Thursday, December 30, 2010
Thursday December 30 2010
It's not for the faint of heart, this endurance riding. When night comes and you're wet and chilled to the bone after vetting in your horse in the chilly down-pouring rain, and in the dead of night the spitting rain lashes your windows and the hurricane wind shakes the horse trailer you're sleeping in, your horse's tail is clamped to his butt and he shivers under his wet blankets, you entertain the thought... "I don't have to ride in the morning if I don't want to..."
But, when you get up in the dark morning, and it's just finger-freezing cold and the desert rain has abated to icy showers, and the howling wind has diminished to occasional tail-raising gusts, and the storm clouds hang low but hold back... you reason the weather's improved 100% and you're saddling up to hit the trail.
Mother Nature threw every kind of weather she had at the 42 riders (half of what had signed up before the ride) on Day 1. Rain! Wind! Hail! Snow! Sleet! Snowballs! Gusts! It kept all riders guessing all day, though every redesign still required multiple layers of clothing. Ride manager Rusty was somewhat aghast at the snowballs falling on his ride in the desert, when it was 75 degrees just a few days ago. In the late afternoon, just after he'd mentioned that he could see more blue sky, and that the waves of clouds weren't quite as dark, and the snow balls weren't quite as big last time, it snowballed so hard and heavily that you couldn't see across basecamp and the ground was briefly saturated in white.
Dennis Summers on OMR Tsunami set the pace on the 50 and finished in front just over 4 hours of ride time later. Not surprising. It's Tsunami's 8th win in 23 starts. It's Dennis and Sue Summers' first Arizona winter in their new house down the road. Sue rode her half Arabian, half American Bashkir Curly horse AM Humvee to fifth place. Humvee has over 3000 miles and has only 2 pulls in 52 starts over 11 seasons (he's 8 for 8 in hundred milers).
Christoph Schork and DWA Powerball finished second, and his partner Dian Woodward and HL Vanhelsing finished third and got Best Condition. Dian and Christoph came to Arizona to escape the Utah winter. Dian didn't think she'd need her winter riding tights and rain pants, so she didn't bring them. "It's Phoenix for crying out loud!" It was only Vanhelsing's fifth ride
Sandra Fretelliere flew down from New York (also expecting hot weather) and rode ride manager Rusty's horse Ripper. Ripper dumped Sandra on Wednesday and ran home without her. Today he tried a few "nasty spooks", and some near bucks when her riding partner Bill's jacket started flapping in the hefty breeze, and he had a brief runaway session when Bill's horse Cheymas bolted off on a run. The hail was a bit challenging too... but they stuck together and finished 6th.
Peter Hommertzheim - riding his big mule Big Kate - should have gotten the Resolution Tough Sucker award. He was riding with a healing torn rotator cuff and torn breastbone cartilage, and broken ribs from an accident 6 weeks ago. Not to mention he was riding in shorts (Rusty said "He's the Dave Rabe of Colorado!")
27 of 30 starters finished the 50 miler, and 10 of 12 starters finished the 25 miler, with Ron Bowers winning the 25.
Nothing but clear skies in the forecast for days 2 and 3, just what you expect for an Arizona winter. Except for the minor details of fleece and down riding gear.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Wednesday December 29 2010
Red skies at morning...
The predicted rain began around noon. Hesitantly at first, then casually, then boldly. A desert winter rain: steady, persistent, protracted (some might say: interminable). A gray, heavy, wet, soupy day. A good one to sit around the fire curled up around a hot cup of coffee and a hot bowl of soup.
Into the evening, little puddles became little lakes; little trickles became little streams down the washes and roads. Soggy horses, and a few stunned people who expected the sunny warm skies ("It's Phoenix for crying out loud!") and didn't bring rain gear or winter tights. Some people from New York and the Northwest and Utah thought they'd escape the snow and rain for the warm and dry Southwest.
But plenty of smiles and large doses of humor lit the faces of the 40-some intrepid endurance riders vetting their horses in, that didn't cancel (down from 90-some pre-entries), and who planned to mount their horses at 7:30 tomorrow morning for Day 1 of the Resolution Endurance Ride.
Ride manager Rusty roamed base camp with his hands wrapped around a cup of hot chocolate and a laugh on his lips. Trails are marked, everything is ready, and there's nothing to be done about the weather but saddle up and ride!
Wednesday December 29 2010
The dinner party at Dennis and Sue Summers' house last night was like a Who's Who of endurance riding. Between just a handful of the long-time endurance riders there - Dennis and Sue, Christoph Schork, Dian Woodward, Kevin Waters, Pat Murray and Clydea Hastie - the total AERC endurance mileage added up to roughly 108,110 miles (plus 11 Tevis buckles).
That's more than 4 times around Planet Earth.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Tuesday December 28 2010
This is something totally alien - me fleeing the winter snow for southern climes!
I'm not running away though; I'm on assignment following endurance rides around the southwest for a couple of months. And while I'm sorely missing the frigid Pacific Northwest, and every snowflake that falls there, and every bone-chilling shiver down my spine, I'm soaking up the splendor of the Southwest (while sweating).
There is, however, some chilly, wet, blustery weather heading our way Wednesday and Wednesday night, but that will just set up the trails and the days perfectly for the 3-day Resolution Endurance Ride which begins on Thursday near Scottsdale Arizona.
Expect cool and spectacular sunny days (on Thursday after the rain stops) in this Sonoran desert, the hottest desert in North America (in the summer!), the only one where you'll see - and ride through - forests of Saguaro Cactus, the state flower of Arizona.
Here is a taste of the scenery you'll glimpse on the trails.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Tuesday December 21 2010
My new favorite color is Cliff-Vermilion. It's right up there along with Raven-Black, and Alpine-Lake-Surrounded-By-Snowfields-Deep-Blue. (Painted-Desert-Pink is a close second.)
This color ranking was prompted by a drive along highway Alt-89 in northwest Arizona, along the Vermilion Cliffs (part of the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area; the Vermilion Cliffs along the northern highway 89, just over the border in Utah, on the northern edge of the Paria Plateau, are part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument).
The area is simply stunning - intriguing - mystifying - alluring. The landscape is incredible. The colors are impossible. Sixty plus miles of breath-snatching, jaw-dropping, run-off-the-road, awe-inspiring 1500-ft high cathedral cliffs made of striking, multi-hued layered shale and sandstone towering over the valley - and then towering another 1000 ft over the Colorado River where the cliffs meet Marble Canyon and the Navajo Bridge.
Not only did the geologic aspect of this other-world make it a memorable drive, but my first-ever sighting of a California Condor shattered the awe factor.
An experimental population of California condors was reintroduced to the area in 1996. The condors like to roost on the Navajo Bridge at night. One was soaring over the canyon when I stopped there. A couple of Ravens flew above the condor, trying to imitate the giant condor with its 9-foot wingspan.
I have been seduced. It's a part of the country that requires more exploration.