Friday, July 31, 2015


Call it luck, or fortune, or hard work and dedication. Call it chance, or love, determination or just stubbornness. They all apply.

Six years ago: I was lucky enough to find this gorgeous, talented, ridiculous horse. He has reminded me of the meaning of all those words (and more, including a few four letter ones). Thank you Major!

Major poser

I'm too sexy for my saddle

not me, I don't know how the water tipped over!

oh, you wanted a photo? What cha' got?

50 years ago: My amazing parents were married. They taught me first about love and fun and hard work. All of which I draw on for endurance. We'll be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this weekend.

This year: I will be missing all the Tevis activities: watching the horses trot through Foresthill, cheering on my friends, the quiet stadium erupting in cheers as horse and rider pass under the final banner. I hope everyone has a safe journey and I wish them all luck.

But I'm the luckiest.

Monday, July 27, 2015

detour: mountain lakes

One recent hot week, I just had to get out. Last minute, the mountains were calling. Major was not invited this time, which makes camping a little easier. So all packed, we headed for the mountains…until we were stopped by a wildland grass fire. We detoured about 60 miles out of our way, THEN we were on our way again!

low water at Ice House reservoir

lines of pollen show the water level receding

The big campgrounds at the reservoirs were filled, even the walk-in sites, but we found a lovely quiet spot in ye old Wench Creek campground. One nice thing is even if all campgrounds are filled you can dry camp (but no fires) in most areas of the forest, so you can always find a spot if needed!

great for last-minute camping
Silver creek

But not much time was spent in camp, as there were explorations to be made. This area has access to the Desolation Wilderness, a glorious place where rock and sky meet. But my still-healing ankle wasn't up to very many miles, so lunch packed, water bottles filled, we headed out at the Rockbound trailhead for a shorter day hike. Even a day hiker needs a permit here, as they like to track how trails are used/overused (and to start the search if you are lost, happens ALL the time). But we only saw four other people on trail the whole day.

The trails positively glowed with wildflowers. While there was little rain or snow this year, they have had a few summer storms to refresh them. And the lakes are low, but still lovely and cold. No real destination as a goal, I looked at more wildflowers than rocks, the green soothing and different than my usual drought-stricken views.

the start of the trail

lupine and aster

split rock

Beauty lake and Desolation wilderness

glowing pink

color riot

fading green flowers

only one survived

An easy hike and lunch by an appropriately named Beauty Lake. Then back down to the more populous Wright's lake. I was just about to get in the water when some kids, who'd been playing on a rock and jumping in, started yelling about leeches. I thought they were just recreating an epic scene from the movie Stand by Me, but for sure, they had a few leeches, yuck! I got in anyway, but felt all the sliminess and worried! But I was not as tasty as those little kids, and escaped uneaten.

Wright's lake

Wright's lake meadow area

There was also fire lookout that allowed exploring, and we climbed the steep staircase for an even grander view. This lookout and the entire forest around it burned in the 1992 Cleveland Fire. They rebuilt and this is still an active working fire lookout, and probably spotted the recent Kyburz fire (still burning but better containment, and they were using the lakes we visited to scoop water for the helicopters!). The forest has recovered enough to reveal a bear as he crossed the road, and disappeared into trees on the other side.

Big Hill fire lookout

epic view

reservoir at sunset

A good, cool, quick escape. Sneaking in a few days vacation is as refreshing as the lakes. It is going to be more than 100 degrees again this week, I'll try to remember those green meadows and reflecting blue lakes…

Campfire and best part of the trip: delicious vegetarian marshmallows! My life is complete...

“The mountains are calling and I must go.” 
—John Muir

Monday, July 20, 2015

full contact sport

People who do not ride, or who have only casually done a vacation trail ride, will not quite understand. But this is not an easy sport, to be taken lightly. As I was reminded of on my last ride, when my lovely forest view between bay ears suddenly became a view from ground level underneath my horse!

The ride started out casually enough. I was headed maybe into the forest, maybe to the lake, maybe just around? It all depended on how fast it got hot. No set plans. So I headed on out on a nicely walking Major, across the newly-blacktopped (Major thought it a little suspicious) road, and into the forest.

The poison-oak is dull red or dried up already, the buckeye have shed all leaves, and it looks like the inside of an oven out there. But the drought-resistant oaks still shade the trails, though their branches hang lower every day. And I ducked to go under one…and then WHAM, was on the ground under my horse.

Best guess it that the branch grabbed my helmet vent and held me back while Major kept going. I, of course, landed in the tiny sticky burrs, reins still in my hand, and Major looking down at me "What the hell just happened!?"

I dusted myself off and walked a bit. I was mostly none the worse for wear except for the burrs embedded in my arm, and covering my tights. I praised Major for immediately stopping, not stepping on me as I lay underneath him, and mainly just acting like his rider is an idiot (this time, yes!). I'll take that any day, good boy!

view of Folsom lake pond

So I let Major choose what to do for the rest of the ride (within reason). I like to see what trails he picks, which way we come home, what obscure way he will go. We trotted and galloped all over, he took this turn and that, and we ended up down by the lake for a bit, and also on the upper trails. It was a fun fast ride, though I was feeling some stiffness by the time we turned around about six miles into the ride.

Avery Pond looks nice but low. A deer and egret are both in the shallows!

The mighty sad American river flowing into Folsom

It's hot, can we go home now?
shaded blackberry trail

But back home we went, in sync around curves and turns and over rocks. There were a few other decapitating trees I ducked WAY under and a few stabby branches I leaned to avoid. The last bit though the meadow we were doing a nice canter, when a deer jumped out from the right. Major took one step left (oh, what was that!) then one step back to the right (just a deer) all at full flight. I stayed on and did not end up in the star thistle plants, thank goodness!

slightly suspicious new stumps

down the rocks

It just takes a moment in time for this leisure activity to become a full contact sport. This is not your fairground pony ride…

I am so handsome, thanks for washing the trailer so I can see myself!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

recreating Pamplona

a baby mantis stays out of reach of hooves

Run lizards, run for your lives!

As Major powers down the trail, small creatures scatter. Always alert for rattlesnakes, I focus ahead, but only see smaller reptiles scattering into the dusty weeds. Mostly small Western Fence lizards, who were nonchalantly sunning themselves until we thunder by.

blackberries on the right!

They have different evasion techniques: some dart right, some veer left, others freeze, then run straight down the trail away from us, hooves coming perilously close!

all dry and brown...or golden if you're optimistic

I've always imagined that maybe it's the lizard game of chicken, or a rite of passage for stupid teenage lizards. But today was the running of the bulls in Pamplona, maybe these lizards are the equivalent to the idiots who run from huge bulls through the streets to the arena (and the bulls final tragic demise, a truly awful event to me).

On a happier note, I don't think we trampled any. Though there was one that was a bit different. Or maybe Major saw something else on the trail. The wind was blowing, the temperature was cool, I was trying to slow him down, as he slammed on the breaks and spun. I somehow stayed on. A shadow? Who knows what he sees...

On the way home the lizards were safe. Major was tortured by walking the final mile home. I use the term "walking" loosely. Walk a few steps, attempt to trot, no, you will walk, repeat over and over. And stand still for just a minute while I eat these delicious blackberries overhanging the trail. Major had some too. And he found a good place to scratch an itch on the way home. Some summer evenings are just perfect.

itchy this side
and the other

Monday, July 6, 2015

small town holiday

low water at the South Yuba river

A 100 degree holiday calls for water. But to make it really worthwhile, you gotta hike to it.

Down the canyon (only about 1.5 miles) to Illinois Crossing. Hard to believe this hard-to-access canyon used to be a main crossing, with a toll bridge, during the gold rush. The bridge was destroyed by a water event (flooding, maybe from upstream placer mining?) in 1861. I did not see any evidence of its existence, nature erasing all human activity.  There were however two new age gold miners, using the same old tools of bucket, shovel and pan. 150 years of similarity.

down to Illinois Crossing

a trickle of Kennebec creek

A sluggy buddy takes a drink

ferns fight for life in the rock

The South Yuba river is a warm trickle, but some spots are deep enough for hidden swimming holes. Relax and read, or stack rocks for hours without interruption. My kind of holiday.

taking a dip

balancing act

But eventually it is time to get back into town. Can't miss the parade! Well, if you blink too long you might. The parade route is about a mile long, with people scattered about our section. It was 95 in the shade, children were crying, adults were whining (maybe that was just me), but then came the fire trucks!
Sirens blaring, horns honking, weaving across the road. Impressive. I liked the big yellow one!

Then come random cool old cars with various local people of importance: parade marshall, congressional politician, beauty queens from tiny tots to mature women, all in tiaras, waving slowly, makeup melting in the heat.


Next are some random groups: I liked that the Obama's made a local appearance on the Democrats float! Balanced by the Tea Party truck and State of Jefferson truck. Oh, the politics of the 4th!

see the Obama's in the back of the truck!

Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, a small boy driving a tractor while another small (but loud!) boy yelled through a megaphone about something. The local Lions club drives a motorhome though too.


But then come riding horses! Prancing down the street, glorious shiny beasts. This impressive charro group also rode the Christmas parade.
carrying the flags
this horse was huge!

that tail!

Two cute girls ride by on an unflappable bay and chestnut, while their mothers push the manure cart. And a cart is pulled by matching grays (shires?) then another group of four riders with random horses with sparkly painted hooves.


After that a few more trucks for other local businesses, more cool old cars, and the whole parade is done. The half hour of local patriotism heads for the fairground for more festivities.

We headed to the local taqueria for yummy food. If you're in town for Tevis, I recommend it, right in upper downtown. With a horseshoe for a name and logo, can't go too wrong.


We watched the fireworks from the horse staging area, where in three weeks Tevis finishers will come up to the large trough in the dark, knowing they are out of the last canyon, mere feet to go. This night was louder and brighter, with fireworks exploding once darkness set in, multi-colored rockets lighting the night.


In three weeks it will be quieter. The fairgrounds will have a much smaller crowd cheering on the horse and rider teams as they cross the finish line. But for the riders it will be a worthy celebration.

jupiter and venus together