Sunday, April 22, 2012

25 in Galena: a novel-length post

I cannot figure out what to call this post / this ride. We went up Thomas Creek to the trailhead, then over to Jones/Whites Creek, then over further to Galena Creek Park. So I'm just going to call it the Galena ride!

"You wanna do what?"

All these parks are in the foothills of the Sierras, just north of Mt. Rose Highway, southwest of Reno. A short 40 minute trip from my house, and we actually rode out from C's house! C rode Diego, S rode Taz, I was on Dixie, and despite our best attempts, Jess The Dog busted loose three times to come with us, so C let her come.

We went exploring on the way up - we followed the singletrack along Thomas Creek, then detoured off of that and explored some fire roads, but we couldn't find a horse-safe way to cross Whites Creek. There were some lovely little trails, but they meandered back and forth across 12" wide footbridges. So we kept ending up on boring fire roads and eventually made our way west to the trailheads. There's three trailheads, pretty much in a line running north-south: Galena is the biggest trailhead, with decent trailer parking, just off of Mt. Rose Highway. North of Galena is the little Whites Creek trailhead - good for cars, but not really trailer parking. And maybe a mile north of that is Jones Creek trailhead, which also has trailer parking.

So there's three major trails that run west from those trailheads, along the three creeks then switchbacking up the ridges. There are shorter north-south connector trails between the three creek trails, and there's a few spur trails higher up. We rode south, to the Galena trail, and followed it west and up into the mountains. Our plan was to take the trail over the ridge and then follow the Whites Creek trail back down most of the way to that trailhead, then cut north again to Thomas Creek and follow THAT all the way back to C's. That's probably clear as mud - it's so hard to describe!

The first 10 miles were all new to me. We got to the first good water spot at 10 miles, and I vaguely recognized it - I'd hiked part of this trail, a week after we moved out here! I know you will find this hard to believe, but there was a time when I didn't blog every damn thing I did. :o Anyway, here's some good pictures of the trail from August '09. A lot of this:
Down the trail

The water spot was a creek crossing, ankle-deep on the horses, with some logs for people to walk across. Dixie didn't want any water. I didn't even try to coax her to drink. A ride like that is the perfect opportunity to let her learn from her mistakes - we weren't going fast enough or far enough for her to REALLY get hurt, metabolically speaking, by not drinking right away.

We tackled the climb to the top of the ridge. About 2 miles of switchbacks, not too steep but certainly not easy. (I sure as hell didn't hike all the way up it in '09! Oddly, now that I've been here for two+ years, I think there's plenty of air to breathe, but back then I was gasping just walking across flat ground.) Jess The Dog does not have a firm grasp of the third dimension and was pretty confused by the first couple of switchbacks. Taz would round the hairpin and head on up the trail, then Diego, then Dixie, then Jess would turn around at the hairpin and start back down the trail. I proclaimed her to be The Simple Dog, but after a few switchbacks she figured it out and I had to take it back. She's the Not So Simple Dog.

S and Mt. Rose

Near the top, there's a spur trail that leads off to a pond about a mile away, then the main trail continues over onto the north side of the ridge and down to Whites Creek. Dixie was licking her lips and acting pretty regretful on the big climb to the top, so we took the spur toward the pond. There was a little snow patch that the horses calmly squished through, then a slightly bigger snow patch with a hiker on the other side. He said it was only 5 minutes to the pond so we headed across... like dumbasses.

That 50' of snow on the trail was very quickly belly-deep for the horses. It was Taz in the lead, then Dixie, then Dig, and the horses were too close together - once Taz was committed there was no way to stop Dixie or Dig and turn them around. They went leaping through the snow like giant antelope with us trying to keep them where we thought the trail was and somehow we made it to the clear patch safely. We immediately realized we'd fucked up and decided to turn around, but Diego was having none of it. Every time C turned him to face the snow he was like "oh hell no I'm not going back in THERE" and he'd spin back around to face his buddies. The trail was way too narrow for me to try to squeeze Dixie past a spinning Diego, and I don't think any of us really wanted to RIDE it again anyway, so we got off. C lead Dig slowly through the snow - slowly, because if you stepped in the horse prints you sank past your knees, and if you stepped on the tops of the snow you sank slowly to your calves.

I followed, trying to keep Dixie on the trail and not get stepped on, and S brought up the rear. She let Taz go when he started leaping, so I let Dixie go as she got panicky, and both horses charged past Dig and C at the end of the snowbank. I grabbed Taz's lead on his way past me, and S went off at a fast walk toward Dixie. She went about 20', then changed her mind and came back toward us and I snagged her lead too. GOOD HORSES.

Looking east to Little Washoe Lake

We checked them over. Everybody's boots stayed on - Dixie had a toe strap undone. Dixie had one nick halfway up her rear left cannon, but that was it. We were so lucky to do such a dumb thing and get away with no injuries.

Since we were at the top of the ridge anyway, we checked the trail heading down the north side, but we almost immediately ran into a tiny patch of snow on the trail and decided OH HELL NO. So back down the switchback, back to the creek crossing, where Dixie decided that the water was DELICIOUS. A loose stray dog, a pack of day trippers, and a guy on a mountain bike weren't enough to stop her from drinking.

(Another '09 picture)
No bikes past this point

Dixie led on the way down the steep bit of the trail. She's got a nice fast downhill walk and she usually watches where she's going quite well. Except once, where she tripped on a tiny rock and almost went down. I put out a hand on the dirt to roll off (to the right, for once), realized she wasn't going all the way down, braced everything and leaned back, and up she came again. I sort of shook out my shoulders and thought "did that just happen?", but yes, it did happen - S and C saw it.

We took the same route back north to Whites Creek, then headed west up the Whites Creek trail toward the cutoff to Dry Pond and Thomas Creek. The signs said 0.7 miles to the Dry Pond turnoff, and we'd gone about 0.6 when we saw some hikers coming down. We asked them how far they'd gone, and they said they'd just turned back at a big tree across the trail and they hadn't passed the Dry Pond turnoff, so we turned around.

Back down to the paved road, a quarter mile or so to the Thomas Creek trailhead, a stop for a drink in the creek, and we headed down the singletrack along the creek back to C's house. Once Dixie started drinking, she drank at every opportunity. All the horses enjoyed the early grass. Taz lost a lot of boots going up the switchbacks at high speed, and Dixie lost one for no discernable reason a couple miles from the trailer. We all got pretty sunburned. Jess the Not So Simple Dog was still chasing rabbits at the very end of the ride!

A lovely ride with great company. I got 23 miles on my GPS, but I didn't start the timer immedidately - S got 24.something on hers. So glad I went!


  1. Looks like it was a nice ride...except for when it wasn't! You should know better than to tempt the sn*w gods!

  2. That sounds like a great ride, albeit with a bit of excitement. A photo of someone wearing a t-shirt with a backdrop of snow surprised me a little. It must have been warm in the sun.

    I got caught out by a snow drift like that once. Riding a cat-leaping horse was no fun. I got off and led him, however then he stepped on one of my spurs. After that I led him on a longer rope. Like you I was glad to get out the other side of that snow.

  3. Wow--sounds like a real horseback adventure. Glad everything went well. Great story (!)

  4. Yikes! Too scary for this little old lady!

  5. What an adventure! And can I say how pretty your Dixie's braid is? One of you awesome braiders needs to move closer to me to show me how it's done lol.

  6. How fun! Except the snow part, that sounded scary, good horses for staying with their dumb humans (said in jest of course, I've done plenty of stupid things unknowingly.) Wish I'd been along for the ride, I love adventures and exploring like that. The snow capped mountains are gorgeous, but it's sure warm now! Glad Dixie is figuring out drinking, she looked pretty skeptical!

  7. I can't even ride ten minutes and you're taking 25 mile rides. I am so jealous. Sounds like Dixie is getting better all the time and hope the drinking at every opportunity carries over. Great thinking on your part for that.

    Your description of the adventure in the snow make me sore just reading it. That had to be quite an experience. One of those lifetime things you'll never forget.

    As for blogging every little thing you do, I appreciate it. I feel cooped up and when I get to read posts like this I feel more connected even if I can't really do horses yet.

  8. Heart-stopping moment aside, it sounds like a wonderful day!

  9. oh, sigh, love that country! we did some trail work up in that area on the Tahoe Rim Trail.
    - The Equestrian Vagabond

  10. FUN !!! See this is what I want to do - just nothing like that around here. =(


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