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

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Movin' On Up!

11:30 a.m. Blazing Sunshine
Today was the day, with bow hunting open - Joyce wore an orange vest, Farah wore her orange rump rug - at least until I had to roll it up to let her cool off! 
Sweat under the rug~
Most of last week was really wet - Fall moved in & with it the rain.  The weatherman was correct though - clearing & sunshine!  So - as we do at least a couple time each season - we headed for the high country.  The 90+ humidity along with the steep climb, soon had both horses in a full body sweat.
Fireweed in it's fall glory!
  We continued up - taking a different route from our usual one.  By the time we'd reached the old quarry - we were higher on the mountain.  The clouds rolled by overhead, but sunshine predominated.
Part of the old quarry~
It was a hunting expedition of sorts, Joyce wanted to try some new trails that we hadn't explored before, so once we crested the top, we started taking right turns & got out quite a way over onto Stimson Hill, before starting to find blocked roads.
Three Fingers peeks through the layer of clouds~
At one of the logging turn-rounds - the clouds opened just enough to let us see the views that were semi-obscured by a low hanging layer of cloud cover - drifting by as slowly as cold molasses.
Taking a break at the Viewpoint~
We waited a while, hopeful that the view would improve, but that wasn't the case, the clouds were actually trying to thicken.  It was blissfully quiet - the only sounds were from two large crows or ravens that sat at the top of one of the larger snags.
Mt. Rainier too peaks above the clouds~
On our way down - Mt. Rainier too - decided to peak it's head up & say "hi"!  It's pretty awesome to be up here.  Our high point was 2,247 ft. - the highest we've ridden to date.  Only a few feet lower than Snoqualmie Pass!
The view of the peak-a-boo clouds~
We turned back, took a left & again found a blocked trail - but now we've narrowed down the places where we're stopped & the places that look like we'll be able to explore further.
"Eye" to the world~
Even heading back, the views try to convince us to stay longer.  The horses didn't mind - water was flowing everywhere after last weeks heavy rains - plenty of water & they did plenty of drinking!
Mt. Baker
We tried one more trail & found one more dead end - again with the partial view of our other large volcano - Mt. Baker.
Down anyone?
 Finally, it was time to head back - the downhill is actually harder than the up!  Farah likes Jesse to go in front, she stays behind & tries to intimidate him - which he has learned to completely ignore!  :-)
Mt. Rainer gives us a last glimpse~
Funny to say that we were going lower - when by the time we'd gotten back to Barbara's Bench - we were still over 2,000 ft.
From Barbara's Bench
According to my Garmin stats - our elevation gain on this ride was just over 3,860 ft.  Yes - I think either of our horses could do about any distance we put them to :-)  It may be close to the end of the Endurance ride season, but to those of us who enjoy riding here - we'll continue on as long as weather permits!
Joyce with Farah & Jesse
When I was coming down off the trail up to the bench, Jesse had forgotten I was up there & spooked - so Joyce had to remind him that it was just "me"  :-)  The day was cooling down just a little, we went through a couple spots where I swear the temperature dropped 15 degrees in 100 ft.
Timber going down~
On our way back, much lower on the mountain - we found this area getting cut.  Sadly - it closes off the access to one of our "short-cut" trails down.  We'd tried taking it from the bottom up early this year - but the brush had grown so thick that we couldn't get through.  Glad we didn't waste the effort to clear it - at least until we see what's left of the "trail" once the logs are hauled out.
Ride Route
It was a gorgeous day - I got a kick out of Joyce mentioning that the air got "thicker" as we descended lower on the mountain.  I told her that she would Love Colorado :-)  Where the high country is really high!  :-)  Only a couple more thousand feet & we'd be at Boulder's elevation :-)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Hackin' Our Way Through~

Here's where we started~
Original plans were to ride, but it was raining...  Then - the day started clearing off.  Joyce sent a text to say that she'd decided to ride, but by the time I saw it - it was too late to meet her.

I'd been wanting to try to ride out from home & see if I could still go north.  I took my hand pruners & heavy gloves.  As we went around the corner to get on the trail - the blackberries were in our face.  That was OK, I felt like doing some hacking!
The woods~
It's easy to make yourself forget something that you know you're going to lose...  Then it's in front of you & all your senses tell you that you're home...  When I think of what we used to have & that only this small bit is left - well - it hurts.
To the power lines
Up on top, it was just a gorgeous day - I was glad I'd left all the stuff I was doing to ride.  Of course the cutting to get through was a chore, but Farah got pretty good at stopping for evey overhanging bunch of blackberry & letting pieces fall on her while I cut.
Fireweed going to seed~
 I wanted to see if I could still get all the way north, so we kept going.  Our four-mile rock was almost hidden with shrubs since the last time things had been cut under that line.
Lots going on at the Power Sub-station
 This was just up the road from our break spot.  While I let Farah graze, a ATV came down the road toward us - going really slow...  He threw his hands up in the air as he saw us & asked if it was OK to go past.  I turned Farah to face him & that's when I saw what he had across the front of the vehicle...  A huge bow & arrows.  That scared me senseless...  You can bet money that next time we go out - whether it's warm or not - Farah will be wearing her orange rump rug.  I'm going to try to find an orange halter too.
The climb back
After that encounter, I was ready to head back & hustle.  So we hustled...  I saw one more ATV go by - but couldn't tell if he was hunting.  I was on alert all the way back...
From the other direction
We were out of the woods & headed down the hill past the cattle.  Farah looked, but took it much better than I expected.
Pilchuck with a little cloud drifting over~
We stopped to talk to Pat & Donnie on our way home, planned a ride for later in the week, weather permitting.  Butch was home, working on the cover for the camper.  Nice end to what ended up being a really nice almost first day of Fall!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sunday Benefit Ride~

Beauty of a Trail!
We laughed at Farah's expense this morning when we looked out to see her pouting, butt to the sun - trying to get some rest after her busy night :-)  I think she must have covered about 50-miles.  With all the other horses around her taking things easy - I can't understand why it upset her so...
Around every corner!
Sam did such a nice job of laying out the trail & the informational signage was interesting to read.  Farah & I left on our own, my mare was really a Great Trail Horse this day :-)  Yesterday, I'd ridden out a Big rounded buck that included a huge Grunt - since the pace didn't suit her :-)
We were both enjoying the relative coolness of the morning~
 Today, we did some trotting, a little gallop but mostly just a nice movin' out walk.  Last night - when I decided to head back ahead of our group, my girl put on her 5-mph walk going back! 
Unnamed Wetland~ 
This wetland was mirror perfect, not a ripple anywhere.  We waded through the shallow end, Farah trekked in without any hesitation - such a difference from her first rides :-)
On the sunshine trail~
When we went through a grove of Alder, all the leaves were on the ground - the smell was rich & very Fall like!  I'd told Butch we'd be out about two-hours, figuring the ride loop was probably around five-miles.  It was a little over, almost six & all of them very pretty.
We return~
We made it back a little early & with the heat of the day upon us - decided to pack up & head for home.  Enjoyed the time away - never long enough & really appreciative of all the work by the many volunteers for a very good cause.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Markin' Trail!

Is it HOT out?
Sat. morning we headed north to the Les Hilde Trail-head & the Cowboy Campsite - just beyond.  This area is one of our old favorites, though we haven't spent much time here in the last few years.  Our last visit was June of last year, when I tried my first Competitive Mounted Orienteering ride.
Farah settled in~
We were here to help Samantha mark trail for the NWNHC Family Fund.  A great cause that helps military families in a variety of ways.   I didn't realize that it was the first year for this event & the work involved in putting a benefit ride on!  We camped in one of the guest spots at the private Cowboy Campsite.  It's amazing how this area has grown & how many spots were unused on such a beautiful weekend.
Farah & Butch enjoy the shade :-)
It was again HOT!  Mid-80's & very humid.  Trails that had been bone dry a week ago - now were muddy & slippery - so this area received some rain that the rest of us didn't!  There were about six riders heading out for the trail marking ride & to see the trails.
Sam leads the way :-)
By the time we rode what was to be a bonus loop - it was decided that it was too technical for the ride.  It was beautiful though & had a couple creek crossings that I remembered, one with a very steep climb up, then - since it was to be a loop - the slide down :-)  We returned to camp just before dark & scarfed down some very good hamburgers, salads etc.
Google Earth image of Cowboy Campsite
I don't have a photo to illustrate - but the stars were just Outstanding!  We used to see those stars at home years ago. Friends would come up during the day - leave after dark & say two things.  The first was usually;  "Boy it's dark out here!"  Followed closely by;  "Oh the stars are Amazing!"  No longer - now we have two unwanted street lights, more homes built in the valley etc.

Farah had a miserable night... :-(  The Elk started bugling & I just LOVE that sound!  Farah did NOT!  She spent the entire night trotting around her paddock & making her HUGE "HUFF" sound every once in a while.  When she did, the Nika would start growling...  Butch & Rascal had no problem sleeping through the entire thing - but I was awake more than asleep.  Neither of us could remember any of our horses being as upset as Farah was... 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Getchell to Armar on the Centennial Trail

Oh No... 
Well...  It was one of those days...  Could have ridden with a friend for a short/slow ride at Victoria, but I didn't need either short or slow.  After lunch, I loaded Farah & started north.  Only a couple miles up I could see that getting the seven-miles to Arlington, would take pretty much all day.  Two halves of a new manufactured home - traveling Very slowly the same way I was headed...  With the power company in the lead to move overhead wires etc. I found a spot & turned around.
Parked at Getchell
Since my other way out is by Getchell to Hwy 9, I looked over at the trail-head parking & found it almost empty!  Yes!  Plenty of room to get turned around & park!  It had since March of 2013 since I'd ridden this section of the Centennial Trail, in preparation for riding the entire length.
Past Forward Signage at Getchell
I really like the new Past Forward Signage that's been installed along the length of the trail.  Mileage to the next trail-head is at the top of each, along with the trail map & some of the history of the area.  Educational, colorful & old street signs were used for these!
We start off north bound
 After the light rains, the air smelled so fresh & with the Black Cottonwoods starting to drop their leaves, the smell of Fall was in the air!
Looking west toward Marysville
The views out at the valley were as pretty as ever, at least in places...  Farah decided after our first long, nice trot - that she wanted to do some spooking again.  I was Not happy about that - but kept my cool, had her do some side-passing toward whatever she thought was worth a spook, so it took us a while to get to Armar.
We've arrived!
Instead of turning into the picnic area, I continued the final mile north - where Farah did her biggest spook of the day - from one side of the paved path - to the other!  I have to say - that at least this time she did have an excuse.  We were walking along where the side of the trail was several feet high in shrubbery when it happened!
The growling/barking hoard of Boston Bull Terriers :-)
All of these little guys rushed the gate, making more noise than a hoard of savage beasts!  When she realized that they were behind the gate, there was a Big sigh & we continued on to the intersection.  The owner came out to apologize for the noise, a very nice person & beautiful place!
Coming up on 172nd.
Here, we turned back.  At Armar the signage says 4-miles to Arlington & that's right - plus one more mile to get to Haller Park.  We did this the day we rode the full length of the trail, the end of March 2013.  Now, Arlington has done all the improvements to the trail as it goes through town.  Horses are not supposed to use this section of the trail - so to continue north, you would have to trailer from Armar to Haller Park.
Farah sees cattle across the road!
We rode into the rest area at Armar - as I had to rest.  Farah as usual, stood outside & I held her reins inside.  When I came out, there was a lady with her little girl watching.  The little girl said:  "Mom said I couldn't ask to pet your horse until you came out!"  :-) 
Beautiful afternoon as the sun comes out~
We made good time going back, were passed by a couple rude bike riders, but there were others who were so friendly & one who said she had been watching Farah's tail for a while :-)
Cookie Cutter housing ~
Yes, as I mentioned above - the valley "views" are changing way too fast to suit me...  Scary when we cover such fertile farmland with more & more homes...
Back to the light at 84th
Soon, we were back at the crossing light.  The traffic noise was incredible - it's amazing that the trail is as quiet as it is in most places.  But- with roads going over head, bridges over creeks, barking dogs, homeowners working with power equipment etc., it's still a challenging stretch of trail in some ways.  Thankful for it, especially since it's a short drive to access this section - but hopeful that the Whitehorse will stay more rural!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Wonderfully Cooler!

Rao & Farah
My very long-time friend & neighbor Pat - (The Only neighbors that we call friends.) & her daughter Donnie have a beautiful new horse trailer - giving them the wheels to get back out on the trails!  It was Pat that we bought my first mare from, then Butch's gelding.  It was Pat who got us back into horses, riding & probably changed the direction that our recreational life might have gone :-)  That's a lot for one person!  :-)  During those early years, we rode two or three times a week out from home - onto the trails that were - then - beautiful, forested, quiet & so private.

We explored everywhere - getting horses in condition for our very first trip away, to the American Diabetes Ride at the Evergreen Sportsman's Club, Capitol Forest. Those rides were so much fun - again, all the trails were horse trails.  The forest was less used & very scenic.  Before years of continued logging, invasive plant species, etc.  Before we horsemen had to start sharing with bikes & all other users.
Pat on Neva, Donnie & Rao
Today, after who knows how many years - we were riding together again!  Farah was a different mare from yesterday, low key & relaxed.  She knows Donnie well, since she occasionally feeds her when we're away.  I'd promised a trip to the Monument & thought I'd be able to guide a nice loop in about 8-miles.  Well... Since I'm usually chasing miles rather than looking for short routes - we ended up doing ten-miles!
Rao & Donnie
Rao is 23 this year, half-brother to KH Khaz, the chestnut gelding that Butch rode for Competitive Trail & Endurance.  (Khaz died last year.)   Rao was game to go & handsome as ever.
Khaleah & Pat (Ears Up girl!)
Khaleah had only been out on trail a handful of times, but Pat - has those perfect hands that I admire so much. When she rides a horse, the horse complies, yet Pat makes it all look so easy & smooth.
Nature's "Almost Fall" arrangement
Farah & I really enjoyed ourselves, at one point when we stopped for a break - all three horses were napping - including Farah!    We took our time & the horses were cooled out when we returned to the trailers.  No one there today - I was surprised - since it was what I consider a Perfect Day!  Now I'm hopeful that we have a whole lot more!