Oh man, what a wonderful ride.
About a year and a half ago, my friends started planning this ride, and I’ve been looking forward to it the whole time. I felt kinda like a jerk for not offering to volunteer it, but you gotta have riders too, right?? I have been entry 501 (first person entered in the 50 mile ride) for a year.
So on Friday I loaded up the horse and away we went to my most-anticipated ride. Camp was a wide spot in a fire road just a couple miles from Spooner Lake, on the southeast side of Tahoe. I took the long way around – out 80 to Reno, then down 395 to Carson City and up 50 to ride camp. It took more than six hours, but I did skip the traffic on 28 around the lake. Dixie vetted in fine and fell to eating immediately.
This was the first year for the (latest incarnation of the) ride, so there were some weird hitches. The only day they could get the ride sanctioned by AERC was also the day of the Xterra triathlon. We were sharing the trails with racing mountain bikers, but in order to miss most of them, our start time was 8 am. Both the vet checks were away, at Hobart Reservoir, and the road to get up there is too tight to take a gooseneck – so my little dinky trailer got volunteered to participate, too!
I unhooked Adventure the Trailer the night before, but I knew I’d be awake at dawn so I didn’t bother with much else. I slept pretty well, curled up in the back floorboard of the truck, and popped awake before 6. We swapped over the ball and hooked up the trailer to the RM’s truck, moved Dixie and all my tack to another trailer, and loaded all the crew bags. Then the RMs, volunteers, and vets drove off, leaving one out-timer volunteer to see us off at 8.
I got Dixie tacked up and met up with my ride buddy W and we had a very calm last-place start. We leapfrogged with another group of slow riders, but eventually they passed us and we held on to our turtle position all day. The whole day was breathtaking, but the first loop was especially pretty. We went north up the Tahoe Rim Trail, with some “technical with exposure” bits that’ll just take your breath away.
We went up past Marlette and past Red House and did a loop around a mountain, on a flume trail. It’s a very nice sand road, with the flume pipe running alongside and underneath, that gradually runs around the mountain with killer views of Washoe Lake, Carson City, and (if you squint) Reno.
All was well at the first vet check. Dixie ate and drank great and there were tons of volunteers (thanks, yall!) to bring us stuff. Our 45 minute hold was up before we had a chance to get stiff, and away we went on the second 12 mile loop. This one headed south again, with a long slow climb up a gorgeous open valley with the greenest grass I’ve seen in months, then it picked up the TRT again and repeated some of the beautiful trail we’d done that morning.
Random plant – it sure looks like sweet potato vine to me, but I don’t think sweet potatoes live at 7000′ in the Sierras?
And back to Hobart for the second check. I was sure we were going to get pulled – I don’t know why, but I’ve been more nervous about this ride than any other we’ve done this year. Usually I’m nervous up until I hook up the trailer, or maybe til we vet in the night before a ride – but this time I was stressed out until the second vet check. Somehow, everything was ok – neither Dixie nor I were lame or in metabolic trouble. Dixie had started drinking at nine miles (a record!) and hadn’t stopped eating and drinking since. She even trotted out better for the second vet check than for the first!
So after the second vet check, I finally gave up on being nervous. We had something like 4.5 hours to do the last 20 miles and our horses were just fine. My Nevada BFFs gave me not one but TWO beers for “lunch” – which may have helped me quit being nervous.
We zipped out right on schedule, as the volunteers closed the place down. We had 20 miles and two more mountains to climb.
There was one utter bastard section. We switchbacked along a gentle rise for a while, then all of a sudden the road just went straight up. The RMs had warned us – “you’ll cuss us,” they said, “but there was no other way to do the trail, and it’s only a half a mile.” W’s Ro sighed and plodded up, and Dixie sighed and started to follow him.
My conscience woke up. “Get off the horse, you lazy asshole. It’s only a half a mile and this poor creature has carried your fat ass for thirty plus miles, at no less than seven thousand feet, and all she does is SIGH. Get off!”
So I got off. It was brutal. I’d hike five or six painful steps and stop at a tuft of grass. Dixie would snatch a bite of grass while I gasped like some asthmatic on Everest, then I’d slog another five steps up. But we made it, and we even made it pretty fast – 2.3 mph for that heinous section of 12.7% grade.
Here’s (one of the) Twin Lakes, just north of Harlan Peak. Mute your volume, it’s nothing but wind!
The high places make me so quiet. I feel like I don’t belong up there, like humans very much do not belong up there. We are so smug, little masters of our dominion over most of the earth, but when you get up on a remote mountaintop (or at sea, or in the desert, or any number of places) you really feel like you’re a flash in the pan. That mountain doesn’t care. It’s been there for millions of years, and it’ll be there for millions more.
I think I saw a chukar! It was definitely some kind of pheasant. Very skittish, and I can’t believe I managed to get a pic at all. Dead center, in the sunlight, crossing in front of a white rock.
Then we climbed another mountain. I was pretty much done at that point, and Dixie was too. We had like 12 more miles of slogging to do, so I started pulling ribbons to amuse myself. My rule was that I would not stop for a ribbon, but I’d veer off to the side and snatch at them. We were the last people on the trail, after all!
I got quite a few – I filled up both saddlebags, Dixie’s whole mane, the V-neck of my shirt, and one cuff. (Pic shamelessly stolen from Lucy and photoshopped for contrast)
We rolled back into camp with a comfortable 30 minutes to spare. Dixie was intent on getting to her trailer to eat food, but we stopped to pose for pics, then stripped tack and vetted out, then DONE!
You wanna know something amazing? There were no pulls. Everyone who started that ride finished it – and it was not easy. The weather was perfect, everybody rode smart, and everybody got lucky.
The awards meeting started 10 minutes after we got in, PLUS there was food left for us – if you turtle a ride you know how much little stuff like that means! Also somehow I won all the stuff. W and I both got enormous helmet sun visors for the turtle award, plus the completion award of a highball glass and a cool training log, plus I won a pair of stirrups in a raffle. Woop!
They’re waiting to get re-sanctioned for next year by Nevada Forestry, so keep your fingers crossed – and if you ever get the chance to do this ride, DO IT.