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

Monday, July 28, 2014

HOT & High!

We Climb~
Hot, did I mention that?  Have I mentioned before that I Do Not like the Heat?  Thank heaven for those electrolyte tablets!  I took one before I left & each hour of the ride.  I do believe that they are what's keeping me riding in this heat.  Those & Joyce!  When she said we needed hills & heat to prepare for upcoming rides...  I think she Meant it!
Joyce leads the way~
When we started out, it was only seconds before we were attacked by deer flies - hoards of deer flies.  I'd sprayed Farah as usual & did her ears & face with a roll-on - but it made No Difference!  First time that's happened.  I think the combination of all the rain last week - then the heat this - has drawn out bugs that probably haven't hatched in years!  At least that's my theory...  It was horrible.  Even at a fast trot, even at a gallop - they stayed with us.  It was only once we got clear of the overgrowth that we found some relief as we started to climb.
Big Lake in the distance
We had both horses galloping up "Kitt's Trail" this day - they were driving each other on.  Farah would get ahead, then slow - Jesse would make his move - then slow.  Farah would give him her "shark" look as he went by - then open up, pass him & we'd repeat!  Both were covered in sweat by the top & we were too!
Mount Rainier due south~
Even through the haze from the fires, pollution or probably both - we could just see Mt. Rainier on the skyline to the south as we headed back down.  I got off & walked/jogged some of it - just to loosen up & get a photo of the amazing Fireweed that is now just past it's prime.
Fireweed & the Olympics
One of my favorite natives, I'm going to ride here next year when it's in full bloom.  The honey from this plant is amazing too!  It lit up an otherwise very hot, oppressive day.  Even with the heat, sweat & bugs - we rode & rode pretty hard.  Both horses held up really well & we covered over 16-miles, with over 2,500 ft. elevation gain.
Lower down, meadows in flower~
We returned to the trailers early afternoon, just in time for me to get home, give Farah a bath & make my afternoon Chiropractic appointment.  My shoulder is feeling better & my neck is getting better too, it takes time & I've become more of a believer since it's also improving my balance in the saddle! 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Turning on the After Burners ~

The rain moving in~
Today, we headed out on our own to do our large loop at Victoria.  I wanted to do some moving out - on road & trail too.  I enjoyed my tea up on the swing - then caught up on chores before I drove up shortly after noon.
Full parking!
What a surprise to take the last open spot in the parking lot!  Even with all these rigs, we only saw two other horsemen during our ride & they'd ridden in.  It was humid & quiet, I put my rain coat on the back of the saddle.
Another overgrown trail~
About the time we were making this climb, the rain started.  I was happy I'd taken my jacket & put it on! By the time we were at the top, I could see what I thought was a lot of rain heading our way...
Serious Rain~
After a stop at the Monument, short - since I didn't want my sheepskin seat saver to get wet - we kept moving.  Heading down to the south end & onto my Green Trail.  It was so gorgeous & quiet in the deep part of the woods.
Natural Arch~
 We hustled on through to the Main Line road & headed back north.  The rain had stopped!  Farah sat a good pace, she was enjoying this ride & getting to do her thing.  It wasn't long before we came out at the clear cut & could see back & up to the top of the Mountain.
Outlook at the far right - high point
From here we really started cooking along - making really good time & started the climb back up.  Our elevation gain was 2,198 - a good climb in anyone's book.  We hit the top at a trot, then turned onto the logging road that's at second level.  From there it's yet one more climb & we did that at a gallop.  One guy on a bike was trudging up...  I yelled that we'd be passing him on the right & he already knew that we were almost there!  Farah gave him a sideways look as we flew past :-)
Hardly out of the trailer & head down!
I don't think I have to worry about having enough speed - we were flying by the time we were coming up on the crest of the hill & I was asking her to slow up!  I spoke to Gary McClintock again today & we're looking forward to working with him.  Farah has accepted the crupper in the correct position now & the waves on her withers seemed better after today's ride.  It will take a few more miles to see if it solves the problem.  Gary's sending a set of bucking rolls, not sure if they'll fit the saddle, but worth a try.  There's nothing to keep me in position on the steep downhills & he got a laugh out of that!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Clear Trail!

Clear Trail!
When I arrived at Linda's this morning - I knew she'd been up to something!  :-)  She had that look on her face!  Once we were up on the trails & I asked my usual question;  "Which way?" I found out that someone had been clearing some more trail!  So - of course I wanted to check it out to be sure that someone wasn't telling tales!  Well...  it was the truth & an interesting truth it is.  It took Linda 1-1/2 hours to clear a quarter of a mile of trail & at a walk - we covered it in 4 min.!  Another section - of 3/10th's of a mile - took us 6 min. to walk & another hour + to clear!  So - it's a labor & time intensive proposition to clear trail in Western, WA!  The reason that the endurance rides that have been held here in the past - are no more!
Another cleared trail!
The trail above heads down to the parking area & porta potty.  It was so heavily overgrown that it was almost impossible to get through at all - not any more!  Thanks to Linda!  Today we did some scouting & checked trails that haven't been used in forever - you have to actually know they are there to even find them!
Linda moving tree tops~
Since I'm still supposed to be in "recovery" mode...  I held the horses while Linda broke us through.  A really beautiful trail that I'd completely forgotten about called the View Trail - from the days when there was actually a great view. 
Clouds in the morning~
Lest you think we didn't have any fun at all - we did go check out the views & had lunch at the monument.  The day started so cool that we took jackets, but once the sun burned through - it turned hot in a hurry.  No need for jackets!
Count brought his snack with him!
Count wanted everyone to know that he too, does his share of trail clearing!  When we dropped off the hill onto the paving, I heard Linda say something & turned to get this photo :-)  Really great day of riding!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Heart Lake!

Covered by the algae bloom~
It was a perfect morning!  Someone turned on nature's air conditioner!  My kind of weather!  Overcast, cool & cloudy when I left home to meet-up with Jack & Lynn in Arlington.  From there we headed on over to Antacortes for a long anticipated ride on the Heart Lake Trails.
Lynn sprays Sophie!
Once at the parking area - even though the cloud cover was still there - we could see it was breaking up & the bugs were out in force!  Sophie sported a "Quiet Ride" fly mask & it seemed to work great for her - even if she was the blunt of a few remarks :-)
Directional Signage
With so many trails to choose from, we decided to try to make our way to Whistle Lake - Lynn had the maps & did a great job of guiding us.  This is technical riding, lots of up, down, all around & a few large rocks to navigate.  The trail surfaces were not only dry - but very hard packed from all the mountain bikes that frequent this area now.  We passed several groups of kids, hiking up to swim in the lake, they said they envied us our "rides"!  :-)  On the steep downhills, the mares had to sit down & slide.
Farah listening to the kids yelling as they jumped in!
I was disappointed in my photos - for whatever reason my little camera blurred several.  Others were crystal clear...  Regardless - here's a look of one of the beautiful trails.
Wooded trails~
 Such a perfect day to be on these trails!  We didn't see any other horses, but when we returned to the parking area, there was one other trailer.  It was pretty obvious that this area gets a lot of visitors on the weekends.  Lucky us - able to ride during the week.  
Farah & Connie & a HUGE Douglas Fir!
 It took a while, navigating the trail system.  We've for sure figured out #207!  :-)  In just under ten-miles - we managed 1,447ft. of elevation gain!  People wondered how Diane kept her horse fit?  Not!  Both mares got a good workout, though neither even broke much of  a sweat.  Farah just keeps getting stronger & smarter - still taking a second look at dark patches at the edge of the trail - but - has never refused me anything.  Feeling lucky, very lucky to have her for my partner!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Another "Square" loop!

At the creek
Today Joyce & I met at Bracken & we took the way out that we usually don't - which put us at the creek.  Beautiful & shady on what was to be a very warm (hot) day!  Joyce - as usual had a great ride plan - we headed for the river & from there down the Whitehorse Trail toward Arlington.
Along side the Stillaquamish on the Whitehorse Trail
It was obvious early on that today was going to be hotter than either of the last two.  The humidity was up close to the river, but now & then we'd get a nice breeze.  The rock was a little more compacted in spots - but still heavy going.
The Green Wetland~
The large tree that had slid down one of the banks had been removed, but the trail will need to be brushed before too long.  It's still not getting much use & won't - until the surface issues can be addressed or mitigated with another layer of rock that will settle what's there.
Joyce & Jesse admire the trail~
It's such a beautiful trail - with the trees arching overhead & the dappled sunlight.  Before too long we came out to the start of trail, where it splits off from the Centennial Trail.
We come to the Arch!
At this point, we turned north & headed up the Centennial Trail.  There were a few people out walking & one lady jogging with a baby in the stroller!  There was a blanket flapping & both our horses thought that might be worth a good spook :-)  She looked up, stopped & opened the blanket that she was using to shade the baby boy inside.  Farah had to take a closer look, but when she realized that the baby didn't have any food, her interest waned :-)  This Mom, out jogging with the baby - had twins at home!  I can't imagine what she must do with her spare time!

Finally at the Bryant store, we turned onto Grandview Road.  No shoulder to speak of & lots of traffic as usual.  I put Farah into her medium paving trot & we trotted all the way to the small road that took us off Grandview & eventually onto the trails back into the tree farm.  Sweet relief & shade too!  All together it was about a 12-mile Square loop.  By the time we were back at the trailers, we'd both run out of water & were ready cool off! 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Smokin' Hot~

Smoke from the fires in Eastern, WA
Another hot day - our tenth consecutive day of temperatures above 80 & the count is at 12 so far this summer.  With the smoke in the air from the Mills Canyon fire in Eastern, WA making up most of the haze.  Linda & I headed out, Farah with a crupper for the first time.  I left it a little loose & when I got off to tighten it - she responded "no!"  Linda suggested leaving it this time - since she was doing so well & setting it up one more notch on my next ride.  We did a lot of hills & I didn't have to practice my emergency dismount :-)
Blooming Thistles
The heat has all the thistles blooming & I'm sure it will only be days until they go to seed.  Seems it's going to be a bad year for weeds.  The trails are now bone dry - in perfect shape.  We were the only ones riding - besides one guy with his bike.
Real woods~
 Just love riding the trails through the big trees when it's hot - the temperature is at least ten degrees cooler.   The hole on this trail that Farah had stepped in - is a Big one, so have to figure out how to carry some rock in to fill it.  Someone put a large branch in - as warning, but it's right in the middle of a nice trotting trail.
Linda & Count
By the time we reached the far end of our "range" we decided that it was darn Hot & time to head back!  Both horses were sweating & all the water puddles have dried up.  When we returned to Linda's - Farah was ready for water!  Count got a bath & tried to drink the spray :-)
Farah too :-)
Farah had her bath once we were home - she enjoyed every minute!  Her weight has held really well - even as the miles have been adding up.  We're ahead of where we were this time last season.  Looking forward to heading down to Bare Bones.  Just hope that all the hikers are aware that an endurance ride will be happening.  Know that many we saw as we were coming in last year - were unhappy at our pace.  Hard to finish a ride top ten & drop to a walk to past all the hikers...

Monday, July 14, 2014

Back from the Brink~

"My" Red Mini Germanium
Good news I have to report.  After last Winter's disaster - with the temperatures in the teens for days on end & my failure to adjust the heat in the greenhouse, I had only two small, sickly plants left this spring.  That was pretty scary for me, since I've been propagating this particular variety since at least  1995.  Lucky for me - both plants have survived & are blooming - with enough shoots that I can start more.
Many blooms~
Summer is Not my favorite time of year...  I love the long days, but anything over 80 just seems like overkill to me :-)  Last evening it stayed muggy & hot.  The only redeeming feature was the amazing sunset that turned the clouds peach. About 2 a.m. I woke to the sound of rain - but it only lasted maybe five minutes - enough to raise the humidity.
Variegated Mock Orange
But, since this post is about flowers, I'll continue with the photo above of the Mock Orange.  The smell of this bush carries over most of the front yard on a warm day & we're getting those!
Cool Blue of the Hydrangeas
I look out the kitchen window to the cool blue of the hydrangeas - they look beautiful in the light of the full moon too...  Another native that is blooming now -
Spirea douglasii
This plant most would not even consider planting in a yard - but it's a really nice bush, I love the pink fluffy blooms.  Besides our well pump going out last night & Butch going to Lowe's to Not find the one he wanted...  (He was up late making it work - then left at 2:30 a.m. for work.)  The good news is that we have water flowing & I can keep up with the watering!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Fun With Friends!

In the cool of the woods~
Even if it was going to be HOT...  It was a Stunning day in the woods!  Cortney & I had talked of getting in a ride together & today was the day!  Linda & I had already decided to saddle up & at least go ride the trails that we'd cleared on Tue. - so Cortney made the drive up!  Always so fun to show new people where we ride.  Farah started out in the lead - until she was bad - then...  We brought up the rear!  Cantering in place when Count hit his turbo trot & Amira was right behind him.  Not us - we lost ground & they had to wait for us!  :-)  Eventually though - she settled down & was actually really good - keeping a nice distance from Amira.  (After two days of blue cream on the bites & using the new saddle pad - we had no issues!)
Cortney & Amira - "Traditional" View photo!
Linda started us out on the reverse of our loop - which worked out great & was perfect for staying in the shade.  Once up at the Monument - we could feel the heat!  I've been bringing cherries & even warm they tasted so good!
Views of the peaks~
Though the haze is building with the heat - the peaks stood out against the bright blue of the sky.  We found yet another trail to clear!  Funny how we keep finding them!  :-)
Out on the Trail~
Cortney has ridden since she was a kid. Though she is on the "Green Bean Team" - one of the many new riders who've formed a team - she is an accomplished horsewoman - only "green" to Endurance - NOT to horses & that makes a huge difference.  My personal feeling is that if you're green to horses - you should really start out in a different sport - such as Competitive Trail - where you learn those horsemanship skills that come into play when you attempt an Endurance ride.
On our newly cleared trail!
We came at this trail from the overgrown side & how sweet it was when we reached the cleared part!  Amazing how quickly the stuff we'd cut had dried out!  The horses like it too!  :-)  We covered almost 15-miles by the time we were back at Linda's.
Farah in disguise :-)
I picked up our dinner - finding Arlington full of street vendors who are here for the Fly-In this weekend.  I always know at least a few days in advance when the planes start flying over us!  Once home, I hosed Farah & myself down - felt so good to us both.  Now - I'm using the fly sheet - no more bug bites under the saddle for us!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Walking Ride!

Prelude ~
On Monday, when I tried the new saddle pad on Farah - it seemed to work Great.  At home, after her bath - I sprayed her with fly spray (she was still damp) & turned her out.  When Butch came in from feeding, I asked if he'd noticed the improvement in the waves on her withers?   He replied;  "She has bumps on her back..."  Hearing that - I went right up to see what on earth could have changed in a couple hours?  There were bumps!  On both sides of her back - but not a rash type of bump. They were irregular in size, no particular pattern & though they were on both sides, there were more on one than the other.   Certainly more like bug bites!  I sprayed them with Schreiner's.  (Butch had mowed the pasture over the weekend & I'd seen Farah rolling & rolling...) Yesterday morning I sprayed her back again before I left.

This morning I went up to saddle & as usual started with the shedding blade - since she seems determined to shed out her dark summer coat.  Then the body brush & I noticed that she swished her tail a couple times while tied.  I tacked her up with the new pad, she loaded & we were on our way.

Meeting up with Joyce at Bracken, there were already four rigs parked.  Joyce said a large group of ladies riding bareback had just left with two German Shepard dogs.  With Farah in the lead, we started out.  On the road Farah wanted to trot so I was letting her move out when Joyce asked me if I was in a hurry?  No - not really :-)  So I slowed her back.  Once the trails she tried to shake, then shake again from a trot.  Next, she turned & tried to bite her side, next - a big hump in her back!  Something Not Right!  I got off - having explained about the new pad, bites etc. to Joyce, she offered to switch pads with us.  OK - we stripped saddles & swapped pads.  Both mounted up - but within just a few feet - Farah was again acting up & letting me know she was unhappy or uncomfortable.  Target on the other hand - was fine with the pad.  We were only about two-miles out - I wasn't planning to carry a saddle back - so we decided just to walk & Joyce said she could loop us back!
Joyce with Target & Farah~
We were hiking along when we the bareback bunch came out of the woods, having a great time & said hello.  Since Farah was by now walking along with her head low & looking comfortable - we mounted up again.   Beside another little shake - she seemed better - or over whatever had been going on...  We by now were up in the middle of the farm & heard someone up ahead.  It was a logger with a broken track hoe - active logging is now taking place!
It was heartbreaking - at least to me, to see one of the few remaining stands of older timber going down...  The shade & coolness was always so beautiful & welcome.  One of those destination areas that you like to include in a ride here.  That - it will be no longer...  Instead of the coolness & beauty of the big woods, it will be the wide-open, heat & invasive weeds in no time at all.
Joyce & Target
You can just see the logs that have been cut laying off to the side.  Joyce reminded me that it is a "Tree Farm" & my mind knows that - but my heart tries to ignore it...  We finished up a nice, relaxed five-mile loop.

Now I'm out to wash down Farah's back, apply some of Dean's Blue Cream & wash the new pad.  Joyce thinks it's the bites & I do too.  Maybe once her back was all sweated up - whatever itching or pain stopped.  Doubt I'll have time to ride tomorrow - so I hope by Fri. the bites will be better & I can use that pad again!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Pick a Trail! Any Trail!

  I was up early to get all my stuff in the car & get up to Linda's by 9.  We'd hoped for the same cloud cover & cool that we'd enjoyed on our ride yesterday - but no - blazing sunshine!  It wasn't going to deter us!  The Olympics were just outrageously beautiful when I pulled into Linda's.  Our equipment was loaded, water & snacks.
The "Before"
We had Many, Many trails to pick from - but decided on two that were part of the larger loop that we sometimes do & others do fairly often.  This was verified when two riders wanted past while we were working!  With ear plugs in - they had to do some yelling to get our attention!  Linda was determined to break in her brand new weed whacker!  With the two that belong to the PRA in the shop & both of ours out of commission - I took my pruners!  I've been known to do a Lot of Damage with pruners!
Ripe native blackberry!
Following along behind - gave me the opportunity to find the fruit & partake!
On our way down -
Overgrown is the mildest word I can use to describe this trail.  It was so totally overgrown that Linda started down working just one side.  I started taking branches off the trees.  When I do - I take them right to the trunk & all the way to the ground.  It was tough & we were totally soaked with sweat within the first few minutes.
Linda heads back up to get the other side of the trail~
Once into the trees, we turned back up the hill to knock down the other side. 
The "after" shot!
Another - showing my work on the trees~
Once we were back up at the top, where we'd left the truck.  We re-evaluated our decision & decided that since were were already filthy dirty, sweaty & miserable - that we'd might as well go over to the other area that we'd really hoped to do.
Now we were out in the full sun & it was even warmer~
Again - I brought up the rear, tossing, cutting & taking down whatever Linda missed.  Moving debris off the trail & knocking back the branches on the new trees that were too close to the trail.
"Black Caps"
 I found more berries too!  I thought they were a raspberry - Linda said as kids they called them Black Caps.  They are one of the sweetest berries I've ever picked!
Here's where we finally quit - at the "Y" - but it works as a "before" for this trail~
We were both amazed at how long the weed whacker ran on a tank of gas!  Almost longer than we did!  In the old days - we'd clear all morning - then ride all afternoon.  Things have changed!  We were more than happy to crawl into the truck & turn on the air conditioning!  We'd worked for almost four-hours.
Me on the trail - "after"!
Discussing the trails, the users & the little amount of work that gets done - we both were thinking that if anyone wanted to pick a day & contact Linda - she would be happy to take them out to a trail that needs work.  It's amazing what two people can accomplish!  But we also discussed that so many Endurance riders just pound the logging roads & hardly even venture onto the trails - so I guess that relieves them from trail-clearing responsibility?  Not really..  So - if you're interested, pick a trail, pick a day & come help!