Friday, May 21, 2010

Mt Adams Endurance Ride: It's Not a Hobby, It's An Addiction

Saturday May 15 2010

It takes a LOT of work to put on a big endurance ride like the Mt Adams 12, 25, 50, 75, and 100 mile endurance rides, 12 and 25 mile Ride N Tie, and Trail Ride. That's all on one day - May 15.

Just ask co-managers Darlene Anderson and Steph Irving. Just ask Terry Ross who started working clearing trails April 16th, (literally, hundreds of trees). Just ask Max Merlich, who spent 5 straight days the week before the ride, helping clear more downed trees (80 trees from just the red loop - and then they had a windstorm that knocked more trees down on the same trails they'd already cleared), and then being Water Boy for the ride. Max drove around with a pile of chainsaws in the back of his truck and used them every day, whether he needed to or not... apparently there were some cool chainsaw log carvings out there : ). Darlene called them her Enduro-Loggers.

And this was by no means the only volunteers who worked hard on this ride, before, during, and after. The community of nearby Trout Lake also helps out with the Mt Adams ride in various capacities, including the Trout Lake Class of 2011 (all 11 of them) who cooked meals one night to raise money for a school trip.

I must also put in a plug here for the Heavenly Grounds Espresso on the corner by the lone gas station - their huckleberry smoothies were TO DIE FOR, and I tried to die several times during the weekend by drinking them.

But all that effort provided a lot of pleasure for the participants - just ask approximately 155 riders and 148 horses who were there. Just ask the two junior riders who finished the 25 miler (Andie, who won the Junior Best Condition award, and 5-year-old Garrett, who finished his first endurance ride and grinned for 3 days straight!). Just ask the junior Clara who rode and finished (and got Junior Best Condition) her first 75 miler. Just ask SHA Ebony Rose, the 19-year-old mare of Dennis Summers', who won the 100 (and got Best Condition). She was mum, but she sure looked like she was enjoying her job, and she certainly made it look effortless.

Oh, there were a few who were probably a bit disappointed, like one gal who had a wreck and ended up in the hospital (she's fine now), or the two gals who either stayed to help her (and consequently was overtime in her ride) or raced back to camp to get help (her horse was consequently lame going back out on trail), or Paul Latiolais whose gaited horse looked excellent all day in the 75 miler - and pulled lame at the finish.

But in total the ride was a galloping success.

The 14th annual Mt Adams ride took place near the foot of Mt Adams, Washington's second highest mountain at 12,281'. The stratovolcano - still considered "potentially active" though the last eruption was over 3500 years ago - is covered by glaciers year round, and climbing it is always a risk because of how quickly it can develop its own severe snowstorms any time of year. There was, in fact, snow over parts of the trail and upper roads (where the water tanks would be going) less than a week before the ride, but they melted away just in time.

Ridecamp was situated in a meadow with a spectacular view of the great white mountain (known as Pahto, or Klickitat, in some Native Americans legends), in the Mt Adams Horse Camp. There are 11 Horse Camps in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in southern Washington, maintained in partnership by the USFS, the Backcountry Horsemen of Washington, Washington State Interagency Committee for outdoor Recreation, and groups like these committed endurance riders.

The ride trails consisted of several loops out of basecamp and several vet checks in basecamp and one or two holds at the out vet check. Different distances rode different loops at different times - how Darlene managed to plan out this spaghetti and the starting times in her head for the ride is amazing. And though a few riders got confused on one part of the trail, the fact that the 3 riders who have a reputation for getting lost (Ernie, Katie, and Mary), didn't get lost on this trail (and Mary was in the dark!) is testimony to it making sense.

Most of the footing was soft packed logging roads and much of the trail was the ups and downs over the foothills below Mt Adams. It was in the 40's in the morning, and warmed up to near 80 during the day - the hottest day most of those horses had seen so far this year - but there were no metabolic issues at all.

The 75 and 100 milers started at 5:30 AM, just light enough to not need glowsticks or headlamps. The 50 milers started at 6 AM. All three distances had a first (different) loop of 12 or 13 miles for their first two loops, so basecamp was busy with vet checks as the 25 milers started at 8 AM. Some of those 25 milers started out of camp at a flat-out sprint, and those 50's and 75's and 100's unlucky enough to be caught by them at the start of the trail out of camp had an exciting shot of adrenaline if they didn't get off the trail soon enough.

Those indomitable Ride N Tiers started at 8:30 AM, and the Trail riders started at 8:45, "or whenever you want!"

As usual here in the Pacific Northwest, a good number of gaiters showed up. In fact there were a great variety of breeds besides the traditional Arabian: Missouri Foxtrotters, Tennessee Walkers, Paso Finos, Pervian Pasos, Friesian, Kentucky Mountain Horse, Thoroughbred, Quarter horse, Mustang, Akhal-teke, Bashkir Curly, and various crosses. It was fun trying to guess what breed the obviously non-Arabian horse was. Nicole Chappel, who finished 6th on the 100, rode a gorgeous half-Friesian, 1/4 Quarter horse, 1/4 Arabian.

The wildlife was varied and enticing too: every evening you could hear the ethereal calls of varied thrushes, and at night saw-whet owls; during the days you could hear pileated woodpeckers and red-breasted nuthatches, and you might see, if you were lucky, a coyote (I did), elk, a bear (Bianca and her horse saw one during the 50-mile ride - her horse thought it was just another Ride N Tie horse tied along the trail), or a cougar on the orange loop on Friday (though this person might not have considered it lucky to see a cougar).

You might also see... things... if you were really tired on one of the longer rides late into the night. Someone saw a 'spotted bunny', someone saw 'morels', someone said 'it was because of the morels you saw a spotted bunny'. 12-year-old Clara was so tired on her last loop of the 75 miler, she saw bugs. Her mom insisted the bugs had gone away when the sun set, but Clara insisted she saw bugs following her.

Clara did her first endurance rides with her mom at last year's 5-day Owyhee Fandango in Idaho in September. She did 2 LDs, then hopped right back on her most adorable Welsh-Arabian-Paint one-blue-eyed pony-with-an-attitude Benjamin (who mom calls "socially retarded") and did a 50. Mom Mary said this Mt Adams 75 was Clara's idea; Clara said it was her mom's idea. Mary has signed up for Tevis this year, so she wanted to do a 75, and ride in the dark. Clara is afraid of the dark. And it was the longest ride she and Benjamin had ever done.

Loop 5 (of 6), Clara had an uncharacteristic, short, breakdown. It was something along the lines of, "WHY am I doing this?" (Something, I assured her the next day, that we have ALL asked at one time or another, while on the back of an endurance horse.) "It lasted about 40 seconds, and then I was okay," she said next morning. She hadn't gotten enough sleep the night before (their friend and crew, Lolly, brought out a sleeping bag for Clara to crawl into at the vet checks), and a long loop in the dark was coming up. Yes, she was scared on that last loop, but at one point she got too tired to care. And, she told her mom, "We did everything you wanted to do - the 75, riding in the dark, and not getting lost!" (You'll see Clara's story - 'The Reluctant Rider' - in the next issue of the Endurance News magazine.)

But even though Clara SAYS she's been a bit reluctant, she said she might like to try a 100 this year. And maybe Tevis next year. I'm not the only rider who idolizes Clara. Another rider told both Clara and Mary next morning: "You're my heroes!"

Every time over the weekend that I saw 5-year-old Garrett and his mom Robin, he was grinning from ear to ear, and cantering his little pony along the trails, with his mom following, "Garrett, wait! Garrett, slow down!" He looked like he was having the best time. He finished his first 25 mile ride with his mom in 5 hours and 15 minutes, still grinning as he came across the finish line, and grinning bashfully as he received his awards and big applause next morning, though I'm not sure he knew why everybody cheered for him.

Captain Calypso won the 75, and Best Condition the next morning. Ernie Shrader says everybody recognizes his eye-catching pinto, but nobody can ever figure out who he is. Ernie and Spotty finished third and got BC at last year's Sunriver 100.

Dennis Summers on SHA Ebony Rose, and Ron Sproat on Lady's Dividend, rode closely or together at the front of the 100 all day, coming in together at the finish after 12 hours and 22 minutes of riding. "Rosie" has been around for 8 seasons and 1900 miles, with 9 hundreds under her girth, and 14 Best Conditions, one of which was this ride. When she trots out, she strides out energetically and she pins her ears with a fierce down-to-business look.

The top 6 finishers on the 50 were within 6 minutes of each other. Katie Glowaksi on DIF Jobster crossed the finish line first, and her horse passed the vet check, but she volunteered to ride manager Darlene the fact that she hadn't stayed at the last vet check for a 15 minute hold - she'd been told it was a pulse down and go. So she'd pulsed down, trotted out and left. She ended up getting only a completion, and that moved Bill Miller and HA Lady Valarrie to first. They also got the BC award, one of 13 Lady Valarrie has gotten over her 3500-mile, 11-season career.

There was an outstanding 85% completion rate over all - and a good group of riders and horses, good challenging trails, almost perfect weather, and excellent fun.

Darlene's new motto (on the ride award Tshirts) is, "It's Not a Hobby, It's An Addiction"

Come and happily, and guilt-freely, fulfill your endurance addiction here next year.

Photos and results at:

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