2014 Wild West II 50

So last weekend’s camping trip went quite well, but it was camping. I wasn’t pre-riding Tevis, no matter how slowly; I was just out there to relax. I was in no hurry to wake up and saddle Dixie that Saturday (or Sunday!) And Dixie was, as you may have gathered, her usual irritating self. I’d sort of planned on doing at least ten miles at a good clip, just to see if I still had an endurance horse for Wild West, but Vacation Brain got me. Dixie certainly wasn’t eager to go trot off alone with Roo and show me what she’s got, and we ended up doing almost no miles. We’d deliberately done nothing in April after Derby, and then we’d done almost nothing in May, what with the pukey exhausted pregnant rider, and I really didn’t know what I’d have for Wild West.

And honestly? It had been so long since I’d done a 50 I wasn’t sure if I really truly wanted to. But I knew that this was a great chance for me to get in a ride, and if I don’t ride this summer and can’t ride this fall or winter or next spring I’m really going to regret it, so off we went to Wild West.

It’s staged out of Skillman Campground, just east of Nevada City, CA. I’ve been there twice — once “horse camping minus horses” when Mel and I wanted to get out but both of our horses were broken, and once last year with Sanne when it was too smoky to preride VC. I knew it was a lovely area, I knew the ride management was great (the Ribleys also run Twenty Mule Team), and by god we were going.

It’s always a big ride, and it’s not the biggest campground, so I wasn’t really surprised to see this:

Nowhere to park at Skillman from Funder on Vimeo.

I ended up squeezing Adventure in a little alley right by the highway. It was four thousand miles from the vet area and the water faucets, and I spent the whole time I was parked there worrying about whether or not I’d be able to back out of the spot, but at least I wasn’t forced to park on the side of the camp-road like so many others.IMG_2089 IMG_2090

I started with the hi-tie, but Dixie circled around and got her lead hung on that giant stump so I ended up tying her to the back corner of the trailer.IMG_2092

She certainly looked good! This is, sadly, the cleanest she looked all weekend. I groomed her really, really well, braided her mane, and led her over to grab my rider packet and vet in. Vetting was in a big open dusty area, and as I was leading her across the open area to the hitching post, she flung herself to the ground and rolled in the silty dust. Sigh.IMG_2094

I tied her and got my rider packet and got distracted talking to people, and every time I’d glance over to make sure my horse hadn’t untied herself and gone walkabout, I’d think, “whose palomino is that? Oh dammit.” Yeah, it was my palomino. But we vetted in fine.

I am really, seriously, no fucking around going to try to fix my water tank and/or buy a wheely cart to haul water. Carrying jugs of water from the decorative yet barely functional hand-pump up to the trailer at RF sucked a lot, and carrying jugs of water from the hose to the trailer at WW wasn’t much better. You’d think I’d bring more water from the barn, but you’d be underestimating my skills at procrastination. I always think “ehhh too much trouble; I’ll just get it in camp” and then I always end up like a half a mile from the water.

The ride meeting went smoothly, and the Saturday ride was easy: red ribbons all day, pink and black arrow-signs marking the turns. Two highway crossings (eek), one “very steep” downhill to a creek then “up a hill that might have a bear.” For a boot user, there’s just nothing more exciting than a creek followed by an uphill — it’ll destroy glue-ons if you’re not very lucky, to say nothing of mere strap-ons. And maybe a bear too!

It was 20 miles (plus creek, hill, bear, and highway crossing) to the away check. First hold was 30 minutes, tack on, 60 pulse, then a 15 mile loop and back to the same check. Hour hold, tack off, 60 pulse, then 15 miles back to camp. 68 (64?) within 30 minutes of the finish, then vet out, tack off, within the hour.

I checked on Dixie, then headed back over to the campfire. It wasn’t literally all of my endurance friends, but it was almost all of them, and I had a blast talking to people. There were marshmallows too! Baby wanted marshmallows. Using the baby as an excuse to eat stuff is both funny and true — I am not a sweets person, and normally I probably wouldn’t even bother with marshmallows, but little Lemongrab (the nom de semaine) really did want marshmallows.

Literally everybody I talked to was excited about the baby and cheering for me to keep riding. I heard so many stories of “I rode til X months” and “my mom did 50s til X months before I was born.” I wouldn’t catch-ride, and I wouldn’t jump, but I’m certainly comfortable that Dixie will keep me safe.

When it got dark, I stumbled back to Adventure, filled up one more hay bag and mash pan, and crawled into bed. I wasn’t even cold, and I slept pretty well — but I couldn’t sleep past daybreak and I ended up wide awake and tacked up far too early.

Dixie knew what was up, and she was ready. She gets the shakes when she’s excited, but look at how contained she was! She was not screaming and pacing in circles, just quivering and ready for me to get the hell on already, human.

Dixie is so excited she’s shivering from Funder on Vimeo.

We spent about fifteen minutes walking around camp, then let the frontrunners start while we walked some more. About 7:05 we headed down to the start and got underway. I had the finest of intentions to ride with my friend Angela (of the bear video, above, and most recently my ride buddy at Derby), but it was not to be. Dixie took off with her Big Walk and we didn’t see Angela (and Kim, doing her first 50!!) the rest of the day.

My strategy, as such, is to let Dixie go along at a dull roar in the early morning, when it’s nice and cool. We’ll do the first 15 or 20 miles in two or three hours, and then usually she slows down and we plonk along for the rest of the day at 5 or 6 mph. This is not a smart racing strategy; I hear that one should do negative splits and get faster as the day goes by. But we’re never racers, so we go fast in the morning and slow in the afternoon. Except this time…

I took selfies so yall can see my descent into sullenness.* IMG_2101*no sullenness occurred

So away we went, down some fire roads for a while. There were some nice views, and the footing was good but hard.IMG_2103 IMG_2105

Dixie was actually passing other riders at the big-walk. I wasn’t letting her trot faster than the other horses, but when we’d get to an uphill or downhill where we’d all slow to a walk, Dixie just walked straight past them and kept moving. I got to some slightly steeper downhill and got off and ran for a while, then when it evened out I got back on and kept riding. Eventually we got to the “steep downhill,” which Robert had promised was very obvious, and I got off to lead down again. I’d lost a boot — damn! — so I tied her on the side of the trail, slammed the boot back on, and raced on down the hill. It was, as advertised, quite steep — as steep as my training hill at home or as steep as the worst SOBs in Nevada.

We ran down to the creek and I hopped back on. There was an old mining claim along the creek, and I got a not-very-good picture of the old equipment.IMG_2106

Dixie was still in no mood to slow down, but I was determined to make her walk up the (long, monster) hill so her stupid boots wouldn’t slip off her wet feet. We kept picking ‘em off at a walk on the way up, until somebody (Hilary and John, I think!) went trotting past us on their very fit horses, and Dixie broke into gait for a second and flung another boot off. I kept riding (with people helpfully pointing out the boot was off) until I found a wide spot with a stump, and I got the boot re-seated. Then back on and up up up some more!

I don’t know why my first-loop pictures all came out like shit, except that it’s proof we were moving at a blazingly fast clip, lol. Up the hill!IMG_2109

The view back down the hill!IMG_2110IMG_2112Eventually the hill got less steep and we entered civilization, of a sort. Lots of houses back on these dirt forest-service type roads, with colorful characters watching us go by and walking dogs and stuff. I want to live there.

There was no bear. I don’t know whether to be relieved (I’d have lost all four boots for sure) or disappointed (I kinda want to see a bear!)

We popped out at the highway, gave our numbers to a number-checker, and got across safely. Then we ran along a beautiful Gold Country Trails Council trail, right beside the highway, for maybe 3-5 miles, past both the photographers.

I’d lost yet another fucking boot right after the highway crossing. Dixie and I don’t generally have the same fears in life — she’s very worried about puddles, sometimes scary rocks, hikers, and getting separated from all the other horses and dying alone. I’m worried about falling off cliffs and getting hit by cars. So losing a boot on good footing right beside a busy highway was suboptimal. The boot was still there, firmly attached by the gaiter, and Dixie gave zero fucks about the whole thing, so I kept going past the first photographer. (Hi Rennie!) As I passed and was passed, people kept helpfully pointing out that I’d lost a boot. I got more and more irritated about it. Finally, one incredibly sweet and well-meaning woman said she thought the boot would chafe, and if I’d just stop she’d get off and fix it for me, and I snarled something about fixing it myself and took Dixie charging off through the forest away from the road in search of a tie spot. (I’m really sorry, lady; I know you meant well but PREGNANT RAGE.)

I tied my darling horse to a tree and got the boot off her back foot, then my sweet angel did that thing where she squirms around (without crashing into me! She does not invade my space!) and ends up on the other side of me, screaming for the horses who are passing her on the trail, and I lost it. I screamed “I FUCKING HATE YOU!” at the top of my lungs and hurled the boot at Dixie from five feet away.

I missed.

Dixie gave me this look, like, what did I do to deserve getting stuck with such an incompetent human?

I started giggling and went to find the boot. Jeremy trotted by and yelled “Are you ok?”

I yelled back “Pregnant lady with a mare, this is as good as it gets!” I slammed the boot back on the suddenly very cooperative horse, leapt back on, and took off to the second photographer. (Hi Bill!) So these gorgeous pictures were taken moments after the boot-hurling.IMG_2153 IMG_2154

We came screaming into the 20 mile vet check at 10 am. I got Dixie pulsed down in a couple minutes and she vetted through just fine. B for gut sounds (hardly surprising) and A’s for everything else. Rob Lydon vetted me, and he asked (as he always does) how my ride was going. “Can’t keep the damn boots on her, but she’s on fire! She feels so strong and she’s going so good!”

Zach’s Mom was there, and she helped me out — thank you again Karen! While my sweet angel boo bear ate, I pulled her rear boots, taped her feet and slammed the fucking boots back on yet again – I’d only lost rear boots, and I desperately hoped the tape would help. Then I settled down and destroyed half a bag of cheetos (baby wanted them) and some nuts. The hold went by fast and I got out within a minute of my out time, ready to slow it down a bit and enjoy my day.IMG_2114

But Dixie wasn’t ready to slow it down. We tore off down the trail, holding our place in the pack pretty well. I am not gonna lie, I was ready to slow down, but I could not get her to ease up. We gaited everywhere the other horses trotted and we power-walked everywhere they walked. The second loop was exceptionally pretty, alternating singletrack through old-growth forest and fire roads with views.

Let me go, human, there’s room for me to pass.IMG_2115IMG_2118We can walk so much faster than them downhill if you’d just let me barge past.IMG_2119Why won’t you let me go, human? That other horse gets to canter!IMG_2120IMG_2121I hate you too, human.IMG_2124Eventually she’ll slow down, right? Right?!IMG_2125They’re getting away!!IMG_2126I lost a fifth boot on the second loop. A front one for a change; at least the tape worked on the rears. Perhaps I should re-measure her feet and/or consider powerstraps.

Karen had asked when I thought I’d be back. “Oh, three hours,” I said. “Can’t be sooner than two and a half.” Hah! At 12:20-something, less than two hours after we’d left, we were back for the second hold. I stripped tack, sponged for a few minutes, and pulsed in at 12:28. Rob vetted me again, and again he asked how my day was going. “She’s still pulling like a freight train,” I wailed. “I can not slow her down but she really feels good?”

He agreed that she looked great. Again, a B for guts (I’d gotten her to stop and eat one mouthful of grass, and I’d managed to feed one carrot from the saddle), and A’s for everything else and a good CRI.

As I led Sugar Angel Horse back to our little shady rest spot, she flung herself to the ground for a half-roll. I groaned. There goes at least seven minutes of my lunch — I’d have to give her a sponge bath before I tacked her back up. I yanked and prodded and got her over to her pile of hay, then went and flopped down by Connie.

I’d been riding maybe a minute ahead of Connie all day, at the tail-end of a group of four SoCal riders. They were nice enough, but they weren’t My People, and I wanted to spend some time with Connie. I asked if I could ride home with her, and she agreed. Gina and Carolyn showed up a few minutes after us — they were on their baby horses, not their seasoned mounts, but still — me? Ahead of them? What madness is this? We sat together and munched Cheetos quite happily. The Nevadans all had beer, and not gonna lie, a beer would’ve tasted really, really good. Lemongrab: see, I tried to be a good host.

I did almost have a meltdown when I went to refill my camelback. I hadn’t done a great job hydrating on the first loop, and during the second loop I made sure to drink the whole thing before I got back to the check, and then there was no more people water! I went wailing off to the volunteers in a tizzy. I am more like a snail than a camel and I will totally shrivel up and die if I have to ride fifteen miles with no water. My friend Joanne gave me a half-frozen Vitamin Water (delicious!) to shut me up, and the volunteers assured me that more water was on the way, and I settled back down. (And I apologized. I’ve volunteered a bit, and I’ve seen asshole riders who don’t even realize they’re being assholes, and I try to be on my best behavior in checks!)

I woke Miss D up from her nap and sponged the mud-dirt-grime off of her, then tacked back up. Lost a minute stupidly making two trips to the trash bag, but I still got out one minute after my hold (and two minutes after Connie’s). We set off down that lovely trail beside the deadly highway yet again, walking slow for a couple minutes to let SoCal pull ahead of us. Eventually, we had our bubble, and we took off at a trot.

This time we rode probably 8 miles down the highway. I was more inured to the danger, and of course Dixie could care less about the traffic, or the few bikers and hikers we saw, so I was a little more relaxed. Eventually we all bunched up at the crossing, waiting to get back to the south side of the road. We got across and headed for White Cloud — the people-campground I’d been at with Mel a couple years ago.

Dixie finally quit pulling and offered to slow down. We can walk more if you want, human.IMG_2128Oh no, my princess. That ship sailed a long time ago. Let’s just trot for one more hour and get this done in style, okay? Okay.

We headed down onto the trail beside the ditch, and Mike and Phyllis caught up to us. We talked it over and agreed that the mysterious ditch has to be a very old disused irrigation ditch. I remembered the natural water and pointed it out when we got to it, and the other horses drank happily. Dixie didn’t want to drink, but I’d been trusting her to drink when thirsty all day so I didn’t push it. Away we went again, to the overflow parking just two miles or so from camp. But instead of staying on the perfectly lovely trail beside the road, we had to detour down into a canyon and up Hallelujah Hill. I don’t know how Sanne and I missed it last year, but I think we took a wrong turn onto a different trail.

Still smiling, only looking slightly demented.IMG_2129Lovely trail, thick with dogwoods. It would be great to get out here earlier and see them in bloom!IMG_2131Everyone agreed that it’s cruel (but sadly not unusual) for ride management to detour you away from camp and make you finish with a hill. I was expecting another climb like the one out of the creek that morning, and I really didn’t know if I had enough horse to keep up with the other three. I decided I’d make D keep trotting all the downs and flats and walking the uphills, but if the others outwalked us on the uphills, I’d let them go. I didn’t want Dixie to think she can pick her pace all day, but I certainly didn’t want to hurt her.IMG_2130So away we went, down one more canyon. I was holding my breath at the bottom, but the creek was dry — and the climb up was surprisingly easy. I mean, it was steep, and it switchbacked on and on and on forever, but it was a nice new trail. We hit a patch of bees, and maybe one of the horses got stung, but the rest of us just hustled through at top speed and it wasn’t bad.IMG_2134Honestly, I was pretty fucking done at that point. I was tired of riding fast and riding well, and my horse was a little tired, and every time we’d start up from a walk to a gait my legs would scream in protest. (And every time we’d slow from a gait to a walk my knees would scream in protest — whacha gonna do?) But Rob had promised me that it was two miles from the top of the hill back to camp, and it’s not like I had to go back out for another fifty miles that evening, so we soldiered on.IMG_2136 After one more lovely stretch of singletrack, we popped out on one last fire road. We all slowed down a bit and walked on in, finishing at 3:28. My ride time was just a hair under seven hours, plus an hour and a half in the holds. Amazing.IMG_2137

We got our finish times and walked on in to camp. My brain was fried so I walked straight over to the vet. God bless Rob; he really knows how to talk to road-stupid endurance riders. He checked Dixie’s pulse (probably like 90 bpm) and spoke slowly and clearly to me. “So you need to go to your trailer and pull all her tack, then sponge her neck, then bring her back in thirty minutes, ok?”

I mean, I’ve been doing this long enough that I probably would’ve figured that out on my own. What is horse pulse? Too high! Make horse cool with water! Take saddle off! But he saved me all the mental effort. I had a task!

So back down to the trailer we went. Fresh mash for Dixie. All the tack came off and went in a pile. The helmet and camelback came off. The ride card came out of the saddlebags and got shoved in the my pocket (brilliant, if I do say so myself). I found the sponge and sponged the horse and checked her pulse and she was down, so we trudged back up the road. A quick pulse, a quick trot-out, and we were done!IMG_2139Dixie really, really did me proud. Boot-flinging moments of rage aside, I truly adore that horse. We pretend that we don’t like each other very much, because we both think we’re bad motherfuckers without any squishy ~feelings,~ but she’s my girl. We’ve got each other’s backs.

Music and dancing after the awards/ride meeting. IMG_2142I hung out til dark again, laughing and talking with my friends. Baby needed another marshmallow, too. As the sun set, I realized it was the summer solstice, and I cannot think of a better way to spend the best/worst day of the year. I was awake, outside, and hanging out with my BFF Dixie for every hour of the longest day of the year. Woo!

Post-ride condition pics. She’s a little tucked up in the flanks but looks good!IMG_2148 IMG_2151Two more things that I really want to mention:

First, horses can just keep improving. If you look at our ride record, Dixie’s never been a fast horse. Our first fifty was 10:15 at a tough ride, and our best times have been over seven hours at easy rides. This was not an easy ride. I’d say it was easier than Tahoe Rim, sure, but it was no stroll through the park. Probably 30% of the trail was flat and the rest of it was heading up or heading down. I’m not pushing Dixie, and I’m not trying to make her something she’s not, and she’s just rocking along at the back of the pack looking great. So if you’ve just squeaked through your first few rides on your off-breed, and you really don’t know if this is going to work out for your horse, don’t despair. If they like the sport and you can keep them sound, they can keep getting better and better at it.

And second, get your shit together and get through your holds on time. If you have a lot of short holds, and god forbid if you have a lot of short holds that are tack-off, you might not get to do more than pee and refill your water before you have to get back out there. You can eat in the saddle. Every minute you spend waiting for the frontrunners to start and waiting to pulse down at the holds is a minute you’re going to regret in the afternoon. I will wait up to two minutes for a friend whose out-time is later than mine, but no longer, and I don’t expect anybody to wait for me. I have squeaked in to the finish with less than ten minutes to spare too many times, and it’s not fun! Dixie and I lost fifteen minutes at this ride — we started late, we took maybe three minutes at each hold to pulse down, and we were two minutes late leaving the second check. It’s shocking how fast it adds up. Again, it gets easier the more you do this, but you have to make getting out on time an absolute priority!

Camping at Robinson Flat

Way back at the beginning of the year, Lucy and C and I planned a couple of Tevis pre-rides. I was on the fence about maybe going for it this year, but any excuse to ride with them is good enough for me to road trip, and they are both planning on riding Tevis. We did Overlook to River Crossing in January but had to wait til summer to go higher up the trail.

The plan was to go up to Robinson Flat on the weekend of June 14th and ride the middle third of the Tevis trail, from RF through the canyons down to Foresthill. When we touched base about it in May, I was forced to confess that I was in the family way. I’ll be 19 weeks pregnant for Tevis, so I’m definitely not riding it this year — but I still really wanted to go camping. I didn’t even care if I rode the canyons or just tooled around by myself. May had been a never-ending grind, and I can’t do Tevis or Virginia City, so I really want to have as much fun as the baby wants to have in June and July.

Turns out Lucy’s husband pft was also coming, and didn’t want to ride the canyons either. We decided that pft and I would have a leisurely stroll somewhere while Lucy, C, and J plowed through 30+ miles of burned-out canyons. Then we’d have plenty of people around to shuttle the Tevis riders from Foresthill back up to the campsite at Robinson Flat, and I’d get my outdoorsy fix, too.

So last week I got a new picture of little Lemongrab. Yep, still in a delicate condition. Looks like a turtle because it wouldn’t hold still to get its picture taken. IMG_1963And then on Friday I packed up everything — including Cersei, the dog — and headed for the hills. I got to Robinson Flat campground around 3 pm, only to discover that it was almost completely full. Not as full as during Tevis, of course, but all the camping pads were taken. The Western States run is next weekend, and there was one final trail-clearing push for the run. There wasn’t even room for Adventure the Trailer, much less for the three larger rigs coming up later that evening.

So I headed up to the upper clearing. During the ride, it’s the parking area for volunteers / ride officials who are lucky enough to get RF parking passes. It’s the clearing on the right just as you head out of RF, right before that “ATVs and dirt bikes share the road” sign. I was feeling pretty smug about it until the ranger came by and told me we couldn’t have a campfire up there. Boo, hiss, but there really wasn’t anything else to do. IMG_1970I fed the dog and the horse, and then I sat in a camp chair and stared at the dog, the horse, and the gorgeous mountains for two straight hours. I got hungry, so I got up and fed myself, then I sat back down and stared at the horse for another hour, til J showed up. (She’d planned on showing up when I showed up, but then her trailer electrical decided not to work, so she heroically got that fixed and got on the road just a few hours later than planned.) She did about the same as me: fed her dog and horse, dragged a camp chair over, and we stared at horses and trees til it got dark. Lucy, pft, and C showed up later that night.

Y’all. J let me sleep in her LQ on the fold out couch. It was so warm and so soft and there was a toilet. It was better than the Four Seasons.

I cannot overemphasize how amazingly wonderful it was. It was pretty much everything I’d hoped for.

Dixie was in fine form. If you are a Mare Person, you’ll just roll your eyes and mutter “fuckin’ mares.” If you are a Gelding Person, you’ll be horrified.

At one point, Dixie and I had a conversation. She let me know that she was displeased with the footing by pawing, flinging her head, glaring at me, and pawing some more. I was made to understand that she wanted to roll, but there were rocks on the ground. I apologized, unhooked her from the hi-tie, and led her around to some softer-looking patches of dirt, but none of them met with her approval either. She would paw the (rocky) ground, look plaintively at me, pin her ears at Cersei, and paw some more. Eventually I got fed up with her princess-y ways and tied her back at the trailer. I turned my back for mere seconds and she flopped down and rolled. I guess it was adequate after all.

We had three dogs in camp: Cersei, the grumpy old lady at 7 years, J’s young Weimaraner Pluto, and pft’s young standard poodle Finn. (Technically, Finn belongs to both, but pft is clearly his human.) The two boy dogs hit it off and spent the whole trip playing silly young dog games. Cersei shredded her delicate citified paws on the gravel in the first ten minutes, and she spent the whole time being very grumpy and gimpy, curled up in the front seat of the truck sulking. Poor thing!

Anyway, Dixie does not approve of dogs. She and Cersei get along ok — I didn’t set up a second water dish for Cersei, because I knew she and Dixie could share a bucket — but Dixie was unamused by the young dogs’ hijinks. Pluto thought maybe he’d investigate Dixie’s mash pan and she bit him, poor guy. Nobody steals her mash! Fuckin’ mares.

Saturday was a slow start for everyone. I had some breakfast and got down to business trimming hooves. I’d sorta kinda done Dixie’s hooves the week before, but they needed serious touching up to actually boot her. The Tevis Riders got all their shit assembled and headed down the trail at 10 am, and pft and I leapt into action. Hahha, no, we sat our happy asses back down for two more hours.IMG_1982

Lucy is riding pft’s big buckskin Fergus at Tevis again this year, so pft got to ride Roo. Roo’s done Tahoe Rim and Gold Rush with Dixie, so it’s not like they’re strangers — but it mattered naught. Roo was inconsolable when Fergus left without him. He screamed and whirled and paced for an hour before he gave up in despair.

We’d originally planned to haul down to Foresthill and ride up the trail to see the new vet check at Chickenhawk, but pft came up with a better idea. We could stay up at Robinson and ride Duncan Canyon instead. Tevis used to run through Duncan Canyon, but it burned almost 20 years ago so they rerouted the trail from Red Star to RF. The WS Run still uses it, and pft assured me it’s a gorgeous ride. And it’s the kind of thing I just won’t get many chances to see! We tacked up our steeds and I stuck Gimpy McWhinesalot in the trailer. Finn Dog got to come with us.

Duncan Canyon is breathtakingly beautiful. The whole ride I alternated thinking “Why don’t they use this for Tevis anymore” and “Oh my god I’m so glad I’m not trying to make time here.” Parts of it were trottable, parts of it were trottable under race circumstances, and quite a bit of it just wasn’t trottable at all. But we were in no hurry. Both our steeds are hundred-mile horses, so they weren’t very good excuses, so we decided we’d have to go slow for Finn. Didn’t want to wear him out, you know. 😉

This isn’t even all the pictures I took, merely a representative sample. I should stick the whole batch on Flickr or something.

Dixie got to wear her Darth Vader flymask. IMG_1985IMG_1989_2 IMG_1991_2 IMG_1995_2 IMG_1997_2PFT on little buddy Roo.IMG_1999Starting down into the canyon proper.IMG_2006_2 IMG_2009_2Creek crossing. IMG_2010Out of the canyon, up onto the other side, looking back where we’d come from.IMG_2017_2Wildflowers everywhere. I can’t say “definitely go in early June” because it depends on the snowpack, but this year this part of the high Sierras was perfect in early June. IMG_2020 IMG_2028

We rode out for an hour and back for an hour. At one point, Roo was in front and Dixie was behind, but Finn dared to pass Dixie to get back near his human. She pinned her ears and snaked her head and went to bite him, but I yanked her head up and thumped her as hard as I could with the crop. Fuckin’ mares. If we brought the dog on purpose, we shall not bite the dog. We shall only bite intruder-dogs.

Back at the trailer, we settled the horses and I took a nap, because why not? At five pft moved Roo to J’s trailer and took the three-horse down to Foresthill to pick up the Tevis Riders, and I went back to my rigorous schedule of staring at horses, trees, and dogs. Friday afternoon I’d had cell phone bars, but Saturday was overcast and I never got a signal. I had an early dinner and read a book on my phone for a long time.

Oh, I did get a picture of just how close the American Fire came to destroying RF. It’s a historic site and a great staging area for the firefighters, so they will always try their hardest to save it, but last year was pretty close. Here’s the road out of camp, headed toward Last Chance: IMG_2035_2And less than a hundred feet to the right, here’s the burn line: IMG_2036About eight the others came back, and the overcast turned into a beautiful fiery sunset. Lucy produced a grill and whipped up sausages and potatoes, which was technically second dinner but who’s counting, right? The baby wanted it. IMG_2040J let me sleep in the LQ again and it was just heavenly, again.

Anyway, the next morning, we were (surprise!) in no hurry to Do Stuff again. C had gone home the night before, but the rest of us didn’t have any time constraints. We drank coffee and ate breakfast and chatted, forever, then finally decided to go up to the fire lookout thing a couple miles up the road.

I could show you how to get to this place, but I can’t really tell you. You drive up the road toward Last Chance, but you turn on another FS road and switchback up a ways and then you’re on a ridge and you come around the corner to a fire lookout thing: IMG_2045You can see a lot of mountains from up here.

Little Bald Mountain fire lookout tower from Funder on Vimeo.

Inside, there’s this cool map thing (that I forgot to get a good picture of) that helps you line up on whatever peak you want to see. And the windows have names and headings of peaks on them – if you look closely at this picture you can see the names and the round map thing. IMG_2051_2It was just gorgeous. Here’s LCT and J looking down at French Meadows Reservoir. IMG_2048(Ok, they were almost certainly looking at the upper part of the Tevis trail – Granite Chief, Squaw Valley, etc, in the far background, or along Red Star Ridge behind the lake, but “looking at the lake” sounds nicer.)

I took like fifteen more pictures up there, but this is already the picture-heaviest post I’ve done this year. ANYWAY. Eventually we dragged ourselves away and went back down to camp, where Fergus had untied himself to go graze but hadn’t yet run away. (And why would he? All his friends were there, ragingly jealous of his freedom.) We tied him back up, I finished packing, and I finally got on the road about 1. I think the others got in one more ride, but I needed all the remaining daylight to get home. It took me five hours to drive 165 miles. Sacramento to Oakland on Sunday afternoons is slow-rolling hell.

I got a few more pictures on the way out. The American Fire burned up to the RF road and jumped it in a couple spots, but generally, they held the line at the road. Now it’s a gorgeous scenic drive for a few miles, then it’s fresh burn on one side from last year and older burn on the other side from 2008.

It’s really sad and scary and humbling to see the destruction of a big fire. But I keep telling myself how cool it’s going to be, to watch over the next ten or twenty years as the forest comes back to life. Remember, Duncan Canyon burned less than two decades ago, and it’s phenomenal now. This is just the sad part of the cycle. IMG_2069 IMG_2072 IMG_2071The burn line is right about where the road striping stops. IMG_2080And that does it for last weekend’s adventures – now I can write up this weekend’s 50 at Wild West!

So where did May go?

Well, to get to May, I’ve gotta back up to the end of April. I had a nice boring weekend at home, I went to sleep on a Sunday night feeling fine, and I woke up Monday morning just convinced I was pregnant.IMG_1833Turns out I was right.IMG_1840

Really right.

I made it through the next couple of days feeling pretty much ok, but then I disappeared into the first-trimester swamp of queasy fatigue. If I could’ve, I would’ve happily slept about 16 hours a day for that whole month. I wasn’t ferociously nauseous, but I was low-grade queasy pretty much every hour I was awake. JellybeanSo I managed to do the NATRC/Ride’n’Tie weekend. I ran a few times. I rode a few times. I made it out to Cache Creek to ride with Mel once. I knew that I couldn’t even stay awake long enough to drive to Reno, much less ride the NASTR 75, and Dixie needed her hocks done again, so there went my Triple Crown dreams. I got said hocks done, but I did not manage to trim even once in May (and I paid for it in June!) May 2014I’m not complaining. I’m still pregnant (this week its name is Lemongrab, because it’s the size of a lemon), and I feel much, much better now that the first trimester is almost over, and it could’ve been so much worse — but it still sucked. I’m glad May is over. I’m a lot less queasy, and a lot less fatigued. On to June!

(I’ll probably keep this a horse-focused blog, but it’s my blog so I am gonna write about whatever I want to write about. I’ll make an effort to tag the pregnancy/baby stuff so you can skip it if it’s not your thing, but see above re: my blog, nobody pays me, so I can yammer about whatever I want!)