Ain't nuthin like ridin' a fine horse in a new country - Augustus McCrae – Lonesome Dove

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Blackberries & Logging~

Today's Ride~
Surprised!  That's what I was!   BIG THANK YOU due to both my friends!  Joyce & Joe rode yesterday - Joe took his machete - cutting & hacking through the massive wall of green, as Joyce moved the mess of vines off the trail.  Coming up on it from the far side - to see just How Much the two of them had cleared was amazing!   If you've worked on blackberry - you know...   If you haven't - you have no idea of how nasty they are to cut.  The only good thing about them - especially this time of year, is that the fruit is ripe!

With over an hour of clearing - the trail was again open!  They'd been higher than our heads on Wed. when we'd spent another block of time just clearing into where the wall began...
More clear trail~
This is a trail that we'll use again over the fall & winter months - as will other area riders - so it's nice to know that we'll be able to get through. 
Once through - looking north~
Funny how different trails & roads can look when you come on them from the direction that you usually don't.  Normally - we like to take the long climbs on the way out, today we took some short steep climbs & ended up doing more downhill on the way back.  Rounding a corner, we ran into other horsemen!  Unusual - but not only that - we both recognized these four!  Fellow equestrians that we'd not seen in many, many years!  Such fun catching up!   Ed's thirty-year old Mustang mare was still just cooking down the trail!  The news that they shared with us wasn't what we'd hoped to hear - logging was going on just around the bend from where we were, between us & the route we'd hoped to take back.

We'd already spent over 30-min. cutting Alder's that had been cut & fallen across one trail, so again - we'd been out a while & it was another hot, muggy day.  Undaunted by the news - we continued forward - soon smelling that incredible scent of fresh cut lumber.
Trees on the ground~
Next, we saw the trees, again it's almost as though you've ridden into a strange world, so changed from just a couple days earlier this week.  The noise got louder & we could hear trees crashing to the ground!  Both horses were on high alert!  Soon, the equipment was right along the side of the trail & the noise was incredible!  Farah wanted to whirl & leave the area, Joyce dismounted to lead Jesse.  I took a short video, but it didn't do the experience justice.

This was the closest I'd been to active logging & I really felt it - it's so very Raw, a certain kind of violence - at least against nature.  These machines can take down an amazing amount of trees, in a very short time.  The claw grabs the tree, the saw cuts it off - then the entire tree is lifted into the air & dropped!  The upside - if you can call it that - is that they're done & gone fairly quickly.  We were surprised to find them working today.

With relief, we were past & within a couple miles returned to the quiet of the woods.  There are more areas marked with cutting boundary tape - so it'll be interesting to see how things change as we move into Fall. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Kitt's Ride

What is it that makes two people who've know each other a very long time, think the same thought at the same time?  ESP?

Joyce & I left from her place mid-morning, Joyce's plan for the ride was to do some more exploring of the trails to and around to what we've always called the "upper loop".  We'd not been this way for a few months due to the heavy logging that had been going on up the mountain - which makes it very dangerous as the loaded trucks head down.
Today's ride in black, last Friday in Red
 We ran a gauntlet of barking dogs, squawking turkeys, questioning landowners, etc. just to get to the actual trails, but once there - we both commented on the quiet of the morning.  No Blue Heron at the wetland this day.  It was very warm & Very humid - we were sweating & the horses were sweating before we'd even started the climb.

The first surprise of ride greeted us as we rounded a corner - just amazing how quickly things change!
Clear-cut that opened up a view of where we were heading~
It was eerily quiet, with white puffy clouds moving by overhead.  Before long though the sun returned & the heat went right up!  As we rounded a corner we both pulled our horses up to watch the beautiful Coyote who had appeared on the trail in front of us.
Coyote in the road~
 We had commented more than once this Summer - that we'd seen very little wildlife, but that had now changed.  He or she disappeared into the brush as we approached.    We climbed & climbed some more, finally deciding to call a halt & take a short break.  Both of us were starved - we found some ripe blackberries & ate a late breakfast!  :-)
Joyce turns to start down & see's the Coyote
As we started down, I heard Joyce say something & turned to see that the Coyote had actually followed us!  Pretty unusual.  We looked at each other & both said at the same time;  "Kitt".  Kitt was the special "dog" that shared her life with us for over 14-years.  Dory always thought & a lot of us did - that in spite of the literature saying that Coyote's & dogs don't interbreed - Kitt was half Coyote.  She moved like one, acted like one & certainly had the smile :-)  It brought tears to my eyes - thinking of her spirit visiting us in that way...
Where our next surprise happened - at the low point on the road~
Now lower on the mountain I was gazing off at the view when I spotted some incredible looking animal who had just come out on the gravel from the brush to the right.  Joyce - who's voice was the most excited I think I've ever heard - was saying;  "Bobcat"!  It was!  The first I've ever been lucky enough to see in the wild!  Much darker brown than I would have expected & a decent size, probably at least a year old!  We didn't have more than a second or two to appreciate him, when he moved off across the road & again disappeared on the far side!  Way COOL!  We were feeling extremely blessed to not only be out on such a fine day - but to have such unique experiences!
Joyce & Target - Heading down~
This mountain, in spite of the heavy logging, heavy logging traffic & the work it takes to get up - is a special place.  You can just imagine how amazing this country was before it was turned over to the logging companies.  No, we wouldn't have the views, but we would have had the forests, the cover, the water & everything necessary to have supported an amazing variety of both plant & animal life.  It's a hard place to leave - but in so saying - I'll leave you with a short video clip that I took at our turn-around for the day - only about half way to the summit~
Coming back, the trail we'd hoped to take that would have gotten us back to where we wanted to be, was almost totally blocked by blackberry.  Joyce spent at least 30-min. with her hand pruners cutting & cutting.  I used my stick to beat them down, but we finally had to give up when the vines became a wall!  That meant going back the long way & making plans to return & get that trail cut through!
Enjoying the ride~

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Baker Lake Trail #610!

Farah, Connie, Fancy & Charlotte
It's hard to describe how excited we were to do this ride!  I don't think either of us got any sleep the night before!  Me - because I'd been there & ridden the first third of the trail two-years ago with Patty.  It had been very hot, humid, buggy, technical - with slippery bridges around every turn.  We'd finally had to turn-back to get to the trailer before it was too late in the day.

This time, Butch agreed to come with us.  We left one trailer at the south end, then Butch drove the other up to the top, where he spent the day fishing, hiking, taking photos & enjoying a day-off!
9:55 a.m. We're On Our Way!
We met at 9 a.m. at the sign-post for the trail!  I'd packed everything but the kitchen sink, knowing that if we got too far north - then found something blocking the trail, like the downed trees that the Ranger Station had told us were over the trail just past Silver Springs - that we'd be spending a night out there.  Once you're that committed - you can't make it back before it's too dark to navigate that narrow trail, somewhat treacherous in many places.
First views of Mt. Baker
Just a few feet in, the allure of the trail takes your breath away with stunning views of the old-growth forest that is all around you - that is until you see the first of the views that you enjoy all day of Mt. Baker!
On the lake at Maple Grove -11:13 a.m.
It wasn't any time at all until we reach the campground at Maple Grove.  The day was stunning & the peak of the mountain still had a cap of clouds.
We're climbing~
Before long, we were climbing, most of the trail is at about the same elevation above the lake, but in places you climb up & around rock outcrops, where the trail was blasted out of the rock.
11:55 - Trail -  drop off hidden by greenery~
It's been a very dry year, but there were little trickles of water perking through the rock in many places, ferns growing lush everywhere!
Really Big Trees too!
This is a forest that has gone untouched by logging.  In 1843 the volcano erupted, causing a fire that must have been something to see.  There are still remnant snags blackened by the flames.
By 12:30, the day was warming up~
We rode through a section of the magnificent old growth & on into an area that was very green & lush.
Following Charlotte & Fancy
The diversity of the trail isn't really too amazing when you think of the huge mountain that it is carved from.
Once around the point, Baker greets us yet again!
By now we were both getting hungry & had planned to make the Silver Springs Campground for lunch - thinking that would be about 2/3rds of the way.
Charlotte & Fancy admire another view~
We could see up to the northern end of the lake by now!  Pretty exciting!
12:40 - Looking north~
Finally, we reach our next goal, the Silver Springs Campground!  We enjoyed the sound of the river & the mares enjoyed their lunch too!  Farah was so surprised when she found that part of that extra weight she was carrying included grain!
1:40 - Ready for lunch!
We didn't tarry for too long, as we were both wondering about those downed trees & whether they would bring our ride to a temporary halt?   We'd headed up the trail not realizing that it was "the" trail, then turned back to find the campground.  Once we left the campground, we went back to the last sign-post & realized that yes, the trail we'd gone up a ways - was indeed the correct way to continue on.
2:04 - Trail~
Walking on down the trail, we were passing the freshly cut tree trunks before we realized that the forest service personnel had made it out to get them cut-out for us!  What a relief that was!   Next, Noisy Creek!
2:17 p.m. Crossing the bridge at Noisy Creek!
It was noisy!  No surprise there :-)  By now the mares were so used to crossing bridges that they hardly broke stride!  Besides, it was so cool & pleasant near those rushing rivers!
Mt. Baker falls into our rear-view mirrors!
Again, since this trip was to see the sights as well as do the trail, we headed down to the water at the Noisy Creek Campground for the mares to get a final drink before what looked to be the dryer end of the trail, where we'd veer away from the lake.
Enjoying the lake water~

2:40 & we turn to leave the lake behind~
Now the day was clouding up, the humidity had gone up & we lost the nice breeze that we'd enjoyed most of the day coming off the lake.
3:-00 p.m. The big trees kept us company~
From here on, we started climbing a switch-back, we had more rock on the trail & felt a drop of two of rain.  At what would be our final creek crossing, I stopped to take a video.  Huge boulders, lots of water & both of us thought that a dip in that creek would feel darn good!  But we needed to continue on.
It was 3:42 p.m. when I took this video...  I'd told Butch that the very earliest he could possibly expect us would be after 3 p.m. & the latest...  before dark!  We still had a lot of trail ahead, so after a short break - the trail headed up - then down - some sharp little switch-backs.
4:26, Butch's first glimpse of us through the trees!
We knew we were getting close!  We could hear the Baker River!  That meant that the Suspension Bridge would be somewhere up ahead!
Farah sees "Dad"!
Farah was incredibly surprised to see Butch!~  I think by now she thinks he's the "Magic Man" who can appear no matter how far we ride & comes equipped with the trailer & food!   Little did she know that we had one final bridge to cross!
Butch took this photo of the bridge at noon!
 A Suspension Bridge at that!  One of the most beautiful for it's size anywhere, over the Baker River.  The video foreshortens the length - so I've added the photo above :-)  You can see that it does have enough length of span to sway in the breeze!
Charlotte was talking about how the last horse can feel more of the sway than the horse going first, but with the wind - we started feeling the sway just before we reached the middle!  Farah - who's gone through Mark Bolender's Extreme Mountain trail class, had to learn to not only cross, but turn 360 degrees on a small suspension bridge that Really Moved!  So, when we felt the sway - she kept her cool & never missed a beat!   It was SO Much FUN!  You can hear us laughing!  Was it with relief?  :-)

Butch ran on ahead of us, Farah wanted to trot to keep up, but instead we checked out the small horse camp with tent pads to give him time to do a short video at our final destination!  The northern end of the trail!
What an incredible day!  There's just no way that photos or video do it justice.  My GPS showed over 16-miles total at the finish.   We walked the mares down to the rivers edge for a final drink before loading up to head back & pick up the other trailer.
At Baker River
If you put this ride on your bucket list, be sure to call first to check on the condition of the trail.  Be prepared to spend a night if you don't make it all the way through - as once you're in over half-way - you probably won't have time to turn-back & make it before it's too dark to travel safely.  Plan the day for the weather.  Too early in the year & the bridges are slippery, too late & they're the same.  Soak yourself & your horse down with bug spray.  This year there were very few, but in 2011 - we were constantly attacked!  Be sure you have a horse that will Do bridges, as you'll do a lot of them!  Then - just ENJOY an amazing ride!
Trail #610 Baker Lake
Butch & I stopped for dinner in Sedro-Woolley on our way home & enjoyed a really good Greek meal!  The perfect end to a perfect day!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Cloudy, Cool & a Breeze!

Just as described~
 Joyce & Joe invited me along for this ride & I was happy to go.  We met again at the MHC & headed out to find a few of the lower trails that Joyce hadn't used for a while.  One had been logged - the trail had become the logging road - but still took us around & into the woods.  We felt lucky today - to be able to be out & riding in this kind of weather.  It was really humid & didn't take long at all for the horses to be soaked with sweat, Farah looked almost black.
"Looking" west at our loop today - the lower red "loop" & back at our Stimson Hill Ride in June.  Way back to the east, is the red line of the Darrington end of the Whitehorse Trail~
The pace was pretty fast, all three horses feeling good in the cooler weather & the breeze dried the sweat quickly.  Once or twice we felt rain drops, but never did get any actual "rain".  Joyce & I have seen a beautiful, large Blue Heron on one of the wetlands that we ride by, the last three times we've been in the area.  I was hoping for a photo of him today - but he surprised us & was roosting on the far side of the road, where we didn't expect him.  Was still a thrill when he took flight right in front of us!
View of Mt. Washington
When we came to the trail where the Alders had been cut down, Joe pulled out his clippers & cut the branches, while I tossed them off the trail.  Both Joyce & I had our saws - but we didn't need them!  Nice to get that out of the way.  Seemed like the over 12-mi. that we did wasn't enough - but it was sure good to be out & I sure enjoyed the company! 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Hot Summer Days~

The view west~
We headed out on a trail leaving from the Morgan Horse Club.  It was warm, the bugs were very busy bugging us!  As expensive as bug repellant is this year - it doesn't seem to work any better~!  Joyce wanted to cover some ground, so we did!  Going out & about until we dropped down a long hill to Hwy 9, at the place where the new bridge over the Philchuck Creek is under construction. 
Bridge Construction
Construction under way!
Shortly after we'd turned back & about half-way up the climb, we met a nice gentleman & his friend who were hiking from "Uncle Tom's Cabin" out the way we'd just come.   They were planning on being picked up once they reached the highway.  We had a nice big long steep hill ahead of us.  Farah & Target trotted, trotted & buckled down to trot some more!
Today's route~ 16+ miles
You can see it easily - it's so straight!  We really enjoyed the shady sections, but on the way back - someone had come in & cut a lot of Alder down.  Most were cut so that they fell away from the trail, but finally - we came up to a wall of branches & leaves - tree down :-(  I didn't have my saw in the saddle pack - but we managed to lift it up enough for the horses to squeeze under.  Next time we'll have the work of cutting it out.  I don't know whether the tree farm employees do this work, or it's subcontracted out.  May try to call & ask.  Such an easy thing to drop them so they land Off the trail in most places...  Doubt they'll bother to cut or haul them out.

What an amazing Summer we've been enjoying! 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Best of America on Horseback!

Tom interviews the pair from WA Dept. of Natural Resources
What a Fun day!  When I heard that Tom Seay & his crew from Best of America on Horseback were coming to Butlerhill Equestrian to film an upcoming show for RFD-TV, I just HAD to sign-up for the ride!

The day dawned cool, gray & overcast - actually pretty typical weather for Western, WA - but not during August!   Driving up to Burlington - I ran through a pretty good little rain storm outside Mt. Vernon.  I'd been told that the ride would go on rain or shine & was at least hoping for dry!  We all met-up at the stable then headed out for the trail-head.  Lots of riders - about 18 & lots of rigs too.
Let the unloading begin!
Cindi Pendel, owner of Butlerhill had done her usual amazing job of matching horses & riders.  Some - including myself - brought their personal mounts - but others had opted to ride horses provided by Butlerhill. 
We're mounted up & ready to hit the trail!
Everyone was taking photos of everyone else!  It's the age of smartphone cameras!  :-)  Tom & his crew were so gracious in allowing all these amateur photos - unusual in the professional world of TV.  Our travel orders were given by head wrangler Patrick & no one objected.  They were intended for everyone's safety.  Farah seemed to know that this would be no ordinary ride for her.  With only a few bucks on the downhill descents she settled in - giving Lee's beautiful 17 hand sorrel as much grief as he would bear from behind!  :-)  It was so hard to get photos - the pace set was good for all the horses & we didn't have to make as many stops as I'd imagined for the crew to ride out ahead of us & get set-up for filming.  I did take the short video below.
 Our group was so very l o n g - that it was difficult to make conversation with anyone but the riders near you.  I did mention some of the native plants & noted the springboard marks on the old Cedars.  It was a shame in a way that it's been so dry, as all the little beautiful waterfalls were down to a trickle.  We had a lunch break at the small dry camp near the lake.  Now Checkers knows that I'm the Cookie lady too!  As usual Mark was riding bridle-less & when I opened my zip-lock of trail mix, I suddenly had a new Best friend in Checkers!  :-)  (Farah did remember Checkers too - after that snarl that he'd given her earlier this year :-)
Forgot to turn the GPS on for a little way at the start~
Of course, anytime you get the opportunity to hang around with Bill Richey - you'll get plenty of laughs!  Bill's dry, New Yorkers sense of humor is never wasted on me!  :-)  We tossed a few quips each others way during the ride when one or the other of us would appear around a corner of the trail :-)
The "Cowgirl" & the "Cop" - PD too!
No speeding ticket for us!  We talked our way out of it!  Once we were on the gravel road & almost back to the trailers, I let Farah walk & walk she did - quickly finding her way to the front, we passed Patrick at a 5.1 mph - her fastest to date!

Tom surprised me back at the trailers, when just after I'd taken my helmet off - he interviewed me!  We'll see if it makes the final cut - when the show airs, I believe in November.  (Farah stuck her head in on the first take - so we had to do a second :-)

Everyone involved with the show could not have been nicer - it made me want to go & visit some of the amazing places that Tom told us about - so much fun listening to just the stories we had time for!  He asked what my bucket list ride was - my response -  Yosemite!  He replied;  "Just Do it!"  Good advice from a man who does just that!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Blanchard Revisited~

Today's Loop
The more research I do on this area - surprisingly - the more I find out.  An area that conversationalists have been trying to protect - for many years now - with the "Blanchard Mountain Agreement".   This trail system is just over fifty-miles north, but worth the drive.  Charlotte invited me up for a ride & it had been a long while since I'd ridden there.  Farah's first time, I think.  Khari & I used to ride here with Diane & Elation.
Charlotte & Aliento check out the map~
Today - we were on a schedule, so had just enough time to do a nice loop & check out the trails.  I'm hopeful that I'll be riding them again this coming Monday - when I'm scheduled to join the "Best of America on Horseback" group for a ride to Lizard Lake that will eventually air on TV.   Either lunch or dinner is included - it was a little pricy - but I'm hoping for Farah & my two-seconds of fame!  :-)  Of course in the deep shadow of the woods, Farah's color blends right in!

In 95-97 I worked for a Broadcast & Industrial Video Equipment company in Everett - so I'm looking forward to seeing what equipment will be used & how the camera crew will go about filming a large group of horsemen on narrow trails :-)
The trails are stunning - some degree of difficulty in places, where large rock cover the width of the trail - slippery when wet!  Not a problem we had today!  It was very dry & trails were as hard-packed as most I've ridden lately.  We saw a few hikers, a few on their mountain bikes - but everyone was pleasant & friendly.  From what I've been able to gather - this mountain & the recreational opportunities it holds are still threatened by possible development & continued logging - that supports the Skagit Valley economy.  Someday - maybe these counties will wise up & realize that tourism & recreation can & usually do - contribute many dollars to local economies.  Read here to see what the future may hold for this area.

Not far down the trail, Farah broke into a light sweat - unusual for her - then some foam on the neck.  After a few miles she was again dry.  I think it may had something to do with the anesthetic that she received yesterday for the float - now helped out of her system by a good ride & bath after!