Wednesday, January 11, 2017

bridging troubled waters

The muddy, churning water rushes by. And No Hands Bridge watches. It’s not the tallest (that would be the Foresthill Bridge, at 730 feet ), it doesn’t carry cars home every day (two other nondescript bridges complete that task), and it no longer carries railroad cars, just hikers and horses. It isn’t even straight: angling across the river from bank to bank.

lake No Hands!

But it has lasted. Built in 1912, officially the Mountain Quarries Railroad Bridge. At the time the longest concrete railroad bridge in the world. It is old (for California). This state is so new to permanent structures. And has so many ways to destroy them: earthquake and fire, flood and heat. Beneath this water rest the bones of other bridges, concrete and rebar, twisted and broken.

old bridge abutment
It has lasted through an upstream dam breech in 1964. Through countless storms, including the floods of 1986 that covered the bridge and swept away a downstream dam. It has seen droughts and drownings, and of course, Tevis (both directions even!)

full confluence
The American River confluence is full for the first time in ten years. Rain has finally arrived. But this rushing water is barely a test. Even 105-year-old old cement can handle this. There will be a day when it crumbles, and is deemed unsafe, and we will mourn its graceful lines.

But until then No Hands Bridge looks down on the muddy waters, remembers its reflection, and stands tall.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

rain delay

Start the year off as you want to continue: I did a short, uneventful New Year's Day ride, the best kind.

But I don't know if it has stopped raining since then. Major stands forlornly, looking out at the wet. He has chosen to remodel his shelter during the rain! Guess he was bored because he chewed and pulled off all the protective corrugated pipe around the posts. He has to stay under the shelter: didn't you know he will melt out in the pasture? Sigh.

not a scary bag since it always carries goodies!

A blue bag of alfalfa and a new orange grain pan keep him occupied for a little bit. An afternoon hike yesterday was cut short by threatening clouds opening up and dumping on us!
The adventures of Captain Major and his orange feed pan

Since the riding trails are a slippery mess, (and Major would melt anyway) I managed to get out and do a short hike. The river was rising quickly, and everyone else was hiding inside.

lovely path

rushing: South Fork of the American River

gray and wet and lovely

But it was so gray and green and lovely. The mossy rocks are happy with all this rain, and the muddy river sped by. 

stick and raindrop still life

tiny mushrooms grow on a mossy rock

The trail I hiked is now under the rising water. I think I'll stay inside and watch the cat.

Jack on his throne

Saturday, December 31, 2016

the story 2016

Again I have no summary of 2016. And no definitive plans for 2017. I have read and admire everyone else's though! I felt like a slacker, and even more guilt as my mileage tracker app sent me daily email reminders that the year was ending. 

Fine, I give in. I took a look at the tally for 2016: 605 miles, 62,365 feet elevation climb, 128 hours in the saddle. There are even more stats provided, but it's a bit much: number of rides and when, average distance, etc. 

But those numbers don't tell the story for me. There is no account of all the time tacking up, untacking and taking care of Major. Of feed and shoveling and trailering. Of grooming and hanging out, hiking and grazing walks. 

And the ears tell the rest of story. 

So I finished the year as I started: looking through those two black-tipped brown ears, and all the attitude between them, through some of my favorite views.

Miles. Time. Carrots. However you measure, it's the ears that count. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

conversation with major: gift

Hey, you're here! But it's dinnertime? And already dark?!
I know, sorry I'm so late.
I ate my mash.
I see that.
Now I have hay!
You always have hay in your net.
This is NEW hay. It's better.
Ok. But do you want to leave dinner and go for a walk? (hold up halter, jingle of halter tags)
Yeah, lets go!

I had a very long day at work Major.
I played bite face with my neighbor Drummer.
Well, I had to meet with the company president and a big committee.
Then I ate more hay, and took a nap in the mud.
I see that.
My stuff was more fun.
I agree.

Dark grass is extra good.
Dark grass?
It's dark. I'm eating grass. Dark grass.
 I can only see your blaze and one white foot.
I can see for both of us.
Not sure if I trust you on that one.
Is that why you have the sharp bright?
The what?…Oh, my flashlight?
Too bright!
Ok, no flashlight. The clouds are covering the moon, but it is enough.
Over here. More grass.

So, what do you want for a holiday present Major?
What holiday?
Solstice, Festivus, Christmas, Hanukkah…whatever you celebrate.
More than dark grass? And mash? And new hay? And mud naps?
Well yeah, I could buy you a present.
More than that?
Well, yes.
Do you have a carrot in your pocket?
Then I'm good. Grass mash hay naps carrot. I don't need anything.
You're right Major. You're right.

Happy Solstice everyone. May your days be lighter.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

dark, rain…stars

On the days when it hasn't been too dark after work, it's been raining. I fit in one short weekend ride, where Major got to see his un-friend Tux, before more rain came. We need the rain, the lake is rising. But the trails are super slick. I could maneuver about a mile of snot-slick trail down to the sandy lake trail, if it would stop raining long enough!

I'm trying to ignore that guy Tux… (photo by H.S.)

Major is enjoying his evening walks in the swiftly fading light. A little too much. Anxiously bouncing on the end of his lead rope…even last week when recovering from injury (three-legged lame to recovered in four days=abscess/bruise?). Limp...trot! Limp...trot! Ridiculous.

really, soaking is dumb, I'm good Mom, let's go!

meadow in creeping darkness

And I'm almost as anxious as Major is. We do a bit of hiking, four horse feet and two human feet walking are more stable on the slippery trails (if Major could keep from prancing along behind me). It's almost winter, the downtime is good resting time, right? Major and I both need the reminder to slow down sometimes.


sunset over Major

Because it's good too. A quickly setting sun over the back of my grazing horse. Lovely sky on an evening walk. Today the meadow began filling with ground fog and the moon rose on our way back to pasture and waiting dinner.

Major watching the fog roll in

ground fog rising, 4:45pm

The stars come out. A cold, crisp night before more rain is forecast. Warm mash. Extra hay. Breathe. Repeat.

moonrise over Major

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


Current events weighed too heavily…so I ran away. Clear skies, epic views, hard hiking, clearing my mind at 8500 feet.

clear Tahoe water at Skunk Harbor

feeling small

in the end, at 8500 feet, the snow was much deeper

far above Tahoe near Maggies Peak

Desolation wilderness view

Hiking in golden fields under dying light. Fast rides on quickly greening trails. Warm mash on damp days. New green grasses.

an afternoon hike

muddy river after rain

low lake epic views

the messy face mash aftermath

deep green grasses

I'm still overwhelmed. But focusing on the smaller things. And so thankful for having them.

Friday, October 28, 2016


What haunts our trails? What lurks around corners, behind trees, beneath rocks? What is spooky on the trail?

noise in the shrubbery!

something killed the balloons!

mud puddle ate Major's head

skeleton rider

really dead thing

evil seeds

scariest of all: late for dinner

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 15, 2016


Today is 2 minutes and 25 second shorter than yesterday. 2:25 less minutes of daylight. 2:25 less time outside. And it's increasing as we get closer to the winter solstice.

But we have time. There is always a little time.

The first big storm of the year was blowing in. But we had time. And trail. And clouds blowing in overhead, wind-whipped mane.

But we had time.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

show time

Well, it could have been worse!

We certainly did not win any prizes, and there is much room for improvement, but we survived our foray back into the "show" world.

This was a very casual local show, and our portion was held on the trail behind the actual show arena. Major and his friend Friday (and my friend C) arrived a bit early so we could wander about. Major was pretty unconcerned about the surrounding, as was more interested in whatever C had thrown into the delicious hay bag. We were parked right next to the warmup ring, but even that was unimpressive. So far, so good!

(As an aside: we could immediately tell we were not at an endurance ride: these people could not park! So much space between trailers, they could have fit a lot more into the tight space without using the overflow, but I digress…)

This was the Western day of the show, English had been the day before. So there was pretty bling to be seen everywhere. My dressage saddle and helmet may have gotten some looks, but we warmed the horses up and practiced a bit, then headed over to the trail area to start our class.

waiting before the class

Here is an obstacle-by-obstacle re-enactment and my pretend scores (out of 10 per obstacle):

1. First judge takes our number and explains we need to go to the marker on the ground, and sidepass over to the gate. OK. Go to sidepass, stop, need to sidepass left, Major steps right INTO my leg. Argh. Only one step though, then we sidepass over to the gate.We did it but ugly: Score 4

2. Then we need to take the rope gate hanging on the tree, open it, walk through, close the gate. Rope gate? We hadn't practiced that, only real gates. Damn. The gate was an utter disaster. No excuses, but he was focused on everything except me, including the puppy and owner on the trail about 10 feet away, talking to a rider just standing there. But we did open and close it in the end. Score: 2

3. Walk horse between parallel poles about 10 inches apart (it is supposed to be a very narrow trail). Major at first thought it must be a sidepass, being so narrow. So he was a bit hesitant, but then did it ok, with a little knocking of poles. Score: 5

4. Dismount onto the mounting block, then trot horse about 20 feet, around pole, and back. This is a trick: you need to either unclip your reins and put them on the halter, or have a leadrope. I knew this an unclipped my reins, and Major and I did our endurance trot out. Pretty easy. Score: 8

5. Lead horse over to another mounting block, and get on without moving the block. Since we never move the block, and Major knows a cue "one step" to line up, no problem. The trick here: check your girth before getting on, judge will watch for that. I remembered! Score: 9

6. Ride horse down into creek, past the scary plastic bag, turn a complete circle in the creek, getting all four hooves wet. Major was a bit forward, thinking he was leaving his BFF Friday behind. He wanted to charge back up, but we walked, and I remembered to stand up in the stirrups and get out of the saddle coming up the hill. Score: 7

The next obstacles was a little way down the trail. And Major was fretting about Friday, and Friday was freaking out that Major was leaving. Sigh… and we had to wait awhile while the previous person finished, Major heard Friday calling to him, he called back, but just once. Arggh!

anxious Major, forced smile, gee, is this fun?

7. Finally our turn! Go up the the picnic table, pretend it's a rock. Dismount on the off side. Get down and check the horse's right front foot for a stone and clean it out. Tricky part: have your own hoof pick. Win for me! Got my folding hoof pick out of my saddle bag, done. Remount from the off side. But I forgot a key element: check the girth (every time you mount). Damn. Score: 6

8. In front of you is a half box with lines made of flour. From about 20 feet back, trot your horse and stop directly in the box. Yeah, we've got this! Perfect stop. Score: 10

9. Ride through three uneven cones, don't go outside the flour lines, about 30 inches apart. Walking forward, no problem. Backing, um, not so much. Obliterated the first cone, stepped outside the box, did the final cone OK. Judge (an old friend) said "Maybe if he was less anxious." Yeah, I think that too! Score: 4

Estimated final score: 55/90. Ugly.

finished, but distracted Major waiting for Friday (obstacle 9 on left)

Through this all poor C was dealing with Friday having a melt down, even when he could see Major. He probably would have been better to go to the show alone, but your unfortunately, you ride the horse you have that day! After we were done we did hang out for awhile and watch the kids ride adorable well-natured horses and ponies. Some putted around in too-slow western jog, but there were some cute pairs. And Major and Friday just stood there, watching everything calmly.

watching arena, my trimmer's daughter on her adorable pony!

relaxing after our bad rides
I'll await the real scores, hopefully I wasn't too nice to myself! And maybe next year more than a week of practice. But I'm glad I went, and to have the reminder that I need to do some arena work more often than never!