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.


  1. The more I hear of the Tevis trail the more I think its not in the cards for me. This SOS stuff on the other hand, yes please! I'll try a 100 miles elsewhere without cliff nonsense, haha.

    1. The cliffs aren't so bad once you get used to them, at least you're not a flatlander! If you ever work your way this direction I bet our mountains would be calling: sweep, Tevis or just adventure!

  2. I would love to do sweep riding ...getcto experience Tevis withoutcthe stress! cool...

    1. Exactly! I hope to do other trail sections as well.

  3. So jealous you got to sweep up there! "Only" sweep riders, hahah. We're so lucky to have yall, and I think most people realize that!

    Entirely ignoring the fact that I live in Oakland, I couldn't SOS ride with Dixie. Her slow lazy walk is pretty fast, and her Getting It Done walk is even faster. We'd both be miserable with me constantly checking her back to walk with the others.

    Liz - I don't think Tevis is in the cards for you any time soon just because you live so far away. You are fearless, with surefooted little goats to ride, and if you move to the Rockies you will be plotting Tevis before you know it. ;)

    1. It was a great trail section. Major was frustrated in the beginning, but then resigns himself. I wouldn't torture him like that too often, it isn't very fair, but for one day he can deal with it and be a slow trail horse.

      I'd love to ride the section with other endurance riders, just NOT during Tevis!