Monday, March 20, 2017

stolen moments

A day off work. Sunny and almost too hot for March. And the trail ahead.

After slopping through more mud than I expected (still?!), we found the sand. The lake is low to allow for the snow to fill it (and 190% of normal snow levels makes for a lot of water). The sand is deep, and we just walk (and not rolling! I had to remind Major).

Folsom dam in the distance

grass, sand, and distant snow

We had a view of the Folsom dam one direction, and the snow-buried mountains in the other. The breeze played with Major's mane, as he looked toward home. It was just a moment, but it was all I needed this day.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


The sun came out, and so did everyone else. But I did have the trails blissfully to myself for the first part of the day…

Major eagerly stepped off the trailer, and needed to be forcibly removed from some parking lot grass. He was starving you know! But he was happy with his crack alfalfa hay bag instead, and we quickly tacked up and left the staging area, trails to ourselves.

in front of us: the dam we climbed last time!

We saw a few runners (hey, that horse is wearing Crocs!), but otherwise the trail was clear. We did manage to be the first to break the spider webs strung across the trail (with my face), but the wooden bridge at the waterfall was empty, and it was clear sailing (trotting?). Down to the bridge, and now for up the other side, had any of the last rides improved his fitness?

waterfall + bridge + no people = awesome
only two tiny people on No Hands

Up and up, Major wanted to trot, so we did for quite a while. He isn't as out of shape as I thought! But he did tire out, so I did some hiking too. This ride was lots of elevation and pretty good distance, I wasn't worried about how long it took.

lovely creekside trail

snack break

Fun snack breaks and quick trotting along the creek, but then we found rocks. And mud. And more rocks. I hate this part of the trail, and usually avoid it, but took a wrong turn somewhere! Hikers were coming up the hill, we were going down, and no one seemed to be having much fun. But it was. We were out on a beautiful day after what felt like months of being cooped-up. I'll take it.

Major questioning his life choices

there was some mud…

and a pond to wash off the mud!

A lovely pond distracted us, then a good red dirt hill. But we're still on the other side of the river. Down we headed, when we were passed by a few riders. Major practiced a bit of prancing being obnoxious just being a jerk. Good practice for endurance rides, so I held him back and circled, and we walked a bit more calmly. Until the next group. Repeat. It was great actually, an opportunity to practice correct bad behavior.

red dirt hill

Major paying attention to the fisherman on the other side

But he was also awesome. A tight squeeze when six other riders coming up wanted to get by, he sidepassed over to the very edge of the trail, and stood, not moving, while everyone passed by. Yeah, trail skills!

stunning water

Back across the bridge, I was glad there weren't too many people on the bridge. But in the next three miles I passed more than 60 people. I think every idiot oblivious human was on the trail. Dogs off leash, tiny chihuahua on a short rope who escaped from his owner and almost got trampled. Strollers, (on a single-track trail). And my favorite: three chihuahuas being carried by a man, while his wife carried a huge, soft-sided pet carrier for them (what is is with Chihuahua owners?).

we're being shadowed

The bridge at the creek was covered in feral children and people taking photos. At this point I was take-no-prisoners "You need to get off the bridge so I don't smash someone against the railing." They moved quickly, and I thanked them very much, and kept going. Some days are for slowing and letting folks pet your pretty horsie. And some days are not.

arriving back (thanks SO for the photo!)

dirty, happy pony

After the ride Major was happy to roll in the only dirt patch in the whole staging area. I was happy just to sit in the sun and watch my once clean, now dirty horse, be happy in the green grass. Spring is almost here, this year more sweet than ever. Finally.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

the woods

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
—Robert Frost

Thursday, March 2, 2017

dam climbing

The sun came out! But many trails are still a mess. I didn't feel like slipping along for useless miles, and wanted to make the conditioning count!

municipal yard starting point!

old sheds store rock cores from the dam site

So I headed up the hill to the dam roads. Not the damn roads, though Major may disagree. The roads left behind by the abandoned Auburn Dam project still mostly have gravel and drain wonderfully. A few are now Auburn State Recreation Area access roads, though they are not used in winter. Win for all of us cooped-up riders!

a snack alongside the yucky rocky portion of the trail

road erosion as we get close to the river

42,000 acres to explore: lucky

There is an easy access near a municipal area, and Major looked strangely at the equipment before heading down the hill. There are some old dam-construction remnants around (not the least of which are the massive blasted rock cliff faces) but it is lovely and green and little waterfalls spring from hidden creeks to run alongside the road.

a good climb

hidden Knickerbocker falls

the road less traveled

We hadn't done any hill work since before winter started, so it was a take-it-easy day. But we went up and down and around and about, taking different trails, repeating some for the value of the climb, and just enjoying our time out. We hadn't done these trails before except just passing though, so it was fun to explore.

damn fine view, river right

river left, we've ridden there too!

The river was roaring, and we did find one side trail blocked by fallen trees. But the roads were fun, and it was great to adventure out onto the concrete platform and stare both up at the blasted dam walls covered in anti-erosion wire, and below at the river, thinking that all of this nature was going to be buried under water…

more climbing

spaghetti of chosen trails

But it isn't, and Major and I could keep exploring. We could see Knickerbocker falls crookedly fall down the steep opposite canyon wall, and the road ahead was wide for trotting. So we trotted some, but mostly walked. And took many grass-snack breaks. And were damn happy to be out.

grass is the chosen one, hay bay ignored

Friday, February 24, 2017

some days

Some days the mud wins. And your horse just gets to eat grass and stand around dirty.

Some days, after five inches of rain, the trails are just too wet to venture out.

this is my apple-chewing concentration face!

And some days there is just enough time before the next storm. The fallen trees have been cleared, the mud is minimal, and the trail stretches before you like lost hope.

And the rain clouds loom. But refrain from adding to the morass, and ferns explode, and we stretch into a trot we haven't done for months.

clouds reflect on Avery Pond

ferns on moss on rocks

I hope for more of those days.

windshield ice feathers

finally a clear sunrise

Saturday, February 18, 2017


Major is not always so crafty. Trying to get across the small ditch between the arena and his pasture was first impossible, now only daunting: requiring a giant leap (wish I could get a picture of that!), after which he is so proud of himself he gallops up the hill. Every. Single. Time. Sigh.

I however love to do crafty projects, when given the time. This rainy winter there has been too much time! There is only so much rainy-day hiking I can do before I am wet and cold and want to be inside, but even then a good book isn't enough to keep me entertained.

First I made a new saddle cover. After holiday sale fleece fabric and some elastic, done. And spray painted a mash bucket, it lasts for awhile and is certainly noticeable!

saddle cover and orange bucket, everyone knows my stuff!

But what else to make...a new stall sign! Major's cheap blackboard has seen better days. I found a photo to trace and selected a bold "Major" typeface. I am lucky enough to be able to use graphics software to do this, but tracing a photocopied photo would work just as well.

pick a good photo (wild west 2015)

wood tracing

I traced the artwork onto a piece of poplar wood (from the clearance section at the home improvement store). I took some liberties with his mane and tail, reality was too sad/boring! After that I traced all the lines over again with my cheap craft-store woodburning tool. Some lines are a bit rough, where the tool burns in really quickly, but it is a craft project, not a perfect specimen! (I'm too impatient for perfect.)

beginning wood burning
practice makes imperfect!

almost done

I practiced with paint and stain, I wanted the wood to show through a bit. I used stain for his body and orange (of course) for the type. I sprayed the whole thing with a clear outdoor sealant. After a couple eye screw and zip ties, it is a worthy addition to Major's pasture shelter (even if I am a bit concerned that it may become a play toy).

hanging from Major's shelter

what's this Mom?

Now they're forecasting another week of rain, including the now infamous "atmospheric river." I have a paint-by-number and a few other project ideas. I could also clean the craft closet, which is an erupting disaster, but where's the fun in that? I'll close the door and begin a new project. Or walk my horse in between rain drops…

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

what's this?!

What's this glowing orb in the sky? This lovely color above us? Blue sky!

It was lovely to get a break in the storms that have been hitting Northern California hard this year. And while trails are still muddy, we needed to get out and explore. Major spent one evening walk as a snorting dragon on the end of my lead rope, I was anticipating a horrible ride.

trails disappears into the lake

muddy lake, but green grass

But I think the slippery trails mollified him. Even he isn't usually stupid in deep mud. There were a couple tiny trotting places, though our lake trail is completely underwater. But the green grass is a good consolation prize. Our ride was shortened by too many downed trees, and muddy trails we did not want to damage further. It was still worth getting out.

girth is evidence of a muddy ride

But the next hike I left the horse at home. My trailer is still stuck in a solid driveway of mud, but the sun was still out, and trails were ready to explore. The parking area was packed, but far above the canyon and No Hands bridge very few hikers make the trek. I explored the aptly named Flood Trail.

above No Hands and the muddy American River
I hadn't hiked this trail before. In summer it is too hot, but a sunny, winter day was perfect. Remnants of old homesteads, nature great and small, and a view that couldn't be matched. In a few places the trail was a rutted or muddy mess, but the top of a mountain drains pretty quickly!

nature large: epic oak

nature small: trapdoor spider web covered in dew

a lovely old wall
More rain is forecast. We got out while we could. I'm trying to remind myself that there is time enough when Spring arrives. Until then there is green grass and puddles to splash through. And more light at the end of each day. Spring is coming.

time to graze is time enough