Monday, June 4, 2012

olmstead loop

Another new trail adventure. That was actually a beginning adventure too. Major and I joined S and Cisco to head from Auburn to Cool, and to do the Olmstead Loop (which is the same trail that is the second loop of the American River 50). I hadn't done that trail since I took Major on his trial test trail ride in July of 2009!

Cisco just wanting to share Major's haybag
come on, let's go!
Major and Cisco are still figuring out their relationship. They're warming to each other, but Cisco is a bit pushy. Major actually stood up for himself, and was NOT going to share his hay bag with Cisco. Then he discovered that Cisco's haybag has bigger, easier to eat holes, and they worked out a deal to share. Of course both bags have the same hay...

ridiculous, useful visor
And today I tried an experiment. I already had a small visor on my helmet, which seriously, is useless. It was going to be hot, I have given up caring what I look like out on the trail, and created a big brim visor. I'd been looking at some options to buy, (like the DaBrim) and may still go that way, but I made this out of about $5 worth of supplies, and it worked like a charm. Keeping your face shaded seriously helps keep you cool. Ego be damned (since I'm already wearing tights and bright colors and glow-orange reins, seriously, who cares.)

OK, back to the trail. Down the canyon, over the bridge (as usual) and up the canyon on the other side. It is a long, gradual uphill on the other side, Major was leading, I asked for a trot and we just powered up the hill, going up and up, fitting in some cantering too. (I did lose a boot here after a creek, slapped it back on, and we were good for the rest of the trip). We'd switch and have Cisco lead, the horses are pretty well matched. Once up the hill, it becomes rolling grasslands on one side. I don't know those trails, so S took the lead and we found a cool pond and just some nice trails, single track and fire-road wide too. We avoided the actual original dam (not ever built) construction road, but the open spaces were hot, we cantered along, and we got to the staging area in Cool quicker than we'd wanted.

pond loud with bullfrogs
Dam (Damn?) road looks like it goes forever
After a brief rest, where Major snorkeled in the trough and Cisco ignored the water, we were off on the longer loop. Usually I prefer to do the longer section before a break, but this is how it worked out, and we headed off onto actual Olmstead loop.

horse property on the left, awesome trail access!
down the hill into the cooler, green swale
Gorgeous, dry rolling hills and oak trees interspersed with seasonal ponds, now mostly muddy with green reeds and cooler air. The evil star thistle isn't quite blooming yet, but the telltale blue-green of its invasive, nasty branches are everywhere, poking through the grasses. There was an old orchard, and more fun trail, when we got to the other part of the loop.

cool dead snag, usually home to many creatures
a view all the way into the valley
old orchard ahead on the right
change of terrain
That section's topography changes dramatically, and goes to steep canyons with rocky trails, pine and manzanita, with a few creeks. The horses were lagging a bit, hot and tired, and the rocky trail and downhills didn't help. Major had been drinking like a champ, but Cisco hadn't had a sip, and S was concerned. Knickerbocker Creek was a welcome sight at the bottom of a hill, and we waded in and relaxed a bit, sponging the horses, watching the giant bullfrog tadpoles, butterflies and dragonflies.

No spring this time of year at at McElroy Spring
Knickerbocker Creek, with butterfly on Major's neck!
annoyed horse doesn't like his head sponged

We didn't want to leave, but headed back up the steep hill, making the horses walk. Soon we were on the trail home, but still a long canyon down and back up. But the horses knew were were going home. Cisco lead on the way down the canyon, trotting the gradual descent. There are a few stream crossings, soon to be dry for the summer, but Cisco still didn't drink. Major slurped out of a couple, good boy!

Major's ears say "How far to go? No way!"
We found a little friend in this spring
People swimming in the river, looked so nice and inviting

Crossing No Hands Bridge, and heading back up, Major found another gear, and wanted to lead. We power trotted most of the way up the canyon, cantered in some stretches, the tired horses from before completely forgotten. Cisco finally drank from the tiny spring a couple miles from the end, relief! I was glad to feel that power Major had left, I wasn't sure if this had been too much on a warm day, but bright-eyed and happy as we trotted into the staging area, and dove into the trough with big slurps.

Leaving Black Hole of Calcutta, sweaty, salty going-home ears

Major munched on grass, had a little mash, and loaded up for home. Another adventure complete, a good ride with a friend, a happy horse: that'll do...

stats and questions: 23.5 miles, 5.5 average moving speed, moving time 4:18. Pretty good for all the climbing (from 1300 feet, down to 500, up to 1500, and back, not counting all the in between!). I'm really happy with Major's attitude, drinking and energy at the end. I know we can tackle close to the LD distance without too much difficulty. Ready for a 50? Not sure, but I know the 50 is not just another 25, it is another 25 after you just did one, and are tired and have to keep going. It seems like too much to consider, but a 20+ mile trial ride used to seem huge too! Still pondering.


  1. Sounds like a great ride! Love the photos

    1. It was great fun. Soon it will be way too hot out there!

  2. Are there significant stretches of time when it really is too hot to ride in your area? We spend so much of the year waiting for the rain to stop up here and the trails to dry out, but it rarely gets too hot.

    1. We ride all year, but most of the summer is more than 95 degrees, and really dry. We'll get no more rain until October, really, not a drop! In the summer you just ride early, try to be done by noon, or after 7pm. It is nice to be able to ride near the river and lake and have some water access. All our trails are dry and rock hard right now, most seasonal streams are just a trickle. That turtle will dig under some cool log and wait for rainy season again.

  3. Holy cow girl! Ready for a 50? YOU BET!! That's a tough loop you guys just rocked at an awesome time. Especially in the heat and without all the additional "oomph" the horses get at an actual ride. You and Major are TOTALLY ready to go tackle that longer distance. When you start doing LD rides as training rides at home, you're ready. ;)

    Go get 'em!

    1. awww, thanks!

      And I did it..sent in my entry for the Wild West 50. Only totally/completely freaking out now...

  4. I'm excited for you! Keep us posted on your progress, I'm hoping to attempt with Cartman, just don't know when that will be. Any advice for others attempting to move up in distance will be greatly appreciated:)

    1. Thanks! Scary to move to 50s after one 25, I'm sure I'll have lots of advice after the ride... hopefully what to do to be successful!