Friday, May 31, 2013

A Challenge!

Not one for letting me alone, Lydia Manx gave me a poke and suggested that we write 10,000 words over Memorial Day Weekend.

She didn't wait for my answer, because she knew what it would be and how I would phrase it -- so she quickly amended it to a picture being worth a thousand words, thus a 10-picture challenge.

I could do that.

The pomegranate tree got a photoshoot, with  guest appearances by a nasturtium and an artichoke.

The result of the challenge can be seen at Palmprint Gallery.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


The Trail Boss was supposed to be an experienced rider, and I don't doubt that she is. She was also supposed to know the trail.

Well, she didn't.

A small section of the trail road was submerged at Camanche South Shore, and she led us up to the water.

"How deep is it?" someone called from behind.

"Oh, maybe up to the horse's girth," she answered over her shoulder. Dink was right on her horse's tail, and he was definitely in to his girth.

At that point, all hell broke loose with a big palomino horse plunging forward on our left, leaping and violently trying to run through water that was over his shoulder. He'd gone off the gravel road and into a drop-off, and as he crashed, he threw his rider over his right shoulder into the water. But before she went off, he'd managed, in his bucking, to knock his head into hers.

I know I'm going to have nightmares about this one.

When someone else is leading a trail ride, you're supposed to trust them, rely on them. A trail boss is supposed to know the way, and keep the riders in line -- not really being bossy with them, per se, but making sure they know what it is that they should be doing: Don't leave the trail, you might run onto a rattlesnake; don't dismount and sit in the grass, Lyme disease from ticks is a danger; don't run your horse over pastureland, ground squirrels are everywhere and your horse could break a leg in a burrow.

Time went into a dream-like molasses as the bucked-off rider lay in the water, floating and moaning. Her horse splashed back to the bank we'd left and headed for the trail back. The Trail Boss sat stunned on her horse, then ordered us all back to the side. After we were all back, she got off her horse and waded into the water up to her knees and called to the victim, "Are you all right?"

In the meantime, the victim of the crash had managed to come around enough to half-lean, half-sit up, but was still moaning incoherently. Trail Boss called to her, coaxing her to come back across the water.

And this is where I started to be freaked out: why didn't she wade over and pull that woman out of the water?

I still have no idea why she didn't.

I still have no idea why I didn't jump down from my horse, shove that stupid cow out of the way, and pull my trail-mate out of the water myself. I just don't know. For twenty years, when there's a trail boss calling the shots, you obey the trail boss. I was frozen by convention.

Thank God the crash victim didn't inhale a lungful of water. Indeed, she was able to walk beside her horse back to the trailhead, not staggering at all, but plainly out of her mind, asking every twenty seconds or so, "Why am I wet?" and "What happened?" and "Why do I have water in my boots?"

Her jaw hurt a lot where the horse's head had connected with a haymaker, and she has chipped teeth, at least one of them loose. But she ambled back, able to lead her horse (or lean on him) for the partial mile we'd been riding.

She was too dippy to put back on that POS dog-food candidate, or even on any of the other horses -- if she passed out, a fall from even a gentle horse would be worse than slumping in her tracks. Back at the trail-head, we got her into a dry top at least, and into a folding chair ...

Why didn't her companion load up and take her to a doctor? Her companion the Trail Boss is a veterinarian, shouldn't she at least know some emergency protocol?

Looking back, we should have questioned the Trail Boss: How deep is that water? Ride over and then come back and get the rest.

Looking back, why didn't the Trail Boss use her cell phone and call the rangers at the park gate to tell them there had been a wreck? I know cell phones are iffy up there in the foothills, but she could have tried ...

I feel guilty that I didn't take charge, that I didn't do the things I would automatically do if I was leading a ride.

And again, thank God, at this present time, I've had a message that the crash victim is okay, still feeling a headache, but is okay.

I swear that I would shoot that horse and cut him up by hand for coyote feed, and I really don't want Miz Today's Trail Boss to lead me anywhere in the future.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Pardee, the Four-Hour Ride

The lady on the paint horse in the distance is Janine, who served as our guide when we rode the Coast to Crest Trail at Pardee Reservoir yesterday.

Pardee is off to the left and a hundred and some feet abruptly down from that track, which is why Janine rode on ahead and only stopped when she was by that tree ahead of her and she could no longer see the steepness of the drop.

At this point in the ride, we were two hours in, and still hadn't reached a spot where we could stop and eat sandwiches. I was already really tired, which is why I'm kind of slumped there, just glad to be resting.

Near my red shoes, there is a bulging saddlebag, stuffed full of ice-packed sandwiches and a couple oranges. On the other side of the horse, the companion saddlebag held semi-frozen bottles of water, and more water, and some chips and vinaigretted lettuce for on the sandwiches. Not to mention some serving utensils and napkins.

When we reached a shaded place with forage for the horses and a flat area for us to stand around gobbling food like we were starving, we'd traveled four miles over gentle hills and one slightly steep hairpin descent. Ideally, we'd have had a place to sit down and linger over a delicious gourmet sandwich (Bernie had baked the rolls from scratch that morning.) But it was not to be. We were too tired, and wanted only to refresh ourselves and get back, knowing we had to retrace the trail all the way home.

Also, the hills around Pardee being prime cattle-grazing land, the dried-up cow patty I stepped on turned out to be only dry about 1/4 inch in, and thus while I ate my sandwich and chips, I was dragging my lovely red sneaker through the grass, keeping moving to avoid the worst of the flies, which were truly grateful to me for breaking through that tough cowpie crust.

Dink was as good as gold all the way, except when we were going uphill, at which times he forgot he's a 23-year-old horse and decided he was Pegasus. I fought him on the way out, but on the way back, was just too tired. I gave in and let him trot, figuring he'd tire himself out. (He never did, which I guess is good, as it shows that he's mended after his very rough winter.)

There were gorgeous late wildflowers up there in the foothills; I recognized monkeyflowers and lupines, but there were many more that I have to research. That I enjoyed immensely. We saw mule deer, and huge wild turkeys. Coolness!

Cathy the Mad Horsewoman took these photos, by the way. This one is me on Dink, pausing on a side cowpath. We'd all just watered our horses and were glad we had only about an hour to go before we got back to the horse staging area. I refused to drop my veil, thinking Cathy would take the hint and NOT take a picture of me.

The veil is worn not out of modesty, but because on one insane outing last summer with Cathy the Mad, we were out longer than we expected to be, and my lips sunburned so badly they blistered. Now I wear a mask when I ride in the sun. Lillian thinks I look like a ninja; Bernie warned me I might be arrested as a potential terrorist. I certainly was a desperado -- desperate to get off that horse and take a cool shower.

Pardee was a great ride, and I would gladly go again ... in the Spring, at the height of wildflowers, or in the Fall, after the first rains. I would not, and will not, make this ride again when it's hot. The forecast for our home was 92 degrees, with a 10 mph breeze. Nice. Up at Pardee, in among the hills, there was no breeze, and I guarantee it was well over 92.

Dink and I are ready for Woodward Reservoir, a lowland ride during which we can actually get in the water and splash.