Sunday, April 15, 2012

Whiskeytown Chaser 2012: Trust Your Instincts & Wear Fleece-Lined Britches

It was an inauspicious beginning. It poured all Thursday night and hadn’t let up a bit when I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep at 4 am. We had waited to pack the truck hoping for better weather in the morning but it hadn’t come, so when it got light I put on head to toe rain gear and got seriously soggy feeding all the critters and getting ready. The husband and I got it all wrangled into place eventually, waterproof stuff in the back of the truck, sleeping bags, clothes, etc in contractor grade trash bags and stuffed into the empty hay manger in the trailer. I stored the hay bale in the trailer up in the corner out of Desire's way, even with the divider open, and that worked fine. Finally we were ready to load the horse and get on the road around 9:30 am.

It was still raining lightly as I pulled Desire, threw a polar fleece on her, and loaded her into the trailer already waiting outside the gate. She was all gung-ho to leave her screaming baby and come with me in the rain to hop in the trailer, trooper that she is. As she hopped in the trailer her right hind skidded forward on the black mats and as she slid forward her left hind still on the ground clipped the edge of the trailer pretty hard as she went in. J and I both had small internal heart attacks as she held her hind leg up for a  minute but she put it back down and assumed her usual shifty, ready to go position so we decided to drive the 5 miles down to the Bangor feed store, see if they had shavings to help with the slippery floor, and re-check her leg. I alternately swore and prayed the whole 5 miles and when we pulled her out there was a dime sized bloody spot on her hind leg from the hit but she walked, trotted out, and circled sound and I finally started breathing again. I gooped some of Trail-Rite's Magical Ointment onto it right away. The feed store didn’t have shavings (argh!) but did have sand and I decided to not risk the further 10 miles into town for shavings; we spread a bag of sand in the back of the trailer stall where it was slippery and it made Desire’s reloading much smoother, not to mention peace of mind for me. She is a clever one, when she loaded again she did a nifty hop up in with the dinged leg so there was no way it could hit again.

A brief stop at Wal-mart for a new air mattress pump and, mercifully, some nice new camp chairs to replace our crippling $9.99 Home Depot specials from last year, and we were on the road. It was about a 3 hour haul plus a stop for gas and the rain was off and on until we reached Redding when it finally actually quit. 


We got a primo camping spot up on the hill and A and a riding buddy ended up pulling in and camping right next to us again, with C and F, the folks that put on Cooley ranch and Mendo Magic and old friends from the coast, camped just across from us. They didn’t bring Desire’s brother to this ride so no sibling photo opportunity this time. N pulled in in the afternoon and nosed her truck in next to ours so we were camping neighbors which was awesome.

A and Alamahn the sexy stallion walking away,
 Desire's ears say "ya lady, let's follow him!"

Fairly clean for pulling her out of the pasture in a storm!

J Macgyvered up an ingenious camp spot with our canopy over our tent and tarps forming the walls, it’s really quite cozy and awesome to have some covered space off the dirt, with privacy to boot!

The beginnings of the epic Arabian Nights tent:

Our very nice and friendly neighbors, Carol and her husband (?)Mark(?), were camping there for a few days before and after the ride so were really relaxing and enjoying things. They were very friendly and we all four ended up chatting off and on throughout the weekend. (?)Mark(?) took this for us, the Arabian Nights tent set-up almost done:

More tarps were broken out until finally we had this situation, with the front flaps easily pulled and clipped together at night for full privacy and coziness:

We had lanterns hanging in there and it was very usable, enjoyable, and quite luxurious for tent camping! A thousand thanks to my awesome husband for busting his butt to make such an awesome shelter for us.

In the late afternoon we went over to Dr. Ellery and vetted in with all A’s, and he marked the ding from the trailer and the remnants of the healing girth sore down on the card so they knew she came in with it. Desire was businesslike as usual and didn't do anything beyond trying to itch her head on me once or twice. Always a relief since Ellery and Whiskeytown hold a cringing memory for me, a long-ago mare who tried to kill him when we tried to vet in...

Vetted in and ready!

The rain had started up lightly again but I bundled in layers and hung out in my swanky camp chair (with lumbar support!) while Desire was in serious snooze-and-eat-and-repeat mode.

Dainty as usual...

 Our Coleman Propane on demand hot water heater made it's maiden voyage on this ride, and the verdict is, IT ROCKS! I didn't use it shower because I couldn't summon the energy to even care about my own stench enough to wash myself after the ride Saturday, but we did use it for making warm mashes for Desire and even got it hot enough for N to make some coffee. It really is instant and it charged off a cord that plugs into the cigarette lighter! Flippin' sweet! I'm sure I'll try it out to shower at Cache Creek next month.

 Yay, hot water!

I turned the horse trailer into my feed station so it was all in one place and out of the rain. A bale of grass hay, half a bale of alfalfa in the bale bag, and a trash can full of grain goodies, beet pulp, EGM pellets, the works.

Chatting with neighbor, Carol. She and her husband are from So Cal but were allowed and so grateful to join the northern California CHSA club, and collected armloads of mileage awards at the ceremony Friday night before the ride meeting.

My amazing husband made meatballs Thursday night and we brought them and cooked some pasta and had ourselves a mighty fine hot and strengthening dinner Friday night in our Arabian Nights tent:

There was drizzle in the evening but it had mostly tapered off by 7 or so and we went for one last evening walk before retiring. I put her boots on for the walk and decided to leave them on for night like I did at Cuyama. I am way too jazzed on ride morning to be screwing around with boots, especially if Desire gets silly.

Awww so cute :)

It got cold quickly and was in the 30s overnight. I slept well enough, the hooded sweatshirt top layer was a great and essential choice, keeping the hood on made a world of difference for my poor cold ears and face while my body was toasty in the flannel lined sleeping bag. J's alarm didn't go off at 5 as promised but camp started stirring and I gave up on sleep in time to check my phone at 5:30 and jump up to get ready. The 25 and 50 was due to start together at 6:30.

 I broke out my polar fleece lined Kerrits breeches for the first time this ride and they were AMAZING. So warm and SO grippy, I felt like I was glued to the saddle. My legs were never cold and my feet stayed toasty too. Turns out having your legs encased in polar fleece is quite cozy!! I also wore a long sleeve, the ride shirt they gave me coz it's sweet, and a polar fleece. I'm a chronic over heater and was quite content in that despite the cool morning.

I was once again glad I had booted the night before as I had to put my cantle pack on, sort out all my waters, make sure the old girth gall was well lubed up and all the rest. I heard the ride manager shouting and the main pack starting at 6:30 but we didn't head down and out the start until closer to 6:45.

Riders up!

Riders, sort yourself out!

And we're off! Desire is really glowing as we head off alone from the start

The first loop was the same for 25s and 50s and was the same first loop as last year's LD that I did with Blaze, so I felt pretty confident that I knew where we were going. Not even a handful of miles out there was the start of a climb up the road I remembered from last year but also three ribbons signalling a turn and ribbons heading off down a trail to the left. My gut told me go up the road but my OCD detail oriented parts said follow the turn signal. I took the left hand trail but only a few hundred feet when I decided it couldn't be right and turned around, went back to the fork and headed on up the hill. Some other riders had come along at that point and were going up the hill so I knew my gut instinct had been right. Unfortunately for *many* others, they took the left hand turn and didn't figure out the mistake for a few miles. I heard as many as 30 riders took that wrong fork but I don't know if that's an accurate number. I did hear a lot of bitching about it in camp and truly all it would have taken to avoid the the situation was In and Out signs.

Desire started out the ride pretty calm because we were alone but in maybe half a mile we caught 3 riders and she started jigging and losing her brain. I hadn't remembered to raise my stirrups to Jigging Length and I knew from Cuyama what punishment it was on my knees to try to ride it out with longer stirrups, so I juggled the reins and jigging mare and somehow got each one raised from her back. That made life so much better!

I remembered the narrow single track climb through the woods well from last year. There are very limited spaces to pass anyone and some of the spots were a bit damp and pretty hairy with a significant drop off to your left. My friend D and her riding buddy made it up from Oroville in the rain after all and were doing the 25, and they came trucking up behind me before the narrowest part of the climb and I let them pass thinking they were "I'm Late/Lost!" 50s, but before long we caught up with them again and re-passed them when we got to the summit of the climb and broke out onto the wider, winding trail along the ridge. It was our first view of the valley with some fog still lurking far out, and the blessed promised sunshine!

The trails up there were lovely, good footing and fun to trot the winding path at a steady 7-8 mph. Desire was travelling great at this point as we were alone with no horses in sight though I could hear voices behind us every few corners.

 We pulled over to let some 50s that had taken that wrong turn go by, and even stuffed in an awkward corner on a slope Desire immediately stretched out and took a seriously epic pee. I don't even know how she had traveled that far (maybe 8 miles) with that much pee in her, to be honest!

 Pee break photo

 The trail was a series of tight switchbacks back downhill and as we cruised along the flats again a couple of pairs of riders passed us. Desire was in great form alone but any time we caught up with or were passed by anyone she got all jiggy and silly again. She was definitely better all around than she was either day at Cuyama, as much as I love riding with A I think that Desire really fed off of Alamahn's energy quite a bit.

I was expecting a stop with a water trough in a grassy field like the LD last year but I could tell we were starting to head back towards camp again without seeing it so I jumped off for a minute and smeared more Desitin on Desire's girth gall and tied my shoe. The girth gall looked great and not newly chafed after about 12 brisk miles, many more miles to go but it was a relief to me as I'd never ridden any great distance at speed with a girth sore before.

We leap frogged with some more folks along the flats and then began the rocky climb back up again.

 A very small sample of the often technical footing

A few miles later on one of my boot checks I saw that my left hind boot was gone. I was on a narrow single track trail again with no way to turn around and little real interest in turning around since my boot could have been anywhere in the last few miles and I had a spare on me. I rode a few more turns hoping for a wider spot I could pull off the trail to put the spare on but it was narrow all the way and I didn't want to risk her bruising it in the meantime so I decided to just go for it on the narrow trail. It was a tight squeeze, sliding off and crossing my fingers she didn't get silly and try to swing around. The boot popped on and I was back in the saddle in seconds, though I did have 2 people trot up on me and called out to warn them since they clearly didn't see me. They followed me back up to the spot the trail had widened that morning and I let them pass for the downhill which was a mistake. They were moving out quickly and Desire got all hot and silly about them leaving on the steep, slippy, cliff-edged descent back down the forested trails from the morning. Her hind legs slid over the edge at one point but luckily she is quick...oy vey. She was in a snit the whole way down the hill and back down the road, and thought about calming down as we reached the split for the 25s and 50s, where we turned down the trail taken erroneously by others that morning, but saw two riders trotting ahead of us and immediately went nutty again. They stopped to drink at the water crossing and I hoped she would copy them but she was fired up and just pawed the water. We all started to leave at the same time so they ended up going ahead and Desire chomped and danced and was a brat for the next half mile until they stopped for a booting issue and I passed them. After she chilled out from that after a few turns I let her extend her trot out to 10 mph when we reached the wide road again and she was pleased as punch to be moving out like that. About a mile from the vet check, literally one turn after a volunteer had pointed me in and told me I was on the right track 2 50 milers heading out from the hour hold passed me and said "you're going in the wrong way if you're on the 50!" I'm like...Uh, No I'm Not. Maybe YOU did. It was very random. I knew I was on the right track from my own past experiences, let alone the flippin volunteer who just told me. Trust your instincts, listen to no other rider about where you are, EVER. That's kinda my motto.

I jumped off and pulled her bit 1/4 from the vet check and she finally drank deeply at the buckets set out on the walk in. We came in at 65 first check but after she drank and I loosened the girth some more, maybe 30 seconds tops, she was below criteria and we were good.

Bright eyed after 20 miles

It was a 1/2 hour hold with tack on, so I went straight through to the vet, which went fine. I think we got a B on gut sounds which was expected since she hadn't eaten a bite on the first 20 mile loop. There was little to no grass to be had and she wasn't interested anyway. She ate the grass hay they provided and gobbled lots of carrots and drank a couple more times but when I took up and tied her to the trailer to get something to eat and swap out water bottles she was flipping out at the trailer. None of our neighbors were around and she wasn't having any of it so I grabbed my water, granola bar, an apple and chunk of cheese, and took her back down near the vet check to eat and hang out. She calmed down and started eating hay again and in no time it was go time again.

The second loop took off from the opposite direction as the first and half of it I hadn't ridden before which was neat. The sky was blue and sun was out but there was a light intermittent breeze and while I was warm I certainly wasn't hot. I was still wearing the polar-lined breeches but only because of the amazing grip they gave.

We caught up to some other 50 milers and rode (read: jigged) with them for a few minutes, then the 25s trail joined ours again and my friend D and her riding partner joined us. We all rode together for a couple more miles then the trails branched again for the 25s to head back to camp to finish and the 50s to head out for a hill climb. I remembered this part of the trail well, we headed down a dirt road and across a long bridge and then started climbing the road on the other side for a pretty good ways. We left the last 50 rider we'd been leap frogging with behind on the climb and Desire stretched long and low and trotted up that road like it was nothing. I generally walk the longer climbs but she was moving so easily on a loose rein and wanted to take the hill at that gait so we did. We crossed a lot of water in the second loop and Desire drank out of everything from the rushing river to about a 2" deep mud puddle, and peed and peed and peed. There wasn't much doing for eating on the trail again but she was drinking well and pooped too, so I figured all signs were pretty good. A group of volunteers sent us out on trail off the road and there was hairy water crossing and a pretty rocky steep climb about halfway through that had her puffing but before long we came back out on a nice wide logging road that would take us back down to the volunteer and water crossing area again.

I started hearing a tell-tale boot disintegration flopping sound at this point, and couldn't see an issue from her back so I hopped off to investigate. The gaiter on my right front boot was trying to make an escape and I didn't have a spare size 1 since I put my new spare from Cuyama into action as a main boot for this ride. I'd already used my spare size 0 for the hinds so I was SOL unless I could make the 4 boots she had on work until we got back to camp. The washer and screw was gone from the outside edge of the gaiter and there was nothing I could do about it, so I decided to ride on and try to nurse it through. I knew if I could get back down the hill, over the bridge and up to the sandy canal trail that takes us back to camp I would be fine, as the canal trail has decent footing and I could move out okay even without a front boot.

The boot held, making a floppy noise at every stride that at least told me it was still there. We turned right at the group of volunteers and repeated a short section of the trail including the somewhat hairy big water crossing, which I managed to get a snap of on the second time through, though it doesn't truly reflect how deep and quickly moving it was:

I held my breath for the longevity of my failing boot through the crossing but we came through with all 4 and soon were pointed to the trail back towards camp by a volunteer. We made it back down the dirt road, across the bridge, and a few hundred feet farther when I felt her take a funny step and looked down to see the boot off her foot sideways and the gaiter clinging on by only one screw. I hopped off and stowed in my cantle pack and we went in 3 boots from there. Fortunately as I remembered the canal trail had very friendly footing, especially by Whiskeytown standards, and we were able to cruise along the gently winding trails. It's a fun loop, and it's only a few miles back to camp from there.

I jumped off at 1/4 mile again and pulled her bit, dropped her girth quite a bit and we pulsed right through for our hour lunch hold. You can see her right front in the air is bootless below..

Fortunately my husband was back from his (successful) fishing trip for this hold and sprang into action fixing my front boot. I brought my blown out old boot for parts, and thank goodness I did. He got the washers and screw off the old boot and reattached the gaiter to my current boot, good as new. Woohoo for handy men with screw drivers! He also retrieved my size 0 hind boot from the Lost & Found, where it had been turned in by my friend D.

Meanwhile I un-tacked, sponged some of the muck off Desire's shoulders and girth area and took her down for the vet check. She got a C on gut sounds but Ellery said that was fairly typical and that all her other signs were great, he even commented that her hydration level was great which I believe from all the serious stream drinking that had gone on. He asked about the girth rub but saw and remembered it was marked on the card from the beginning and wasn't worried about it. It wasn't pink or irritated looking and it got another liberal application of Desitin. Desire had interfered on the inside of her left hind I noticed and while I put ointment on it I should have wrapped it, but I didn't, fool that I am.

Each 20 mile loop took me just over 3 hours so by this time it was afternoon and really warming up. I about gave myself a stroke bustling around in my polar fleece lined breeches and had to stop and change into my thin Irideon pair and pour some water over my head to get myself back together. My husband made me a delicious turkey sandwich, promptly devoured, and I refilled my 3 water bottles I had drained on the second loop. In no time, it was time to tack up again!

Thanks to J we left for the third loop with all necessary boots and a spare on board!

 Bye, see ya in a few miles!

The third loop was a short one, only 8 or 10 miles. It took off in the same place as the second loop but then we took a different fork in the trail, onto what had been the 25's second loop. I remembered it from the LD last year and it was nice cruising along some sandy trails with the odd stop for rocky footing or muck then rejoined the canal trail loop and it was the same nice windy cruise back to camp as the end of the second loop. There were spots of the canal trail that were underwater and we splashed our way through, after much convincing on my part. Desire resented her every step splashing her all over..if she didn't walk so aggressively it might not have been so bad, really! It was kinda funny.

Same routine at 1/4 mile from the finish and vet check, only a surprise awaited us at the finish. I had no idea how many riders had started the 50 but I was sure I was middle to back of the pack, since I started late and didn't pass very many people. The timers took my number and then told me I was in eighth place! They told me to get a CRI and show for BC, and my jaw about hit the floor. Later I found out only 22 riders completed (of 30 starters) so it wasn't a far journey to get to Top 10, but it was still pretty sweet! My third 50 on Desire and we get to show for BC :-)   When she trotted out for the CRI she was back at 60 for the check, I know that's criteria but I wonder, were the front runners and BC winner's pulses below 60 at their CRI most likely? Curious.

CRI w/ Dr. Ellery

I wanted her to be much more presentable for the BC vetting, though it was just for the experience I still felt it was respectful to clean her up. All the sand and dirt and splashing had left the undercarriage pretty messy and I had to resort to the scrubby mitt over the sponge for sticky sweated-on mud in some spots.

Bribing her to love me again with carrots..

We headed back down for final/BC vetting with a much cleaner horse. She checked out great, no back tenderness or issues and her gut sounds were back up from lots of mash and hay since we had finished.

 Final vetting

I had to trot her straight out and back and then around in a circle each way for BC and she did it though her ears were back. She was in good shape and healthy I would say, but definitely tired. Afterwards the vet mentioned to me that she looked great but seemed slightly off in her left hind on the circle on a few steps, which I confirmed with the interference mark on that leg. I had felt her knock it once on the last loop and take an "owie!" step and I thought that might come up. I really should have wrapped or splint booted it and I learned my lesson as she obviously hit it at least once more on that last loop.

Showing for BC:

 Ellery wanted to teach a volunteer to take a pulse so we stayed after our vetting for him to teach her. Desire was very quiet and stood so politely. Amazing what 50 hard miles will do!

We had a great chicken dinner and a nice brief awards ceremony, I scored another jar of Quench electrolytes for my 8th place finish. I got one last year from the LD and haven't tried it yet...hey I'm building up a supply for a rainy day, or something. My body started to stiffen up as the evening wore on and I was really glad I brought my ankle brace this time. I took Desire for another walk and gave her a second  warm beet pulp mash since she had devoured her first one.

This photo showed up dark my camera screen and I didn't know until I adjusted the contrast that N's Willow was sticking her tongue out! Funny!

The night wasn't near as cold as the previous but we were feeling indulgent and made some hot chocolate to dip our Mint Milano cookies into. Ooohh it was good!

It wasn't long after that this happened..

I must say I slept great, bone tired as I was. I'm not sure I reflected in this ride story how truly rocky and challenging the terrain was. There were plenty of nice spots for trotting but there was a serious amount of rocks, as well as mucky footing, spots where the trail was underwater, loads of water crossings, and narrow trails next to real drop-offs. It was a much more challenging course than either day at Cuyama, but that's understandable as I don't think I'd want to do multiple days of courses as hard as Whiskeytown. Well maybe once. Desire was quite good but she is very forward and I had to really pay attention to the footing for her and direct her attention to what was coming when things got hairy. We got our communication down pretty well, I gave a light sponge of the reins when I wanted her to slow and pay attention, and we reached a good compromise of me saying "oh shit, slow down!" without jerking her attention and therefore feet so quickly that we ended up sliding or getting in trouble. We had a total ride time of about 9 hours, including the hour lunch hold. It was long and challenging but I felt physically and mentally up for it and my mare was too. I'm proud of her as always and glad I scraped through, boot and leg issues and all!

I think everybody felt about like Willow this morning:

She really is cute!

We broke down our Arabian Nights tent and camp in about an hour and were pulling out of ride camp by 9.

Happy camper headed for the barn and showers:

A very uneventful 3 hour drive found us home to a gorgeous warm spring day and lots of critters happy to see us. A huge shout out and thank you to our friend L who fed the herd for us while we were away. You are an invaluable part of the Redheaded Endurance pit crew! :-)

 Looking good after that tough ride! 

Sheza was VERY happy to see her momma again. You can see a little mini nose pushed up against the gate there too.

Sheza quickly proved TOO happy to have mom home and was harassing the ever living shit out of Desire, following her around nibbling her and trying to nurse and just generally being extremely obnoxious. The momma mare seriously deserves a rest! Desire was literally walking in circles looking for a place to roll but Sheza wouldn't back off to let her do it so I managed to close the gate quickly behind Desire when she walked through it, shutting her off alone in the big back pasture and leaving Sheza with mini Bandito in the paddock.

 Desire: "Go away"
Sheza: "mommy, momma, let me nurse, momma yeahh!"
Desire: "Go away."

Sheza then put on a big show about the separation for a good twenty seconds until the grass got more interesting again. She turned 1 on Saturday and is quite a big muscular girl, I must say!

Desire seemed much happier once the filly was off the attack, and rolled and rolled.

A small black dog was VERY happy to see me, there really is nothing like the Welcome Home from your favorite dog after you've been gone. She is definitely coming to the next ride.

All is well, everyone is fed and cleaned and content. I foresee bedtime coming at around 7 pm...


  1. I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your blog. All the little details and the way you make almost everything interesting to read. Thank you for sharing your experiences!

    1. I'm so glad you enjoy reading it! I am really enjoying writing it and am so stoked to have people reading along :)

  2. Another awesome adventure! Your encampment looks very cozy, and I second the Kerrits fleece breeches, so comfy! It's great to read the "real" story with all the pitfalls too (scraped leg, boot mishaps, horse silliness, etc) Some of that trail looked pretty sketchy, but it sounds like you were right on about knowing the trail. What was with the riders telling you the wrong directions? I assume they were lost? Trust yourself, very good advice! Great job on 8th place and BC showing, I'm sure I'd be to tired to trot my horse in any meaningful way!

    And the at home pictures of Sheeza, so darling, annoying her Mom. If Desire was like you she just wanted to lay down for a bit! Congrats!

    1. Thanks! It was a great experience as always though went by SO quickly after my 5 day Cuyama experience! I was tired Saturday night but A and I were also kinda whiny like "awww man, isn't there another one tomorrow?!"

      No idea what those riders were thinking, they were obviously front runners as they were an hour ahead of me, all I can think is THEY went in the wrong way and thought they knew everything, because I know for a fact I was on trail.

      Poor Desire. I just HAD to close her off from Sheza, what a harassing little brat that filly can be! lol

  3. Congratulations! GO DESIRE, top ten, woo!

    1. Thanks!! So wish you could have joined us but it counts to be home safe and sound when the roads are iffy like that.

      Am I hallucinating or had you mentioned maybe coming to Cache Creek next month? Oh wait, but you're moving soon right?..hmm..answer these questions on your probably already did..Lol

  4. Great Write-up! I will have to follow your blog! It was a tough ride (I didn't finish til about 15mins before cutoff):) Hey, as to your boot issues... for loss: I REALLY love using Mueller's sports tape on ride days... 3 or 4 wraps and I have to almost pry the boots off after the ride. And the screw issue: Always check them before a ride (sometimes they wiggle loose) and if they consistently are loosening, then a dab of clear (unless you want color) nail polish on each one does wonders.

    1. Thanks for reading, glad you enjoyed it! I have thought about the tape and will have to try it. 3 of my boots are about worn out, and have stretched, so that doesn't help. I'm considering a change to a different kind of Easyboot so I'm being indecisive or I should have bought new boots already...

      Thanks for the nail polish tip, I'll have to try that since I've been checking them before rides but the gaiter made the escape attempt. Booting sure keeps things interesting!