When I was a kid, maybe in the early 90s, my parents had that saying tacked up on the tiny corkboard over the phone. Barn’s burnt down / now I can see the moon, from a Zen-saying-a-day calendar. I always liked it, and I saw it a lot in those days. (Remember when you had to pick the receiver up from the base to answer the phone, and if you wanted any privacy at all you had to buy an extra-long cord so you could drag the phone into your bedroom with you? Gah, like, I really didn’t want my stupid parents to hear me talk about my Rock Star Boyfriends.)
When we left Ohio, I made a promise to myself that I’d say yes more often. Ohio was a real low point in my life – I couldn’t find a job of any kind, my gelding Champ died, Dixie was more psychotically unrideable every day, and I didn’t even do anything while I was there. I didn’t go to any horse events – shows, day trips, camping trips, nothing. I didn’t go people-camping or hiking or even the water park I drove past on the interstate most days.
I couldn’t do anything about Champ or the economy, and I didn’t have a trailer to go places, but I promised myself that when we got to Nevada, I’d seek out horse people and if they offered to do stuff, I would say yes unless I had a compelling reason to say no. Obviously, I had no idea what I was doing with my horse, but surely if I just kept doing stuff with her this whole mess would get better.
And thus began a new phase of my life. I rode with ~C. I rode with the crazy lady I boarded with. I rode with the crazy lady’s neighbors. I went to Vegas to meet two of my internet friends. I slowly met more people, slowly got invitations to go ride with them, and I always said yes. It never seemed like a good idea at the time, honestly – I’m a quiet, shy, only-child introvert by nature, and I’ve spent my life fighting that tendency to hide from people. But I kept doing it, and it slowly got easier, and I’ve had so many awesome crazy adventures just from saying yes.
After TRR, my friend S was like “I think I might ride VC for the first time this year, and we should ride the Cottonwoods loop ahead of time, and you should come stay at my house.” Of course I said yes – it’s almost habit at this point – and we decided I’d come over on Friday and we’d ride Saturday and Sunday.
Then the Rim Fire exploded, and the wind blew the smoke north to Reno, and I almost backed out. Half of my friends were like “you are fucking insane do not come to Reno this weekend.” But S was like “come anyway, we’ll go somewhere not smoky and ride,” and NOAA said the smoke might shift Friday night, and I decided to stick with the Just Say Yes plan.
I drove into a smoke-pocalypse. (If you think I haven’t spent the last five days trying to figure out a more clever name than that, you don’t know me at all!) It looked like a big cloud…
Then I drove into the big cloud and the sun turned orange. It looked like the dying world in The Magician’s Nephew. This is when the barn was burning down, btw.
The smoke was unbelievably bad. We drank margaritas and ate excellent food and made contingency plans on Friday night, and when we got up Saturday it was just as bad.
Dixie and Taz got along like gangbusters. She squealed and threatened to kick him in the head, and he fell instantly, deeply, permanently in love with her. With mares it’s touch and go, but I can’t think of the last time Dixie met a gelding who didn’t worship her unworthy hateful self, LOL.
Saturday morning we double-checked all the weather forecasts and decided the only place to go was west. We could’ve ridden out of the Auburn Fairgrounds, but I knew it’d be really busy and I steered us toward Skillman instead. Two years ago I went people-camping there with Mel, and while I still can’t get properly excited about riding Wild West I really wanted to ride the trails.
By the time we figured out a plan, headed out, stopped at the ag station, stopped to pee, stopped to check on the horses, turned down a logging road instead of the campground and had to find a place to turn the trailer around, and finally got set up in the day-use area at Skillman, it was almost one, but by god we’d come this far and we were going to ride. In a nod to the possibility that we’d get lost and spend the night in the woods, I brought a flashlight and my new Spot, and S brought two candy bars. We are epic explorers, yall. We saddled up the horses in a state of great excitement and headed off down the one trail I knew.
We’d forgotten to give the horses any water, but at least the sky was blue and there was a campground not far off with faucets.
Skillman has some truly lovely speederbike singletrack, and the next time I go back I’ll bring the helmet cam, cause there’s no way to video that with a handheld camera. Taz was like “awww hell yeah let’s do this” and Dixie just tucked in and roared along after him. We zipped up to the people campground.
S had brought a little scoop for Taz to drink out of, and I put a plastic bag in my helmet to make a water bucket for Dixie. I was pretty proud of my little psycho pony – she didn’t even bat an eye, just stuck her face in up to her nose and slurped like five helmet-fulls of water.
We headed back and went down Hallelujah Trail, and right at the point where I thought “Wow this is really bushwhacking, even for us” the trail just died. Dixie had to step sideways over a foot-high pointy log into a dry stream bed composed of head-sized boulders to give Taz room to turn around, and then we were off again. Taz threw a boot (one of many – I am so grateful that Dixie’s boots inexplicably fit her fucked-up feet so well) and when S got off to pull it, he was like “oh you’re tailing? Grab on let’s go” and he took off without her. Impressively, she ran like a quarter mile up this steep “trail” yelling for him. He stopped at a switchback like, “What? I thought you were tailing, stupid” and away we went again.
We got back to camp at three. We’d only done about ten miles, but it was gloriously pretty. I started doing the math in my head and decided I absolutely had to leave at four, so we walked around camp and found the other trailhead, then tied up the horses. The camp host came back by and offered us maps, so we went over to his little compound and talked to him for a bit.
Turns out he’s a retired sword swallower from the Ren Faire circuit.
Now he makes steampunk instruments and vehicles. I photoshopped these guitar pics (fixed the levels so that the guitars are visible and the background isn’t washed out).
Eventually I had to go, so I flung Dixie back in the trailer and headed west. I got her home right at sunset, which was actually scenic for once. If you embiggen the picture, you can see SF across the bay – this is coming back down the hill from Dixie’s barn.