What a thoroughly excellent ride! You’re gonna get seven thousand iphone pics and the exhaustive blow-by-blow on this post – it was that much fun.
I love how odds are I know somebody at any ride in the region, but Nevada rides are definitely “home” for me. So we pulled in and found a nice spot and I unloaded Dixie. I led her over to the water – I didn’t think she’d drink, but she might like to stretch her legs, you know how you do. A guy, Wayne, immediately came up to me and asked if she’s a TWH. (That happens all the time, but usually it’s not quite so immediate!) We talked for a few minutes – he was starting his first 50 on his TWH!! – and then we decided we knew each other. A lot of “did you ride X?” and “did you volunteer at Y?” and we finally worked it out. I rode 10 miles with him at NEDA Frenchman’s Creek last year. He’s moved on from the Arab who dumped him at the start (go Team Sensible!).
After we vetted in and got settled and I thought about it a little (but didn’t overthink it!) I went and found Wayne and sort of offhand offered to ride with him if he’d like the company and he didn’t mind going slow. He said it sounded great and we decided to meet up in the morning.
Ride meeting was excellent. The ride was two loops: the first 30 mile loop had a 15 minute out check at 10 miles, then finish that loop back in camp for the 1-hour hold, then back out for a 20 mile loop across the road.
I had a secret weapon on this ride: I’d done the first loop back in February. (BIG thanks to C!) I headed out with Wayne on Rocky and we picked up B, on a green little grey Arab, pretty fast. We had a great time and the first part of the first loop flew by.
We had an away check at 10 miles – almost a gate-and-go, with a 15 minute hold. Just long enough for the horses to gobble down some fruit and the humans to hit the porta potties. Then we started the Big Climb (and the Big Rocks). We climbed up this valley, around that hill, then up on a proper mountain.
Up and up. Dixie had “latched on” to a giant bay Arab who was just ahead of us, and the Arab loved her back. His owner would urge him on and he’d trot off maybe 100 yards up the hill then he’d refuse to trot any more, and Dixie would powerwalk to catch up to him. Eventually we humans gave up and rode together, and I kept telling her how far we had to go. (“Well, at some point we make a right and it gets a lot steeper, and I think we end up on top of that peak,” “I think if my GPS is right it’s less than two miles further,” etc.)
It’s six miles of steadily increasing climb. There’s an eagle nest in a house-sized boulder about a third of the way up, but that pic didn’t come out. I like to think I could barely see Pyramid Lake, to the right beside the tallest peak in this shot.
I, um, kind of lost Wayne in there. He was back there with the grey Arab, and Dixie was hot on the heels of the bay Arab, and I hate climbing that stupid mountain (although I love it as soon as I’m up top!) and I decided I’d just dawdle on the downhill and hope they caught up.
Eventually, we made the peak. There’s no water up there, and neither of our horses had drank at the trough at 10 miles, so we didn’t linger too long. The Sierra Nevadas are the range in the furthest distance.
Eventually, we got to the first of two huge spring-fed cow troughs. Both horses dived in and we were thrilled! I squirted Dixie down and refilled her bottles and we slithered on down to the second trough – where the devil cows awaited us.
Wayne and Rocky showed up again at that point. YAY! We walked another quarter mile or so, til the grade finally leveled out a bit, then we all mounted up and zoomed away. We trotted the whole valley back to camp, with me calling out landmarks and my estimated distances to camp.
The Arab woman (whose name I have sadly forgotten) and I were both fairly worried about time, and we wanted to pulse down fast and get out of camp on time. Dixie was in the mid-60s when we got in, so I yanked her tack and squirted her neck and got her down inside three minutes. The other two got down almost as fast, and we all vetted ok.
I warned my friends that I hadn’t ridden the second loop! We headed out across the paved road, down some sand roads, past a cow pond, and up the tiny creek that feeds the pond. We saw a ribbon down low on a sagebrush, then a trampled ribbon, then all the ribbons were gone. We wandered long enough to decide we were definitely lost, so I whipped out my phone and called the RM. She reassured us that we’re on the right track and sent us “up the canyon” – we checked one canyon, didn’t see ribbons, rode up a small hill, and saw ribbons in the other canyon.
This was mentally the hard part of the ride for everybody. The cow path up the canyon was very well ribboned, but it was incredibly narrow and impossible to trot. It was probably 5 miles of walking, but it felt like 10 miles and this was where we became utterly convinced that we were turtling. I kept checking the GPS and running the numbers and I was pretty sure if we could just keep a 4 mph pace we’d make it, but the others were more worried.
Also, they were mad. At the meeting, the RM was bragging about all the deer, antelope, and eagles that everybody’d seen in the weeks leading up to the ride, and we hadn’t seen anything! They were pretty unimpressed by my eagle nest, so I started playing “spot the eagle.”
Wayne and I also started tallying gates. When we’d been split up, we’d both had to open the same gates, and when we were together we kept both getting off to open a gate and stretch our legs, but he was sure he was two up on me. Arguing about that, spotting eagles, and interpreting the map kept us perky til we finally hit SAND ROAD again.
We stopped at the world’s best oasis – a NASTR member set up two tanks, two hay piles, 25 lbs of carrots, 25 lbs of apples, and a couple gallons of people ice water! We were deliriously happy and couldn’t stop thanking him. He insisted that we were NOT in last place, that there were about 10 riders behind us, and I re-ran the math and reassured my friends that we’d finish JUST FINE.
…down a hill, then back across the road to the Red Rock Hounds.
At the barn, another fabulous volunteer had LEMONADE for the humans and apples and water for the horses, then she opened a gate for us (robbing me of the chance to even up the score with Wayne) and let us into the pasture. The TWH were pretty uninspired about getting through the pasture til a big bay pinned her ears and bluff-charged us – yes, when I say “into the pasture” I mean into the pasture where the foxhunting horses were grazing!
We finally got them moving and I quit taking pictures again. Through a couple pastures, around a couple ponds, over a dirt-covered booming wooden bridge, through a couple more pastures full of ribbon-eating cows. When we’d lose the ribbons, we’d just split up and move down the pasture and keep looking. Eventually, we found the right gate going up the canyon. (I opened it, thus leaving Wayne only one up on me for the day.)
One more big 1000′ climb, back up to the plateau where camp is. The bit through the hounds is familiar to me, and I kept promising my friends that we’d have one more huge climb then we’d be THERE, a mile or less from camp, just one horrible slog at the end and done. The woman on the Arab got a big trot out of him and they disappeared up the canyon, but Wayne and I were happy to walk our gaited beasties. And we did WALK – I think Wayne did half the canyon on foot, and I did the lower quarter, rode the middle, walked another quarter, then rode again to the top.
There were a LOT of “false crests” but this, this really was it. When we slogged up to that rim we were on the plateau, looking at camp.
Both horses looked at the trailers and perked right up and offered a trot. (Or a gait – Rocky actually step-paced ALL day!) We finished at 5:54 – a whole HOUR and six minutes before cutoff.
We vetted out ok, decent CRI. Wayne’s palomino had a better CRI than Dixie! He’s the sleeper hit for sure. Dixie was a little body sore – she made snarly faces whenever anybody touched her. Not back sore; she didn’t flinch for back palpation. It wasn’t specific, like the girth had rubbed her or the saddle had squished her withers. She was just generally sore on Saturday night. She’d recovered by Sunday morning, and I think our season is done anyway – if it recurs next year we’ll try to figure out what’s going on.
I hiked and RAN probably 4 miles of this, which doesn’t sound like all that much but it’s the most I’ve done before. I’m not a very fast runner, and hills at elevation just KILL me going up, so I can only reasonably get off and run the downhills. But anyway, I felt great all day, and I’m deadly sore today but I think I’ll bounce back pretty fast.
I have had such a perfect season with my mare – I am so proud of her. And me, sure, but mainly I’m impressed with Dixie!