Vacation time

G had to go to a conference in Vegas this week, so I took the opportunity to take Dixie and Cersei on a vacation. We went to Clark Fork horse campground, in Stanislaus National Forest – it’s just to the north of Yosemite, so very similar terrain. I asked around and got a few good ideas for where to go, but honestly I ended up kind of looking at the map and saying “yes, that’s how far I want to drive.”

All the pics and video are from MY NEW WEE CAMERA, bought for TEVIS NEXT WEEKEND. I’m gonna go do the social media volunteering thing again, and I’m so excited!

Unbelievably blue sky:
Untitled

Getting there was pretty easy. It’s 200 miles from SF, so it’s a pretty easy haul. I stopped at a Tractor Supply in Sonora and asked about that certified weed-free hay, but they were out (and don’t carry straight grass anyway) so Dixie had a neverending buffet of EGM Stable Mix, which she loves. Nobody checked, but she loves Stable Mix so it’s an easy enough rule to follow.

Road in camp:
Untitled

The campground was easy enough to find, and I had it all to myself. There’s two (or three?) people campgrounds and one horse campground, all near each other. There was a huge crowd of kids and adults – I think it was an organized event – at the campground across the river, and a few campers in the people campground next to mine. I wasn’t ~all alone~ in the wilderness, but I had all the solitude I wanted.

Campsite:
Untitled

I was a little worried that Dixie would be unhappy all alone, with no other horses nearby, but I figured if she hated it we’d leave after the first night. She was surprisingly ok. Pretty alert when deer came through, and she watched for me when I’d disappear out of site to the toilet, but she spent her free time dozing and eating. She rolled in the night the second night, but I made myself listen to the weird noises before I went exploding out of the tent to see what was going on.

Wednesday we dinked around most of the day. I think I went six miles in five hours. We went from grassy spot to grassy spot down a short trail, then back to camp, then back out across the Clark Fork river. I tried to keep us out of the way of the kids and parents, but I couldn’t find a good way around the other campground, so I leashed up Cersei and led the horse and dog through camp to the north.

We crossed a paved road into a clearing where the FS had been logging, and wandered through it further north. Eventually we found a stream and crossed that and ended up in a meadow – cue ominous music – with COWS!

OH GOD WHAT
Untitled

Those black shapes? Bovine monsters.
Untitled

Dixie never lets a Defcon 2 state interfere with grass consumption.
Untitled

Then we went back through the logged area to the west, to try to find Arnot Creek, which had a proper trail on the other side. We found the creek, but there was no decent way down.

We followed the creek south back to the road and got across it again. It was low traffic, but the traffic that did go by was absolutely flying. I knew from the map that if we crossed the creek on the paved bridge, the trail I was kinda looking for was just to the west of the bridge, but I didn’t want to get halfway across it holding a dog and pony and have some crazed minivan driver mow us down. So we worked our way back east along the Clark Fork.

I didn’t really want to go back into the kid camp, and I didn’t want to try that paved road again, so eventually I found the best spot and took Dixie across the river again. I didn’t film that one – I had to get off to lead her down a nasty slope to the river, then I’d have to lead her up the far side through some downed trees, so I just waded through.

She was such a rockstar. She crossed the creeks and rivers maybe five times that day, and she’d never crossed that type of river before in her life – fast moving water over fist-sized rocks. She’s turned into such a point-and-shoot horse.

Anyway, she waited pretty patiently for me to break some pointy branches and clear a path up the other side, then she surged on past me to get up the hill so I grabbed her tail and let her tow me up. Yes, I tailed my horse with no preparation at all. I don’t think she “knows how to tail” or anything, but at least I know she’s fine with the theory.

(I think it’s just an endurance thing – we call it tailing when we get off, send the horse up the hill at a walk, and grab the horse’s tail for a “power assist” to walk up the hill behind. Ideally, she’d wait for me to get behind her, then go on voice command, then woah on voice command. All we did was the “tow the human up the hill” part.)

Back at camp, I changed into my clean jeans and sandals and spent the afternoon writing and walking Dixie out to graze. Cersei snored nonstop, except for when I’d get up and unhook the horse, when she’d spring to life and charge out with us.

Last night, Cersei was too tired and sore to sleep on her perfectly nice Thermarest camping dog bed, and she insisted on the comfort of my cot. Somehow we worked it out to where I had my legs bent and she got to sleep on my feet and in the bend of my knees. Also, she stepped on my Kindle and broke it. Dogs are the best pets. DOGS ARE THE BEST PETS. Keep repeating this until it’s true. 😉

Untitled

I had one more meandering walk this morning, down the short dead-end trail out of camp, then we headed back to the city. The house is too quiet, but I’m pretty Zen anyway. :)

Dixie really is the horse of my dreams now. It took a lot of work, on both of our parts, but I wouldn’t sell her for any amount of money. So laid back, such a super athlete. We can go do hard fifty mile rides or we can go off totally alone into the wilderness. What more could I possibly want?

I know many of my readers are cat fans, or at least fans of Banders. Banders was very glad to see me – he loves me with all his soul. The Kitten was way too cool to come up to see me; she waited til I called her before she sauntered out of hiding. They were both quite displeased with the dry rations and empty house they’d been left with. Woe, woe is cat.

GC analysis

So how did I end up with only an hour left to cover seven miles? It’s all in the vet checks. Most of the 50s I’ve done have had only two vet checks – the loops are 20/15/15 (or some combination thereof.) Gold Country was 12/12/18/7. Instead of stopping and pulsing my horse down twice, I had to pulse her down three times. Instead of losing an hour and a half to mandatory hold times, I lost two hours. If Dixie had pulsed down the second she walked in to each check, and I had crew to shove me back in the saddle and back out the gate the second I could leave, I would’ve had exactly 10 hours to cover 50 miles. But I lost another 45 minutes to pulsing my big thick-skinned horse down, and probably 15 more to me getting my shit together to get out the gate again. I only had 9 hours to ride 50 miles. I had to sustain 5.5 mph to get it done.

That’s not prima facie unreasonable, even in July, but it wasn’t foremost on my mind. I’ve never cut it that close before, not even at our first 50. It just never occurred to me that we’d get so out of time – especially when the vet-check cutoff times were so encouraging. Of course I didn’t take a single picture of my vet card, but I want to say that the first vet check, 12.5 miles from camp, had a cutoff time of 10 am? I got there at 8:30. I stayed an hour to an hour and a half ahead of the cutoff times. I’d have done better to completely ignore the cutoffs AND my GPS and just go by the mileage points listed on the map + the time on my phone to figure out how I was doing.

I was going to shake my fist at the heavens and say “Well I’ll just not do rides that have three vet checks,” but you know what? The ride flyer (for this year, no less) says it’s a two-check 15/15/20 ride.

I dunno. I know my horse is marginal at this sport, but she’s not dangerously marginal. She had good vet scores all day, and I rode her pretty intelligently. Maybe her recoveries will continue to improve like they have for the last couple of years. Maybe she’ll pulse down faster.

It was a tough ride. It definitely didn’t feel that hilly, but the GPS says it’s the hilliest 50 we’ve ever done. It was very hot, and I suspect the shitty smoky air didn’t help things. I’m super proud of Dixie for finding fifth gear at the very end, but I’m upset with myself that she had to find fifth. That’s not how I like to ride.

Stuff! Now that I’m really getting the hang of endurance camping, I’m getting way more lassiez-faire about everything.

I didn’t even bring the truck tent. I just threw a tarp in the back of the horse trailer and tossed my cot back there. It was fine. I brought plenty of food and ate enough of it I suppose. Some powerbar things (gross) and some nut-and-fruit trail mix (boring), plus tons of fruit at the VC’s and steak and chocolate milk at lunch. I really kinda thought the chocolate milk might make me hurl, but it looked SO GOOD when I opened the cooler and it went down GREAT.

Usually, I mix powdered electrolytes for my camelbak. Hot salty lemonade is pretty gross but I drink the hell out of it. This time, I did the whole ride with water in my camelback and electrolyte pills in my bag. I ate a handful of pills whenever I thought about it – I honestly have no idea how many or when. I did not drink as much water as usual. It didn’t seem to do me any harm. I kinda missed my hot lemon water though.

Still rockin’ that same long sleeve runner’s shirt. It totally regulates my temperature – it keeps me slightly cooler in the heat and slightly warmer in the cold. I loves it. Still rockin’ the barefoot shoes. I laced them pretty tight to hopefully prevent blisters, but I still popped a blister on one foot. I didn’t notice til I got home so I guess that’s almost success. I’ve been going commando and not getting the panty-line chafing.

The participation award was a Cooltie, and they gave it out at sign in. It does, in fact, work. It feels kinda disgusting – it’s a warm slimy wet thing tied around your neck – but I felt cooler than I otherwise would’ve.

Last week, I got a Fitbit. It’s a little pedometer, smaller than a cigarette lighter, that clips onto your body somewhere. It tells you how many steps you walk in a day, then extrapolates how many calories you’ve burned, miles you’ve walked, etc. The hard-but-not-impossible goal for most desk job people is to walk 10,000 steps in one day. Would you care to guess how many steps the Fitbit thinks I took on Saturday? And how many calories I burned, even after I went back and told it I’d been Riding Horseback (Trotting) for 12 hours?

My quads are KILLING ME. Gonna bike a lot more around town and try to get in better shape for Tahoe Rim.

Sticking your helmet in every water trough is definitely the way to fly.

Horse stuff!!
Used Gloves again. I’ve gotta be getting near 200 miles on that set, and they’re noticeably easier to put on. I only taped the fronts – her front feet look way better, but the Gloves’ V still doesn’t stretch like it should. I actually lost a rear boot, but the gaiter kept it on. Will probably tape all four for Tahoe Rim.

So Easyboot people, is this the point where I put the powerstraps on? Now that the boots are ~easy to apply~?

My Renegade friends have been giving me vague disapproving vibes about my boot disloyalty, but the Gloves really do fit better right now. Shrug!

Totally forgot to buy applesauce. I only had four single-serves of applesauce, so I rationed them out. Turns out Dixie eats hay-and-BP mash with a half oz of Enduramax mixed in, yay! She ate a lot of her elytes and I only syringed at the first two checks.

She didn’t drink til 16 miles. She drank great all the way back to camp, then after lunch she was pissy and wouldn’t drink again til the trough at about 39 miles – but again, she drank heavily at that trough, the trough 2 miles from the last VC, the last VC, and the trailer. I have finally started to relax and trust that she’s taking care of herself. Her hydration scores were consistently good.

And speaking of that – this was the first ride where I assumed she was ok. Every AERC ride we’ve done, I have been assuming that she’s about to die and hopefully the vets would notice before she fell over. This ride, I just assumed she was ok, mechanically and metabolically, and hoped the vets would notice if I was wrong. YAY.

Dixie looked good after the ride. Her flanks got a little tucked in from the inevitable dehydration (endurance athletes, equine or human, can’t replenish their fluids completely during an event – they always finish a couple % dehydrated), but they’d improved the next morning.

All four legs had a tiny bit of fill overnight. I need to walk her more often before bed and before we load up to go home. Do poultices work, or do they just make the humans feel better about things? What about wrapping, does that work and how would I learn how to do it? Is it just disguising the problem, or does it actually help prevent future lameness?

Of course nothing rubbed her. This is the up side to having a thick skinned horse that takes 10 minutes and 10 gallons of water to pulse down. :)

2012 Gold Country 50: Easier and harder than I thought

When I pick rides, I look at the main things most people look at, I suppose. How many weeks is it after my last ride? How far is the haul? How many of my friends say they’ll be there? Have I heard any particularly relevant gossip about the RMs or listed vets? I don’t consider piddling technicalities like “bus plunge road to camp” or “trail may combust.”

So three weeks ago I sent in my entry for Gold Country. Then on Wednesday a raging wildfire broke out north of Foresthill, but it was in a totally different valley, so I packed up my junk and away we went on Friday. It was actually the easiest packing I’ve ever done. I just sort of threw a bunch of food in the cooler, slung the cooler and a box of camping gear and a bale of hay in the truck, and hit the road. The drive up really wasn’t bad, except for the bus-plunge Highway 49.

I gotta admit something, yall: I cried when I saw No Hands Bridge. The Sierras are the most beautiful place I’ve ever been in my life, even with the terrifying roads and nonstop fires. I cannot wait for Tevis and then the Tahoe Rim ride!

I got safely to camp outside of Georgetown. Highway 49 was horrifying, especially when I crawled around one hairpin turn and came upon a wreck in the other lane. One car had gone off the road entirely and only the trunk was visible in the trees, and the other had slipped off the road and was canted off the edge at a 45 degree angle. The fire trucks had just made their way up the enormous backed-up line of traffic and were still evaluating the scene. But we did not plunge to our deaths, and my truck did great.

Bird summed up the ride meeting: “long, sometimes painfully confusing as 8 people ask the same question at different times and occasionally get different answers … by the end I was cold and hungry and had concluded that my ride strategy was much the same as it had been before the meeting: Ignore Babble, Follow Ribbons.” By the end of the meeting, I was sleepy instead of cold, but otherwise I had the same impression. All pink-and-black ribbons, all on the right. Walk your horse across the paved roads, dammit.

Ride meeting

The 50s left at 6 am. We rode 12.5 miles out to a teeny weeny little Piper Cub airport for a vet check and hold, then the same back to camp for a vc/hold, then off on another loop for 18 miles and a vc/hold, then 7 miles back to camp. The weather wasn’t quite as hot as the earlier predictions, but it was still in the 90s.

I wore my snazzy new helmet cam for the first loop. It made my head surprisingly hot – I think it pushed the helmet down onto my scalp – and when we started going under low hanging branches it got dangerous so I took it off.

Gaiting down the trail on Dixie at the Gold Country 50 mile ride from Funder on Vimeo.

We came plinking on in to the first vet check at 8:30 or so and pulsed down in 10 minutes, which is about normal for us. It was SO SMOKY. The whole trip, I never got a view of the high Sierras, just the up-close foothills.
Untitled

We headed back, and I happened to look at my phone and I had four bars of 3G reception in the absolute middle of nowhere, so I put a picture on Facebook.
Untitled

We made it back to lunch in good time, still running an hour or so ahead of cutoff, and again I got Dixie pulsed down in about 10 minutes. I was hot and grumpy when we rolled in, but I drank some chocolate milk and ate a fist-sized chunk of cold steak and recovered my good spirits. Dixie vetted through well and ate pan after pan of hay pellet / beet pulp mash.

I left right on time after the lunch hold, but I’d only gone 50 feet down the trail when I realized I’d forgotten to put my camelback back on. Back to camp, jump off, find the camelback, remount, leave again.

Dixie clearly felt that 25 miles was long enough on Saturday and she did not want to go back out again, but she was doing great metabolically so I insisted that we go on. There was quite a bit of shade and good footing.

Untitled

We were mostly alone for that third loop. We’d been mostly alone all day – there were plenty of people in the back part of the pack with me, but Dixie didn’t pace with their horses and I don’t try to force it. She goes faster than most on downhills, slow and steady on the flattish bits, and bogs down going up hills. All day, I leapfrogged with some people I really liked and some people who grated on my nerves like fingernails on chalkboard.

Shady road and a creek on Gold Country 50 from Funder on Vimeo.

(She drank at the next set of tanks. I did not drop my phone in the water all day.)

Dixie and I had kept up a 5.5-6 mph pace since lunch, just toddling on down the trail at our usual slower-than-dirt yet steady pace, but we hit the Big Hill and she just quit on me mentally. It was only about a 700′ climb over 5 miles, but it was unrelentingly sunny and hot. We’d given up on the idea of trotting that stupid hill, and we were just plodding along achingly slowly. I’d been running an hour+ ahead of cutoff times, it was hot as hell, I knew we could make time on the downhill side and the shady flats, and I just wasn’t worried about time. (I had no idea where we reeeeally were on the trail because my GPS was having a hard time staying locked on the satellites and I kept bumping it and turning it off and on.)

Eventually, we made it over the hill. Some obnoxiously chipper people had passed us on the climb up (Things you really don’t need to say: “Wow, you sure are taking it easy! We stayed an extra half hour at lunch and we still caught you, ha ha!”) and Dixie recovered from her funk and chased them on in to the last vet check.

I got Dixie pulsed down in 10-12 minutes and presented her to the vets. Melissa Ribley vetted me that time, with mostly all A’s, and she said Dixie looked good but warned me that we’d have to hustle to make it back in time. Our out time was 4:48 and the ride cutoff was 6 pm, and the VC was 7 miles from camp. Shit.

Two riders I’d leapfrogged with all day (not the Extra Half Hour people) came in just behind me, and I asked if I could ride in with them. They said sure, and their out times ended up being 4:50. By that time the reality of “seven miles in an hour and ten minutes” had sunk in and I didn’t think there was a chance in hell that we’d make cutoff, so I figured another 2 minutes wouldn’t matter!

When we came in, the volunteers had two lameness pulls and two rider option pulls waiting to get a trailer back to camp. The three of us were the last riders out of that check – there were four more people on the trail behind us somewhere, but they would get pulled for overtime at the check and they’d have to get a ride back to camp too. The trailer showed up while we were there and loaded the two lame horses for the trip back to camp. So I looked at the two-horse trailer that was shuttling horses back to camp, I looked at the two RO’s waiting for a ride and (metaphorically looked at) the four riders behind us, and I figured if I pulled and waited for a trailer ride it’d take me longer to get back to camp than if I rode, even if I went overtime.

So we went. I was sure we were going to go overtime, but by god we’d go down fighting. I didn’t want to let Dixie hurt herself, but she had looked really good at the vet check, with a nice CRI and good hydration and gut sounds. We might as well try.

I felt pretty dumb for getting so far behind. How could I have fucked up my time so badly? But both the horses I was with had finished Tevis, and Les and Jill Carr were somewhere behind me. (Les’s Tulip currently has 22,000+ miles, and Jill’s Walker The Mule has an entirely respectable 3,200.) It wasn’t, like, a bunch of newbies on unfit horses going overtime.

E led the way on her perky chestnut gelding. Dixie tucked in right behind. S’s experienced older grey fellow had been tripping on the downhills, so she yo-yo’d behind us, falling way back as we barreled down hills and catching us up on the flats and uphills. My GPS battery gave up the ghost a couple miles out of the vet check. None of us could remember how far any particular landmark was from camp. But E’s gelding recognized the trail and he just flew down it to get back to camp, and Dixie was NOT going to let him get out of sight. We crossed the paved road for the last time and BAM popped out at camp. I whooped when I saw the glint of trucks through the trees, and E whooped too, and we both rode in, arms over our heads, yelling. Somehow we’d done it at 5:49 pm.


(Thanks for the pic, Lucy!)

I let Dixie eat and drink for 30 minutes, then vetted out. She got a 48/50something CRI and a very charitable B for attitude and impulsion, with A’s for everything else. I think. When the vet came up to me at the check I said “please take it real slow with me, I’m extremely dumb at this point in the ride!” So I might be misremembering vet scores!

Dixie got a well-deserved roll in the dirt, then more mash and hay.
Untitled

I got a huge fresh strawberry crepe!!! and a plate of fresh corn salad, salmon, pork loin, and chicken drumsticks. I had a wonderful time talking to friends at dinner and after. And I slept like a freakin’ log overnight.

I taped the helmet cam to my dashboard and got a 15 minute video of the delightful Highway 49 between Cool and Auburn, but it’s HD so it’s 1.3 gigs. That vastly exceeds my Vimeo limit, so I’m putting it on Youtube, but it’ll probably take fourteen years to process. Anyway, I’ll post when it’s up – skip ahead to the end, you will not believe how smoky the American River ravine is.

edit well that didn’t take years at all.

Next: what went wrong? (Well, we completed, so nothing went TOO wrong, but 11 minutes from the time limit is cutting it too close!)

My flaky little GPS clocked 44.1 miles and 7,661′ of elevation gain in just over 8 hours of moving time. The tracker info:

2012 Gold Country 50: Easier and harder than I thought

When I pick rides, I look at the main things most people look at, I suppose. How many weeks is it after my last ride? How far is the haul? How many of my friends say they’ll be there? Have I heard any particularly relevant gossip about the RMs or listed vets? I don’t consider piddling technicalities like “bus plunge road to camp” or “trail may combust.”

So three weeks ago I sent in my entry for Gold Country. Then on Wednesday a raging wildfire broke out north of Foresthill, but it was in a totally different valley, so I packed up my junk and away we went on Friday. It was actually the easiest packing I’ve ever done. I just sort of threw a bunch of food in the cooler, slung the cooler and a box of camping gear and a bale of hay in the truck, and hit the road. The drive up really wasn’t bad, except for the bus-plunge Highway 49.

I gotta admit something, yall: I cried when I saw No Hands Bridge. The Sierras are the most beautiful place I’ve ever been in my life, even with the terrifying roads and nonstop fires. I cannot wait for Tevis and then the Tahoe Rim ride!

I got safely to camp outside of Georgetown. Highway 49 was horrifying, especially when I crawled around one hairpin turn and came upon a wreck in the other lane. One car had gone off the road entirely and only the trunk was visible in the trees, and the other had slipped off the road and was canted off the edge at a 45 degree angle. The fire trucks had just made their way up the enormous backed-up line of traffic and were still evaluating the scene. But we did not plunge to our deaths, and my truck did great.

Bird summed up the ride meeting: “long, sometimes painfully confusing as 8 people ask the same question at different times and occasionally get different answers … by the end I was cold and hungry and had concluded that my ride strategy was much the same as it had been before the meeting: Ignore Babble, Follow Ribbons.” By the end of the meeting, I was sleepy instead of cold, but otherwise I had the same impression. All pink-and-black ribbons, all on the right. Walk your horse across the paved roads, dammit.

Ride meeting

The 50s left at 6 am. We rode 12.5 miles out to a teeny weeny little Piper Cub airport for a vet check and hold, then the same back to camp for a vc/hold, then off on another loop for 18 miles and a vc/hold, then 7 miles back to camp. The weather wasn’t quite as hot as the earlier predictions, but it was still in the 90s.

I wore my snazzy new helmet cam for the first loop. It made my head surprisingly hot – I think it pushed the helmet down onto my scalp – and when we started going under low hanging branches it got dangerous so I took it off.

Gaiting down the trail on Dixie at the Gold Country 50 mile ride from Funder on Vimeo.

We came plinking on in to the first vet check at 8:30 or so and pulsed down in 10 minutes, which is about normal for us. It was SO SMOKY. The whole trip, I never got a view of the high Sierras, just the up-close foothills.
Untitled

We headed back, and I happened to look at my phone and I had four bars of 3G reception in the absolute middle of nowhere, so I put a picture on Facebook.
Untitled

We made it back to lunch in good time, still running an hour or so ahead of cutoff, and again I got Dixie pulsed down in about 10 minutes. I was hot and grumpy when we rolled in, but I drank some chocolate milk and ate a fist-sized chunk of cold steak and recovered my good spirits. Dixie vetted through well and ate pan after pan of hay pellet / beet pulp mash.

I left right on time after the lunch hold, but I’d only gone 50 feet down the trail when I realized I’d forgotten to put my camelback back on. Back to camp, jump off, find the camelback, remount, leave again.

Dixie clearly felt that 25 miles was long enough on Saturday and she did not want to go back out again, but she was doing great metabolically so I insisted that we go on. There was quite a bit of shade and good footing.

Untitled

We were mostly alone for that third loop. We’d been mostly alone all day – there were plenty of people in the back part of the pack with me, but Dixie didn’t pace with their horses and I don’t try to force it. She goes faster than most on downhills, slow and steady on the flattish bits, and bogs down going up hills. All day, I leapfrogged with some people I really liked and some people who grated on my nerves like fingernails on chalkboard.

Shady road and a creek on Gold Country 50 from Funder on Vimeo.

(She drank at the next set of tanks. I did not drop my phone in the water all day.)

Dixie and I had kept up a 5.5-6 mph pace since lunch, just toddling on down the trail at our usual slower-than-dirt yet steady pace, but we hit the Big Hill and she just quit on me mentally. It was only about a 700′ climb over 5 miles, but it was unrelentingly sunny and hot. We’d given up on the idea of trotting that stupid hill, and we were just plodding along achingly slowly. I’d been running an hour+ ahead of cutoff times, it was hot as hell, I knew we could make time on the downhill side and the shady flats, and I just wasn’t worried about time. (I had no idea where we reeeeally were on the trail because my GPS was having a hard time staying locked on the satellites and I kept bumping it and turning it off and on.)

Eventually, we made it over the hill. Some obnoxiously chipper people had passed us on the climb up (Things you really don’t need to say: “Wow, you sure are taking it easy! We stayed an extra half hour at lunch and we still caught you, ha ha!”) and Dixie recovered from her funk and chased them on in to the last vet check.

I got Dixie pulsed down in 10-12 minutes and presented her to the vets. Melissa Ribley vetted me that time, with mostly all A’s, and she said Dixie looked good but warned me that we’d have to hustle to make it back in time. Our out time was 4:48 and the ride cutoff was 6 pm, and the VC was 7 miles from camp. Shit.

Two riders I’d leapfrogged with all day (not the Extra Half Hour people) came in just behind me, and I asked if I could ride in with them. They said sure, and their out times ended up being 4:50. By that time the reality of “seven miles in an hour and ten minutes” had sunk in and I didn’t think there was a chance in hell that we’d make cutoff, so I figured another 2 minutes wouldn’t matter!

When we came in, the volunteers had two lameness pulls and two rider option pulls waiting to get a trailer back to camp. The three of us were the last riders out of that check – there were four more people on the trail behind us somewhere, but they would get pulled for overtime at the check and they’d have to get a ride back to camp too. The trailer showed up while we were there and loaded the two lame horses for the trip back to camp. So I looked at the two-horse trailer that was shuttling horses back to camp, I looked at the two RO’s waiting for a ride and (metaphorically looked at) the four riders behind us, and I figured if I pulled and waited for a trailer ride it’d take me longer to get back to camp than if I rode, even if I went overtime.

So we went. I was sure we were going to go overtime, but by god we’d go down fighting. I didn’t want to let Dixie hurt herself, but she had looked really good at the vet check, with a nice CRI and good hydration and gut sounds. We might as well try.

I felt pretty dumb for getting so far behind. How could I have fucked up my time so badly? But both the horses I was with had finished Tevis, and Les and Jill Carr were somewhere behind me. (Les’s Tulip currently has 22,000+ miles, and Jill’s Walker The Mule has an entirely respectable 3,200.) It wasn’t, like, a bunch of newbies on unfit horses going overtime.

E led the way on her perky chestnut gelding. Dixie tucked in right behind. S’s experienced older grey fellow had been tripping on the downhills, so she yo-yo’d behind us, falling way back as we barreled down hills and catching us up on the flats and uphills. My GPS battery gave up the ghost a couple miles out of the vet check. None of us could remember how far any particular landmark was from camp. But E’s gelding recognized the trail and he just flew down it to get back to camp, and Dixie was NOT going to let him get out of sight. We crossed the paved road for the last time and BAM popped out at camp. I whooped when I saw the glint of trucks through the trees, and E whooped too, and we both rode in, arms over our heads, yelling. Somehow we’d done it at 5:49 pm.


(Thanks for the pic, Lucy!)

I let Dixie eat and drink for 30 minutes, then vetted out. She got a 48/50something CRI and a very charitable B for attitude and impulsion, with A’s for everything else. I think. When the vet came up to me at the check I said “please take it real slow with me, I’m extremely dumb at this point in the ride!” So I might be misremembering vet scores!

Dixie got a well-deserved roll in the dirt, then more mash and hay.
Untitled

I got a huge fresh strawberry crepe!!! and a plate of fresh corn salad, salmon, pork loin, and chicken drumsticks. I had a wonderful time talking to friends at dinner and after. And I slept like a freakin’ log overnight.

I taped the helmet cam to my dashboard and got a 15 minute video of the delightful Highway 49 between Cool and Auburn, but it’s HD so it’s 1.3 gigs. That vastly exceeds my Vimeo limit, so I’m putting it on Youtube, but it’ll probably take fourteen years to process. Anyway, I’ll post when it’s up – skip ahead to the end, you will not believe how smoky the American River ravine is.

edit well that didn’t take years at all.

Next: what went wrong? (Well, we completed, so nothing went TOO wrong, but 11 minutes from the time limit is cutting it too close!)

My flaky little GPS clocked 44.1 miles and 7,661′ of elevation gain in just over 8 hours of moving time. The tracker info: