Friday, January 14, 2011

Death Valley and Storm's Graduation Ride (part 3)

From sunset, to sunrise, day4 of the Death Valley Encounter was a smacking success!
The ONLY pose I have with Storm in his hat, not looking mad! LOL :)

Ok, now on to the pretty pictures post :) Part three, the graduation :) As noted in part 2, at the ride meeting, we found out the trail would go up into and to the top of the Slate Range again. there is a radar station up on top of one of the high peaks...that was to be our destination. Then back down the mountain, through the desert, and into camp for a lunch hold. Once more into the desert to the waterfall at Indian Joe's, and then back to camp for the finish. A good test to see if Storm really was ready to bump up to 50s, especially after the 30 he did the day before. I was going to ride with Terri and go for a nice, easy, back of the pack ride.
Again, up early and getting ponies ready, it felt good to be up to go RIDE again :) We left camp handwalking and after most the last stragglers passed us, we got on and walked a while more to really warm up the ponies. The trail went backwards from the previous day, up the canyon to the water trough. Storm figured out where we were going after not too long up the canyon, and tried to stop and even turn around a few times. Hmm...too smart for his own good...guess he knew today was more UP and was thinking it was a stupid idea to do all that he did yesterday...AGAIN... LOL.. Well too bad, we were doing it :) He tanked like a good horse at the water, and I reapplied his desitin. Then we wandered into the Mtns some more (I had expected we'd turn off the old trail here, but no...hmmmm how far up will we go??) and went up and up. Storm at one of our first rest stops...he doesn't want to pose nicely, LOL..grumpy ears!
One of the many views of the Panamaint Range and Valley

We stopped and took some pictures, then up some more. Finally, we turned off the old trail, and went along the top of the slates, heading in the direction of the radar mtn.

Oliver and Terri posing at one of our scenic spots...

And Storm, not as into posing...LOL

We ran into a few really scenic spots, went up and down some fun little trails, and as we were climbing up yet another big hill, we saw someone back behind us.
More pretty views, and yes, that is the trail that seems to drop off the mtn there, LOL.

Huh...thought we were the last 50s! as the figure came closer and closer, I recognized was Janet and Ladybug! She caught up with us as we were taking a break on a particularly steep section. Turns out she was the one and only LD that day, and her 4th day out on Ladybug. Great :) She hooked up with us, and we rode all the way to the radar tower together.

Storm heading up the hill...(Photo by Steve Bradley)

There were a few really cool single track trails winding up the last mountain, and some scenic views to die for, and Steve Bradley was up on top of one of the best. He got some great shots of us all!

Setting up for a good pose...Susan's crew bought this pic too, they loved it so much and how it had the view in back...(Photo by Steve Bradley)

And finally posing...for once Storm is cooperating :) (Photos by Steve Bradley)

Then up another steep climb, and over more rocky and fun single track...felt like we were mountain goats climbing some far away trail...well, maybe not a goat, but I WAS on a Mountain HORSE and we were on a faraway trail I suppose :)

Up the trail we go...way up to the top is where we have to head to...

View of the trail we came over, back behind us...It is really a nice motorcycle trail...not the goat trail it looks like :)

This is one of the things I love about endurance...the cool, faraway places we get to discover. So up and up some more we went, and finally got on top next to the radar station.

The radar station up ahead, and a view from the trail...

Here, the trail petered out onto a rocky jeep road, that went down...down....down... Janet moved on out on Ladybug, and Terri and I got off and handwalked. And walked...and walked... ....sighhh...this is the boring part of endurance, LOL...when the scenic trail ends, and you pop out on some gravel road. After some miles of walking, it popped onto a single track trail that went straight down a ridgeline, Terri managed to slip negotiating the slope, and twisted her ankle. OW! But we still had a ways to go. The ridgeline dropped us into a pretty little canyon, that eventually went all the way DDOOWWWNNNNN to the desert floor again. After climbing over rocks ledges and other interesting obstacles.
I always thought I should enter my horses in those 'extreme cowboy races'...we wipe the place clean...I laugh at the indoor 'trail' course they set up in arenas with fake waterfalls and fake creeks and much of what we negotiate (especially on Duck rides, which are a far cry from groomed bridle paths), is many times harder than these 'extreme' trails these races have, LOL... And I LOVE it. I know a lot of people complain about 'technical trails. Me?? I get bored on easy jeep road or groomed woods trails. I like clinging to the sides of mountains like a goat, and climbing over logs and ledges. It makes life much more interesting. Course it makes for a much slower ride (least if you like your horse), but you get much more variety and often these trails lead to great scenery!
Well, we finally got down the mountain and into the desert, and then had to take an oddly roundabout way back to camp...going way OUT and away, then basically doubling back again, before heading back into camp...sighhh...I hate going in circles just to make mileage, LOL..give me more goat trails any day! :) We let the horses boogie where the sand was decent footing, and walked the deeper washes. Soon we saw the road back into camp, and walked the rest of the way in. Both Oli and Storm looked and felt great, and after tanking at the water trough, pulsed right down. So back to the trailer for lunch we went.
The evening before, Karen Chaton was handing out party hats for the horses, to be worn today since it was New Year's Eve. A fun way to celebrate! I had planned on getting it on Storm's bridle that morning, but we were running late as usual, so I left off of that and found time at the lunch hold instead. Storm looked totally adorable in his, but seemed none too pleased with the whole deal. I guess it wasn't very studly to be wearing a party hat, LOL :) Too bad, it was going to stay on the rest of the ride!

AAAAWWWW...Isn't he ADORABLE?!?!...Squeeaaaalll!!!! ;)

This is what he thinks of the whole hat thing....

That's ok, I love you anyway...KISSES... (His eyes speak volumes...Stupid Human!) :) LOL...

I checked and fixed up his foot, and after eating something, went to brush him down a little....WTF?! He had some swelling and heat in his armpit! Dangnabbit! Looked like the beginning of a girth gal. But just like at Cuneo Creek earlier this year, his girth goes no where NEAR that area...after thinking on it a little and checking where it was happening (WAY up front in the pits, in the folds of skin there), I think his long winter hair was just getting sweaty and gross and the folds were rubbing on each other. So I cleaned it all off (might shave it a little, to normal summer-length for the next ride) and rubbed in a bunch of Bickmore's (did the trick like a charm at Cuneo) got a different, fleece girth (just in case, covered that basis as well), and tacked him up at the end of our hold. I also left the girth really loose (we were just going to go ride around the flatter desert on a shorter loop than the first, no goat climbing left) and hoped for the best. Oli had a rub going on under the ring of his breast collar, so she left it off for round two and we Bickmored it too. That about killed my tub of it, so I'll have to get more...I need to by stock in it...LOVE that stuff!Sometimes the old remedies still work the best :)
So after tacking up, we headed over to the vet, and all was cleared for takeoff again. We hopped on and walked off into the desert for loop two. The first part was a little square out behind camp, towards a gravel pit from the day before...then across the road that leads to camp (the horses were NOT happy crossing it...they turned straight for home, LOL), to head out across the Searles Valley. The trail was mostly a gradual and easy rise towards the foothills on the opposite side of the valley. We had nice views of the Slates, with the much taller Panamaints peeking over the top of the range, covered in snow.

The view we had of the Slates and the Panamaints creeping over the top...

Lots of sand and scrubby brush.As we went and lots of water stops on this loop (much easier to provide water, when there are actual roads! LOL..wonder if anyone will invent a water bucket holder and water container, that would schlep well on, or behind a dirt bike on a single track trail? LOL :) Being winter, it was ok though. But the boys did enjoy getting lots to drink on this loop, or maybe just the excuse to hang out and chill at the water troughs? Yes, that was likely the real goal....
Both horses seem to be saying: "Dude....are we there yet??" LOL....

As we wandered the desert, Oliver all of a sudden got real alert to something...Storm was oblivious, though, and then Terri said "LOOK! Donkeys!" There was a small herd of three wild burros off in the distance. They stood watching up, as we got closer and closer...Oliver really was wound tight, and Storm was STILL oblivious...LOL... Then all of a sudden they moved around a little, and one of them blew and snorted a few times fairly loud. THEN he figure it out..and his eyes bugged out of his head and neck arched...and Oliver followed suite and both did great Arab imitations ;). They alternated between creeping down the trail this way, and slamming on the breaks...not wanting to get closer to the dreaded, long eared, horse eating desert monsters...LOL. Terri and I on the other hand were laughing at the wimpy boys and cooing over how cute the burros were. Finally the burros moved off, and we continued down the took several miles though, before the boys stopped being wound tighter than a piano wire.

Can you spot the burros in the pic below? Storm couldn't...good camo on them! Nature sure is perfect when it gets to work as designed :)
There they are! Aren't they cute?!!

Onward we went, walking or moving out as we felt, and slowly heading for a 'finger' on the map, that would then double us back (ugg..another dopey random trail thing, LOL..) to almost where we were, but up in the foothills instead.

One of the many, long and sandy roads we traveled...

I was bored...playing with shadows....Storm's looks almost like a unicorn! Ok...a bit us a stunted unicorn (more calcium, maybe?)...but still! I can dream, right? :)

Tucked in the hills was the hidden treasure of our journey through the valley. Great Falls (as the Duck calls it), also know as Indian Joe's... Susan said when she was a kid, her girl scout troop would come up here in the summer to get in the shade of the mountain and get to hang out in the water and stuff. She said it got it's name from an older guy, Indian Joe, that supposedly lived somewhere up there and lived off of eating the burros and having access to the water there. Hmmm... interesting! LOL.

Tucked way up under those hills is Indian Joe's....

Storm doing a nice little Runwalk to catch up to Oli, almost at the waterfall...

This was a neat little spot...the hillsides had a neat formation up there, in kind of a jumble of rock, and there was a small waterfall coming off the side of the mountain, to drop into a pool and trickle out in a small creek.

Is this the neatest jumble of rocky hillside you have seen, or what?

Jumble up close...

In years before it was a VERY small waterfall, pool, and creek...but after the rains this year, it was a nice size. Very quiet and pretty :)
The horses enjoyed another good drink, but Storm at this point was really hungry (he normally likes to snatch grass and such on the trailside at other rides, to fuel himself throughout the day). He snatched at a bush and started chewing on it...hmmm..I tried to take it away (kinda prickly branches with nothing much on it), but he went for more...well, if he likes it that much??? Poor guy...he had a very disappointed look on his face...the flora in the desert was not exactly satisfying!

Plenty here to drink...and clear as any water could be!
But food??? Not so much...what a look...That bush is what he is eating...

"It's your fault Oli...somehow, I know it is!"

"Oh, buck up sunny, and act like the REAL endurance horse you are today!"
After a rest there, we headed out of the shadow of the mountain, back into the desert. Or tried to... we could SEE the edge of the shadow out there...and the warm sunlight beckoning (it was MUCH colder in the shade at this point in the day...bbbrrrrrr....). But try as we might (ok, so we didn't exactly gallop after it, LOL), the shadows lengthened faster than we could get out of them. Sighhh...oh well...

Running around in the desert...sun is leaving us! Oli is flying along in his trot, Storm kept having to canter to catch up. But we had lots of FUN! :)

The horses were happy, as we were headed back in the direction of home now, and they picked up to some fun gaiting. Then, where we thought we'd turn onto a straight shot road back, the ribbons turned off and headed parallel to camp, and into the desert some more! Dang nabbit! We stayed in this direction for a while, then headed on a road that again looked to take us to camp....only to once again have ribbons turn us away and further away from camp. The ponies (and riders) were not pleased! Oh out and around the desert some more, then finally across the highway and onto a parallel road, that DID head for camp (map confirmed it...hated to pull it out, but was wanting no more surprises! I was ready to be done, and Storm was a little tired and bored too...though not beat or overly tired..yes!). The sun had gone down behind the mountains at this point and we had been riding in the dusk for a little bit...looked like we'd make it back just before it actually got dark..yeah! Too cold to be poking around in the dark out here...
With maybe 2 miles at most to go, we kept things down to a fast walk and leisurely made our way back to camp with nice, cooled off horses. At the finish, we found the vet and got our completion exam, and all was GOOD! Whoo hoo! Storm was officially finished with his first, real 50! He now has graduated to the level of a 'real' endurance horse (well, least in many ppl's eyes...personally, I still say LDs are real endurance too...I know too many horses that CAN'T do the distance, no matter what ppl say about pulling horses out of pastures and just going, or 'any' horse can do it... the LDs are easier in distance, but it still is DISTANCE and timed...and in a way they are also harder, as you have to ride smarter to finish correctly and in time, unless you are racing).

Smart boys...both took naps quite a bit the next day :)

Storm still had at least 1/4 of a tank of gas left, likely even more (as he has often proved he is very adept at energy conservation and acting SOOOOOO TIIIRRRREEEDD, then bouncing around when he wants to, LOL). So after 80 miles of decently tough riding in two days, with a foot that was still not 100% (though he never showed any offness on it) and an armpit gal (which looked just fine back in camp...a little hair rubbed off, but it was no longer swollen or hot). So the next ride, when he was back on his full game, he should be even better, right? :) I am thinking he'll go for more 50's at Eastern Mojave! I am totally on a high now! He's proved he can do the distance, and I think he'll continue to prove it. One more step up the ladder, to maybe...just MAYBE, being the first (as far as I know...if anyone knows different, let me know!) KMSH stallion to do Tevis... how cool would that be?? And another step for ME to do Tevis... ;)

"Sure, I will do Tevis...IF I don't have to wear this !#&*^ hat EVER again!" (Can you tell, he never got over it, the whole ride! LOL)

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