started the steep ascension in full sun. Technically, the trail is called the West Rim Trail until it meets Angel’s Landing.  Hiking along, we suddenly reached the aptly named Refrigerator Canyon, a mile-long shady part of the trail. We cooled off in time to sweat again, climbing Walter’s Wiggles, “steep 21 sharp zig-zags” that lead to Scout Lookout.

"Walter's Wiggles was named after the first superintendent of Zion who helped engineer the steep zigzagging section."
“Walter’s Wiggles was named after the first superintendent of Zion who helped engineer the steep zigzagging section.”

Hubby and Teen Daughter hiking the "Wiggles."
Hubby and Teen Daughter hiking the “Wiggles.”

Hubby and Teen Daughter decided to rest on Scout’s Lookout while our guide James and I continued on. Here’s the thing. It was crowded. Walking on sandstone is slippery, the ground is gritty and the slopes are smooth. It’s hard to get traction or know where to put your foot as you climb up. I didn’t want to let go of the chain (when there was one), and people were climbing down as we were climbing up.

“I’m not letting go of the chain, so you’ll have to place your hands on either side of me and go around me,” I said.

“You come down, then I’ll go up,” I said.

“We’re doing the ‘chain dance’,” I said.

When there were breaks in the chain and we had to “Spiderman Scramble” up the mountain, I told James, “If I had a bucket list, this would officially be off of it!”

There was a point on the one-way trail where it was so crowded, we would have had to wait to keep going. I said I was “just fine” ending our hike there.  James was, too. He said it but we both felt it.

“EXHILARATED!’

Gorgeous view above Scout's Landing but not as far as the peak of Angel's Landing.
Gorgeous view above Scout’s Landing but not as far as the peak of Angel’s Landing.

View to the peak.  Total elevation 5,785 feet. Hike elevation gain 1,488.
View of the trail leading to  the peak. In 1916 while exploring Zion, Frederick Fisher said, “Only an angel could land on it,” giving the trail its name.  Total elevation 5,785 feet. Hike elevation gain 1,488.

I was "just fine" ending out hike here!
I was “just fine” ending our hike here!

Looking down on the West Rim Trail.
Looking down on the West Rim Trail.

Not only were we all exhilarated (except for Teen Daughter, who was out of breath!), we were ready for our next adventure. If I go back to Zion one day, I’ll wave to the Angels landing on the top of that trail.

Then, I’ll gear up and head for the canyons!

(Canyoneering in Zion Harnesses, Helmets & Hooks Part 1 and Quicksand and Teamwork Part 2)

 

sources:  Zion Outfitter, Zion National-Park.com