Growing up near the beach/in beach towns my entire life, living in Houston has been quite an adjustment. It’s only 30 minutes from Galveston, but it’s the fourth largest city in America and there are NO beach-town vibes. It’s traffic and highways and construction and the usual city perks. Not tragic by any means but sea salt curls, the ocean breeze, sand forever in your car, and seashell decor in every house and workplace aren’t the norm.
Last spring I was homesick and I NEEDED a beach weekend, but hotels in Galveston are pricey. So I found a way to combine two of my favorite things: camping and the beach. A short 20-minute ferry ride from Galveston Beach is Bolivar Peninsula, where you can camp on the beach fo’ free for up to two weeks at a time. I didn’t need two weeks or even a week; one weekend would be plenty to fill up on salt water, sand, and negative ions. So Friday morning I asked my friend, Kelly, if she would want to camp on the beach that weekend. After work we did a little research on the area and picked up camp food before heading down to Bolivar. We took forever so we didn’t get to the beach until around 1AM. We got out, looked around, saw people were on the beach, then went back in her truck to slept on the air mattress we inflated before we left. When we woke up we weren’t ready for what we saw.
Now, finding horses on a beach is incredible in and of itself. But… Kelly is an equestrian. She had two horses back in California and not three weeks earlier we had finally found an affordable place to go horseback riding so she wouldn’t miss her babies so much. And then, by some Act of God we visit a random beach for the first time to find it filled with litrally dozens of horses.
We were shooketh. So we made our breakfast and admired the horses from afar while we planned how we were going to convince our neighbors to let us love on them.
After breakfast we decided to go for it. We walked over to our neighbors who had two miniature horses (AND CHARIOTS) to chat and find out why so many people with horses were there that weekend. Turns out this was an annual thing.
Gerard Paagman, an olympic horse carriage racer and badass equestrian, traveled from California to Florida by horse with his five Friesian horses (who were the horses in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) and the great grandson of John Muir (yes, THE John Muir).
He found Bolivar Peninsula during his trek and loved it. So now he comes back every year and all of his fans/friends/fellow equestrians bring their horses and ride with him along the beach. And we just happened to be there on the right weekend in 2017. I couldn’t make this up if I tried. Our neighbors introduced us to Gerard and then he and Kelly got to talking about their horses. Kelly is also a nationally ranked equestrian competitor and she impressed Gerard enough that he invited us to ride with him.
So some of his horse friends let us hop on their horses and we went for a ride along the beach. Bareback. I’ve ridden horses enough that I’m comfortable around them. But I had never even watched someone ride bareback before, let alone do it myself. But there I was with a once-in-a-lifetime kind of opportunity. So I hopped on and had one of the most incredible beach days of my life, and I didn’t fall once!!! It’s difficult to find the words to describe how incredible that day was. I still feel the magic whenever I go back to Bolivar, over a year later.
Kelly was so comfortable with the horses and she hopped on so effortlessly. It was awesome to watch her in her element.
We rode along the water for a little over an hour and then we decided it was time to head back and swim. When we got back to camp they had more horses waiting for us! This time the horses had boogie boards tied onto them. So we got in the water and the horses dragged us through the waves. Talk about the coolest way to ever boogie board.
After boogie boarding Kelly and I needed to head back home to Houston – we drove together and I had a birthday dinner for a friend I couldn’t miss. We promised everyone we’d be back ASAP the next morning and our camp neighbors said that we’d get to ride the horse chariots when we returned. We were already counting down the minutes until we got to go back.
Unfortunately, when we tried returning the next day the traffic to get to the other side of the ferry was about a 2 hour wait… and then it started pouring rain. So we turned around and went home, accepting that we wouldn’t get to ride anymore horses. But we did get some of the folk’s information and they added us to their Horse Weekend Facebook Group so we can stay updated on all future Bolivar Peninsula horse weekend events. I had a work conflict this year but you can bet your bottom I’m ready for 2019!
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines serendipity as:
noun ser·en·dip·i·ty \ ˌser-ən-ˈdi-pə-tē \
: the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for
: luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for
If I could use one word to describe that weekend, that’s exactly what I’d use. Serendipity. We went to the beach expecting sun and sand and relaxation. What we found was pure bliss. I still sometimes wonder if it was a dream but I look at the pictures on my phone (and remember the awful sunburn I got) and just smile that I’ve been so lucky to experience the most awesome beach weekend of my life.