Monday, July 29, 2019

Chief Joe Trail Ride - Onward to Musellshell

This had to be the fastest week ever! It seemed like I had barely left when it was time to say goodbye to my friends for another year, and we all load up and go home. To describe this years
experience I could overuse the word "amazing" very easily. We had our ups and downs, it wasn't perfect, but as someone said, "We weren't living in teepees and when we get to camp dinner will be ready for us!" Truer words were never spoken. It's all an adventure.

The Chief Joseph ride began in 1965 and this was the 55th year, taking place over the third segment of the trail. It takes 13 years to complete the entire trail and it averages 100 miles a year. This years total by an average of several GPS' was 113 miles!! Last year we ended at Tolo Lake near Grangeville, ID, and this year we ended at the historic Musselshell Meadows. We rode through thick forests with magnificent views through the trees, old burns, beautiful wildflowers, along scenic rivers, historic routes and places. Each night we had Nez Perce speakers to learn the history of the events and places along the way.

Our volunteer trail crews worked very hard to pull this one together as the snow melted late. They worked on trails every weekend for over 2 months. Thank you to Andy Shaw, AJ Smith and Ervin
Gross for all your work, and all the others who joined in to help them. Unfortunately Ervin was injured doing all this and then was unable to be there to share the week. His family did bring him up Friday afternoon and he got to visit with a lot of folks, which should help speed the healing process. So MANY volunteers on this ride that make it work and I can't begin to name them all. Imagine a point to point or progressive ride where EVERYTHING is loaded up daily and moved. The kitchen, dance floor, potties, water, you name it and it moves to the next days camp. AND we leave no trace as the camp ground and picket area is left spotless!

Words simply can't describe this event, one has to experience it. To those who think this is a simple trail ride, then come join us and you'll discover it is so much more! Next year is Lolo, which will be a true challenge in the tradition of the Chief Joe!
Appaloosas strung out along the rocky shore of the Selway River

A view of the lovely Nez Perce regalia seen in the Empty Saddle Ceremony

We rode many historic trails and this spot was about a mile from Musselshell

Peanut was ridden by one of the Scouts, Caleb Erickson, on Friday. 

Early morning fog rising off the pond and Musellshell Meadow

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Return to Hardtrigger

Today I was lucky enough to witness a rare and beautiful sight. Wild horses being returned to their home land! It was enough to bring tears to your eyes as the horses came off the trailer, sized up the line of spectators, gave us a show of their spirit and then ran out of view into the hills. 

Deep in the Owyhee Range of SW Idaho lies a Wild Horse Management Area named after a nearby creek, Hardtrigger. Wild horses have been in this area for many years and I have been lucky enough to observe them since around 2005. Horses of all colors were hidden amongst the hills and washes of the country side, and if you knew where to look, you could find them.

In the summer of 2015 one of the nations largest wildfires, the Soda Fire, swept through the Owyhees, burning over 279,000 acres and unfortunately taking the lives of wild animals with it. Occasionally a green patch was spared and it held survivors. But without feed they wouldn't live for long, and an emergency gather was planned. Off the three ranges, Black Mountain, Hardtrigger and Sands Basin, 279 horses were brought in.  The horses were sorted, some adopted, some picked out for return, some still remain in holding waiting for adoption. The horses destined to return were cared for by the BLM at the Wild Horse Corrals in Bruneau and Boise.

A herd was released in 2018 to the Sands Basin area. Now in 2019, a total of 14 horses would be returned to Hardtrigger HMA. I was amazed at the number of people who came out to watch this rare event. I didn't count but there had to be at least 200 people, including the local news and media. Everyone was lined up anxiously awaiting the arrival of two trailers of horses as the sky grew darker and the thunder rumbled.

The first 7 returned to freedom were all mares. And not far behind their release came the 7 stallions from the other trailer. These horses have been cared for by humans for nearly 4 years, they aren't real timid, but it didn't take them long to see the freedom that lay ahead, and for them to scramble up the hillside and disappear.

Amazingly, a few were curious enough to swing back and give us one more look at their magnificence before saying goodbye and disappearing into the hills. It'll be fun to go back and look for them another day.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Chief Joe part 2 - 2018

Wednesday I rode out on Peanut for day 3, and I couldn't even begin to tell you where we went. We went up hill and down hill, through the trees, rocks, deadfall, thickets, you name it and we had it. This was also the day of "the slide' which I was too busy trying to stay upright, unlike a few, so I don't have a good photo of this slip slidey vertical drop down to a creek. But it was dicey and it takes 110 horses a little while to get down something like that so we got a bit backed up.
Then down along a creek for a bit where we met the three bears. The cubs scurried up a tree and mama got a bit anxious. I had Peanut up front then and he just watched, probably because head scout's horse stood so confidently. I think AJ's horse has seen it all but it was new to Peanut. 
Somewhere out there was a big spring and three troughs that the horses all enjoyed. 
Wednesday PM camp was somewhere near Cottonwood, and we had a gorgeous sunset! 
Thursday began warm and sunny just like all the others. I think this was possibly the hottest weather I've experienced on this ride. Karen Vining took this one of us first thing in the morning as were getting ready to ride out. 
On this day the end goal was to drop the 2500 plus feet back down to the Salmon River in the bottom of Hells Canyon. As AJ said at dinner Thursday night, if you aren't going uphill, down hill, or in through the rocks, then you aren't going. Pretty much! 

We went by an old homestead, the site of the McCarvel School 1895-1934, a cool cabin, with an old steam engine, complete with a herd of cattle and a couple humongous bulls. 
Lunch was at a ranch and we had the last of the days shade before out 8 miles of down hill to camp just above the river banks. In some places the grade was easy but steep in others and we could see the river and camp way down below. And everyone enjoyed the respite at the river. 

Peanut had never seen a swimmer before. HAHA not sure how AJ did that with his hat and boots! 
I opted not to ride the last day. I'd been told it was very rocky, and even though I managed to keep boots on Peanut's hooves the Thursday, I felt like he'd been through enough rocks. Peanut had a lot of growing up this week, new experiences and he is quite the horse! Pretty proud of my boy. Friday's route left the Salmon, uphill as that was the only way, they'd go through Rocky Creek and Rocky Canyon and come out just shy of Tolo Lake with a short ride from the break to camp. 
I haven't said much about the support crew but let me add that they are all fantastic hard workers! Each day the entire kitchen, dance floor, etc is packed up. Those who tent get their stuff transported in the UHaul. The food is truly the best you will find in any fine restaurant, don't plan on losing any weight here let me tell ya! If you go away hungry it is your fault and no one else's! On the trail the scouts watch out for all of us and we have doctors, farrier and a wrangler with emergency supplies! If you want to know more about this awesome yet tough event check out

Chief Joe - Tolo Lake part 1

After some very last minute changes, plan C or D was scrapped, and Peanut and I set out for the 54th Annual Chief Joseph Trail Ride on Sunday July 22. Peanut, aka HH Storm Runner, is 6 now but this whole CJ experience would be very new to him. The "new" plan, since Lynn Welborn's horse had gotten injured on the 21st, was bring Peanut, and she could ride him a couple days and I could drive etc.
This years trail would be the only loop where assembly and destination camps are the same, as that is what the Nez Perce did during their flight from Gen. Howard in 1877. Tolo was an encampment often used by the Nez Perce in the 1800's, and they would race their horses on the prairies and hunt. Our route would take us down into Hells Canyon and back up again twice during the loop.

I rode day one as we left Tolo Lake and headed out around wheat fields that were once Camas prairies, and down ravines into the timber. We were treated to a big herd of elk right after Chip's wife said, "this looks like a great place for elk!" Boom there they were, haha!
Lunch was in some shade along a little creek. Peanut was a bit nervous with 117 horses but I eventually drifted to the rear, getting him out of the ruckus, and rode with Michele McGorky, the wrangler, with her pack mule. Peanut likes Perlita and she tolerates him, which is pretty good I'm told. At one point we had to all gather in a as tight a clump as we could and cross Hwy 95. That was scary. The crew was equipped with radios so we all knew when it was clear and safe to cross. We wasted no time in crossing and it resembled 117 horses leaving the starting gate! The water truck had horse water on the other side and Jeremiah Kraft and helpers had cold Gatorade for us! Then it was downhill to Whitebird battlefield and camp.

Monday night's camp was at a ranch adjacent to Whit Bird Battlefield. A total of 34 of Howard's men were killed but only 3 Nez Perce were wounded in this 1877 battle. The Nez Perce crossed the Salmon and the flight to freedom would run for months until the end at Bear Paw. The route is approximately 1300 miles and the organized Chief Joseph ride encompasses 100 miles a year and takes 13 years to complete. This is my fave photo of the whole week!!
On Tuesday my friend Lynn Wellborn rode Peanut. I'm not in the habit of loaning my horses but Lynn's horse had just gotten injured and she was heart broke. She needed some salve for the soul. She is a good rider and I trusted her so off they went. She had a good day with Peanut but had boot problems since I don't usually boot him, and wasn't planning on taking him to the ride, I didn't even know what size would work for him. The whole week was an unplanned experiment. So she only rode him one day. 
I drove that day up Doumacq grade. Whooweeee what a drive! Camp was some where on Joseph Plains. 

The picket line

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The 2018 Version of Owyhee No River

Owyhee No River May 2018                Karen Bumgarner

                First, I would like to say thank you to all my helpers, volunteers and ride vets for making this ride a success, because it couldn’t happen without you!! Without all of you this entire sport of endurance and distance riding would not exist. So, thank you so very much! Special thanks to Matt White and his boy scout Troop 255 of Middleton, ID for hauling our water. What a fantastic job they did. Thank you!

                For some silly reason I always want to do things a bit differently. It must be in my DNA. One year I had a Ride & Tie which was fun but not a huge success as 1) it requires a lot of work on the rider and runner’s part, and 2) there isn’t a lot to tie to out here. Then I had the BIG loop of 55 miles because I love big loop rides. However due to fires, storm erosion of trails, BLM losing sage grouse habitat (we have no sage grouse but they think we do), vandalism, and the fact that an out-vet check requires even more volunteers, I just had to let that go. I added trail rides that became an ApHC Regional Trail ride for my Chief Joe friends to use for conditioning on a daily basis to prep for the 5-day ride in July. And then this year I added what could have been (as far as I can tell), Oregon’s first Competitive Trail ride. All in addition to the usual 25/55-mile AERC Endurance rides.

All these trails took a long time to mark and my BFF, Colleen Martin, and I were given refreshments from the lady doing weed patrol. She saved our lives! HAHA

                The trail rides had 25 riders!! Yay! Only two were SWIT members though, Barb McGann and myself. Glad to attract non-members but I think we need to promote the club a bit more. Let’s be inviting our friends to gatherings.

               Friday’s Competitive Trail Ride, CTR, was sanctioned by AHA not NATRC, mostly due to simpler rules. However, I see NATRC has some proposed rule changes that may improve this. NATRC may attract a few more entries. The big reason I did it was to allow riders to get their AHA horses qualified for upcoming AHA Distance CTR Nationals. A horse needs two CTR’s to qualify for the National ride along with mileage, refer to AHA for all info on that. And maybe someday other breed registries will join the CTR Championships like they have the endurance Championship.  I would call the CTR a success with 7 riders, three totally new to distance riding so maybe we’ll see them again. The trail was 2 loops, a scenic loop of cow trails connected out to the Sand Castles, where we hauled water and riders went by it twice due to a spring not being in working order. I have a plan to maybe take this to a spot on the canal next year for water, we’ll see. After a vet check and 30-minute hold they rode the creek loop. The winner, with a perfect score, was Dirty Martini, ridden by Ann Kuck!! Reserve was The Big Brass and Jessica Cobbley. Congrats to all who came and participated. I’ve been asked will I do it again? Yes, but I need a ride manager!! I could even add it to the Pie Ride but I need a ride manager. The pay for the job is horrible but if you’d like to act as such I would happily let you do that. Special thanks to Lucie Hess for making this ride happen.

                Saturday the 25-miler had 22 entries and 21 complete. Riders had a 15-mile loop that we’ve used previously, followed by vet into a hold, and the scenic creek loop which is 9.25 miles according to Garmin. Simone Maul and a mob of others came in with the Mule gang. Boogey pulsed down first and took BC honors two years in a row! First Junior and 2nd overall was Sydney Jackson aboard the mule, John Henry. Winning time was 2:41.  

                The 55 had 22 start and 18 finishes. The 55’s had two loops with some repeat through the creek, lots of new trails this year and people seemed to love all the cow trails. Two loops put the vetting in camp. The second loop had a couple miles of hit and miss gravel road that used to be dirt, sorry but in reality, that really isn’t bad compared to some rides and there was a soft shoulder at least. David Laws won in 5:47 aboard his Rocky Mountain horse, Che Ole, in 5:47. Second was Beth Claussen and Beau De Valeroso. Best Condition went to JAC Wynterhawk, ridden to 4th place by Lee Pearce in 6:53. There were no Junior riders on the 55-mile ride.

Michele  McGorky and her critters helping me unmark trail She did most of the work :) 

                Two horses deserve an extra mention because they competed two days in a row. Dirty Martinis participated on both the 25-mile CTR and the 25-mile LD. Owyhee Justice finished both the CTR and the 55-mile ride. Three riders also did CTR one day and endurance the next, congrats to Ann Kuck, Jessica Cobbley and Karen Bumgarner.

                The Longhorns and a rattlesnake sighting added some special interest. Oh, and let’s not forget the sight of our dedicated photographer, Dave Honan, wading in the creek either!!

                We raised $300 for Troop 255 and $1500 for the Reboot Veterans Horse Camp in Idaho. Donations to Reboot allow Veteran’s to participate all week for free!

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Deja Vu?

While it's true we can't go back in time and do-overs don't exist, there are times that stir some great memories. And some things just feel like you're home again.

This is one of my fave photos of  Moka's Pat A-Dott, (aka Speedy), and I taken at the Chief Paulina ride in 1985. Speedy was the only horse to ever do the CP 100 five times and I still have the blanket awarded to him for that. 

And now, umpteen years later, I'm lucky enough to have another colorful leopard that like to go places. This is Owyhee Justice, aka Rio. I got him for my Chief Joe horse but he wasn't particularly happy walking along. He wanted to do more than that. And when I ride him he reminds my of my good ol' Speedy. Deja Vu!! 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Death Valley Escape

This ride has been on my "must ride" list for years and I finally got to go!! The locals call it the Death Valley Encounter, but for me it was a brief escape from cold and snow, and as I write this, it's 18 degrees so I'm ready to return!!

The day after Christmas when most people are shopping, I was trying to make my way through Boise. It was like being on a suicide mission with two big wrecks in the West bound lanes and more piling up as drivers ignored all the flashing lights warning them of what lay ahead. On my side, heading East, all the Einsteins were rubbernecking at the wrecks and then slamming on their brakes, only to slide off and land in the median. I was scared spitless, or something like that, the spelling varies. You don't get pictures of that since I was still doing my own driving. Once the other side of Boise I had to stop at the rest area and relax my shaking hands. Then onward to Gooding, meet the Cobbley's and stow my rig at Huber's.

The remainder of our trip was uneventful. We marveled at the sun and the rising temps, we were so excited to meet 60 degrees!!! We made it to Ely, NV and stayed at the fair grounds there. Brrrr in the morning. We piled in the truck and Mike says "where to today Miss Daisy?" "Oh anywhere warm will do nicely", I replied.  We made it to Trona, CA. and camp around 3'ish. I don't recall exactly we were all way too excited.

Camp was the Trona Golf Course and Country Club. It was a full campground but we found a spot half a mile from the vetting area and such necessities.

Then there is all the "get ready to go" stuff to be done. It was dark by 5 so you better hustle hauling water, feeding, organizing and putting goo in Brass's hooves. Dinner, ride meeting, set the alarm and get ready in the morning.

Now I won't lie. I "love" a good Duck ride.  The Duck and Annie Nicholson put on good rides, and Duck always promises you a cave with a bear to wrestle. I think our bear was rocks but you can find your own bear. :)  I have always counted the Duck as one of my endurance heroes. I love it when he says these are "endurance rides, not races". I fully appreciate that he points out we are here to ride in harmony with our horses and enjoy what the mountains and desert have to offer.


It was cold starting in the morning. "I can't feel my legs" Jessica said, as we marveled at the unstoppable Dave Rabe, in his signature shorts! The man has over 69,000 AERC miles now I might add. Somewhere along the "burro trail" we got into the sun, shed a layer, and then rode across the vast Panamint Valley to lunch. We had multi-million dollar entertainment as we watched the jet pilots fly maneuvers.

After lunch we again climbed over the Slate Range and had an easy descent back into the valley to arrive in camp after the sun had set but wasn't quite yet dark. Oh what a marvelous day it had been, the stunning views and vistas were unmatched! We had so much fun, Thunder and Brass did so well, that we signed up for Day 2.

Day 2 gave us two loops. A 30 mile loop where we backtracked up to the Slate Range crossing, then across more mountains on a very good old motorcycle trail, then up to the radio towers. Endomondo said we were at 3757 elevation at the top of something Peak via the Tower Trail. Then through Manly Pass, down Goff Canyon and into camp for lunch.

Our hope that morning had been to have a bit of a faster day but the slog over the Tower Trail and all had us 6 hours into the ride at this point. Ugh! Leaving at 2 for 20 miles we knew it'd be dark when we would finish. The horses were doing great, even though Thunder had been pretty warm and panted a lot during the heat of the day. However the trail turned away from camp about a mile from camp. Thunder was convinced I was the biggest idiot and horse could be stuck with. How could I possibly be going this way? They were happier when we turned back towards camp. And camp was a welcome sight!!
We vetted through just fine and because Thunder had gotten so warm earlier in the day, I had already decided I was sitting out day 3. Turned out Day 3 trail wasn't a lot different from Day 2 so no big loss.

Mike was happy as he had ridden two short rides on Khalid who is just beginning, I had my two days, but Jessica was going to try for 3. But when trotting Brass out he just didn't look quite comfortable, so she opted to not start. They went to town for propane etc., I went down to the vetting area to help Annie for a bit. Then I gave the horses a massage. It was a lazy relaxing day. I was completely happy with my two mid-winter rides on my wooly horse. All of us decided we'd gotten our money's worth, if we skipped day 4 and headed home we wouldn't miss any work. So as we spent the night at another fairgrounds, all the DVE riders were having a New Years Eve Party and steak dinner.

About noon I was back on the road in my own truck heading home. What a fabulous way to spend Christmas break and see 2017 out the door. Thank you again Mike and Jessica Cobbley for letting me travel with you. It was so much fun!!! Thanks Andi Sorrell for taking good care of the home ponies. What a great experience, I am so grateful! I want to do it again someday!