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.


  1. Sounds like a really awesome ride. I'm jealous of all your sweet vistas and clear, maintained trail! Major sounds like he is in a really good place a month out, y'all got this!

    1. thanks! These trails are pretty great, where I ride from the stable there is overgrowth and poison oak all over!

    2. I was riding the same trails with farley yesterday! regarding training Hill.... the first year that I did the AR ride with my Standardbred, we had a heat spell and the course included training Hill. my horse was done and I was done by that point and I think it took us 2 hours to make it up, since I had to stop and puke every 3 steps on the side of that hill. I haven't actually been back to that Hill since.

    3. Then we'll have to meet up sometime! Let me know the next time you come this way if you want a riding partner. I am SO glad they took training hill out of the AR ride, your experience sounds awful. I do not have any desire to ever go UP it, or back down it either.

  2. Absolutely! I'll email you when I do another ride up there. I'm still going back and forth whether AR is on my list this year. If I do it I'll do the LD and then some more of my own miles afterwards, but not the 50.

  3. What a fun ride! I love the picture of Major looking at you at the 'Steep' sign, and the body under the rocks! Made me laugh out loud! I am always looking at places the 'bodies' might be hidden. He looks very expressive. Thanks for sharing your adventure!

    1. Thanks Karen! I should listen to him more, he was right about that hill!

  4. I just love how you really capture the "feel" of your condition rides with your commentary and photos. I feel like I was right along with you.. over 22 miles in that amount of time seems like a good steady speed, but yet you stopped alot and took photos . Just out of curiosity, did you rush at all or did you just stay steady? keep up with the fun posts and photos. I love them! And blooking flowers.. just what I needed to see on this gloomy Montana late winter day!

    1. gee, thanks! We did no rushing, Major wasn't that inspired (if we were at home it would be a whole other story). We did steady trotting (I'd say 7-8 mph) and lots of walking too (more than I would do on an endurance ride, or when conditioning with others). It is very hard for me to train at "endurance pace" or faster, which is of course what they recommend.

      I'll keep up the flower photos. Of course, today is the first day of spring and it is raining (finally!).

  5. Yes, you can do this. The ones who get in trouble are the ones who think it's easy. :) Onward...

    1. OK, I can do this, WE can do this...thanks for the pep talk... 8-)

  6. Love your stories. Love your scenery. :)