Tuesday, September 29, 2015

detour: the fog horn

Some people look at them and call them lighthouses. I look at them and only think of the foghorn, because of one short story.

Ever read a story that years and years later just stays with you? For me, that story was (and is) The Fog Horn. It is such a part of memory I cannot remember the first time I read it. It is the shortest of stories that resonates within me, the way a foghorn sounds off into the night. Ray Bradbury was the master of this, and if you want to read his much more eloquent words, look it up (here it is.)

down to the cliff edge

partway there

The Point Reyes Lighthouse sits below the cliff, so it can be below the fogline. You can see it long before you walk down the many steps, and on the clear, amazing day I was there it certainly didn't seem necessary. Now everything is GPS and an LED beacon, but the old lighthouse still stands, guarding the shore since 1870.

watching, waiting

clouded glass barely shows the amazing, old fresnel lens

I've been here plenty of times before, but it had been a few years, and it is always fun to revisit favorite places. Especially when the weather at the coast was as glorious as this! There is a small additional building that housed much of the other equipment, still in place though non-functioning. Giant air-pressure tanks to sound the fog horn, pressure gauges and more.

lighthouse floor

old foghorn

old gauges and dials

lighthouse stairs

not-as-old lock, but still cool

I looked out at the sea, and heard the desolate sound of the fog horn, and even in the blue sky and bright sunlight, I could picture that night from the story. Chilling.

tiny lichen mountain

But you don't stay chilled long when you have to hike back up those stairs! Luckily the view is rewarding, towards South and North beach, a vast expanse of sand and treacherous waves.

Luckily the protected beach at Drake's Bay was windless and uncrowded, a few seabirds below the light cliffs. History and lore says that Sir Francis Drake, sailing for England and going around the world, stopped here in 1579 to repair his ship, The Golden Hind. We just sat on nice beach towels and enjoyed the sun and waves (and a good book.)

white cliffs and empty beach

a found treasure, left for someone else to discover

A quick side-trip over to North Beach, where in the distance you can see the cliff that houses the lighthouse, but the beach is steep and the waves crash with enough power to suck you under. Most people watch from the shore, as a few surfers brave the water. A good place to just walk along, find a log to sit on, and watch the incessant waves.

distant outcropping hides the lighthouse

I would love to go out on that lonely point, on a foggy night, and read that story aloud. Until then, I'll visit in the daylight, and still get chills.

"One day many years ago a man walked along and stood in the sound of the ocean on a cold sunless shore and said "We need a voice to call across the water, to warn ships; I'll make one.  I'll make a voice that is like an empty bed beside you all night long, and like an empty house when you open the door, and like the trees in autumn with no leaves.  A sound like the birds flying south, crying, and a sound like November wind and the sea on the hard, cold shore.  I'll make a sound that's so alone that no one can miss it, that whoever hears it will weep in their souls, and to all who hear it in the distant towns.  I'll make me a sound and an apparatus and they'll call it a Fog Horn and whoever hears it will know the sadness of eternity and the briefness of life.""

The Fog Horn blew."

Thursday, September 24, 2015

days of confusion

The days around here don't know to be summer or fall, the calendar might change, but the days blend into one another. Then fall retreats and summer surges back, 95 degrees while autumn leaves begin to show their colors.
golden trail

So some water beckoned. Major just loves playing the the lake, but it hasn't been safe, as the water is too far down and the mucky, sinky bottom is exposed. So upstream a bit, where the river runs over rock safely, was our destination. I started a bit later than usual, but it wasn't too hot yet, though I still trotted those sunny parts of the trail, and slowed in the shade!

Major knew our destination, and veered off the trail so he could attempt to plow down the hill like some horse from "Man from Snowy River." No, not gonna happen! Though I'm glad he is so happy to be out here! We negotiated the rocky slope from a less-steep angle, then charged into the water. Silly horse.

water horse


We wandered about the water, some shallow, the deepest no higher than his knees. He played snorkeling (most fun when facing into the current and blowing bubbles) and I just enjoyed him being happy.
bad hair day

After about 15 minutes,  I put a little leg on, saying, "OK, time to go home." And he dropped his head and snorkeled some more. Every time. Cracked me up, so I had to take a video…and almost dropped my phone in the water! Now it was really time to go home.

The shady trail was welcome, the autumn leaves overhead an odd juxtaposition to the hot weather, and Major was happy enough to actually walk portions of the trail home. He gave the stink-eye to the muscle car parked just off the trail "You might have more horsepower, but I'm the original off-road vehicle."

orange muscle car not as cool as Major

What an awesome summer, seen from the back of my horse. Welcome fall.

up the hill, lake (pond) in the distance

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


The first drops hit my windshield on the way to the barn. Rain was coming. It felt like all of nature held her breath to see if this was the real thing. 

I saddled up while a few drops made it through the oak canopy above. 

Down the lane the drops were few and far between. Was this rain fading already?

But raindrops continued to dot the dust as we walked through open spaces in the forest. 

Trees breathed a sigh of relief as months of dust were washed from their leaves. Even Major (also known as he-who-melts-in-the-rain) didn't seem to mind the drops splashing his face, dotting his neck, sparkling in his mane. 

The air already smelled less of smoke and dust, and instead of that damp cry for greenness found only in a forest desperate for moisture. 

The drizzle continued, and we crossed the road smelling of warm, wet asphalt. 
The raindrops were enough to finally stop causing tiny puffs in the dust, and instead to wet the surface, small drops giving way to general damp. The trees spilled heavy, fat drops onto my helmet, my saddle, down my neck. 

I unsaddled and found a fresh apple for Major, added a little alfalfa to his grass ration, and just stood in the rain. A little wet. A lot grateful. 

Is this early rain a harbinger of more storms, a predicted El NiƱo, a minuscule dent in a huge drought?

We can only breathe that after-rain smell and hope for more. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

a tale of two rides

What better way to end the summer than a ride on the back of a good horse. But I was riding Major (he did redeem himself later)…

I knew there might be interesting times ahead when Major was already standing at the gate, ready to go, when I drove up. I worked on tacking him up as he ate some breakfast hay. I had just undone his halter to put on his bridle (I just unclip the lead rope and tie the halter around his neck as a grab strap, not still tied, too dangerous if he pulled back) when the barn staff made a noise that would normally go ignored by Major. Instead he lifted his head, realized he wasn't tied, looked right at me, and ran up the hill! Luckily all still in fencing, and he didn't go far, but oh my, this is my morning already!

riding through the fancy neighborhood to get to trails (photo by E)

Major hears monsters, Tux ignores him (photo by E)

Easily caught, Major thought this was a fun morning! We headed out to meet Tux and E, and had to walk a couple different streets than usual, all early morning, no traffic. Major was looky and prancing along. When we got to Tux's house, Major was happy to see him, but Tux is a bit nervous of Major, not that guy again! But we headed off down the street to the trail, where Major proceeded to try and pull my arms out and Tux decided that bucking was more fun than trotting, both horses in fine, obnoxious form for the next two hours.

you're doing it wrong Tux!

this is how you splash! (photo by E)

Just follow me, we'll cross the whole river…only six inches deep (Photo by E)
Back home I didn't think twice: I put my tack in my trailer, ready to go out the next day and reinforce some good behavior!

The next morning Major was waiting at the gate, and jumped in the trailer. We went up to Auburn, where a few early-morning riders were also taking advantage of the cooler morning to get an early start. "We should chase them!" Major thought. We did not. We walked, and nicely trotted, until we did catch up to them and pass, but only because all the other users were just walking slowly along.

gratuitous No Hands photo, nice and empty this early!

Near the bottom of the canyon Major did find his motor, but was not naughty about it, so we power trotted along the wider old railroad trail and across No Hands bridge, then started up the other side. We came to the turnoff for the steep Pig Farm trail, which I'd planned on avoiding. Major looked and wanted to turn that direction, and I said "OK buddy, you picked it, no complaining," and up we went.

pig farm trail was a blur of steep

cairn at the top, with dumbbells (!?)

He didn't complain, though we did slow in spots to catch his breath, as he is not in the shape he was earlier this summer (round is a shape, right?). At the top, there is now a strange little cairn at the sign for Training Hill. There are a few coins, a dollar bill, beads, and dumbbells. A tribute left by runners who make it to the top?

We continued on towards the staging area on this side, with a lovely trough. I fed Major a few carrots but he didn't want any water, and wasn't winded or seeming tired, so we waited a few minutes then turned back around. Major hates leaving this staging area. Maybe he thinks there should be a trailer waiting for him (there never has been), or wants to explore more (we have on other days), but we had a canyon to cross again, so back we have to go!

Olmstead looking particularly golden

wild grape along a dry creek
"Not Pig Farm trail again!" Not this time Major

dragging, dragging, posing, dragging…

Across the pretty meadows, filled with golden grass, and down the canyon, where I hike most of the way down while Major drags behind. We're going home, where is that hot horse I rode yesterday? I know he is not that tired, just uninspired. We started passing some runners and hikers heading up, that cheered him up. And then we cross No Hands bridge again, and he knows there is only four miles to go.

a different perspective

towering rocks, and getting hot out too

But he was so good! Away from home, and no other similarly-minded naughty horses to feed off of, I have a different horse. One day naughty, one day good. Will he get older and wiser? Maybe. Or maybe this is just who he is, this shiny, silly, brown, crazy, fun horse. I'll ride the horse I have that day, and be glad for the time.

watching the other trailers

don't bother me, I'm having lunch

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

rider error

Don't get cocky out there. Your horse WILL humble you.

Major has been so good, we go out a couple times a week, typically a longer ride, then a shorter jaunt, all fun. After a spring and summer of trail rides, he doesn't rush home as much, we can go at any speed, he stays in control and is good.

where is the lake?

So we headed out for a quick after-work ride. It was a little cloudy and humid, but not 100 degrees, so that is great! I was originally going to hike, but then I realized I had some time, tossed on the saddle, didn't worry about booting him, and headed out. Walking up the road he was being so good I never put the bit on my halter-bridle, just left the reins clipped to the halter, and we headed out into the forest and down to the lake.

such a desolate view, though I still love it

amazing clouds

We meandered about, walking, trotting, he listened to hands and seat no problem. Even just a verbal whoa got him to stop, even once we turned towards home. We had to bushwhack past fallen trees, over logs, then back on trail. Good boy! Trotting home, loose rein, no bit, this was great!

dead snag, home to woodpeckers

old amaryllis still bloom in hidden forest spots

Until it wasn't. Major decided, as we were nicely trotting along, that he had behaved enough! Let's just all of a sudden just take off, wheee! for home. He said "Fuck you" to my aids, voice commands, etc. He was tearing down the trail, branches whipping by, I leaned forward and grabbed his halter and turned him (since reins, even one rein stop, was to no effect in the halter). We stopped amongst branches, heart in my throat, him prancing like an idiot.

Crisis averted. And that was REALLY stupid rider error. I KNOW this horse, he is not that good. I want him to be that good, but without lots of additional training, he is not. He is hot and forward and shouldn't be trusted in just a halter out on the trail. His mellow nature when not being ridden just overcomes my rational thinking. Out on the trail the bit went in, and we worked over that area until Major could walk nicely all the way home.

Lesson learned. Which I'll probably forget, as I can certainly reference some other posts on this blog where I have made stupid decisions with my horse. We forget, as that is in our nature. But for now, lesson learned.

Oh, I CAN walk nicely! I forgot...