Wednesday, August 21, 2019

tevis sweep 2019

I'm still blowing dust out of my nose, and I only rode 10 miles! (lengthy saga below, short version: a long, dusty day where everyone stayed safe, yeah!)

My sweep this year was from Dusty Corners (about 45 miles in) to Deadwood (about 55 miles in). In between is the Last Chance vet stop, then a huge canyon, then the Devil's Thumb water stop. Why so many stops in that short mileage? Because of that huge canyon! Wanting to make sure the horses going into the canyon are well, then watering them right when they are out. And people too, as many hike down and/or up to save their horses.

Just getting to Dusty Corners is a trek, about 2.5 hours of driving. Luckily we had a great driver and I just got to enjoy the scenery (if precipitous cliffs on a mostly one-lane road and canyon views are your thing!). We were there at 1:30, tacked up, and waited for the final riders. We watched a few riders come through, then they said only two more were out…then three came in!! That is why we wait for the next sweep team, as communication in the back country and lots of volunteers counting can lead to mistakes.

trying to be patient (he was not successful…)

We saw the sweep team come in (they would take our trailer to Foresthill) and then booked it down the trail! We wanted to be pretty close (not viewing distance, but no more than 10 minutes) behind the last folks down the canyon. Sadly (for me only probably) they had to take out the Pucker Point trail this year (cows everywhere on cliffs is not a good situation) but that did make the dirt road into Last Chance a nice trottable section!

One person missed the cutoff time, and there were two vet-hold horses, all who would be taken out by trailer, so we were cleared to go down the trail. The volunteers were so helpful, I just had to explain we hadn't done much yet! So we headed out of Last Chance and started down the canyon. Gorgeous views and terrible footing, single track and switchbacks, rocks held together with dust. As the slowest downhill horse Major was tripping over hidden rocks in the dust, and had to keep being reminded to watch himself and slow down, and we were both breathing it in (bandana was forgotten in my saddlebag, damn!). About half-way down the canyon you can see the water, and it looks so far down there. But in no time, because of the steepness, you're at the bridge!

the other side, just go down then up, easy?!

starting down before the singletrack switchbacks

the camera doesn't quite capture how dusty it can be

really, there is a river down there!

Major was a bit of a brat, and I wasn't paying enough attention, so I got dragged into the water, luckily just up to my knees. I think he would have kept going deeper, but I was able to stop him. The day was surprisingly cool (about 85 probably), which really helped the riders. We didn't have to help anyone in the canyon! (In hot years it is a major place to help folks out).

river horse is splashy

Crossed the swinging bridge and up the other side. The volunteer at the bridge had counted 151 riders through at that point. We headed up the switchbacks (this side is a 20% grade, which might not sound like much, but is about as steep as they make trails). About 3/4 up the hill (Major was leading, and we were stopping at each switchback to wait for the team as he was in power-horse mode) Major stopped to rub his nose on his knee. We stopped at the next switchback about 50 feet up the trail. As the other horses came through they were attached by bees/hornets/whatever evil thing was nesting in the ground! Have you ever had to canter up the steepest switchbacks you've ever ridden? We did! We had to go quite a ways before the bees stopped chasing us, and both horses behind me and one rider were stung as well (we heard some competitors got stung too, damn!).

almost too top, shady evening

what we crossed (just one canyon though!)

So we came into Devil's Thumb very hot, Major was finally smart and tanked up on the water. But there count was 151, so we hadn't left anyone behind, yeah! Onward the short mile to Deadwood. All was well, the next sweep team rook off, and we untacked the hot, sweaty horses. Then wait, they counted only 150, we might need to go out again! After a few minutes they luckily got it all straightened out, and we rested a bit before the long drive back.

Another 2 hour drive and we were back at Foresthill, with all the craziness of literally hundreds of (well-organized) people and volunteers to organize trailers, riders, horses, vets, vendors and more. Once more out of a trailer and into another (with nary a complaint, good boy Major!), swapping tack and then driving back to pick up my trailer. Then finally home, about 8pm. Major was so happy to roll and drink his own water (and eat his belated dinner!).

Tevis is a serious commitment, for literally everyone involved. It take a village a city of people to organize. I had riding friends finish, and friends pulled, and even a friend helped by another group of sweep riders. Even after the very long day, I was happy to be out there helping. It might not be my dream, but I'm glad to help out for those who dream (100 miles, 18,000+ elevation gain, 22,000+ elevation loss) big.

1 comment:

  1. Scary ground bee chase scene - I hate me some ground bees. Glad everything ended up well - you and Major are awesome to volunteer!