21 miles, 3500' of climbing, 4 hours moving time.
It was a beautiful day, with gorgeous scenery and great company on the trail. I got a little sun on my arms for the first time in what, six months? Whee! My scheme of bringing a case of beer instead of a side dish to potlucks is going over gangbusters and winning me tons of new friends. My feet in their silly barefoot shoes do not hurt. My husband is coming home tomorrow. And I think that's all the blessings I can count for today!
Look at this fine-looking (slightly dirty) Viking war pony!
We set off down the hill. I love these shots - did you know that Lake Tahoe is right behind that mountain? Did you know it's just chilling out a thousand feet above Washoe Valley at the base of that mountain? It really trips me out, thinking about it. Lake Tahoe's surface is a thousand feet higher than the valley, but it's deeper than Washoe Valley. It's a really unbelievably big lake, yall.
These trails are steep and rocky at the best of times. Today was not actually the best of times - we got some snow on Wednesday, then it warmed up and the snow is melting as fast as it can, which means the trails are tiny muddy rivers.
At one point, Dixie was powerwalking up a huge hill (passing Arabs left and right!) and we hit a section that was basically a ditch. Instead of walking sensibly in the bottom of the ditch, she was walking on the slippery side of the ditch. Right as I thought to myself "if this silly horse doesn't get off this slope she's going to slip" she slipped and fell down, very delicately and lightly, on my right leg. I got ice cold mud all over my leg, but I just stepped off and led her a little way down the trail to make sure she wasn't hurt. She was fine, but she'd lost a boot, so I got ice cold mud all over my gloves and hands as I washed off the straps and jammed it back on.
And that's pretty much how my day went. No injuries, no catastrophies, just a lot of minor-to-middlin' Slightly Bad Things.
I think this is Reno, waaay away to the north, but it's a really pretty photo regardless.
The first loop, 12 miles, went pretty well actually. I started in with a big group of people I know (shout outs to all my peeps) and things went better than I'd hoped. People would be inspired to power trot past us on gradual climbs, then Dixie and I would catch up and smoke them on the downhills, or (gasp!) we'd catch them at a walk on the steep climbs and pass them. I never thought I'd see the day where my big cow of a TWH would manage to pass an Arab on the uphill. Then we'd slow down and another group would catch the spirit and boogie on past us, and the cycle would repeat.
I think this is A, on Fire, who I rode in the Lake Almanor LD last year.
It was actually everything I love about the spirit of endurance. Nobody cared if you rode off in the middle of a conversation - you gotta ride your own ride. Everybody politely let me pass when I asked, and I got clear of people booking past me. We'd just pick up where we left off when we ended up near each other again.
The ribbons were plentiful but erratic. Hey, it's NEDA, it's a low budget low stress fun experience, not an FEI ride. The markers used mostly pink, but they ran out of pink and switched to multicolored part of the way through the marking experience - so about 2/3 of the first loop and 1/3 of the second loop were pink. The rest of the ride was random ribbons. They were always on the right, and the turns were well marked, and there were plenty of confidence ribbons.
The cottonwoods? willow things? are budding out!
Somehow Dixie lost two boots, front right and left rear, on the long downhill back to camp. I thought about going back, I really did, but I figured I'd come find them later or some kind soul on a short horse would find them for me. A kind soul (on a tall horse) DID find them and returned them to me at a little seasonal spring, but we were only a mile or so from camp and they were mud-caked so I just plodded on half-booted.
We walked in to camp and Dixie pulsed down (64) in a couple of minutes. There's no hold in NEDA rides, but I like to take 20 minutes or so at the trailer, and I got to spend those 20 minutes scrubbing all four boots in a bucket of water and putting them back on. Please, little boots, I thought, just one more loop!
I also shed my jacket and headed back out in my magical sports-bra-tank-top and a fuzzy sleeveless vest. Do you note a pattern of ridiculous optimism?
I headed back out with four people. L was riding Ebony, who's like always the top points horse in NEDA - but she's usually pulling a cart. Ebony was sure she needed to pass all the other horses but then maybe she should slow down and gawk at all the sagebrush she usually doesn't see while pulling a cart wearing blinders. L was kicking like a kid on a lesson pony, so I handed her my over-and-under and Ebony squealed like a pig and decided to just trot up the damn hill. We got to the top of the hill together and took a breather, then Dixie went powerwalking down the back side and I didn't see L again til after the ride.
We chased a disappearing tail up endless mountains for a long time, until suddenly we were alone. Our three buddies were far behind us, and the horse we were chasing had gone out of sight, and it was just me and Dixie.
I started to worry about ribbons. Dixie decided we were lost and slowed down. Boots kept coming off. I got cold because we were going slow and I'd left my sweatshirt at the trailer.
It's a Nevada Endurance Thing.
I spent the next
Dixie also knew we were lost. There were no horses for hundreds of miles and her stupid human had led her into the wilderness to die. She slowed down to a crawl. At one boot-fixing pit stop, I snapped off the biggest juniper branch I could grab, but it was only like 12" long. Based on her reaction, it must've felt quite nice as I thwapped her madly about the neck, shoulders, butt, and flanks to try to get her to trot on the nice downhill sections.
Eventually, we moseyed near enough one of those cottonwood/willow things for me to get a Proper Horse Beating Stick, and I snapped off something north of three feet long. Of course, by that time we were only a mile or so from camp, and Dixie had decided that we were actually on the right trail headed in the right direction, and I only had to wiggle my stick to get a trot.
And then we finally caught up to another rider a quarter mile from camp. I'm sure I get no credit at all in Dixie's mind for getting us home safe: we were alone, and things were terrible; we found another horse, and YAY CAMP!
I rode into camp, flung my stick dramatically into the bushes, slithered off my horse, and announced that I hated my horse, the sport, and horses in general. Beth immediately produced a beer that she'd saved for me and I decided that perhaps hate was a strong word.
We finished with 21.1 miles on the GPS, and I'd hit stop at some point because I hung it on a different spot on the saddle, so I'm calling it exactly 22 miles. Ribbons on the right. Watch the hoofprints. Trust the ribbons.
I ate a lot of fried chicken and a handful of Fritos and felt quite a bit better about things. Dixie ate some hay, and some ration balancer, and some hay pellets, and drank a couple gallons of water, and looked pretty good. This is way too long anyway, so tomorrow I'll talk about Everything I Did Wrong.