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

Monday, March 30, 2015

Surprise Day's Ride~

Linda & Count, Charlotte & Aliento, Joyce & Target
It was so gray this morning - heavy cloud cover & almost looking like rain...  But Joyce had planned a ride up at Victoria to familiarize herself with the trail there & we'd invited Linda.  When I arrived at the parking - Charlotte was there too!  A good group & Farah was in heaven - a ride with her three favorite geldings!

Soon - it was obvious that the speed of the ride was going to be faster than Linda or I had expected, so after five-miles - Joyce & Charlotte broke off to continue a faster loop - while Linda & I headed to the south side  Linda wanted to show me an in/out that I didn't remember.
Flowering currants are at their peak!
The currants all down the trail to the south side are in full bloom & so beautiful against the deep green of the trees!  I dismounted & walked Farah to the bottom - but once we were down to the Scott Main Line, we were doing some nice 10-min. mile splits :-)
This large Trillium was right along the edge of the trail!  The sun had burned through the cloud cover before we'd left the trailers & we were stopping to take off jackets in no time flat!   Linda & I stopped to eat lunch - then continued on - to trails I hadn't seen for a long while.  We did some road work to get back to the area Linda wanted me to see & where we'll be doing some trail work at the work party scheduled for June 6th.  We're hoping for a Good Turn-out of all the riders that have been using these trails often!
Farah checks out the creek~
After our desert trip - it's SO Very Nice to see water in the creeks!  Water - the life blood of the earth!  More water going through than we'd seen so far this spring!  We covered almost 17-miles, but it took us four-hours :-)  Great day & Great ride had by all!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Cruizing with Friends~

Joyce on her new mare Penny, Charlotte & Aliento, Mel riding Jesse
Joyce was determined to get me out today :-)  She knew the Bronco was in the shop, but said;  "Can't you use the big truck?"  Well...  yes - I could - I've only driven it twice... the second time was last night - when - after I told Butch I wasn't riding because I didn't have the Bronco...  He hitched up the horse trailer to the truck & said;  "Now you're driving us to the Centennial Trail meeting!"  Hum... I'd just gotten back from a ride, had made myself a hot mug of tea & was looking forward to kicking back on the way up there.  Instead - I got a lesson in getting out our gate, driving "his" diesel truck etc. :-)  Tea was still hot for the meeting :-)
Away we go!
It was Penny's first time on the trail & she was a champ!  Mel will be leasing Jesse for the ride season & Charlotte is planning on the first ride of the season!   
My first trillium of this spring
I was far from the first in our area to spot one & this specimen wasn't the finest - but there it was!  The harbinger of Spring in the Northwest!  Not as warm as yesterday, with some overcast & a little humid - it was a perfect day to be out on the trails.
Logged trails~
We rode through the leftover mess from the logging - it had settled a little, but with deep ruts & holes full of water, the horses had to pay attention to where they were stepping.  Finally we were through & I was thinking of how beautiful this trail had been - it was the one where we could really move out at the trot...
Rock here~
 We did a nice pace for the first five-miles, but Penny was tiring, so Joyce & Mel broke off to head back, while Charlotte & I did another quick five.  Farah actually went behind Aliento without much fuss, the bit was oh so nice!  Then - Farah lead & enjoyed the pace.  Besides both horses threatening to kick the other - after a short time, they actually were working well together.  When we stopped to chat - they grazed nose to nose.

Heading home, my final "worry" was getting back in our gate.  I cut it wide, very wide & slid through easily!  Yippee!   My husband was in meetings all day, but I sent him a text to say that his truck was home safe & sound!  :-)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

What's Old - Again New~

New Mylar Combination Bit
First, there's the new bit to adjust!  There are a couple nice improvements in this one - I'd had the other since we started Khari.  The side pieces now swivel - giving a nice soft cue for bending & softening to the side.  Another - the small hook- that you can see in the photo on the chin strap.  Now, the cable that runs through the nose band & to the chin strap is much shorter than they used to be.  Butch always had to cut mine to shorten it enough to fit properly.  No longer!  Since it now fits snug, I'm sure that if a rider doesn't loosen the headstall a couple notches (as Dean taught me) before moving it off the ears - it would be easy to have that chin strap hang up on the chin & the bit hang-up in the mouth of a horse ready to be rid of it after a ride.  These bits are wonderful for riding hot horses, but you need soft hands.
Our trails~
We were both ready to get out on our Own!  Our old trails looked fresh & new to both of us after our time away.  As much as I enjoy having company on rides, every now & then it's a refresher to us both to just go~  We had planned to ride with Linda & Count, but the Bronco decided to wait till I got home to need another repair & is in the shop for a new steering gear box!  It was just too nice not to salvage the day...
Gorgeous Day
It was immediately apparent to me that I had more control!  Wonderful!  I love control!  :-) Farah instantly felt the difference too & softened!  Yes!  Softness is so nice!  I could tell that she was much more comfortable with the new bit - so in retrospect - I should have realized long ago that the bit was wearing & needed replacement.  But - in my defense, as the ladies at Bony Pony said;  when you pay over $150. for a bit - you expect them to Last!
Far end -
We went out to about the farthest reaches of our trails - then turned back.  Our hawk spooked up out of the salmonberries when we went by at a fast trot!  I don't know who was scared more, him or us!  We also found sign of other horses & thanks to Facebook, even knew who it was :-)  Samantha L!  :-)
Beaver pond
The beavers have been working overtime on their newest pond!  It has grown & getting close to flooding over our trail!  Busy as a Beaver is a truism!
Pilchuck with No snow~
  It feels so good to be home~  It always is so exciting to get away & see new places, but in doing that - when you return, you know - in your heart - that there's - No Place Like Home

Friday, March 20, 2015

Visit with the Stevens~

Parked along side the horse barn~
We'd spent our first night on the road back at the Modesto Fairgrounds.  A great place to stop-overnight with clean restrooms that include showers!  You do have to bed your own stalls & clean-up after, but for the small charge, well worth it.  What we did find out later the morning we left, was that with the river dried up, homeless are digging holes/caves in the side of the riverbank & living there. 
Outside Sacramento
Anxious to see Diane, after fueling up - we made great time toward Sacramento.  When we hit the six-lane freeways, we were glad that we were well ahead of the afternoon traffic.  Soon, we were out in the countryside around the town & the sprawl of new developments went on for miles...

Before long, we were entering Lincoln - a beautiful smaller town that has done a nice job of complimenting the older historic buildings (most renovated) with new modern construction.  Diane had given us good directions & I recognized that we were getting close from the photos she'd sent.
We've arrived!
It was Wonderful to see Diane on her ATV - waiting for us at the bottom of the driveway!  There were beautiful large pastures waiting for both Farah & Freebie!  After days on the road & pipe corrals, both mares were so happy to be out & free!  Fresh green grass everywhere! 
John & Justice, Diane & Kisses
Soon John was home & we'd already been in Diane's sewing shop - admiring all the amazing fabrics & prints & tights!  Both of us had to order more!  I wish I'd taken a photo - so rich in colors that it was better than being in a candy shop!
Sutter Buttes
Living on the top of one of the taller rolling hills - the views all around the property were breathtaking!  Then - time to meet & greet the horses!
John & Fonzie
John has an amazing way with his horses - now with more time to devote to them & the sport of endurance - he is excelling with high vet scores & BC's to his credit!  As we girls sat in the shade, he turned the horses loose in the yard!
Farah thought she should join in!
Fonzie kept buzzing by Farah & she found him very attractive too!  Too fast for me to catch with a photo!  John saddled up for an evening work - there's plenty of forward here!
John & Fonzie
Soon, the sun was low on the horizon - John is famous for his steaks & we ate to excess & topped dinner off with triple distilled blueberry moonshine!  It was so quite - we went to sleep with the sound of the crickets chirping.
Cowboy - my favorite Jack Russell :-)
I know Cowboy remembered me - (I'd saved him from drowning, way back when :-)  I wish I'd gotten a photo of Elation - who also remembered me, because she was always fond of putting her jaw on top of my head :-)  (She's now mentoring her own filly & Kisses filly too, while looking half her age!)
Diane & Connie
All too soon, it was time to hit the road again...  Another long drive ahead of us to reach our destination of Roseburg, OR before nightfall.  Always tough to say goodbye to good friends - but it was good to know that they have found their perfect place & are living the good life.  Soon - John will have to add a trophy room to the house :-)

Thank you John & Diane - for your amazing hospitality!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Final Desert Ride

On our way~
We planned a long exploratory ride for our final one...  It felt almost bittersweet, as I saddled Farah for the ride.  It's hard to describe how amazing it feels when riding in country so different from any I've experienced.  Farah was forward all week & interested in our surroundings from the first ride.  
The climb was deceptive~
 Heading north, it wasn't long & we were climbing, climbing...
Looking back at Pioneertown~
The last opportunity to look back in both time & place - at the consummate Western town...  Once we crested the bluff - the view was like something out of a cowboy movie!
Black Hill on the right, 4,630 ft.
The topography here reminded me a little of parts of Wyoming - just not as high in elevation.
Patty & Freebie head over the edge~
As the trail dropped over the edge, it was heavy with small pieces of broken Basalt & not easy going.  The wind was blowing our direction & the next obstacle was a large pile of tumbleweeds...  that had been caught up against the face of the wall.  The trail here suddenly narrowed & was totally obscured under about 3ft. of the weeds.  I dismounted & started swatting them off the side with my stick :-)  In just a few feet - the trail widened again to a two-track that soon ended at a turn-around.

When I rode over to the edge to see if there was a possible way down - Farah - took the opportunity to 180 from a standstill - leaving me hanging from the off-side.  Patty said all she could see of me was my foot on the bucking roll & was waiting to see me hit the ground.  Since Farah Did Not Move a Muscle...  I grabbed mane & managed to pull myself back into the saddle. She was not as happy as usual this ride, I'd purchased a snaffle in town - about the only bit in town - & it was slightly small.  Nevertheless - No excuse for that behavior!
Burned Pinyon Pine (some were over 1,200 years old)
As we turned back - I decided to walk down & try to keep my stretched ACL from locking up.  The view of Pipes Canyon was stunning.  At the bottom, we found the building that looked like a small jail - that our neighbors had mentioned to Patty & followed their prints along a large wash.
We head east~
Before too far, we saw the bright green of healthy Joshua Trees!
Farah expresses her displeasure with the bit~
Of course it was another photo op!  :-)  At that point, we could either follow the miles of sandy wash, or turn east & take another trail through the rocks.  The rocks sounded like the better way to end our last ride.
Northern end of the boulder field
The blue of the flowers was such a contrast to the stark black & white of the burned pines...  Surreal, the levels of environmental change that are happening - the changes in plant communities - forever altering a landscape that had been changeless for generations...
Hole in the Rock
It was a real treat to look up & see this amazing formation!  Since these trails have been closed for over ten-years - & there are on-going threats to close them again to horsemen - I feel very lucky indeed to have had the opportunity to ride here.
Town from the east!
It was late in the day by the time we again saw town in the distance.  The day had gone fast & even if this ride wasn't as spectacular as our "Rim" ride, it had as it's own special beauty.
A new flower for this day!
As we started down out of the rocks, it was so beautiful to watch the clouds over the mountains as the light dimmed in the sky above.  (During the day - the brightness, even with a Salamander Beak & Maui Jim's sunglasses was very white & strong.)
John greets us from his saddle shop~
"We rode into town."  How often do today's horsemen get to say that?!  :-)  We'd been strangers in town, but during our stay - we'd met some really fine people.  John was a wonderful help in getting us settled in.  Jake, I met shortly after he was thrown from his horse & took a very hard blow to the back of his head - knocking him out.   Once he'd recovered, he came over to introduce himself & admire my mare :-)  The very next day - he lead a group of riders out on the "Rim Loop " ride!  He gave me a rare copy of a map of the National Park, made by locals for locals.  Maybe someday Butch & I will visit & ride some of those trails!

A huge THANK YOU to Patty for letting me accompany her, on vacation to a special place - that she was kind enough to share with me~

Monday, March 16, 2015

Broken Bit!

Our morning hang-out :-)
 We'd started a new morning routine :-)  A short drive to town to our favorite restaurant for a latte, tea smoothie -Great food too!  A place to charge our cameras, phones & use wireless!  After that - on this day we drove back up to Joshua Tree, I wanted to hike into Barker Dam.  On our way back, we took another detour to check out the privately managed trail-head of the Wildlands Conservancy.  (Further posts.)  Once back in camp, we saddled up & were anxious to head out. 

It was another perfect early evening.   We were walking the mares past houses, when a big husky came running out - surprised Freebie & she kicked out with both hind feet!  As I went to turn Farah - something felt strange?  I looked toward Farah's head to find her bit dangling out the side of her mouth!
 Mylar Combination Bit - worn out!
 The dog was still trying to herd our mares, the owners were walking toward us with his leash - so we walked toward them as the dog followed.  Once he was caught - the question - was to go back for some fix - or continue on.  Farah was absolutely enjoying her freedom & being Very Good, so I decided we'd go on - since I still had the nose band, chin strap & moved the reins to the first loop.
Another landscape~
We decided to go down to the wash & follow it a way to see if we could find another trail that our neighbors had told us about, down the far side of ridge from where we were camped.  The granite sand was heavy going.
This blaze of red was jolting against the sand!
 Again - beauty surrounded us!  The rains from the week before had done their job - giving enough moisture to the arid landscape - for the flowers to bloom! 
Dryer mountain, fewer boulders lots of ground grasses?
This was a more barren landscape than the others we'd ridden through - fewer boulders, where the Sawtooth Fires a few years ago - had really swept through - burning hot.  As we went on, the breeze picked up & we could tell that the topography, almost a funnel effect - had contributed to the heat of the fires.
Pioneertown against the Sawtooth Mountains~
 Soon, dusk was falling & we turned back.  I didn't want to push my luck with any mad trotting :-)  The sky had taken on a gray hue & we did see a few Joshua Trees that had fallen from the fire.  Locals told us that it was a miracle the town was saved...

Back at camp - it was a very quiet evening.  John (our camp host) had a fire going & that warmth felt good once night fell!  I couldn't be a full-time "Desert Rat" - but I can sure see the attraction!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Rim of the World~

Map of the area~
This was the ride that took us by surprise!  The day had been really hot & bright - so we decided to take another hiking excursion into Joshua Tree.  (I may eventually post some of our hiking photos too - but really want to get these ride stories written.)
Not far out!
We'd heard "stories" about this loop - it was the most difficult & the most beautiful.  It was just 3 p.m. when we were saddled & heading out.  Ten-miles?  No big deal - should be able to knock that out & get back before dark - right?  Well - great plan - until you start oohing & awing & Connie has to stop every 50-feet to take photos!
Burned Joshua Tree & "root" system~
It was the perfect time of day to be out!  A soft, warm breeze, amazing light & the most incredible country we'd yet seen!  I could fill pages of this blog with just photos of the wildflowers, but will refrain...
Nature's arrangement
 Soon, we were climbing & I do mean climbing!  Once we were in over four-miles - we had to make the decision whether to turn back, or continue on & plan to get out before dark.  It's as treacherous as it is beautiful & anyone would be a fool to think otherwise.  Of course the unanimous decision was to continue on!
The trail was deceptive, first a good climb up, then back down through a gully & again back up even higher!  The last - almost two-miles were straight up!  Switchbacks, over boulders, around boulders & between them.  Both of us thankful for breast collars & tight girths!  Toward the top - we were pretty sure there would be a territorial view & we were NOT disappointed.
Farah surveys the world from the top~
With Freebie in the lead, the mares had to scramble cat like to get up the final push & over slip-rock to the top!  Both were covered in sweat!  It truly was a "Rim of the World" view!  Sadly - now, we were pushing the limits of how much daylight there was remaining.
Boulder fields~
What goes up...  We were now going down, down, down...  slipping, sliding & we even found an area with beautiful tall grasses growing & one tiny spot of moist soil.  No stopping for photos though - we pressed on.
Toad Rock
Well, maybe a couple more stops :-)  I couldn't resist "Toad Rock" as we named him.
Tombstone Rock
Then, here was this beautiful stone, with the flowering shrub growing right in front as though planted.
Far end of town up ahead~
The trail used to connect to this end of town & it would have been very nice to have gone that way...  But we think that landowners in the area decided that they didn't want riders going past - so it's all be fenced off with barbed wire.  The trail stops at the wire, so we had to turn & follow it back to the trail that we'd come in on.  Freebie was setting a great pace considering the trail, rocks etc. & we were flying along - with Farah throwing in a buck here & there to voice her displeasure at being in the rear.  She has yet to figure out that pitching a fit over it does nothing to contribute to forward motion!
We rode back into camp just after 6 p.m. with enough time to wash the mares down & blanket them.  The sunset & was glorious as they were most every evening while we were there.  Then - there were the incredible sunrises - that I usually saw from the warmth of my sleeping bag & Patty enjoyed when out walking her dogs :-)  Perfect end to a spectacular day in the high desert!