Synopsis -- Deep in the heart of Fannin County, Georgia, north of Blue Ridge, a new challenge -- horseback riding with Adventure Trail Rides. Following a combination of old logging roads and backcountry paths, Pam and Randy Golden circled beautiful Cashes Valley on a cool autumn day.
Kids love horse rides Rachel Callihan Along the trail Running through the field
Granny Callihan would be pleased if she could see Rachel Callihan today. Part businesswoman, part guide, and a horse lover through and through, Rachel is carving a niche for herself in the mountains of north Georgia just as Granny did more than a hundred years ago, and while Rachel may not get a mountain named after her, she gets all the kudos she needs from the smiles of kids and adults who have come to ride her horses.
The elder Callihan became known as a caring neighbor, and "Granny" Callihan Mountain got its name because she would frequently be seen crossing it to take care of a friend on the other side. The mountain forms one side of Cashes Valley, which is the site for our Adventure Trail Rides trip. This adventure was going to be a trip into our past, since neither my wife Pam nor I had ridden a horse for more than 25 years.
An unusual fall morning greeted us as we headed north to Fannin County. Dark gray clouds intermingled with blue sky, the threat of rain hanging over our head, but since this is an adventure, rain never gets in our way. We arrived at Rachel Callihan's place and met both her and Sharona, our trail guide for the day. Friendly and amiable, Sharona and Pam quickly formed a friendship because of their mutual love for all of God's creatures.
Soon we began our horseback tour, climbing the mountain behind Rachel's barn. For Pam and I, the years of not riding melted away and we quickly felt like seasoned riders. Sharona kept the kids close to make sure she could respond in a flash to any problems, but soon she grew more confident of their ability.
As the ride progressed, Sharona told us the story of the Callihans, who help settle Cashes Valley and of Granny caring for neighbors. It was Rachel's story that was the most heartwarming. She rescued some horses from a bankrupt trail ride business, giving them the food and care they needed. Word quickly spread that Rachel would care for these pets, and other horses were given to her. Faced with mounting costs she began to offer trail rides herself. Rachel now purchases some of her horses at auction.
As our team climbs each side of the mountains that form Cashes Valley I began to notice the diverse eco-system contained by this botanical anomaly. Plants whose normal range is significantly north of this latitude abound; I was surprised at the ecological diversity in this north-south valley. The trail ride runs near and crosses McClure Creek and Callahan Branch, both tributaries of nearby Fightingtown Creek.
Good scenic views of the nearby mountains, including line of sight views of some peaks in Tennessee, lend character to this ride. Towards the end of the trip Sharona asked if any experienced riders want to try running their horse in an open field. I declined, but Pam was eager for the opportunity to once again test her limits on a horse at full gallop. After tying up the remaining horses, Pam and Sharona head out to the open field, increasing the pace until the horses reach their most graceful speed -- a gallop. It is a sight to behold, the beauty and grace of a horse well-ridden. After this highlight the women returned and we headed back to the barn.
Rachel's love and concern for these animals is deep and it shows. When a vet advised her to put a beloved horse named "Elvis" down after an injury she refused, permitting him to live in retirement, grazing in a open field. Elvis enthusiastically greeted our group upon our return from the trail, just as he greets each group of returning horses.
Back at Rachel's, we have returned to our starting point, a little more sore and a little more relaxed than when we left. Yet, a spark has been ignited - one we shall rekindle over and over, with return trips to Adventure Trail Rides for more exciting journeys.
About the rides Adventure Trail Rides offers trips into Cashes Valley each day of the week, but space is limited. Reservations are required. For a great family outing take the kids and let them go horseback riding in this beautiful setting. Call 706.258.BARN (2276) for more information or reservations.
From Atlanta: Take I-75 north to I-575. Continue north on I-575 until it becomes SR 515 (Appalachian Development Highway). At the Blue Ridge McDonald's, turn left on Highway 5. Follow this for 3.8 miles and turn left on Highway 2. Continue on Highway 2 for 3.8 miles. After Lickskillet Road on the right, turn left on Cashes Valley Road. Adventure Trail Rides is on the left, about a mile down this road.