Sue, Barb, and Laurel taking a mini-rest on the Cope Hollow Trail in the Deam Wilderness (part of Hoosier National Forest)

The good? It jumps right out at you: three friends who said “yes” to a 10.5-mile stroll in the woods. That’s more than “good.” That’s “great”!  As if that weren’t enough, consider this: it’s mid-October (perfect time of year!), it is not rainy or misty or even mostly cloudy, we seem to have the entire forest to ourselves, there are tiny wildflowers along the path, sections with a soft carpet of pine needles, and though we are all wearing some blaze orange gear, “just in case,” we have not heard even the hint of a rifle shot (nor do we look in the least like squirrels, thank you very much, so you hunters, kindly leave us be). The fallen leaves don’t have that deep musty smell yet nor that fun fall crunchiness, but there are some colorful ones on the ground to get us in the mood for what is to come in the next few weeks. Good! All so very good!

Oh, but what do we have here? And there? And almost everywhere? Evidence, plain and simple, undeniable evidence that we share this trail with horses and the horse hooves have done extreme damage all along the trail. We straddle the mucky parts, or jump them, or maneuver around them as best we can. Not all the hoof falls left holes as deep as the ones in the photo above, but take my word for it, the trail is in pretty bad shape. The signage leaves a lot to be desired, but this is a designated wilderness area so maybe the paucity of blazes, markings, and posts can be forgiven. I had the AllTrails app to consult–another “good” aspect of the hike–so we felt pretty confident about our location.

And the ugly? I’ll spare you a picture. Let’s just say that those horses left behind more than their hoof prints. Much more! Picture piles. Picture mounds. Days old and fresh out of the…. Well, I won’t go there either; I’ll jump over that just as I jumped over those droppings I managed to see as I plodded along. And believe me, I stayed alert, eyes wide open!

Good practice, I suppose. I understand that pilgrims walking the Camino often share the trail with cattle and with the occasional donkey. It’s not unheard of to see the animals being herded through the cobblestone streets of small villages. That somehow seems more quaint and culturally interesting than coming upon the horse droppings in the forest, but who am I to judge?

When you come right down to it, don’t most of our days include a bit of the good, the bad, and the ugly? The key is to keep the proportions acceptable. I’d settle for 99% good, .75 bad, and .25 ugly.

And then there’s this thought: if at the end of the day I had the choice of looking at a pile of horse manure or at some puss-filled blisters on the bottoms of my feet, I just might choose the former!