Monday, September 22, 2014

where there's smoke

All weekend riding and outdoor activity was curtailed by the terrible King Fire. While about 40 miles away, the smoke is very bad, leaving ash on cars and the air not suitable for man or beast. 
Major on Neighborhood watch, mouth full of hay. Can't do it on an empty stomach!
So Major got a little handwalk, and that's it. I did some housekeeping. (No, not actual house cleaning, that's even less fun!) I had picked up some alfalfa, Major helped himself to the food truck.

This food truck serves alfalfa hay, grass hay pellets and beet pulp!

I reorganized the trailer. How can one short camping trip make it such a mess? Plus, there was sap everywhere. The pine trees had been dripping all over, and I tracked it all over the place. Now a clean trailer, less sticky!

I even cleaned my saddlebags! Only one bendy carrot, not yet moldy, quite an improvement!
gumby carrot

Then I customized the bags a little. The little white pulls were fraying (ok, two were fraying, after many years of service. I just wanted an excuse to orange it up a little!) so I changed the pulls to orange. Every little bit helps.
serviceable white

now orange, or a halloween saddle bag!

At the end of the day, Major helped with the food truck cleanup.

just one more lick, please!

I needed to find somewhere inside to hide from the smoke. My house is was already filled with it, so how about the thrift store? I'll search for a costume (never too early for Halloween. Managed to find about 80% of my costume!).

scary black stallion, tiny foundered zebra, encephalitic white horse

unloved unicorn

ahhh, so damn scary! This is fully half of the toy isle.

One more stop, a mecca of sorts. It still had an odd smell, like the fire and also the thrift store, but I think a delicious one: used books. This store is crazy with ridiculous piles (maybe they should stop accepting books?), but if you have the time, you can find some great reads.

this is just part of the sci-fi/fantasy section!

A small pile of books in hand, I hid elsewhere the rest of the weekend, watching football and barely checking on my horse. I feel bad for him out in this air too, there will be no riding till it clears. I saw some cyclists and runners out exercising, that's crazy. The Lake Tahoe Iron Man was cancelled, but of more concern is all those firefighters, more than 5,500 on the fire lines. The fire isn't expanding as quickly as before, but it's still actively burning, 87,000 acres, only 18% contained.

All those acres, all those trails, all those animals, all that destroyed. My small weekend is petty in return, but it's all I can do to hope for the fire to quiet and the horizon to clear.

smokey sunrise

Monday, September 15, 2014

skillman, anyway

Many friends were heading to a lovely local endurance ride this weekend, I figured I'd keep with my quiet calm year and just go camping with the horse and a friend. However, also in keeping with the rest of my year, my quick camping vacation didn't go as planned.

C and I were all packed and ready to go up to Skillman Horse Camp for a nice relaxing weekend of riding the trails. Until C fell and badly twisted her ankle the night before! No riding or vacation for her, damn. I was all packed, but wasn't in the mood to go alone, so I dragged the ever suffering SO with me, just for one night.

After an easy drive, we arrived under the lovely pines, no crowds. We even got a spot with a corral to try! I tacked up and headed out, figuring a leisurely Pioneer/Hallelujah seven mile loop to start us off, then back to camp. Major was on fire, loving the trails, motoring along, he loves this place. We zoomed along the trails, powered up Hallelujah HIll, and trotted across the top of the undulating old flume. And were back in camp in 45 minutes! Damn, that was some low flying!

trail blur
much better marked than previous years!
love these pines, and green

more lovely green trails
best sign ever: no low-riders on trail

 So we took a breather. And I ate lunch while Major stubbornly tried to dig the little bits of alfalfa out of his mostly grass small-hole hay bag, and did not drink. Sigh. But we headed out again, this time out the back side of camp, up the hill, past my favorite sign of all time, and out on the trail. Major was being so good I let him decide where to go. He's an idiot. He turned toward the hot, dry Omega trails, and I thought "They can't really be as bad as I remember, right?" Yes they are.

really Major, this is your choice?

more rocks

plodding the road

the only other horse I saw on trail

Dry, hot, rocky, did I say hot? I was seeming extra hot, I'm usually pretty good in the heat. I reached up to adjust my helmet brim, and realized the problem: I'd left camp in a baseball hat! I haven't ridden without a helmet in forever! Luckily we were plodding along, all spirit sucked out of my horse by the dust, rocks, gravel and heat. Once back into some nice, shady trails we headed back to camp, I was extra cautious of low hanging branches!

cozy camp

Camp was already set up (!!!) by my awesome SO, Major got to relax in his pen. He was a little lonely, we took a walk around to see the few other horses around camp. There were maybe eight other horses and mules scattered about. I usually see this place packed during the Wild West endurance ride, when they somehow shoehorn in a ridiculous number of rigs and horses into this tiny campground. I made Major some crack-mash (regular mash with some equine senior feed sprinkled on top) to get some water into him, and he finally ate it up and drank too.

All night I could hear him pacing around the corral, stop and eat, walk around some more. On the high-tie he just stands quietly and eats. In the morning Major started a conversation (annoying whinnying) with the other horses across the campground. Who then left, and Major paced around nervously. And did not answer the lonesome whinny/bray of the mule. Snob.

anxious Major (with his cool reflective ID necklace on!)

So I tacked up my distracted horse, and we headed out. I think he thought it was an endurance ride and everyone had already left! He was a handful for a bit, but then settled down to some serious motoring, doing his consistent get-it-done trot, about 8mph, up, down, over and around everything. I love this horse.

There is a nice reroute of the Pioneer trail I did the first day, but it was really dusty, as they have literally just cut the trail and it isn't packed down or anything. It was early in the ride and I thought "I'll just try the old trail, it wasn't so bad." Yes it was. Rocky ugly. So I'm just as bad a judge of trail choice as Major! But after that we got a lovely view of distant Scotts Flat Lake on the way to White Cloud Campground, then looped back to again demolish Hallelujah Hill on the way back to camp (damn this horse likes to climb).

my bad trail choice. When they reroute a trail, it's probably for a good reason.

more blurry zooming

Scotts Flat in the distance

more pretty distant lake views
sparkly sun and tree tops

a calmer, green trail view

We finished packing up, I cleaned up the horse, and went for a final walk around the camp. Major found an alfalfa stump he was quite happy with, then found the three-inch-deep dusty, silty parking area as a perfect rolling spot. He was disgusting. But I'll put up with it, because overall, it was a pretty awesome trip.

coveted alfalfa stump

Yes, please, totally clean horse. Please find the most disgusting place in camp. Thank you.

Monday, September 1, 2014

be careful

A casual ride this weekend turned into a drama (spoiler: me and Major are fine). Be prepared. Know your horse and friends. Do the right thing. 

Major and I were just coming back from a nice quick ride with E and Tux. We stepped off the upper trail for some other riders to pass and heard a call. It sounded like a goose or loon, a yelling sound. Till it said "help me!" 

A tiny spot moved it's arm down by the lake. I worried someone maybe was mired there in the mud, so Major and I charged down to the shore. I got off about 50 feet from a fallen woman, and dragged Major behind me over to her. She was lucid, and said her horse had run off after she fell. 

She didn't want to move. I didn't want her to! I called the local park service dispatch, which can be faster than 911 as they might know your location. They didn't. (Know where you are, can you tell them GPS coordinates?) I had to explain multiple times how to find us. This is in rural area along a lakeshore, about a mile from the last parking lot. I knew it might be awhile. Meanwhile I'd handed my horse off to someone, and then we waited. (Will your horse stand nicely with a stranger, with strange horses?)

After emergency was called I talked with her, got her name, husband's name and phone number. I called her husband without much info, and waited. Others were standing about, but can't be much help. I sent Major home with E and Tux. Hoping he would pony (Will your horse pony home? It sounds like Major did ok, but not great.)

We waited and I just talked with her, and tried to shade her from the sun. The lake bed is rock hard and dry, but at least she hasn't fallen on rocks. About an hour after my first call the first park ranger and lifeguards arrived. They couldn't do too much until full EMS arrived, so we all waited. The fallen rider was scared, she could feel her feet but moving anything was super painful. We all just kept talking, hoping help would arrive soon. 

Not too much later, EMS arrived. They had to hike or precariously 4 wheel drive in. They put the fallen rider on a backboard, and put her in the shade of the truck. And we waited more. She didn't want me to leave, so I just stayed and held her hand. 

Meanwhile I called my SO, had him meet E at the ranch to deal with Major, put him away, etc. E could do it too, but it's always easier with help. 

EMS was trying to decide on helicopter or boat to move the rider, too bumpy and treacherous to take her out in the back of a 4x4. The rider was worried about the helicopter flight cost (anyone in California: get CalStar insurance. $45 a year for life flight, a great deal) and it turned out the boat was faster. They put her on the boat about two hours after the first call, to an awaiting ambulance. 

Then I got a ride out with the EMS captain. And my SO picked me up near the gate to the park. The EMS folks also said they'd drive me back to the ranch, which is nice. 

I did go back and check on Major. He seemed a bit confused, we hadn't really finished our ride! Another time, today was a day to help someone else. 

P.S. I did hear from the rider! She is severely bruised and hurting, but nothing broken. She is super grateful, but I think and hope that all of us would do the right thing if presented with the circumstances. It could be any of us: a wrong step, some naughty horse behavior, or just a bad day. Be careful out there.