Tuesday, August 28, 2012

2012 Tahoe Rim 50

Oh man, what a wonderful ride.

About a year and a half ago, my friends started planning this ride, and I've been looking forward to it the whole time. I felt kinda like a jerk for not offering to volunteer it, but you gotta have riders too, right?? I have been entry 501 (first person entered in the 50 mile ride) for a year.

So on Friday I loaded up the horse and away we went to my most-anticipated ride. Camp was a wide spot in a fire road just a couple miles from Spooner Lake, on the southeast side of Tahoe. I took the long way around - out 80 to Reno, then down 395 to Carson City and up 50 to ride camp. It took more than six hours, but I did skip the traffic on 28 around the lake. Dixie vetted in fine and fell to eating immediately.

This was the first year for the (latest incarnation of the) ride, so there were some weird hitches. The only day they could get the ride sanctioned by AERC was also the day of the Xterra triathlon. We were sharing the trails with racing mountain bikers, but in order to miss most of them, our start time was 8 am. Both the vet checks were away, at Hobart Reservoir, and the road to get up there is too tight to take a gooseneck - so my little dinky trailer got volunteered to participate, too!

I unhooked Adventure the Trailer the night before, but I knew I'd be awake at dawn so I didn't bother with much else. I slept pretty well, curled up in the back floorboard of the truck, and popped awake before 6. We swapped over the ball and hooked up the trailer to the RM's truck, moved Dixie and all my tack to another trailer, and loaded all the crew bags. Then the RMs, volunteers, and vets drove off, leaving one out-timer volunteer to see us off at 8.

I got Dixie tacked up and met up with my ride buddy W and we had a very calm last-place start. We leapfrogged with another group of slow riders, but eventually they passed us and we held on to our turtle position all day. The whole day was breathtaking, but the first loop was especially pretty. We went north up the Tahoe Rim Trail, with some "technical with exposure" bits that'll just take your breath away.

West to Lake Tahoe

North to Marlette Lake

We went up past Marlette and past Red House and did a loop around a mountain, on a flume trail. It's a very nice sand road, with the flume pipe running alongside and underneath, that gradually runs around the mountain with killer views of Washoe Lake, Carson City, and (if you squint) Reno.

Washoe Lake

More Washoe on the left, Carson on the right. If you know where to look, you can see most of the Washoe Valley endurance ride trail in the hills :)

Looking north up Washoe Valley to the tiny blurry bit of Reno you can just barely see!

All was well at the first vet check. Dixie ate and drank great and there were tons of volunteers (thanks, yall!) to bring us stuff. Our 45 minute hold was up before we had a chance to get stiff, and away we went on the second 12 mile loop. This one headed south again, with a long slow climb up a gorgeous open valley with the greenest grass I've seen in months, then it picked up the TRT again and repeated some of the beautiful trail we'd done that morning.

Random plant - it sure looks like sweet potato vine to me, but I don't think sweet potatoes live at 7000' in the Sierras?


Big valley!

Neon green grass!

A big climb. You can see halfway to Dayton.

Back up at the lake.

And back to Hobart for the second check. I was sure we were going to get pulled - I don't know why, but I've been more nervous about this ride than any other we've done this year. Usually I'm nervous up until I hook up the trailer, or maybe til we vet in the night before a ride - but this time I was stressed out until the second vet check. Somehow, everything was ok - neither Dixie nor I were lame or in metabolic trouble. Dixie had started drinking at nine miles (a record!) and hadn't stopped eating and drinking since. She even trotted out better for the second vet check than for the first!

So after the second vet check, I finally gave up on being nervous. We had something like 4.5 hours to do the last 20 miles and our horses were just fine. My Nevada BFFs gave me not one but TWO beers for "lunch" - which may have helped me quit being nervous.

We zipped out right on schedule, as the volunteers closed the place down. We had 20 miles and two more mountains to climb.

We went past Red House again, and I got pics this time!

There was one utter bastard section. We switchbacked along a gentle rise for a while, then all of a sudden the road just went straight up. The RMs had warned us - "you'll cuss us," they said, "but there was no other way to do the trail, and it's only a half a mile." W's Ro sighed and plodded up, and Dixie sighed and started to follow him.

My conscience woke up. "Get off the horse, you lazy asshole. It's only a half a mile and this poor creature has carried your fat ass for thirty plus miles, at no less than seven thousand feet, and all she does is SIGH. Get off!"

So I got off. It was brutal. I'd hike five or six painful steps and stop at a tuft of grass. Dixie would snatch a bite of grass while I gasped like some asthmatic on Everest, then I'd slog another five steps up. But we made it, and we even made it pretty fast - 2.3 mph for that heinous section of 12.7% grade.

Then I got back on and rode some gentler climbs. Up, up, up.

Boulders the size of houses slouched all around.

The air is so thin and the sky is so blue.

Here's (one of the) Twin Lakes, just north of Harlan Peak. Mute your volume, it's nothing but wind!

The high places make me so quiet. I feel like I don't belong up there, like humans very much do not belong up there. We are so smug, little masters of our dominion over most of the earth, but when you get up on a remote mountaintop (or at sea, or in the desert, or any number of places) you really feel like you're a flash in the pan. That mountain doesn't care. It's been there for millions of years, and it'll be there for millions more.

Even the trees are fighting to survive.

You remember the bit in Fellowship of the Ring where they're trying to cross grim Carhadras? I kept expecting storm giants to appear and throw boulders at me.

I think I saw a chukar! It was definitely some kind of pheasant. Very skittish, and I can't believe I managed to get a pic at all. Dead center, in the sunlight, crossing in front of a white rock.

Then we climbed another mountain. I was pretty much done at that point, and Dixie was too. We had like 12 more miles of slogging to do, so I started pulling ribbons to amuse myself. My rule was that I would not stop for a ribbon, but I'd veer off to the side and snatch at them. We were the last people on the trail, after all!

I got quite a few - I filled up both saddlebags, Dixie's whole mane, the V-neck of my shirt, and one cuff. (Pic shamelessly stolen from Lucy and photoshopped for contrast)

We rolled back into camp with a comfortable 30 minutes to spare. Dixie was intent on getting to her trailer to eat food, but we stopped to pose for pics, then stripped tack and vetted out, then DONE!

You wanna know something amazing? There were no pulls. Everyone who started that ride finished it - and it was not easy. The weather was perfect, everybody rode smart, and everybody got lucky. :)

The awards meeting started 10 minutes after we got in, PLUS there was food left for us - if you turtle a ride you know how much little stuff like that means! Also somehow I won all the stuff. W and I both got enormous helmet sun visors for the turtle award, plus the completion award of a highball glass and a cool training log, plus I won a pair of stirrups in a raffle. Woop!

And the ride pictures were amazing. This one's so good I ordered an 11x14 of it.

Look, Ma, no hands!

They're waiting to get re-sanctioned for next year by Nevada Forestry, so keep your fingers crossed - and if you ever get the chance to do this ride, DO IT.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


I'm taking a break from packing to circle back around to feet, then tomorrow I'm off to the Tahoe Rim endurance ride. Yippie, friends and the best scenery in the world!

So Sunday I got some CA Trace and two new hoof knives, and Monday I went back to the barn. I put Dixie's boots on and got her feet wet and let them soak while she ate her mash, then I started worrying at her feet again.

But I stopped. It just did not feel like the right thing to be doing. That sole is NOT coming out, even when it's wet, even with brand-new freshly sharpened knives. And she's still landing flat / heel first, not toe-first. I rolled her toes back to keep the breakover back, got her heels as low as they'll go, scrubbed that good purple thrush stuff up in her frogs, and called it a day.

I just felt like the risk of doing too much was too high. Dixie's not uncomfortable; she moves freely and her feet land correctly. We'll see if the extra copper in the CA Trace helps her, and I know the purple stuff helps. And when that sole starts to come loose, I'll pry it on out. (It's coming out of her back hooves pretty nicely and I did get them looking good!)

This is such a First World Problem but do you brown horse people understand how hard it is to have a mostly-white beast? Especially one with that Pusher roaning on her few dark spots?! She always looks 10x filthier than everybody else's horses. I can't see white spots on her back from poor saddle fit (a mixed blessing, I know). I can't even look at her coat and play "guess the mineral imbalance"!

Hopefully we'll finish out our 2012 season at the Redneck Ride on October 27. There's some huge fires roaring along up there - hopefully no homes or trails are burning! But anyway, of course any ride near Halloween has to be a costume ride, so I'm trying to decide what to do. Should we go as a My Little Pony again? Any other suggestions?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Calero, gates, hooves

A blog reader tipped me off about the Quicksilver Endurance Riders meeting / group ride thing today, so I got up early and hauled down to San Jose.

Dixie and I rode with Barbara and Patricia, and I had a great time! Dixie did pretty well, powerwalking up and down most of the hills - and it was a lot of hills. We weren't in a particular hurry, so we didn't trot as much as we could've. Saw a HUGE turkey vulture and a couple of deer and one hiker - but it was mostly just equestrians. Really nice park, better footing than Almaden Quicksilver and just a couple minutes further down the road.

I have decided that Dixie should learn to help me open gates, for no reason at all other than I saw a friend do it on her horse and it looked feasible. Honestly, I've never tried to teach her before because there haven't been any horse-friendly gates in my life up until now - nothing but wire gates or short farm gates with latches or chains down low.

I found a gate to practice on at the barn. It's a paddock that's empty now, with a nice wide gate that doesn't drag or squeak when you move it. I made sure Dixie remembered how to move her hindquarters or her forequarters on cue on the ground, then hopped up and tried to transfer it. Hard work - you could see the brain cells frying as she tried to figure it out! We got a couple of decent turns on the forehand, and I leaned off of her and smacked hitching posts, fences, gates, etc. Good enough for a start.

I put this last so you can skip it if you're not a hoof person. But if you are, what do you think is going on?

She's about two weeks post-trim, and she's definitely getting a bunch of false sole up in there again. I took these pics after a bath (thus the dampness), and I jammed some tea tree oil cotton balls up in the frogs. The sole won't come up - a couple of the hooves, you can see where I pried/scraped at it with my knife.

I don't know what's going on, obviously, but my current guess is this. After we came out here, the slightly more humid weather and change in ground made her packed-in sole shed out. I was so excited! Finally, textbook hooves! Then I rode her a couple times without boots on the gravel in Arastradero, finally noticed she was getting short-strided, and started booting for any ride. Her movement went back to normal - no more choppy hesitation. But I'd made her bruise her feet - the bruises first appeared whenever it was that I trimmed last, like two weeks ago - I could see sole bruises in clean wet hooves. Now, I guess I'm waiting for her to shed out the bruised stuff - and this time, keep her booted on gravel.

There's not a ton of management changes I can do right now, not and still afford to keep / drive to see her. It'd be ideal to test her hay, get her moving on pea gravel, etc., but that kind of stuff just can't happen right now. :( All I can do is trim and boot and ride.

So here's the pics. They look so long, but there's no wall to take off unless I want to bring her walls SHORTER than the false sole, and I don't think that's a very good idea. I dunno!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Dear Doctor

I'm sorry I laughed at you. Well, not entirely sorry, but I think flinging my head back and guffawing at you was possibly more than the situation warranted.  I'm definitely switching doctors, though, because you're a jerk.  I'm sure you deserve to be laughed at.

Dr. Godcomplex: So, do you exercise?
Me: I do endurance riding on my horse, so once a month I go ride 50 miles in a day. The rest of the time, I ride maybe 2 hours at a time, three times a week.
Dr: Yes, but that's not exercise...
Me: :laughs: Because the horse does all the work, right?
Dr:  Well, yes.
Me: :gales of laughter: OK, sure.
Dr:  I mean, I rode a horse once, it was years ago, but it wasn't hard.  My back was sore but...
Me: :still laughing: Ok, sure, in that case, I don't exercise at all.

The rest of the visit went predictably poorly. I've heard of the "but the horse does all the work" argument, but I didn't think people still said it. I thought it was a thing of the past, like "women can't be scientists." That's really why I laughed; I could not believe he was seriously saying it.


Alas, although it wasn't exercise, I did make it back down to Santa Cruz to ride in the redwoods with another future endurance rider. I ran the downhills, very slowly, but still maybe 3.5-4 miles of running. I doubt it counts because surely the hill does all the work or something.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Volunteering Tevis 2012

Last weekend I went up and volunteered Tevis again. This was my third year volunteering, and my second "real" Tevis - last year, if you remember, the snow was still several feet deep in the high country in July/August, and the day before the rescheduled October Tevis, it snowed again, so they modified the trail. But this year the snow was normal and the trail was normal - Robie Park outside of Truckee down to the Auburn Fairgrounds.

I took a bunch of photos and uploaded mine plus many more - if you want to poke around in them, they're at the Tevis Cup gallery.

For those of us who are strictly volunteers, there's only five real chances for us to get pictures: Robie Park on Friday afternoon, the Highway 89 crossing just after dawn, Robinson Flat at lunch, Foresthill at dinner, and the fairgrounds arena - the "finish line" - late Saturday evening. I don't think any of us webcast people actually took pics at the finish, but we all got pics of everything else all weekend.

I had a great time. Definitely my best Tevis yet - I know more people, and it's the classic trail, and it's so breathtakingly beautiful. I got really grumpy and hated life after we closed down Robinson Flat, but I somehow realized it was just a sugar crash from eating a giant handful of dried fruit without any protein to balance it out. I stopped at The Gas Station in Foresthill and bought a block of cheddar and gnawed on that til I felt better.

I just love Foresthill. It's a tiny town, under 1500 people, and the Tevis (along with the Western States Trail Run ultramarathon) is one of the two great spectacles of the year. They put up "welcome riders" signs, and the trail runs right through town and people come out with their folding chairs and sit and cheer the riders through. This year (I don't remember this in previous years), the Tevis coincided with the town garage sale swap meet thing. Everybody brought all their armoires and matching four-piece kitchen chair sets to sell to everybody else, and the volunteer fire department had a barbecue, and maybe 500 crazed endurance people came roaring through to top it all off.

Anyway, since it's such a small place, everything seems to be "the" instead of "a." There's The Gas Station. The Chinese Takeout Place. The VFD. The PO.

I had a few riders I was particularly cheering for, and all of "my" riders who started also finished! One didn't start, which is pretty heartbreaking :( I was also acting as a supernumerary volunteer crew member for one rider, and once we finished whooping her off into the dusk at Foresthill, we all headed to Auburn.

I got to the megatropolis (13,000+ people!) of Auburn at 9:45 and almost wept with delight when I discovered In-n-Out Burger was still open. I inhaled a burger and fries, and when the last fries were crammed into my maw and my tunnel vision opened back up, I realized the place was filling up with other pulled riders and crew. I stood around In-n-Out talking until 10:30, when I learned that the first couple of riders had already finished! I went outside, and it was raining, and I decided to skip the whole fairgrounds thing and go home. I got on Interstate 80, set my cruise control at 67 mph, and did not touch a pedal for one hundred ten miles. I was trying to get all the way to the Bay Bridge toll booths, but I got boxed in by some slow moving jerks in Oakland and had to hit the brake a couple miles sooner than I planned. ;) Driving at night owns!

Maybe 2014, if everything continues to go perfectly. We'll see. :)

Henry Cowell


I have been complaining to G about the increasingly shitty performance of my old-ass GPS for MONTHS now. I don't really want to buy a new GPS; they're expensive! I just want my ancient Forerunner 205 to keep ticking for a couple more years, thank you very much. But it's been getting harder and harder to sync it with the computer, or with the strava.com or connect.garmin.com sites - it just doesn't show up, or it throws an error message. So tonight we're patiently plugging and unplugging the damn thing, waiting to see if maybe the computer recognizes it, when all of a sudden G says "hey try a different USB cable" so I dig out a different USB cable and lo and behold it works.

So now I can finally tell you about LAST WEEK'S trip to Henry Cowell Redwoods park in Santa Cruz! I mean, I know I could've used my words and told you about it, but it's just not the same without the stupid GPS tracks.

Anyway. I went down there to meet with a maybe-newbie endurance rider. It's her "home turf" and I really enjoyed riding her forest and talking to her. Beautiful park, but very crowded - it was hard to get up a decent trot without popping up on a group of bikes or kids or dogs and having to slow to a walk.

It's about an hour away from Dixie's barn, so it's not too bad. Parking in the park itself is $10, which seems steep, so I might park at the fairgrounds next door the next time I go down. The redwoods are truly beautiful, and there's quite a few spots to wade through/across a lovely little creek. I will get pics next time!

Today I got out for the short loop in Arastradero, but Dixie did pretty good. She's pretty uninspired when we're alone.