Saturday, 22 May 2010

The Trail

It brings a sparkle to the eye. Racing is fun, competition is exciting, but The Trail is the jewel. I've known a few ride managers over the years that have gone to extremes to put together a special trail, or series of trails - Jackie Bumgardner, Barbara McRary Crocket Dumas, Dave Nicholson, Randy Eiland, Sarah Metcalf - Jose Manuel Soto, Luiz Enrique Opazo - I know there are more, but these people stand out in my personal experience. And there are some amazing trails such as Bighorn and Tevis and Old Dominion and Florac and Shazada and Al Andalus, Torres del Paine, ... huge efforts, big ambition, totally driven by The Trail.

I guess I'm pretty driven by The Trail too, here in my own Owyhee back yard (though I've dreamed of putting together rides in other places, and still may!). If we could just go there... and there... and maybe even there! There's so much variety here - the river, the canyons, the creeks, the mountains, the ranges... putting everything together for a ride is something I just totally enjoy. And the ride, The Trail, gives me a reason to get out and explore, and mark trail (a chance to slow down and really see the trail), and play with maps and Google Earth. All that really fun stuff.

I got an email today from a fellow trail enthusiast that made me smile. Tom Noll has encouraged me to use a beautiful, but technical section of trail along the Snake River for the 80 and 100 mile distances of the Fandango. I asked him if he could flag it and maybe cut some of the brush down. He was planning on doing it today, but it was a NASTY NASTY day - snow (in MAY!!) and wind and I figured he'd wait till tomorrow... not Tom. Here's his email:


Carrie Thorburn and I marked the Whiskey Traverse earlier today. It was wet, it was cold, and it was windy. We were getting chilled by the time we reached the fence west of the petroglyph field. We didn't want to spend the time to trim the brush so we just pushed on through on our way back. I was worried about hypothermia because of the wet and cold.

The trail is lightly marked west from the fence through the boulders until the talus slope chokes the path down. The path is very well marked through the rocky talus section. The trail is lightly marked again from the rocky stretch to the bridge. Even with the light marking, I used nearly a hundred clothes pins. I wanted to do some trimming but we were just getting too cold. Depending on the weather tomorrow, I may go back for the spring pruning. Really, there shouldn't be any problems on the trail -- just keep the river on the right and the cliffs on the left, and reverse the directions on the way back. Put a long-sleeve shirt in the Sierra del Rio vet bag and enjoy the ride.

The stones were wet but both horses worked their way through the rocky section with no problems. I think it will be a great trail for the 80- and 100-mile riders. The river was quiet and slate grey today and the banks were a vivid green. We saw a dozen or more white pelicans on the water below Con Shea road. Even though we were wet and cold, it was a beautiful day and no one else was out on the trail today.

Now I have a fire in the wood stove and will soon begin chopping vegetables for dinner.

Best Regards,

Tom N

It's all about The Trail :)


(photo by Merri)

(photo by Merri)

(photo by Merri)

Monday, 3 May 2010

Owyhee Spring (sort of)

Another fun Owyhee ride on my amazing (to me) horse, with Merri and Jose as the perfect riding partners. Another early morning saddling up here at home, and driving to basecamp in time for vetting in and setting out across the desert. Owyhee Spring (sort of) is a new ride this year. Regina Rose has taken on four Owyhee rides for this season - the (used to be here) Tough Sucker, the Owhee Spring (sort of) and the 2-day Owyhee Halloween. I am soooooo glad she's doing this since I can now go and ride instead of manage. I'm sticking with managing the multiday rides which I really love doing most of all.

So another chance to ride the trails that I'm usually watching other people ride! Regina found some new trails over and around Murphy Butte, and put together a really fine course. The footing was perfect! Some rocky sections along the river and coming down off of the butte, but otherwise firm dirt roads and cow trails for mile after mile. And bountiful grass every step of the way for quick bites when the pace slowed down. Merri and Jose (and the Raven) are really the perfect riding partners. Rhett and Jose are buddies, they are very well paced, both very comfortable at a 10mph trot, both can lead without upsetting the other, they have a little competition between them which keeps them both engaged. Merri is always taking photos so I'll be able to look back at the ride and remember the trail. The Raven is a silent riding partner, but we all know he's there. We joined up with Richard White and his new awesome horse Kryptoknight as we came up out of the river and the three of us rode together the rest of the ride.

I had another one of those amazing rides on my amazing (to me) horse Jaziret. Strong, steady, willing, bold... just pure pleasure. I had planned on gluing boots on him for this ride, having had a less than perfect experience with him in the Gloves at the last ride. But I ran out of time, the weather was crappy, and I reluctantly settled on riding in the Gloves. I took some extra time with his feet though - rasping off all of the flare and rounding his hooves (years of snubbing the toes so he wouldn't stumble made his feet almost boxy) and cutting out the extra frog growth at the heel cleft. This made the Gloves fit better, and I think removing the pressure from the sulcus by carving a deeper groove in the frog made him more comfortable too. He still has a deep cleft between his heels that tends to stay a bit thrushy.

The result was a perfect ride in the Gloves! he was 100% even and steady and felt comfortable all day. At the start and at every hold I doused the inside of the boots at the heel with baby powder, and powdered his fetlocks (he smelled so good :) and I think that may have helped keep his heels dry and free from rubbing. After 60 miles (pretty fast too) he didn't have any issues, I probably could have done another couple loops in them.

For some reason I had it in my head that if we finished this ride Jaziret would reach his 4000 mile mark. I was all excited at the finished, then went to the AERC site to confirm his mileage... 4685.. good grief. So add another 100 to that (mileage credit for the 2003 Pan American) plus 60 from this ride, that puts him at 4845. that's almost 5000. So now I have 155 miles of anticipation ahead of us for our 5000 mile ride :)

I have no idea where the 4k came from, but I obviously don't pay a lot of attention to accumulated mileage and stuff. And I was pretty surprised to get a 13,000 mileage patch in the mail last week. Wow - I vaguely remember the 12k patch.

Now Jaziret gets a month off, I need to start riding the other horses, and have to focus on the Fandango ride coming up. And the forecast for the week is really crappy - cold, wind, maybe even snow flurries. What happened to Spring! The trees are in leave, lots of wild flowers blooming, lush grass everywhere, but this last ride felt more like Owyhee Winter than Owyhee Spring. Sort of spring...


(ride photos by Merri Melde)