Monday, August 8, 2011

to auburn

We were up for an adventure on Saturday. I had to talk my friend into it. "How far is it?" she questioned. I'd estimated about 12 miles, not farther than we usually do on an out-and-back trip. But this would be one way: we were going to have a trailer waiting for us at the Auburn staging area. This is the same trip we tried to do back in the spring.

This time there was no rain or threatening clouds, just clear skies and a cooler day. The first six miles of the trip are well-traveled and known paths, and Major happily trotted and cantered along. We took a break for the horses to drink from the lake, and continued. There was a really nice breeze off the lake and not too many obnoxious boaters. Major did his usual tap-dance as we crossed the Mormon Ravine bridge, and now we were in unexplored territory, we'd only done about a mile past that point. My friend C and her horse Friday had ridden the trail before, but it had been years and she'd gotten lost, not a good sign!

But I know these trails pretty well. I had hiked the top portion, so it was just the middle area I was unfamiliar with. The trail seemed nice and open, so we began with some trotting, until coming across the nasty star thistle. I had wondered why as I was leaving the stable the neighbors has asked where I was heading. When I said Auburn they said "Good luck with the start thistle!" I didn't think it could be that bad. It was that bad.

star-thistle field
the trail ahead
So we walked though fields of thorns, no way were the horses impaling themselves at a trot through that stuff! But we were able to trot in the areas where the fields gave way to oak and pine trees, in shaded valleys with fig and blackberry bushes and still some running water. The trail very gradually climbed until we were more than 60 feet above the river. In some areas it was a smooth grassy slope down, in others just rocks. Major didn't seem to care, and I kind-of like glancing down into the water. I don't look for long, eyes on the trail! My friend doesn't like it as much, but just kep ther eyes on Major and the trail, and all was well.
view down to the river

The trail got easier as the river widened and the shallow rapids began. But this area I'd hiked, and I knew it was all a ruse. Because coming up was Cardiac Hill. Aptly named, we could have gone that way, but took the slightly easier Cardiac Bypass instead (someone has a great sense of humor). The trail still climbs and climbs, more than 1000 feet in about 1.5 miles, pretty slow hard going for the horses. As the trail levels out, the ends seems like it should be in sight, but there is still at least a mile to go.
before the big climb, the river is wider.

There are two trail options. You can follow the abandoned road, but it is hot, walking on concrete, no fun. We're on a trail ride, so took the trail. Most riders seemed to have taken the road, because the trail was horribly overgrown! Pushing through branches, being attacked by blackberry canes, rampant bush/tree/plant growth: at this point we were tired, horses were tired, we were done! But not home yet, so we slogged on. We went through some water and up a bank, where Major stepped out of his boot. I jumped off, strapped it back on, and continued. I think he stepped on himself coming up the bank, he was tired too. A tiny bit further on, the same boot popped off. Damn! (haha, OK, I'm a nerd but that is funny, we were at the dam site!) I was too tired to readjust it, so just put it back on. Less than 500 feet from the staging area, the other boot came off. DONE! I was done. Both boots got strapped to the saddle and we finished barefoot.

Auburn canyon: dam site scar on the right, river in the middle.
We did manage a final tiny canter up the hill to the staging area water trough. Both horses got a good drink of water, and my SO was waiting with the trailer and cool drinks.  A very welcome sight! After untacking the horses there are hoses provided to wash them off. Major didn't appreciate it, and danced around like an idiot. At home he is fine, this water/hose/place combination is just different. Tied to the trailer Major was figity, though Friday was behaving himself. I was just tired, and not beyond bribery, so the horses got a grass-hay pellet mash and we stood in the shade, cold drinks in hand.

Major needed some convincing loading, not much, but something I'll review. It was great to get back to the stable, unload Major and put him away. He looked none the worse for wear, while I on the other hand/hoof have a big scratch on my arm from trees and some blackberry thorns embedded in my shirt. I think the trail would be better done in early spring (like we planned the first time) to miss the star thistle, blackberry and heat by the end of the ride. It was still a fun adventure: I tend to think all rides where I stay on top and no one is hurt (much) are good rides!

The boot losses at the end were annoying, but I know it is my error. I had loosened them a few weeks ago when he was due for a trim. Now that he is trimmed, they held on for most of the terrain, but once wet were just too loose. I haven't quite got them dialed-in perfectly yet, but still like his bright orange boots.

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