Tuesday, June 30, 2009


The ears are my two point gps system, high tech stuff right there!

It was the coolest old dug out, flat rocks laid in there horizontally to build a smooth solid wall. The poles over the top were supports for a sod roof. The dugout was near the banks of Hart Creek, and upstream was an awesome cave with a sign mostly covered with brush. I had to see what it said. It read "Oreana Savana". Not sure exactly what that meant. This was just one of the many sights at the Almosta Bennett Hills ride at Oreana.

The Bennett Hills ride was planned for the Gooding area. To make a long story short, it got rained out and John & Steph Teeter stepped in, offering trails and camp and much more just 5 days before the ride date. WOW!

I rode Thunder day 1 on the loop that left Oreana and climbed up to Toy Mtn. Sego lilies decorated the landscape along with a few left over Indian Paintbrush, Lupine, and Arrowleaf. It was a 50 mile loop - HOORAY!!! - with an out vet check and it was a wonderful reminder of the old days of endurance when you really had to ride coyote smart. I rode with my friend Linda and we had a blast! The horses had lots of creek crossings with good water. A bite of grass here and there. Even though it was the mid 80's the last few miles Thunder had to throw in some power spooks to be sure that I was still there and maybe I'd let him go faster? Not! We finished 8 and 9, snapping pictures of cool rock formations and scenic vistas along the way.

Sunday was day 2, I was going to ride spooky Thunder another day. Linda opted out on her mare but rode Blue on his second 50. He had spent all day Saturday having a fit in the corral in camp wondering why we had left him there. So he was a happy camper trotting down the trail Sunday after we got the first spook out of the way. We had a 25 mile loop that zigged and zagged over to Hart Creek and over little hills, rocks, sagebrush, through the creeks, past the homestead, and back to camp. After a vet check and an hour hold we were to repeat the loop in reverse. Only our hour hold was more like a hour and a half. it went something like this: Merri asks me, "Hey Karen aren't you guys going back out?" I answered "yup at 11:19." She said, "well you're late, it's 11:31!" Oh well, the extra time for the horses to eat and drink wasn't a waste as it was heating up and they'd need the energy. It heated right up to 95. And I am sure the water in my bottles was 120+! But we finished and the horses were in great shape and hungry but then Thunder is always hungry. We were top 10 and "turtle" all at the same time too.

Here is a link to more photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/zap6000/Almostabhills

It was a great weekend and those that missed it really missed some good trail and that nice 50 mile loop! Classic endurance stuff there. I love it!!!!

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Historic Wyoming

Little did I know that when I bought a grey Arab gelding awhile back to resell that it would lead me to Wyoming. But a rancher there wanted a grey Arabian for riding fences and sorting cows and by delivering him to Wyoming, I got a vacation. Not just any vacation but a journey to the Black Hills of Wyoming. Yes I said Wyoming, the Black Hills continue to South Dakota. This area of the Black Hills is known as the Bear Lodge range.

On my adventure to the Rauth Ranch in Alva, WY. I got to see 950+ miles of amazing country. And I think there was every kind of weather too. Years ago going to the Race of Champions we had traveled the big Horns, Cody and Yellowstone, so I opted to take the faster route this time.

I took Thunder along to keep Grey Boy happy in the trailer and also to do some riding. How can you visit a place in the Black Hills of NE Wyoming and not ride?? Especially when the place is a working cattle ranch. This might make up for those fleeting pictures of all the interesting things that I drove by. I would have loved to have had more time for a trip like this, so many historic and wondrous things to see: Battle of Little Big Horn, Devils Tower, views of the Tetons and several other mountain ranges, and my favorite - old homesteads.

I pulled in to the ranch yard just past midnight. Was greeted by ranch owner, Dick Rauth and four dogs. We tucked the horses into a corral with hay and water and headed to the ranch house. That long drive wore me out.

In the morning I could see everything was lush and green, creeks and big trees, and lots of mud from heavy spring rains. I think it rained 3" while I was there. But then since I got home it's done nothing but thunderstorm, just that time of year. The plan for the day was to ride and mend fences.

Since Thunder had been in the trailer for 18 hours Dick suggested I ride one of their geldings. He caught up two horses across the creek, both homebred Morab geldings. I rode "Stranger" who strayed from his mother as a baby and grew up half wild. But he was a good mount and solid as they come. Dick packed his fence stretcher in his rifle scabbord and tied on a roll of wire to his saddle and we were good to go. We followed miles of fence, fixed a place or two, and I just sat back and enjoyed the ride. From different vantage points the green vistas showed thousands of rolling acres that belonged to the ranch and I could even see Devils Tower in the distance. To say that deer were abundant is an understatement as both whitetail and muley's were everywhere I looked. They can hide easily in the oak thickets. The wild flowers were beautiful and the Pines smelled so good.

Once back to the ranch the grey got his saddling lesson and he was not fond of the rifle scabbord and that back cinch so he bucked off through the muddy corral. The deep mud made him work and wore him down and he'd quit. Then something would set him off and he'd take out bucking again. He got to wear that saddle around for a couple hours and just get used to it.
I got to meet some of the homebred ranch horses. He and Twila have two Morgan studs and they have mostly Morabs for ranch use. Although one black gelding was a Tennesee Walker Morgan cross and Twila rode him to gather cows. In addition to saddle stock there are four Percherons that are used in the winter for feeding cattle in the snow. They put hay on a big sled and take it out over the snowy pastures. All really nice horses. There were two mares heavy with foal but a couple weeks away from their due dates.

The next morning Dick saddled the grey up again, who was still basically nameless because "gotta know them before you can give them a proper name". I think he was just as bucky today so he just spent time in the muddy corral. Dick said he wanted all the buck out of him before he got on. Then we headed across the border to Spearfish for a few supplies. Went through the old cattle capital of Belle Fourche, a destination in many John Wayne movies. Back at the ranch Twila rode down the creek on her Morgan stallion to go look for calves and I set off headed for one of the high pastures just to ride and sightsee. Thunder just wanted to keep going, maybe he was trying to trot back to Idaho. We trotted through the meadow, up the hills, in the mud, crossed some creeks, all in one pasture.

The next day it rained, and poured and rained some more. The creeks swelled up and the mud got deeper. Seemed like a good day to go sightseeing and we headed off through Hulett, set near the banks of the Belle Fourche River, to Devils Tower. The heavy rain had the mountain top all fogged in so I couldn't see the huge rocky tower in front of me. We went on past Sundance (where the Sundance Kid took his name from Sundance Mt. when he spent the night in jail.) Then to Spearfish, down through Spearfish Canyon, mining towns Lead and Deadwood (where Wild Bill met his fate) and on to Crazy Horse Monument. All the way Dick is telling me different stories about the country and the people in it, he's a great tour guide. The rain was relentless and luckily the fog didn't block Crazy Horse. That's an amazing piece of work! I wonder if it'll get finished in my lifetime? The Museum and all the pictures are fascinating. Mt Rushmore was only a few miles away if we skipped Custer Nat'l Park and all the rain. But when we got to Rushmore the fog and clouds were so heavy that I couldn't see a thing, not even an outline. There were people everywhere hoping for the same thing I was, just for the clouds to part so we could see this magnificent patriotic monument. But no such luck. Back to the pickup and back to the ranch.

The next day the sun was shining and the job was sorting cattle. Sounds easy enough but there are HUGE pastures and cows and calves hiding in oak thickets and the goal is to find the older cows and take them up to a different pasture. These cows are pretty wild but every now and then would would come up looking for "cake" and hoping you'd feed them. Cake is large pellets of meal with molasses and all the critters love it! Of course the beggars were never ones that we needed to sort out and move either.

The first batch to hunt down and sort wasn't too hard but when we rode back up to another pasture mixed with two year old cows with their calves that was a rodeo. The older cows weren't too bad to sort and move out but their calves said no way. Those calves hadn't ever been pushed anywhere, and all they wanted to do was go back to the others and they had plenty of open space to run in. Dick and Twila were galloping everywhere after calves and all Thunder wanted to do was run and join in the fun. Not turn and stop with the cows just be a goofy racehorse. So when it became evident that we didn't know what we were doing, I just got out of the way and took a few pictures. Now I felt like a city dude. Once the older cows with calves were sorted and pushed through the gate the rest was pretty easy by comparison, just take them down the road and up to the other pasture. I decided Joe's cows are a lot easier to move along than these are.

After all that I rode Smokey, a Morab gelding, complete with the big western saddle, tapaderoes and lariat. Sorry I didn't get a picture of that. Anyway I rode out to accompany Dick on the grey Arab for his first outside ride. I would have taken Thunder but we didn't just want the horse following his pal around. We went up to the high pasture where I'd ridden Thunder before and the grey did great with the only problem being creek crossings. But after Smokey led him across a couple then he was doing just fine and seemed to be enjoying himself.

Time flies and it was time to head back home. After the thank-yous and goodbyes were said I didn't have to ask Molly twice to get in the pickup. I went a few miles out of the way in hopes of seeing Devils Tower but even though the rest of the area was clear the rocky peak was cloud covered. Along 287 and the Madison River I found a great spot to give Thunder a rest and some grass before we continued on. I pulled in my driveway at 2:35 AM, and was ready for some sleep. Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

BULLS 3 - US 0

Those evasive bulls beat us again. We trailered out to the far side of Owyhee Reservoir, drove up a tiny dirt road and set up the catch pen where Cherry Creek drains down. Joe knew where the bulls were so he rode Thunder with Josette & Joey and they headed up the creek canyon. Meanwhile Linda rode up Indian Creek Rd to scout off the hillside and look for the bulls. I watched the gate - hey it's a tough job. :-) Linda came back and said that she had spotted one of the bulls up around the bend. But Joe and company came back later without anything. He and the dogs had traveled much of the creek bed and nothing moved out. The thick brush conceals the creek, much of the grass and anything that wants to live in there. Including two Angus bulls and a rattlesnake that we didn't stop to make friends with. So after failing at bringing them in and loading the panels back in the trailer, Linda and I decided to ride back to the ranch. Yup it's a long way, yup it's going to get dark, but we didn't care.
Linda and I rode up Indian Creek Road with Owyhee Reservoir behind us. The Reservoir is 25 miles long through the Owyhee Range and attracts many boaters, fisherman and campers. It's a 5 mile pull to the cattle guard up near the top of the hill. The horses were busy eating grass and we were eyeing the gorgeous wildflowers ranging from a neon Blue to pink to bright yellow. We saw a nice little doe and as we climbed higher and could look down into the Cherry and Birch Creek confluence, there was a bull. Yup, Linda had spotted one earlier and then when they came back empty thought maybe she'd just seen a big rock. But this was no rock, definitely a bull. Now out in the open, uphill from the creek and the brush, laughing at us. The trailers and all were gone so we continued on our way, enjoying the ride, the view and watching for more snakes.
As it began to get dark the moon rose up and between it and mother nature's fireworks, lightening down south towards Three Fingers, we had a decent amount of light. Not enough to stay on the faint brushy trail along Alkali Creek that would take us over near Blackjack Butte though. We weren't lost, we just weren't where we needed to be. We knew where to go, but we couldn't get there from where we were. From the hilltop we could see all the city lights from miles away, from Ontario down to Homedale and across to Boise and bogus Basin. What a sight. But our landmarks that we see in the daylight, the Snake River, the canal, roads and the bridge, were all hidden in darkness. So we worked our way back towards the powerlines, knowing those would take us down to Succor Creek Road. It was warm and beautiful and the moonlight. We'd trot where the footing was good but that wasn't a lot. Pretty rocky country out there. As we got closer to the powerlines we sent Joe a text message that read "powerline p u". It took about a mile till we got a strong enough signal for it to send but he knew what we meant. And he picked us up where the powerlines meet up with Succor Creek Rd. He even got there just a few minutes after we did. It was 11:45 PM. My goal is to be home by midnight - missed it by just a bit this time. But what a fabulous ride we had!! Hey we're ready to ride in the dark on that 100 miler now!!
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