Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Loney Meadow too!

After the fun first full-day adventure, we scouted on the map a possible new trail: Sawmill lake. Some of the trail was repeat from the day before (but not the death-march road!) We headed out again, lunches and leadropes packed.

Heading out: ears and mules ears

Culbertson lake, standing weird (what is with my posture?!)

small meadow filled with tiny white flowers

and...more rocks...

views forever
Sawmille lake, NOT an accessible mile away!
The trail was great, some of it had been recently cleared, and there were flags marking the trail. We found the access to Sawmill lake, and thought another mile down to a nice picnic spot along the shore.

We were wrong. There are not many photos of this because it got seriously nasty. We were following ribbons, but no trail. picking through rocks and brush. Finally, we gave up when the trail became a boulder steambed with trees fallen across it. We had already asked our horses to do a lot of work. This was dangerous with loose boulders and no end in sight. We turned around and headed back up the hill to a nice picnic spot.

then the trail became this, we decided not to risk it

another lunch break, Major trying to guilt me into sharing sandwich

a refreshing break at Rock Lake

huge aspen on the meadow edge

fallen tree to ride under

snow bent "angel's wing" tree
We headed back, the horses were glad to be going home. But they were tired. I think picking their footing and really thinking about trail is tiring, for horse and human! Back in the meadow we did see what we had hoped to avoid all trip: not bears or cougars, but cows! Luckily they were in the distance, having just been brought to their summer pasture. We could hear the cow bells, and the horses were a bit on edge. But we were glad it would be another trip that we could teach them about wandering cows.

the hard life, with mash

cool lichen
Lovely creek, a bit shallow for swimming, but it felt great
It was a great adventure. I did not remember from hiking how hard the trails were. The shale footing and slopes was harder on hooves than hiking boots. We got our photos taken by Japanese tourists, who had never seen a horse. We both got asked about the horses hoof boots (which we explained as hiking boots). The horses both were very smart and drank at every chance, delicious mountain water. Major and Friday (and me and C) are good companions, not annoying each other too much, compatible riding buddies. And both horses walked over than nasty footing, did what we asked, stood around nicely too, seriously awesome horses.

Both horses did get a bit buddy sour, Friday worse than Major. They also made a great game of tromping all their poo into the dirt, making us pick up poo, dirt and rocks with every shovel. The dirt was reduced to a fine dust that got absolutely everywhere. I was never clean, but that is what camping is for.

For all the lovely views, I'm not sure if I would take the horse for a multi-night here again. But the first loop we did, now that was worth it all.

raven conversation "When are the interlopers leaving?"


Loney Meadow Camping

Finally, camping at Loney Meadows! My friend C and I have been trying to do this for four years! Year one: she got sick. Year two: A crazy snow year and everything still buried. Year three: Major got a splint the two weeks before and needed rest. this year was it!

We were still concerned something would happen. But instead we had a great trip, mostly uneventful, with gorgeous views, difficult trails, with wonderful horses. (Honestly words cannot explain much, so this and the next post are mostly gorgeous photos).

the boys settled in, enough hay for an army

It did take a little time to set up camp, rig up the highline (remember that bringing a ladder is a much better idea than balancing an upside-down bucket on a plastic tote container) but we did a quick ride the first day.

road with a creek, horses loved the clear water

Culbertson lake

I had hiked the second-day loop when camping last year, and this time did it was great to see it from horseback. Of course the first 1.5 miles are dirt road. That the horses death-marched up. It was super rocky, with pointy edges sticking out from rocky gravel. Both horses are smart enough to know not to be going too fast, and also that this is not fun. Eventually we got to the trail though. And the views were worth it.

Feely Lake

Added bonus of good grassy water plant in the lake!

Island Lake

rocky trail below

a bit of a slope and Major being a dork

quizzical ears: we have to go up this?!

just a bit rocky

Crooked Lakes trail junction

Penner Lake lunch break, 6800 feet

On top of the world, leaving Penner lake

The trail was just a bit rocky

But the meadow was gorgeous (we just missed the main bloom though!)

Loney Meadow

photo bomb by Friday

Once back from our ride we put the horses away, clean ourselves up a bit (I'd dunk in the tiny creek). I'd read a book, relax, watch the horses, take them for a little walk, repeat. Needed relaxation.

Then plan for our ride the next day!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Tevis sweep adventure

I think I'm recovered. Not just from my sweep, but from camping the week before too (more on that later).

Major waiting patiently at Squaw Valley

I have to start my saying this did nothing to convince me I should try riding Tevis myself! Maybe because this is just such a hard, rocky section, but I'm amazed at those who attempt this ride. Finish or not, wow.

riding out at dark-thirty

away we go, up the mountain

view from above

We drove up to Squaw Valley. We were the second sweep team, the first team goes from Robie Point to High Camp, we were High Camp to Robinson Flat. But we camped at Squaw Valley, the closest access point. Along with hundreds of yoga people. Yeah, there was a yoga festival going on. With concerts till midnight and the loud bar next door until 2. Fun times.

With very little sleep we started up the trail at 5:45am. We needed to get to High Camp before the bulk of riders came through. Only 3.5 miles, but 2500 feet of climbing. With gorgeous views. Major got a bit wound up, wanting to join the race, but was controllable. I think it was good practice to have so many horses passing him, and making him walk. Maybe this will translate to a better ride start (yeah, right!).

mountain at sunrise (there is a gondola for the easier way up)

sunrise, and riders coming on the trail (look closely in the dust!)

A few of the front runners went flying by about 6:30, and we waited a High Camp for the all clear. We had the final count and watched the final rider go down the trail. We were supposed to stay close, but not too close, don't want to stress anyone or cause them to hurry (ride your own ride!)

waiting at High Camp as the riders came through

High Camp view, not a bad place to wait

Last rider over the ridge (not following too closely!)

And then we just rode the trail. We went pretty slowly, the final rider was being careful and slow. The trail was gorgeous and rocky, the bogs were a bit more muddy (since 158 other horses had already gone through!) Major was pretty awesome, drinking out of a creek, navigating the terrain, walking and not being silly.

view with evidence of hydraulic mining

horse ears, mules ears (flowers)

Our team leader kept track with her radio, letting the command team know our location, listening for any problems we might be encountering. There was one trail incident on our section, but nothing we could do to help, as vets and staff were already there (And sadly it was a friend, words cannot express how shocked and sad we are). The rest of the trail was uneventful. But long.

The final rider got into Red Star Ridge, close to the cut off time for Robinson Flat, another 7 miles away. So she was pulled overtime, and we were free to travel down the trail. A long, dusty, rocky, downhill road. It was nasty. We were hot. Major was not very keen, but sorry buddy, we need to get back to the trailer!

the long hot road into Robinson Flat

just a little steep

the team is finally done! Major still looks pretty chipper

It was a long day. We got into Robinson Flat about 1:45. I swear all the walking is harder than trotting an endurance ride! Most everyone had left, our horses drank up a storm, gobbled some mash, and rested a bit. My awesome SO had driven my trailer back from Squaw to Robinson, a very long day for him too! But we still had to get home to Auburn. Back home Major first rolled and then went and drank his own better water. Now he gets a much deserved break.

SOS was quite an experience. I would do it again, and hope the day was shorter, but you are out there for the riders, and you never know the situations you might encounter. This is a great way to explore the trail and help at the same time. The riders were saw were courteous and thankful, the volunteers amazing at holding our horses and filling our water bottles. No one seemed to think we were "only" sweep riders. Tevis is such a community, with volunteers doing radio, horse transport, sweep, clean-up, trail marking, vet assistance and every little organizing thing you can think of (and more). The logistics are staggering.

Sunday morning I was able to see Mel and Farley, looking pretty damn great for as far as they want, and meet the great Funder (who awesomely loaned me a book). I chatted with the folks I crewed for last year, watched some of the horses show for Best Condition (after 100 miles, wow they look amazing) and then went home and slept.

Then tortured Major with a bath and pacified him with apples. It was a long, great adventure.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Tevis sweep pre-ride

Yesterday I headed out with my sweep partner and another experienced sweeper. My section is High Camp (Squaw Valley) to Robinson Flat. We were lucky enough to get clearance from Squaw Valley to start at the top. I really mean the top.

We had perfect weather. Not only were we sweeping, but we were marking trail, the last people over the trail till next week.

The bogs weren't bad, the flies were tolerable. We had to move pretty slowly as we marked trail.

I got to see some fun sights along the trail, like Watson monument.

Hodgkin's cabin (not sure on the spelling)

The infamous Cougar Rock. Which I went up partway just to look. Not that bad IF you have lots of momentum. Not walking like we were!

Elephants trunk which wasn't scary for me at all. My riding partner didn't like it, so just followed closely not looking down!

The trail was gorgeous. And rocky, so much rock! But the views were lovely, inadequate in photos.

Again we were lucky and got picked up at Red Star, not having to ride the horses the 7 miles of dirt road into Robinson. But we had to drive it, which may have been worse, it wasn't much faster!

My crazy week has just begun. Now is camping for a few days with horses at Loney Meadows, then back for Tevis. Good luck to everyone riding, hope to not see you on the trail!