Tuesday, July 2, 2013

2013 Renegade Rendezvous: volunteer story

Renegade Rendezvous Volunteer Story
What I Did On My Summer Vacation
by Funder

So a couple months ago I was talking to Aarene and she was like "come to Renegade!  It'll be fun!"  I thought it over and decided to go.  I knew I didn't want to haul Dixie that far, or even drive that far, but we have a lot of Southwest miles, so I could fly for free.  I booked a flight to Seattle and a rental and got on with all my other rides.

Thursday I headed over to the Oakland airport and flew out for Seattle.  I didn't want to check a bag, so I just crammed some stuff in a messenger bag and planned to borrow whatever else I needed.  An adventure!

I theoretically rented an SUV, but it was just a jacked-up station wagon.  Oh well.  Since I wasn't towing anything, I could take the scenic route to the ride.  I picked up 410 and drove into the mountains
and stopped at a "scenic" overlook to take pics of the rain.

I think you're supposed to be able to see a view from here.

 It was very pretty.  I took a random selfie too.
 Eventually I got through the mountains to the eastern side... kinda.

Weather in the western half of North America is really simple, compared to weather in the mid-south.  Everything comes from the Pacific, hits a range of mountains somewhere, and dumps a ton of rain or snow.  The eastern side of the mountains is always more arid, and the weather systems keep moving and gathering up more moisture to dump on the next range of mountains.  Renegade is held just outside of Naches, WA, on the eastern side of the Cascades, but it's still pretty wet, as you will see.

 I found a Dragon!  This is Fiddle.
 And here's Hana, Fiddle's soulmate and only friend in the world.
Camp was huge, in a beautiful meadow surrounded on three sides by rolling forested hills.  I slept on a cot in that trailer on the right side of the pic.

I am really starting to loathe AT&T.  I've had the same carrier and number for almost fifteen years, so it's kind of the devil I know, but their coverage outside of western metropolises SUCKS.  I lost service when I left Kent and didn't get it again til Naches (which I persist in pronouncing "Nachez" instead of "nachos" or whatever the hell those people are saying).  People with Verizon had at least a few bars of crappy service at camp and on the trails.  I am tempted to buy out my contract and switch carriers, because I can't go anywhere and get service.  

Friday morning I drove into Naches for some time with my precious iPhone and hot wheat-free breakfast options and I found this creepster.
Do not be afraid.  If you're in Naches, find this dude and eat at his restaurant.  Just don't let him touch you inappropriately.  It's a truck stop/diner on the south side of the road, and it's great - except it doesn't have showers.   
I also found the dry side I'd been expecting.  Crazy basalt hills covered in cheatgrass and sagebrush.  Ahhh, love you, medium-high medium-desert.

I headed back to camp to ride a horse.  I still had some time to kill so I took a nap face-down in the backseat of the little station wagon I'd rented.  Aarene was appalled that I was sleeping in the heat, but it's sort of familiar and comforting to me.  I've lived in so many situations where I didn't have air conditioning, or where I didn't want to turn on the horrid noisy window unit, and when you're hot as hell there's not much to do but nap.  I had really vivid and weird dreams about the ride meeting (which made the real ride meeting a couple hours later kind of surreal).

I don't know how hard I should try to protect people's privacy, so I will default to initials.  Most of my interactions were with Aarene's Usual Suspects, so if you read her blog you know them already!  Anyway, S had been tasked with making sure one of the loops was properly marked, so she was headed out on one of the RM's horses to re-ribbon the trail, and I got to go with her on another of the horses.  S got the big hot Arab and I got the Spotted Couch - a black and white paint built like a sofa.  She tried to bite me when I went to get on, so I went all Al Pacino cussing on her and after that we got along great.  (I love mares.)

Sadly, we only made it out a mile or so before we had to turn around.  The Spotted Couch had managed to truss herself up on her high-line earlier that week and she had some rope burn on her back leg, and we knew she was iffy.  We climbed for maybe half a mile, and at the first little downhill stretch she took two really bad steps in a row and I hopped off.  I checked her feet, but she didn't have a rock in her shoe, so we were done.  S hopped off too and we jogged them back to camp.

S saddled up her beautiful Ariana and headed out to check the trail and I helped pack the Usual Suspect gear bags.  Only three of them were riding:  S on Ariana, D on Hana, and M on a friend's Arab.  They were all in the 25, as was C on Farah.

Aarene wasn't riding due to a chronic hip thing being very unhappy, but she popped me up on Fiddle and let me check out one of the loops.  That was probably the highlight of my trip - Fiddle is awesome! She's like Dixie, except even more wicked at heart, and I got along great with her.

When I was up, she took off at a trot to see if perhaps I was faint of heart.  I said yeehah, more! and she dropped to a walk.  I asked her to trot again and she thrashed her head and kicked with her back legs, so I asked her to walk a few strides then asked for a trot again.  Same thing, so we walked another few steps and I asked again.  She thrashed her head and said ugh, fine, you win and away we went.  I didn't ask for anything close to the Big Trot, just a slow jog for Fee, but it was super fun.  We went up and down a switchbacked gravel road, then Aarene pointed me onto a blue trail that went the long way back to camp and I ambled on in.  Fiddle tried to convince me that a stump would eat her, and she tried really hard to convince me we should cut off the trail and go straight to camp, but I paid her no mind and she did great.

Saturday, I slept through the start for the 50s (and the one 75) cause I was on vacation, dammit.  But I did get up and take some pics of the LD start, which went quite smoothly.  People knew where they wanted to be and started appropriately - a few exactly on time, a group a few minutes later, and the rest of the field trickled out over the next ten minutes or so.

Warming up.
 Ariana and Hana, with their derpy humans :)
Farah looking great!

We all piled in the beige station wagon and headed up to the out check.  I found C when she came in on Farah and hung out with her for her hold, then found M and B and hung out with them, then saw S and D back on their horses and out.  We headed back down to camp and I went back to Naches cause I really like checking my email.  

My friend was still there.  You think he's creepy?  You haven't seen anything...
On the way back I got a picture of the pedophile boat, Pedo Rabbit.  Eeeeek!
When I got back it was raining so I sat in my car.  I am not a soggy swamplander and I try not to get wet if I can help it.  Turns out I was merely postponing getting wet!
Eventually the rain stopped and I got back to the serious business of holding down a chair and waiting for "my" riders.  C finished second - read her blog!  GOOO FARAH!  and I talked to her and her husband for a long time.  D came in 10th, but got pulled at the finish for lameness - Hana had gotten kicked earlier that week, so maybe she was nursing a pulled muscle?  S and M were still out there. Eventually S came in overtime, in a lot of pain - she'd been remounting on the trail and Ariana took off and S fell flat on her back, poor thing.  M was still out there on Khema and we were starting to get really concerned.  The rescue trailer had gone looking for her, but they hadn't found her on the road where they looked.

As it turns out, bad things were happening.  

I can only tell my part of the story.  I don't know any more details or anything about the timeline of events, just what I saw.  I was chilling at the finish line when a 50 rider came in hollering that there was an injured horse up the trail that needed a vet.  I was afraid it was M, and I figured if nothing else I could hold the horse or help out somehow, so I went jogging off with a ride vet down the road.  We scrambled up a really steep trail, halfway up a hill, and found M with Khema.  She'd been riding very conservatively all day, but Khema had slipped and done a Bambi-on-ice and when she stood back up she couldn't walk.  The mare was three-legged lame and trembling with pain, and M had already pulled her tack and was standing with her.  Somehow I ended up holding the lead rope as more people came and went.  

One of those ham radio dudes appeared with a bag full of emergency supplies, and the vet gave Khema some banamine and Ace.  D's husband appeared and went looking for an easier trail to get the mare down.  She was totally non-weight-bearing and refused to even try to move, and there was absolutely no way to get her down the trail we'd come up.  The mare's owner appeared from another direction - she'd been out hiking looking for M.  The treatment vet showed up, examined Khema, and wrapped her legs.  He gave her another painkiller but she still couldn't walk, so they splinted her leg with a couple of sticks and extra polo wraps.  

I just petted the mare and offered her grass and promised her we wouldn't leave her to be eaten by wolves.  

It started to rain so I turned off my phone and gave it to Santa Jim to stash inside his backpack.  It rained a lot.  

The splint and extra drugs worked well enough to get Khema limping, and the other rescuers had found an easier, but longer, trail down to the road.  The owner had gotten her trailer down the road and turned around, and she was back up with her horse and we were ready to move.  I pulled and begged, and M and the owner pushed/supported her hindquarters, and we slowly limped Khema off the mountain.  

When we got to the trailer, we had no fucking idea how we'd get her loaded on it.  We were debating between trying to park it in a ditch versus all of us trying to pick the horse up when she made a heroic leap and loaded herself.  I was so incredibly impressed by her heart and willingness and spirit.  

Everybody piled into the trucks and we went back to camp.  It was still raining, and I was about as wet as I could possibly be, so I rode in the back of the RM's truck.  Wheee, I do love riding in the back of a truck!  My inner redneck is never hidden very well.  

Back at camp, the vet and humans were working on Khema to get her stabilized enough to travel - gave her IV fluids, that kind of thing.  I went with M and helped pack up their camp, and eventually she and the owner headed out with both horses.  

I peeled off my wet shoes and socks and dried my feet for a while in the trailer I was camped in, and the Usual Suspects trickled in and sat with me til dinner.  Eventually we decided we were as dry as we'd get and we headed back up to the RM compound.  Dinner was a huge spread, potluck with grilled salmon and BBQ boneless ribs, and let me tell you, that was the best barbecue I've had since I left Memphis.  The rib tips had a smoke ring that went almost the whole way through and they were just deliciously rubbed and sauced and I ate a truly embarrassing amount of them.  

During dinner we found out that Khema had a broken leg and she'd been put down.  I cried, talked to people, cried, drank vodka and coconut rum, and headed back to cheer for the winners and finishers.  Farah got a well-deserved BC on the LD, woohoo!  Fiddle's half-brother completed the LD, and I think a TWH finished too, but I'm not sure.  

I'm still crying about Khema, but overall, that was an excellent ride.  The parts of the trail I saw were incredibly well marked, with plenty of lime and a truly absurd number of ribbons - I was never out of sight of a ribbon.  The FS roads were, you know, gravel roads, not much to say about them.  But the singletrack was the product of years of hard trailmaster-class work - nicely banked and designed. There were ham radio people at the away check and at some water tanks along the roads, checking numbers.  No trail map, but if I had GPS tracks of the ride I'd ride it.  

The next morning, I helped pack up all the soggy tents and said my goodbyes to everyone.  They were awesome, and I can't wait to go back - maybe next year?  I headed down the road into Yakima around noon.  

I saw more weird stuff
and awesome Welcome signs.
 I was headed north, to Ellensburg to crash at Evensong's ranch, so I took a windy canyon road along the Yakima River.
 It was pretty hot, in the 90s, and the river was full of people floating down it having fun.  Jealous!
Ellensburg is a wonderful little town.  In the South, most of the small towns are either slowly dying or exploding in unsustainable bedroom-community growth, so it's always really heartwarming for me to see a small town that's clicking along happily.  Their downtown was mostly occupied with a nice mix of businesses.
I'd bought more trail gear from American Trail Gear, and my wet dirty clothes had expanded, so I needed a bag to check.  I found a thrift shop (poppin' tags!) and bought a small wheely bag for $4.50, then headed down to a park on the Yakima and read my Kindle for an hour.  Then I went back into town and met up with L and headed out to her place.

Ellensburg grows stuff, mostly hay but some rotational crops too.  It's a big valley, only a couple thousand feet of elevation.  It looks, to me, like Fallon would look if Nevada got more rain.  Everything's irrigated and green, and the low hills around the valley are dry sage and cheatgrass.  I immediately wanted to borrow a horse and ride to the top of one of the hills, but I was almost out of time.  (I know, you're like will this post ever end? Yes, it's almost over!)
I met Kate and Maddie!  They are sweet girls, short but stocky, and they're even prettier in person than on the blog.  RT is adorable and Misty is super sweet.  All the horses looked great and Evensong's property is first-class.
After a much-needed shower and dinner, I was done for.  I crashed early and slept in the pop-up camper, with a lovely view out of the window.  I fell asleep listening to the girls eat their hay and the coyotes singing.
Just another valley shot, plus I'm in awe of Evensong's fencing ability.  Those are some nice fences she's built.

And then, finally, it was time to drive back to Seattle and fly home.  Look, mountains!  The Snoqualmie Pass is pretty low, only 3k feet, but it's got some pretty views.  
I stopped in Renton to fill up the rental and get more iced coffee, then headed to Seatac and came home.  Everyone in Seattle was disturbingly pale, and they were all gasping for breath and sweating profusely in the high 80s heat wave.  In Oakland, it was also in the 80s, but we are of sturdier stock down here in the south.  ;)

I got a cab home (life is more interesting with BART on strike) and settled in on my balcony with a well-deserved beer.



  1. Wow, that is so incredibly sad, so sorry for the loss of Khema.

    Great write up though, sounds like an adventure!

  2. I absolutely love your stories that go on forever! You seem to get to go to lots of pretty cool places. Someday, I'm gonna go to cool places too.
    Poor M and Khema..that is truly tragic.
    Diggin the pink spot in your hair...yup Funder is wickedly cool!

  3. Went over to Farah's blog and checked her out and offered by congrats. What a beautiful mare!!!!! Sounds like you had an adventure. And that's so cool that you got to ride Fiddle. LOL on the whole trotting thing. What a character.....

  4. It was fun to have you here, Funder! Thanks for all the compliments. Next year plan a longer trip and we'll get up on those ridges!

  5. So sad for the loss of that obviously very brave mare. But the rest of your adventure sounds great. I love the description of riding in the back of a pickup, I feel the same redneck love! Not sure what is up with that pervert statue (OK, maybe that wasn't the best choice of words) but great photos.

  6. Wonderful story--except for Khema. This is the hard part of horses. Stuff happens. So sad.

  7. I gotta say that we really did have fun telling stories - before we got the news of what was happening with Khema... Love your "take" on our ride! Yea! Come back! Our gate is always open! Thanks for sending some readers my way :-) I can use them! Or maybe abuse them? :-)

  8. that story seemed to be one of those that was like a country song... a little good, some bad.. etc.. made me cry too.. the part about the mare leaping into the trailer ... in so much pain yet knowing that was her ticket to some safety.. reminded me of whenm JB hurt himself and we had to get him into the trailer and thought the same thing.. "how the F" are we going to get him in there. and then he just jumped in..

    Overall sounded like one hell of an adventure..


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