The next day was damp and overcast. Our trail led downhill, overgrown and mossy green on all sides. Ahead and to the left were the tumbledown stones of an ancient ruin. Here, on the trail of the Cathars, may have been a place of refuge. I took a picture, but my camera could not possibly capture the misty eerie feel of the place. It made me think of the stones in secret magical places, a place that C.S. Lewis would use as a doorway to another world, a place that Tolkien would fill with elves and fairies. Awareness overwhelmed me at that moment: I was not alone in my search for meaning; it was part of the human condition to hope and fear and dream.
The most challenging day of all was near the end. It was to be the longest day, and although we had spent each night in comfortable Bed and Breakfast accommodations, I was missing the comforts of home. It figures, I had to go to the other side of the world, ride somebody else’s horse, and get lost in the mountains to realize just how good I had it right back at home.
We were riding across a high plateau, very remote, covered with grassland and small shrubs. Herds of cattle grazed here and there, none coming too close, thankfully. The last thing we needed was another wild ride. Already that morning, having made our way down a precarious trail, we were on a nice level sandy track, with fields on one side, woods on the other. It seemed like a good place for a nice canter. We saw two dogs ahead, playing in the dust, and continued forward until the dogs noticed us and started to bark. A split second was all it took for my horse to wheel around and set off dead gallop towards the others. The other horses picked up on the panic, and off we scattered full speed right back the way we had come. When we finally managed to slow the horses we had backtracked almost to the place we started. I dismounted and led my horse until she thoroughly settled down.