Sunday, November 24, 2013

An extra-long ride at Briones Reservoir

I'm one week out from our next 50, this coming Saturday at Gold Rush Shuffle (pdf link).  I'd wanted to do one last 10-15 mile ride, just to check that all systems are still go.  What I ended up riding was a full LD, all alone, racing the clock as always.  But it was a beautiful day on a lovely trail with my best girl, and - bonus! - I didn't even wreck the trailer!!  Woohoo!

I got a late start on Friday, because BART wasn't running. I knew traffic would be even more horrendously fucked than usual, so I hung out at home til 10 am.  By the time I picked up the trailer, then the horse, then drove out to Briones Reservoir and got saddled up, it was noon.  There's a 13 or 14 mile loop around the lake, which was just perfect for my plans, and I figured I'd be back at the trailer by 3 at the latest.

We'd had a huge windstorm over Thursday night.  I commented to G that it was "Reno windy" outside, but our power didn't go out so I didn't really pay much attention.  It was still windy on Friday, but two and a half years in Nevada means that I don't pay much attention to wind anymore.  If it's gusting more than 60 mph, I won't ride, because that's hard enough to knock you out of the saddle if you're off balance, but any less wind than that is just "windy."


The sign-in sheet warned that the reservoir closes at sundown, and that they'd ticket your dumb ass if you were there after dark.  Fair enough!  I signed us out, mounted, and rode down to where the loop trail (another pdf) T'd off.  I looked left, looked right, shrugged, and turned left.  We'd go counterclockwise, keeping the lake on our right, and in about three hours we'd be back at the trailer.

It was really, really pretty.
There's a few hills, but it's less than 1,500' of total climbing in the 14 mile loop, so I'd call it "fast and flat."
It's pretty dead looking in November.  But the sun was shining!  I rode most of the day in a tank top, yall.
So we plinked on around the lake at a pretty good clip.  We'd started at the Overlook staging area, and we worked around the whole reservoir, past the Bear Creek staging area.  The trail was open and wide for the most part, but the last couple miles of Bear Creek Trail are single-track, with a very steep wooded hill on one side and a sheer drop down to the lake on the other.  At 2 pm, we trotted around a corner, just a couple miles from the end of the trail, and came to a sudden halt.  A tree was down, and I mean a whole tree was down completely blocking the trail.  

We'd walked over or through several large limbs on the trail so far, but this was the entire crown of an oak tree, blocking the whole trail.  I looked at that damn tree for about thirty seconds, running through all my options:  Dismount, tie the horse, and try to hack a path through with my Leatherman.  Go back up to Bear Creek staging, cut onto the road, and ride 3-4 miles down the road to Overlook staging. Call for help.  Or just go back the way we came.

We went back.  It wasn't much of a choice, really.  The sun sets about 5 at this time of year, so we had three hours to get 12 miles back to the trailer - more than enough time, even if we walked most of the way.

Dixie will go off-road just fine, but there just wasn't anywhere to take her on that section of trail. It was too steep and wooded on the left, and too steep and lake-y on the right. I haven't driven all of Bear Creek Road, but what I had seen was twisty two-lane road with no shoulder, and that's entirely too dangerous for the situation we were in. Calling anyone for help would've left us standing around til after dark, and leaving her tied or in a cattle pen and hiking to the trailer would've also left her standing around (alone, poor thing) until after dark.  So the best choice was heading back the way we came!

Dixie thought it was all bullshit. It wasn't an endurance ride, because there were no other horses or hay or carrots.  This was clearly all my fault, but she sighed and carried me back the way we'd come.

I was pretty disgusted by the day's turn of events, too, and I quit taking pictures on the way home. Except this one - if you click to embiggen, you can see the Bay between the closer (East Bay) hills and the further-away (North Bay) hills.
The footing was perfect.  I'd booted all around, but really, it's entirely doable barefoot.  It's a low-traffic area, and we only saw one hiker and one coyote all day - just me, my horse, and a billion birds.  I hiked and jogged quite a bit, and at one point I got tired of actually leading my horse, so I just took off without her.

We've been talking about jogging with horses in the Rider Fit Facebook group, and one of the members said that she's jogged with her horse loose behind her.  "Damn," I thought, "I bet Dixie would probably just trail along with me, but it's entirely too busy at our park."  And then two days later I found myself in a deserted park, with fences and gates keeping her from running seriously away from me, and I just did it.  I hooked the reins to the pommel, hollered "ok let's go!" and took off without her.  Dixie trailed along behind me as I slogged up and down the hills, doing about like I expected her to do:  she didn't run off without me, because she's inherently lazy, and she didn't let me run away without her, because she likes me ok.  It was just fine.

(If you're a rider who's trying to get more fit, and you're on Facebook, you should join us.)

I insisted on constant forward motion on the way back.  We walked the steep bits and "trotted" (gaited) everything else, and the miles actually flew by pretty fast.  Neither of us was very excited about our bonus miles, but we got it done and made it back to the trailer at 4:33.

Dixie was like, "thank god, there's food." And, honestly, I was also like, "thank god, there's food." I'd actually bought a powerbar and a gatorade that morning, just on the off chance I'd be slightly peckish after an easy three hour ride. I brought water on the trail, of course, but I'd left the food at the trailer and I was very, very glad to see it that afternoon.
Such a cutie.
We'll do easy walking rides or hikes for the rest of this week, but that's it, we're as ready for Gold Rush as we're going to get.  Sorry about the bonus miles, Miss D.  You're a champion.


  1. Gorgeous photos, looks like a great place to ride...until the fallen tree part. Crap! I sometimes carry a hand saw, but usually encounter things too big to saw through! But Dixie rocks (love the mental picture of you running and her following you) and have a wonderful time at Gold Rush, I think the trails will be similar.

  2. That sucks about the tree but gaw it is getting gorgeous up there! It was 70 here the other day too and then suddenly dropped drastically - into the high thirties. Yuck. :-p

  3. It does look like such a nice area. A pity about that tree but probably you did well to turn around. If it's anything like where I live, trees don't fall one at a time. You might have squeezed by only to find more down a mile or two further.

  4. God is she ever cute. The cutest. <3

  5. Wow! I can't believe Dixie just stayed with you while you jogged. My horse would absolutely either stop to eat or sprint past me to the trailer. He likes me well enough, but I think he recognizes that I'm not essential to his survival:)

  6. What a beautiful ride! Too bad about the tree, but getting in some "bonus" miles is never a bad thing. Farah is "good" but just would never trust that something might not spook her away from me... Good luck at your upcoming ride!

  7. That sucks about the tree - looks like a nice place to ride though! Good thing you and Dixie are both in such good shape to get back the long way in time to make the cutoff time at the park.

    I went for a ride one winter on a TB mare - went about 98%of the way on a long trail, hit a majorly flooded area with ice and branches - too dangerous to was that mare TICKED OFF at me for turning back the way we came! lol It was a much shorter ride than you did, but still annoying!!! ;-)


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