Tuesday, July 19, 2011

camping: day one

Camping is fun. Horses are fun. Camping with horses is a lot of work!

Last week I set out with my friend and her horse Friday on my first camping with horses adventure. Also my first longer-haul with my trailer. I had my normal camping equipment and clothing, and then the horse stuff. ALL the horse stuff. The trailer dressing room fills up pretty quickly! I felt pretty confident with a good emergency kit (horse, human, trailer and truck). But making sure all the tack, feed, extra halters, carrots (can’t forget those!) blankets and random crap were all packed was a different story. Double checked it all, it will be much easier in the future now that the trailer is pretty well stocked.

We had a great plan to ride high in the beautiful Sierras. But the trails were iffy, and rangers hadn’t even been out. Rangers didn’t recommend it, with all the snow some trails were still buried, some lakes still frozen, and who knows about downed trees and other problems. So we went local and lower, Skillman Horse camp outside Nevada City.

The camp is small but very pretty, nicely shaded. The camp host was new and clueless, so we put up a highline but we could have used the corral (only a couple other sites were being used). I was a bit nervous about the highline, but Major has always tied fine, and there were no problems. (Aside from putting it up: remember to bring small ladder, standing on a bucket next to a tree while trying to tie knots is tough!)

The horses stood nicely while we set up camp (the rolling cooler was a bit scary for Friday) but we wanted to see the trails! So we got ready and headed out. We had a map, saw the trailhead, no problem! The horses were ready to go! Really ready. The first part of the trail is pretty steep uphill with switchbacks. Let the charge of the light brigade begin! (we did change it to just charge, since the actual Light Brigade didn’t turn out so well for the British)

The trail footing was great. A few rocky places but much of the trail is under pine trees with soft pine needles and everything smelled wonderful. There were steep drop-offs into the forested canyon, and curving trails through blooming ceanothus. Dogwoods and azaleas were in bloom but I don’t have many trail photos, we were going too fast! There were lots of wonderful places to trot, and fun cantering along a curving trail. One fun cantering hill had the horses going as fast as I’ve ever ridden. Both Major and Friday were amazingly well behaved, being in a new place with new trails, no silly spooks, just a willingness to explore.

And explore we did, because we quickly realized the trail map was completely useless! We came up a trail, there was a fire road, and three trails branching off: all marked with an arrow and “trail.” Not very helpful. The map had names for the trails, but we found nothing indicating that. My GPS didn’t show the trails either, but the compass and tracking feature ended up being invaluable. Coming home one large mud puddle stymied them both, 3 inches of clear water, had they forgotten all our mud-slogging all winter? I finally got Major through, we were less than 100 feet from camp at that point!

Back home the horses enjoyed exploring every water trough in the campsite, and were very good about drinking. We piled lots of hay to keep them occupied, filled a big nice (cool orange) bucket with water, and sat by the fire ourselves. We were tired.

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