Monday, May 31, 2010

Owyhee Fandango - River Run!

Thunder was fine crossing the historic Guffey Bridge but wasn't crazy about stopping high above the Snake River for his photo!

The Owyhees have become one of my favorite places thanks to all the endurance rides put on by the Teeters and their great friends. When I am anywhere where I can see the Owyhees I just gaze at them and all these great memeories come rushing into my head! And now, once again, I was heading South to Oreana. I was pretty excited about going down to ride the 100 on Thunder. His first ever 100 and my first in a few years. The thoughts of new trails drew me like a piece of steel to a magnet.
Sunday at 6 AM my friend Lynn White and I left the Teeter Ranch, beginning our long day's trek. We headed NE to the Sierra Del Rio Ranch, a beautiful oasis not far from the Snake River. This heavenly spot was once a water and rest stop on the Oregon Trail. From here we rode through some awesome wagon ruts left over 150 years ago. When you are out in the remote country, truly very little has changed with time, and it is like taking a step back through history. Later we dropped down into the Snake River Gorge near Swan Falls Dam. Somewhere in here we managed to pass three riders, but I had a feeling we'd be seeing them again. We rode on sandy two-track roads and trails along the river, past an orchard from an old homestead, and into the large rocks decorated with petroglyphs. These boulders washed down in the Bonneville Flood over 15,000 years ago. Our trail later became skinny and hard to keep track of as it wandered through some boulders and rocks that some riders just hated. But I didn't mind, I've helped move cattle through rougher country than that. One section of the river had about 20 pelicans, the fishing must have been good!

Seeing the radio crew at the Pumping Station was a welcome sight and from there it was only a few miles to Celebration Park, Idaho's first archaeological park. We had to cross the historic Guffey Bridge, over 500 feet long and far up above the water. It was designed for the hauling of gold and silver ore from Silver City mines at the turn of the century. Later during World War II it was used for target practice and it was restored in 1989.

Our 40 mile vet check was in Celebration Park along the banks of the Snake River. It was warming up and when we arrived there had been four horses pulled. Nothing like hearing that news to place fear in your heart! But we vetted through with A's and would be allowed to retrace our steps back to the Ranch after an hour rest. Thunder never stopped eating the whole time, what a hoover! But it is one of the things that makes him such a strong horse.

As we backtracked to the ranch we saw a few things we'd missed the first time. The trail passed by the remnants of an old rock homestead cabin. From another point across the river stood the Halvorson Cabin across the river, also built of rocks. From this angle we also spotted more rocks with petroglyphs. A couple rattle snakes greeted us after we had climbed back up out of the gorge getting closer to the ranch.

Back at the ranch we had 65 miles down, 15 to go back to Oreana. We were still having a blast and vetted through at Oreana just after 8 PM. We had our 50 minutes rest and eat time and hit the trail again at 8:58. Twenty miles was all that lay between us and that special completion of our 100 mile goal. We trotted until it got pitch black dark and we hit a spot where we had trouble finding trail. We had to use our lights to find the trail. I learnt that for some reason a map just doesn't look right by flashlight when you're a bit tired. And then it was so dark, the lights had messed up what little night vision we had, so we just kept the lights on. We'd jog here and there, walk in other places where we weren't sure of the footing. And because we slowed down, we got passed! Oh well, no matter, we were having fun and doing what we wanted to do, finish on happy healthy horses.

As it got a bit later the horses just picked up a really fast walk, occasionally we would trot but mostly we just used that fast walk. The glowsticks were now plentiful and it was easy to find the trail. The full moon was starting to peak over the horizon but it wasn't giving us much light with the clouds. As we rode along the backside of the hill above camp we could see all the lights at Teeters were on. Just like Motel 6. As we got close someone yelled "Riders coming!" And yes we were the last two survivors. Just as we rounded the corner about 200 yards from the timers Thunder & I heard a rattler and he bolted. I was sitting loose and the reins were swinging but I got him reeled in about 100 yards later. Ah yes - excitement!

The vet, Robert Washington checked Thunder over and he looked great to finish and and we had now completed his first 100!! WOOHOO!! Lynn's horse vetted through with flying colors too and they had their first 100 also! What a great day!!! 1:04 AM, just over 19 hrs elapsed time and just under 16 hrs riding time when you subtracted the timed holds! Wow that is respectable. 16 started and 10 completed. Time to take care of the horse and hit the sack for some well deserved rest!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Prineville Endurance Ride

Snowy Cascades to the West
Getting away to go to the Prineville Endurance ride was my Mother's Day present to me. I hadn't been to the ride in years and there were so many people that I wanted to visit with. What fun to catch up, it was like a reunion! This was the first time Thunder and I had ventured off to Oregon for a ride. And it was to be his first 75 miler.

My plan was the usual, start late, keep him by himself and out of trouble. Which wasn't too hard since most everyone took off fast and then I got on and we headed out of camp. He was a bit wound up but I thought the climb up Grey Butte would settle him down. Wrong! I was keeping him in a trot, but he was a boing machine with a pogo stick trot. On the narrow trails he was pretty good but whenever he got out in the open he was pretty spooky. Only came close to dumping me once and I hooked a heel in his side and hung on. :-) Whew! I really like those trails the Ridge Riders have built over the years! And the views of the Cascades are phenomenal!
My biggest concern was that he was so intent on wanting to catch horses ahead that he didn't want to stop and drink. I'd get him to stand at the water but he'd just stare on up the trail - watching. He breezed up Kings Gap and on into the vet check at Cyrus Horse Camp. He still didn't drink and he was pushing me everywhere. Despite his antics his pulse dropped well and he vetted with A's and we went back out the trail. A couple 50 milers caught up to us and now he really wanted to go. I got off and led him for about a mile and he calmed down. I got back on and he hit a nice trot. It is just easier to settle him down that way than fight with him.
We reached our junction for the 12 mile Warner loop that would circle us out towards Haystack Reservoir and back across the ridges to Cyrus for another vet check. Here he finally drank. That was a relief! He vetted through just fine and ate well. After our hold it was back out across the Grasslands to Pine Ridge and into camp at Skull Hollow. We were on the trail by ourselves and he really is pretty good that way. Occasionally we'd travel along with a 25 miler but for the most part, he was content to go his pace and didn't really care about the other horses. He'd pass and not look back.
Camp was a welcome sight at 37.5 miles. I took a little extra time over our 45 minutes so he could stock up on food. We were last so it didn't really matter, I was riding our own ride at the pace I thought was best for him. On our second loop we passed several 50 milers before reaching the check at Cyrus. Thunder looked and felt strong and vetted through with all A's again. On the Warner loop we caught another 75 miler. She was leading but got on and followed. Her horse didn't want to go by himself and Thunder led the way back into the vet check. He pulsed down immediately but the other horse took several minutes. So we trotted out of there all by ourselves and he never looked back. I told him we were going home.
Thunder was getting a bit hungry again so the last few miles he'd grab grass and trot, grab a bit and trot. Even with grazing we made the last 11 miles in less than two hours. The grazing kept up his energy and helped him vet through at the end of 75 miles with all A's once more! What a guy! He wasn't tired. I was but he still had some left, which is what I wanted. Our time was 12:18 which for a first 75 over that terrain wasn't bad. There were 18 starters, 4 pulls and we weren't last! WOOHOO!
A Bald Eagle in the tree
I had a great trip home. The valley through Mitchell was beautiful and green and I had to play Chris LeDoux music through there because it just "fit". RIP Chris, your music is wonderful! Going through Dayville was great because the locals were sitting on the bench outside the store and waved as I went by! Where else does that happen?! I saw two Bald Eagles along Mountain Creek and had to stop for a picture of one. I just really counted my blessings and was grateful for everything as I drove along.
A huge force behind the Prineville Ride is Cole Still. I remember years ago helping the Ridge Riders at the ride and breakfast when we lived over there. Cole and the RidgeRiders have worked hard for years to build this trail. It didn't just happen to "be" there, they built it little by little. Without their trails the ride would be on roads. The club also worked with the USFS to get this trail as a permanent trail. You can go ride it anytime. Also thank the Ridge Riders for building Cyrus Horse Camp, what a nice place.
It was a great weekend and I really enjoyed it!
Thank-you Cole Still and the Ridge Riders!

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Once again there I was, driving off to a local endurance ride in a big windstorm. At least I had a tailwind most of the way to help me there. But setting up camp in the wind was a challenge. I didn't dare leave a trailer door open becayse I might lose it, or get knocked over by it. Ride camp was a big ranch located just off Murphy Flat Rd. near Murphy, ID.

On Friday morning I had a plan, take Blue down to the ride and do the 60. Or maybe just putt through the 75, heck it's only 15 more miles. I figured I'd take Thunder to Prineville the next weekend. That plan changed around 3 PM because Amanda Washington's horse had gotten scraped up escaping from her pen during the night. I had a message from her, "Wouldn't you rather ride Thunder this weekend?" So after some talking and a bit of planning, both horses were going to the ride and we'd do the 60 miler. Her friend, Elly Burnett, was doing her first long ride and we were going to keep her company at tourist pace.

Saturday morning the horses were saddled, Easyboot Gloves on all fours, the wind was calm. Looked like a good day! And it was a good day, with some wild Idaho weather added into it here and there. We had a bit of everything but for the most part, as long as you were riding and keeping warm it was OK.

The first loop out was 25 miles and this took us down into the Snake River Canyon near the Swan Falls dam. The views were spectacular, the rock formations awesome and the petroglyph rocks were fascinating. Thunder had to check them out! Thank you Steph and Regina for this great treat!! The river was smooth and mirrored the rocks sticking up in the middle. As we climbed up through the rocks to the top plateau, again the views were amazing. You could see for miles and miles!

Back to camp for an hour hold that was shortened to 45 min thanks to the cold wind and the hailstorm that we'd missed. Good timing! Loop 2 was 21 miles and we hit portions of the Oregon Trail and the horses had lots of grass to eat. Blue was just sure we were going to be out there forever and he was in a hurry to get going. Some places had nothing to tie marking ribbons to - and Steph hung ribbon from a cow skeleton - yeah that's Idaho! After another 45 minute hold we had a 15 mile loop. Great trail and beautiful views of the Owyhees. One snowy mountain top would have blue sky, and another would be covered in a storm. Then we could see camp - and we were done!! And it started to sleet just as we were trying to get horses vetted and unsaddled. The horses were buried in blankets to keep warm.

Regina had barbecued pulled pork sandwich fixings and cole slaw for everyone and the rancher's shop gave us a warm place for dinner!! What a great ride and fun day!! Then I loaded up the boys to get them out of the wind, and headed for home.