Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Things We Do For Love

Saturday June 18 2011

With the 2-day Owyhee Cheap Thrills endurance ride coming up next weekend, people have been asking about the trails. "Will there be new trails? I don't like to ride the same trails every time." "Will the trails be the same? My horse likes trails he's familiar with." "Will it be rocky?" (Hello, this is southern Idaho with mountains and beautiful rock canyons!) "Will there be a lot of sand?" "Will it be flat?"

I expect that a number of people who have not put on an endurance ride are unaware of the time, thoughts, ATVing, riding, hiking, marking, unmarking, re-marking, re-thinking, agonizing, and more, that go into putting on a 2-day 12, 25, and 50-mile trail and endurance ride. Do you go for easy trails? Beautiful trails? Challenging trails? Stay up near the mountains where it will be cooler and we don't have to haul water? How many loops, how many miles, and where are the vet checks and where is the best place and timing for the veterinarians?

Steph could make it easy on herself and just mark the usual near and pretty trails with all the vet checks in camp, but she is always driven to find new trails and show off more of the spectacular Owyhee country, so she's spent the last 2 weeks scouting new and less-used trail. The prettiest one that we couldn't use in May because of high water in Alder Creek, we can't use now because the cows are late moving up into the mountains and the owner doesn't want us riding through all the cows (with a potential of left-open gates). A shame because the fields of purple and white lupine are lush and stunning right now. Beautiful Sinker Canyon was another possibility, but the water in the creek is too high. Who would have thunk it - too much water in the desert!

Today we bushwhacked up the little-used Pickett Creek trail, to find a route to connect up with the trail that comes home from Booby Rock (yes, it looks like a Booby). We weren't the only ones laboring with love to come up with new trail: Rhett and Mac were the intrepid, brave beasts who carried us up through Pickett Canyon: splashing through raging rapids, ducking under low branches, diving through tree- and vine-covered dark tunnels, bulling through brush that possibly contained Horse Eating Monsters.

Moving up the creek, we came to one spot where a submerged Forked Tree Branch Monster grabbed at the horses' feet; Rhett was nervous scrambling through it, and uncharacteristically, Mac became a little unnerved because he couldn't find a decent foothold while his feet were being grabbed. He thought about where he was going to place his feet, hesitated, thought about turning back; but upon urging forward, he thought about it again, carefully placed his feet, and splash-scrambled through it. He had a big snort afterwards, shaking off the tension. (On the way back, we removed this Underwater Monster.)

At another spot in the creek there was a downed tree, with a trunk the size of my thigh, blocking our progress. I dismounted and held Mac and Rhett down-stream on a small sand bar while Steph plunged into the chilly, knee-high water and, with the little saw she'd brought along, sawed it into pieces.

The horses couldn't quite see her, and they warily eyed the sounds of cracking branches around the bend in the creek. "Big floater, coming down!" Steph yelled. "Uh, you might want to hang onto the horses!"

Rhett saw it first, a big - Loch Ness Creek Monster bobbing along the creek on the water's surface, approaching us. He snorted and scared Mac, and got ready to jump if it was necessary. I kept talking in a normal voice, and the log passed without incident. No problem, until, "Here comes another one!"

Rhett snorted again at the next Loch Ness Creek Monster floating down at us, and all was well... until... one of the branches from the log grabbed his leg as it floated by. Rhett ripped a loud snort and leaped straight up in the air; Mac couldn't see what Rhett was snorting at but he was sure it was some kind of Water Death; he crouched down like a cat; I tripped over a rock and fell over backwards on my butt. Luckily the horses didn't jump forward and I didn't turn them loose.

Steph waded back past us to saw loose this log and branches (sawing by feel, under the water), which had now become hung up on a curve in the creek; and after pussy-footing around and trying not to get my feet wet (I hate wet feet!), I gave up and walked into the creek too, and helped pull the logs out for easy passage.

We slopped back up onto our horses, and worked our way up the creek, climbing out when another big downed tree blocked us (too big to saw). Steph sawed through the branches to make a path above the creek. Mac couldn't see her - only saw the tree moving and making funny noises - and he worried about a Tree Monster that might jump out and attack.

After some more bushwhacking, we reached the beginning of the Booby Rock trail, and we turned around and test-rode the trail back (in the direction the ride will be going).

We'd done it - found and marked the final few miles of loop 3 of Day 2, and and Rhett and Mac had been on a great adventure.

It was deemed a success, and the horses proclaimed very Lionhearted Souls for their brave bushwhacking.

But, after much thinking, all the riding, sawing, clearing, bushwhacking, marking trail, re-thinking, and agonizing, Steph decided to not use that trail because of some technical sections and all the water coming down the creek.

But that was okay, because the riding and exploring adventures are all for the love of endurance riding.

[Slide show here]

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