Sunday, November 25, 2018

Trail Log: 11-25-2018

  • Trail: Grouse Creek - Grouse Creek meanders through a patchwork of BLM and private land.  
  • Miles: 4.69 
  • Riders: Self
  • Horses: J'Lo
  • Dogs: Hank and Shade

Notes: I can't believe I'm just now exploring this area after 18 years. I think we get into a rut of sorts. Maybe we roam areas we are  familiar and comfortable with. Earlier in the week I stepped outside the rut and headed down a trail I'd never ridden. I'm very glad I did.

For a while there I began to question the sanity of riding alone. There isn't much of a trail in some sections. One particularly harry section zigged-zagged back and forth across the creek numerous times. For once I was glad I had J'Lo on the trail and not Jack. I would have had to remove Jack's saddle to get through some of the places I led J through. There were times when J had the same look on her face as my mule would get: This human is insane. She never refused more than a split hesitation to follow me under, over and through a tangled web of desert jungle. I pulled on the lead as she shook her head in defiance: Human, you have got to be kidding. This is not terrain for a horse. This is terrain for pygmy mountain goats. Sorry girl - we are pretty much committed  - I don't think either one of use could turn around and head back the way we came. J' complied with my urging, stuck her nose on the ground as we bush-whacked our way over rock, through willows, creek brush and washouts. Once in the clear - I spent several minutes brushing the weeds and brush covering horse and tack. Probably a good thing it's too cold for ticks.

I sincerely hoped I could find a way back without retracing the treacherous section of "trail." Somewhere up ahead lay Crawfords Place and Devils Hole, according to my GPS. I'd have to come back another time. It would be dark in less than two hours and it had taken nearly that long to come this far. I'm certain J'Lo was convinced the hole we just clawed our way out of was attributed to Satan in some fashion or other other.

I let J'lo and Hank take turns leading the way home. Shade followed close on J'Lo's heels.  I'm amazed at how precise a horse is when following the trail back the way they come. Step for step she retraced the path. When we came to "Satan's crossing" - I had to take control to prevent her from bush-whacking back the way we came. I was relieved to find a MUCH easier path - crossing Grouse Creek twice and avoiding most of the thick willows and brush.

I had to look at the mileage on my GPS twice. Surely we had gone more than 4.69 miles. One thing is for certain - we worked for every one of those miles. I'm learning it's not the number of miles - it's the quality of those miles. Beautiful area that keeps your horse focused on where they place their feet.

Trail Rating: 3.2

Rocky terrain, lack of a visible trail in much of the area - washed out ravines, brush and severe washouts. Narrow, steep sections of trail with drop-offs.

Technical scale: on a scale from 1-5. 5 being the most technical.

1 = groomed path - level terrain. Good footing. Example: Roads and four-wheeler trails. "Paths" such as Eagle Island, Weiser River Trail...etc.

2 = Trails and Paths with some incline. Easy obstacles like bridges - easy water crossings.

3 = Trails not always easily defined. Some rocky terrain. Narrow trails or non-existent. Change in elevation more significant. Obstacles such as bridges - downed logs - sketchy water crossings)

4 = Trails/cross country travel. Significant elevation changes. Steep, rocky, ravines and canyons. Cliffs with major drops and sheer ledges. Major scary obstacles - bridges - dead-fall - rock/boulders - hang on, pray and hope you can swim water crossings. Possible adverse weather conditions (Snow, thunderstorms - high-winds)

5 = Just stay the hell home.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Trail Log: 11-24-2018

  • Trail: Weiser River Trail - Presley to 2nd. Gate
  • Miles: 8.5
  • Riders: Self
  • Horses: Jack
  • Dogs: Shade and Hank

Notes: Taking advantage of the beautiful weather while it lasts. As soon as the sun peaked out after 24 hours of rain, wind and power outages - I saddled up Jack and threw him in the trailer. I normally have a destination in mind before pulling out of the driveway. If not before leaving the driveway, at least by the time I reach County 70. Do I go left, or do I go right? I went straight with the intentions of heading toward Steck Park. The puddles left by the last 24 hours of rain changed my mind. As wet as things were in the flats, it was bound to be slicker than snot in the clay foothills. I turned right on Indian Head toward the WRT.

This time of year is prefect weather for my dog Shade. She trotted along exploring rock formations in pursuit of the not-so-elusive rock-chuck inhabitants. It does my heart good to see her dart in and out of the river like a dog half her age.

I decided not to pony J'Lo. I'd ride her before the weekend was over. It felt good plodding down the trail, just me, Jack and the dogs. After a few days of riding a 13 hand little mare, Jack felt like a giant. I could barely get on. Seriously. I swear he wasn't that tall the last time I got on. Maybe I've shrunk? I hear as a person ages their body shrinks...except for their nose and ears. If that's true, I'm in deep dodo.

Jack has a fairly smooth, long-strided lope. Something didn't feel right. I struggled to keep my butt in the saddle. I could easily pass for a jockey, knees bent, body hunched over my steeds withers. Jack isn't one you want to give the wrong signals. A nice, leisurely lope can rapidly turn into race down the homestretch. I dismounted, snapped a couple of pictures and prepared to climb back in the saddle. I looked up at the ominous stirrup looming at what seemed like yards over my head. I was going to need climbing gear to ascend this mountain. I flipped the stirrup leathers over. Who the heck has been riding in my saddle? Whoever it was is about the size of a yard gnome. I dropped the stirrups a good 4 inches. Much better. I wasn't shrinking just yet, thank god. It's still a ways to hoist your leg but it's  doable. A couple good hops and I'm back in the saddle looking less like a yard gnome perched on an elephant.

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Sunday, November 18, 2018

Trail Log: 11-18-2018

  • Trail: Steck Park - Grouse Creek
  • Miles: 3
  • Riders: Self
  • Horses: J'Lo
  • Dogs: Shade and Hank

Notes: Trying to ride three horses is a pain in the butt. Fun..but difficult. It was J'Lo's turn to get out of the arena for a quick ride.  I picked a draw I hadn't ridden before. There were no fences or orange painted private property rocks so we went for it. We rode up Grouse Creek (according to my GPS) until we came to a wire gate. It didn't appear to be private property on the other side but I turned back anyway. As soon as the sun starts to drop, so does the temperature! Three miles is a little disappointing when you hauled 15 miles to get there. But - with the shorter days you take what you can get. We made the best of those three miles by cutting cross country - straight up and over rocky terrain and sheer ledges. I rode until I ran out of sunlight. I hiked part of three miles to try out my new riding/hiking boots. My feet didn't give out so I guess they will do.Three miles was enough for the dogs without water anyway. J'Lo seems most content when we ride alone. Even with Jack she will pin those ears back and act like she hates the world. When I take her out solo - she bops right along, ears forward and happy as a clam. How do you know if a clam is happy anyway? Anybody ever ask one? At least with a horse you can sort of tell by there ears and eyes...but a clam?

I'll be going back up this direction. It was pretty country and besides - I left my favorite gloves up there somewhere!

Trail Log: 11-17-2018

  • Trail: Weiser River Trail
  • Miles: 6.0
  • Ave mph: 3.0
  • Max mph: 8.1
  • Riders: Self - Jon
  • Horses: Pepsi - Jack
  • Dogs: Shade and Hank

Notes: Took "Pepsi" out on the Weiser River Trail to see how she reacts to things. I was going to name her Jesse. However, since I lost the bet with Blake over a shot up Pepsi can - Pepsi it is.
She did great! Travels out super nice. Out-walks my horses for sure. Crossed the bridge - went through water. We met a couple pushing a double baby stroller. Nothing strikes fear in the heart of a horse like a baby stroller unless it's llamas. She took it in stride. problem. I was very happy with her. I would like to keep her, but I do not need three horses. I will try to find her a good home that will love her and treat her like she deserves. She has had a rough life up until we got her. The injury on her left short pastern seems to be cosmetic. She hasn't favored it so far as I've ridden her and she's been sound the year Blake has had her. I've been putting ProudsOff on it each day. I think it looks better already. She's probably a 2500.00 horse if it weren't for that old scar. Had it been taken care of when it happened you would probably never know it was there. Some people should not have animals. :( She's done a lot in the 7 or so years of her life. That we know of: She has been in a feed lot - used to snub colts, drug calves to the fire and been a heel horse. All that is asking a lot for a 13 hand little mare. I'm hoping to re-home her to a kid who just wants a horse to love and play with. She would make a kid a great gaming horse. If I can't find her a good home I'll keep her and start shooting off her. At least I would be eye level with the targets!

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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Trail Log: 11-12-2018

  • Trail: Sutton Ranch - Midvale
  • Miles: 7.63
  • Ave mph: 3.0
  • Max mph: 13.2
  • Riders: Self - Ralph and Victor Craig
  • Horses: J'Lo - Rosie the mule and Paint gelding
  • Dogs: Matt the cow dog

Notes: Ralph helps Sutton's gather and move cows quite a bit. I've hesitated going in the past. I don't know how to properly work cows and fear being in the way. After surviving the previous days cattle drive - I figured I might as well give it another shot. I woke up with a massive headache and the pre-flu ache. Fresh air couldn't hurt my situation so I saddle up J'Lo and met Ralph at the end of my drive by 9:30 sharp...hoping Ralph didn't notice I was about to lose my morning bowl of oatmeal.

We would be meeting Victor, another rancher who also rides for Sutton's, at Country Cabin in Midvale - downed a cup of coffee and tea and headed for corrals off Farm to Market Rd. east of Midvale.

We were looking for five pairs. Three pair were last spotted on Deep creek - the other two pair somewhere out Pole Creek. We found the three pair easy enough with a spare calf to boot. Donning a pink ear-tag, I asked if I could keep it. I shall name it Norman. Victor said long as you don't mind swinging from the wrong end of a rope for cattle rustling. Bummer.

 Driving them down the old dirt road was about as peaceful a feeling as a person can experience. We locked them in the corral and heading toward Pole Creek in search of the other two pair. Beautiful country - but no cows. Ralph rode the top of the ridge, Victor the middle and I headed cross country to see if I could spot them farther north. I found a fresh, well used cow trail but no cows. There is a lot of country out there. I would like to have kept looking when I thought I heard somebody holler at me. I trotted J back to Ralph and Victor waiting on the ridge. 

Two men out turkey hunted met us at the wire gate. One opened the gate for us. Victor asked if they'd seen any cows. They had not. They asked if we'd seen any turkeys. Ralph replied: Just three out looking for cows. They didn't get it. I need to remember to right down what I call: "Ralph'ism's" He has some pretty good ones at times. :)

Back at the corral, Victor loaded the cows we did manage to gather into his trailer, threw his big paint into Ralph's trailer and drove to the "big barn" to unload. Coolest barn ever. I really, really want a barn like that.

The three of us met Sharon, Ralph's better half,  back at Country Cabin for hot beef noodle soup and a fistful of ibuprofen out of Ralph's saddle bags. It was here I was introduced to the infamous John G. What a character.

I was so hungry I went back for a second helping. On my way to the soup station, I mentioned that my little bowl of oatmeal at 5:00 am that morning had long worn off. John G. said he ate a lot of oatmeal, too...with butter and honey on it. I like butter...I like honey. Maybe I would try that sometime. 

I have a hard time letting go of something once I get started. I would have kept looking for them two pair all night. I was assured that if they were down there somewhere - they would go back another day from the bottom and get them out. I hope they invite me again.

I smiled this morning as I drizzled honey over a bowl of steaming oatmeal dotted with real butter and thought of Victor, my good friends Ralph and Sharon and my new friend, the infamous John G.