Sunday, March 31, 2013

spring fling

Roadtrip! A quick trip last week (actually an incredibly long drive) landed me in Palm Springs. I would be missing a week of riding, but visiting my parents, and was furloughed from work, good time to go visit the desert.

The drive down is VERY long. I am not good at being cooped up in a stall (the car). Sometimes there is lots to see, but it is miles of rolling hills, then trees (first walnut, then almond, then citrus and more), then miles of flat much drier desert.

rolling green hills

aqueduct and oil wells

windmills (these things are huge!)

But once in Palm Springs there is great architecture (I love mid-century modern), desert hikes, good food, a great pool, and horses (more on that later). We took a lovely hike out to a palm oasis.

beware (especially when taking close-ups)

not all is cactus

after the bloom, still beautiful
Lost Palms Canyon
the folks hiking back UP from the oasis, steep!

giant ocotillo

a desert friend

We went to a polo match, but that deserves a whole post of its own!

And where did we go next? Here's a hint:

Any guesses?
looks almost fake (the scene of many movies)

Joshua Tree National Park. Gorgeous. Monumental. Easier to show you the photos than to try and find words.

Joshua tree (which is a type of yucca, not a tree) in bloom

Amazing view (click to see even better)

Hope they found him...

yucca and rocks
Hidden Valley (reminded me of the planet in Galaxy Quest, yes, I'm THAT cultured)

didn't make it

Some people don't like the desert, they think that it is so barren. But it is so full of beautiful things, just not the obviousness we are used to thinking of as beautiful. I love to visit, though I don't think I could live there.

Driving home we had to stop for dinosaurs. Awesome dinosaurs. I wanted to stop not just because roadside attractions are cool, but because these dinos feature in one of my favorite silly movies, Pee Wee's Big Adventure. You can go into the dinosaur too, but the museum inside is not my thing, just seeing the outside was enough.

rarrrr! my tiny arms!

brontosaurus looks on dispassionately (or worried)

Then another 9 hours home. Stuck in the stall. It still was a fun adventure.

Monday, March 25, 2013

conversations with major: high alert

Just a walk today.
Yesterday was fun.
I know, you had a bit too much fun.
I got to run!
Yes, let's just walk today.
Look, something is next door. I see it!
Sure, you still have to come.

Up this hill.
Why are you so slow? Let's go!
It's steep and it's hard for my out-of-shape self. You complain, you go in front, I'll tail you up this hill.
OK! Mmm, grass.
No, walk on.
Walk, walk, walk, mmm, grass.
No stopping.
Walk walk walk, more grass.
OK, forget it.

This way.
No Major, we're not heading home yet.
This way.
Get over here.
You know, you're going the wrong way.

Mmm, snacks!
No, don't eat the poison oak!
You ruin all my fun.

Alert! Something is up there!
Yes, it's a truck.
Something! I see it! And hear it.
Again, just a truck, keep walking.
Hey look, it's a truck!

Why are we stopping up here?
Beginners hill is HARD to climb, I need a rest.
I know, that is why I need to stop too when I am climbing up it.
No, you don't, it's pretty easy for you.
But I can snack here, right? At the top.
Go ahead.

Back down the other side.
Going home, going home dance.
No, just walk.
Let's go over here and try to eat…
No, let's get a bit father before another snack.

Alert! Something up there!
Yeah, I see some people on the trail.
Something! People!
Yes Major.
We see people all the time. Keep walking and maybe we'll catch up to them.

Alert! Spotted dragon ahead!
It's an appaloosa.
Spotted dragon in the trees!
No, it's a horse.
Hey look, a horse. And people.
Yeah, Let's not make them nervous by standing here where they can't see us!
Let's go see them!

And we're almost back.
One more bite? 
You've been saying that all along.

Something is back there!
Yes, it's the people and horse we just passed. Remember?
Hey, it's the horse we just passed! Whatever, it's not that interesting.
I know, lets go home.

One more bite here. This is the best stuff.
I agree that it looks like the best.
Nom, nom, nom.
OK, time to go,
I can't walk with my mouth full.
Is that why I still can't teach you to grab bites as we go along?
Yes, I'm a gentlemen. We don't walk with our mouths full.
Umm, thats TALK with your mouth full.
No it's not, not for horses.

Dinner is waiting, back into your pasture.
Alert! My dinner is ready! Open, open, open the gate!
You have to wait and behave, then I'll open the gate.
Behaving is SO hard. Standing still, standing still...
Good boy, here you go.

Dinner! Run, get to the chopper!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

ride along

You know how cops will take a kid on a ride along, to maybe scare them straight? This is like that, a reality ride. Not the pretty "Oh, I had a fun ride" (though it was, nevertheless). But what a real ride is actually like when things are…interesting. Come along for a mostly internal monologue about a recent ride. Ride along at your own risk…

To set the scene: Major and I were joined by C and Friday, still taking it easy after the series of unfortunate events at Cronan Ranch. We were going to try and not do too much, just ride from the stable, maybe a good hour, but I wanted to get some hill work in. Hills around here are interesting, They're either nice short hills, or 1000 foot climbs. Not much in between (in this general area). We're just doing short climbs on this ride. And by the way, lots of landmarks have names, that we've made up through the years. Do you do this in your area?

Heading out, up the first good hill out of the staging area. Major trots up, poor Friday is not warmed up yet and thinks Major is going to kill him. Walk through the poison oak forest. Down Mini Cougar Rock, across Sewer Road. Over to Beginners Hill, steep but fairly short, three sections. I know that new rock, which has been there for at least two years, is suspicious. Just trot Major, no cantering, just trot.

I hiked this hill this week and almost died. Good thing the horses are carrying us this time! Down Red Dirt Hill, over right. Trot along, turn, easy over to the rocks where M saw the cougar. Down the steep slick rock, don't jig, watch out for the branch, good boy, need to bring my clippers.

Over to Ridge Trail, now turn. Trot, we are not going home Major, don't be silly, over this way. Green glowing grass, don't stop. Up to Inspiration Point. Watch the branch, watch the stump, duck right, duck left. Just trot, dammit, trot, rocks, damn, cantering, circle, knock it off. Walk down to the bottom of the hill.

Nice view. Turn around, up the hill. TROTTING. NOT cantering, trot I said, seriously. Cantering, knock it off, up at the top, now circling. Could go back and do it again, while Friday waits up here. That would make it worse. One day I swear I'm coming out here and just doing this hill 50 times.

Away from home, down the other trail, leading to the lake. Found some lost mountain bikers, suggest they take the lower canal trail home, it's easier, plus the upper trail just for hikers and horses. Head back up the hill. HOME! Just trot, Major you've completely lost your mind, knock it off. NOT going home, slow, circle, around the tree, circle again. OK, you're lost leading privileges, Friday in front.

Down, with more sensible C and Friday leading. Follow ridge trail, how is Major in front again? Over the t-post trail, to Lookout Rock. Never tired of this view. There used to be a floating outhouse on the lake years ago.

Let's keep going on this trail. Left, left! Up this smallish hill, oh this doesn't go anywhere. Stop jigging, just walk. Now wait for Friday. Along the trail, across the stream, is this hill safe? Sometimes if it is wet this hill is nasty, but it is dry. We are just walking this hill. Good boy! Evil laugh, this is HARD on the horses. Even Major is working hard on this one. Friday took a break halfway up, completely convinced now Major is definitely trying to kill him.

Down the trail where I found the head of a creepy doll, left. Jigging, knock it off. Now turn on center trail, walk, stop jigging. Circle if you can't listen, oh, you can listen. Fine, we'll go straight. Right up the hill trail, slow down, watch out for the stabby bush.

Easy, slow, SLOW! Stop the manic trotting, just regular, circle, listen, back, down the trail where the bear pulled apart that old tree, across the mud, up the little hill, duck right for the branch, careful over the small slick rock, hey, slow down, we're leaving Friday behind. Oh, you won't slow, fine then, we WERE going home that way, turn right now, now up this hill, watch the rocks, I suggest slowing, No? OK have it your way.

Circle, listen. See, didn't that make life more difficult? You have lost leading privileges again. Friday to the front. Go this way or that? Where does this go again? Oh yeah, to the shortcut trail. You mean with Sacrifice rock? Yeah.

Do you want to go up Stabby Hill or Beginners Hill? Stabby Hill is the one C got poked and ripped her shirt. Lots of bushes to poke you. You lead C. Not so stabby when a sensible person is in charge, and not careening around the corners. Major you're fine back here, stop being crabby, just walk. Good boy.

Around the bend, take it easy, trying to cool the sweaty horses. Cantering, seriously? Friday is only trotting in front, you didn't need to catch up, pretty sure you can keep up with him. Truck ahead, probably out to do something nefarious. Lovely, ripping up more trails, let's go this way.

Down the side trail on red dirt hill, middle trail home. Good Friday is leading. Friday trots around the fallen tree, new trail is more curvy, watch knees! Let's take the hill way home. Down, duck for the head-high branch that is getting lower.

Wow, nice spook Friday. Really, at the decomposing log? Fine, Major in front again. Power walk home. Across the rock, oh cool, pretty coyote. Stand Major, good boy. Sorry to interrupt your dinner coyote, trying to stalk turkeys, good luck buddy, they're a lot bigger than you are!

Down down the hill, just walk, do NOT jump that little creek, good boy, into the field, you don't need to eat right now. Cross the street, now I'll get off. No you can't rub on me. Loosen the girth, take out the bit, now have a snack, turn off the GPS. Gross tick crawling up my shirt, better than my neck like last time.

Walking home, this is much nicer and calmer, see, not so bad a ride. Too cold to hose off the sweaty beast, brush this sweat off, quick towel, go eat dinner, you'll survive. I feel like ticks are crawling on me, shower needed!

Great ride. Problems? What problems?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

mistakes were made

Started out with no one else on the trail. Beautiful blue skies, slight breeze, many miles to go. I was hoping to do a fitness-test type of ride, see where we stand about a month before our first ride of the season.

view of where one side of the Auburn dam footing would have been constructed

I headed down into the canyon. This previously nicely-wooded trail has been scalped! They are creating a huge fire break, which I understand is a great safety idea, but it sure is ugly. But it does allow for some different views.

Bridge not scary. Sign not scary. Plaque on rock: always scary.

Once down the hill we crossed the bridge and headed up the Cool side. Major just powers up this side, a nice gradual uphill, all singletrack, opening onto lovely rolling grasslands. Nice and green for another month, unless we get some more rain (please!).

lovely green hills

so many choices
busy staging area

It seems like everyone else had the same idea to ride on this beautiful day, but they were starting in Cool! The staging area was pretty full, and three trailers pulled in as I rode through. Too early for much of a break, Major was uninterested at the water trough and was more interested in watching the other horses, so we headed out.

scenes like this = why I ride

The Olmstead loop trail just goes and goes. Red dirt for miles. Surprisingly, I didn't see many other people out on this far outside trail. With no other company, Major got to hear me recite some poems as we trotted along (singing would be too painful). A woman walking a horse did bring Major into meltdown mode, till he figured out what it was.

our trail and the dam road, seemingly endless

I do think we both started to lose interest as the miles passed. I remember looking at my GPS at about 12 miles, knowing there was about 6 more miles of the similar trail, wondering if I just should have taken the cutoff I passed a little while ago. But no, we'd get through it. Major would trot along, no pulling, which was nice, but I'm sure he would have appreciated an equine friend for motivation.

Knickerbocker creek

We got to Knickerbocker creek, which was lovely and cool, and filled with salamanders swimming along! But it was just a short respite. Major still didn't want to drink, so we climbed out, his boots squelching, a bit refreshed.

blooming manzanita

suspicious stumps, blooming ceanothus

And on. More red dirt. I got off on the steeper downhills. And then came to the fateful sign. "Olmstead Loop Trail, Cool 1.7 miles. Training Hill (steep), Western States Trail 1.4." I knew heading home to the same point was actaully about 3 miles, and figured Training Hill trail cut off almost half of that, why not try it? It said steep, we've done steep, no problem.

take heed of the sign

It starts off gradually, to lull you into complacency. I was handwalking anyway, the Training Hill part is only .9 miles, no problem.

Are you sure you read this Mom? Steep? See this cairn? Dead guy underneath I bet.

gradual part, amazing view of the Sierras

And we walked down and down and down. Rocks and shrubs. The trail was quite often lined with blooming ceanothus, which has tons of little white flowers right now, smells awful and is full of bees. Down down, more rocks, Major slipped on a stretch of flat granite, my knees were hurting. Major was DONE. There are no switchbacks, just straight down the mountain.

I'm done. DONE. We can stop right here.

Poor guy, he was convinced I was dragging him to his death. If he does not like the trail, he tells me in no uncertain terms! So he kept stopping and looking at me questioningly, I kept dragging him down the hill. Down down down.

At the bottom, a nicer, less steep (!) part, looking up at a crazy runner.

That .9 miles took probably a half hour, if not more. At the bottom Major wanted to turn right, back towards Cool. I think he was completley confused as to where we were. Turning left back to Auburn he was balky for a bit until he figured out where we were.

We crossed No Hands again, and Major picked up the tempo. He didn't want to canter, didn't want to walk, just workman-like trot up the mountain for four miles. We crossed two creeks, where he didn't drink. And he had enough energy to give the stink-eye and prance past the cut logs.

Move the giant rock already! Roll it down the hill!

Final view of the river

Back at the Auburn staging area he dove into the trough, and drank his fill. And then dragged me over to the grass, and munched while he was untacked, boots removed, and hosed off (well, there was dancing around for the hosing).

Overall for behavior, he gets an A. I wasn't thrilled with his balkiness coming down the nasty hill, but when the worst your horse does on a 22 mile ride is stop on the trail till you urge him along, he still gets an A.

We covered 22 miles in 4:02 moving time, with about 30 minutes of rest in the middle. That includes 3,542 of elevation gain/loss. Just bit over 5 mph. I do think our speed/attitude (of us both!) would improve if we had a friend along. Major recovered great, looked perfect the next day, and was completely full of it two days later when I (attempted) to take him on a bareback forest ride (let's just say I was not completely recovered!).

We need to do more hills, maybe practice the shorter Auburn-Cool trail, at better speed. I know at home I can get the speedier workouts, and now I can fit in evening rides, which will help. We should be ready for our first ride at the end of April, but I'm a little worried, since it's the tough AR 50. But it's our home turf. We can do this.