Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Epic Tevis Adventure, 2014 Edition: Part Three: Last Chance for Adventure

Final part!! Unless, of course, I think of some things I forgot along the way. But for all intents and purposes, we're done. :) Good job if you've gotten this far along the journey. Less words, more photos in this part.

MONDAY morning, we rounded up our respective mounts, stuffed them in the trailer, and zoomed up to Foresthill to do a quick ride from Foresthill to Chicken Hawk and back. We parked right in front of the cemetery (no, not ominous at all…), rode through the Mill Site, down Bath Road and into Volcano Canyon. Volcano is the smallest and “tamest” of the three canyons, but it still has its drop-off areas, and you still go down two miles and up two miles. And it’s also very, very dusty.

all dressed and ready

heading towards the Mill Site -- can
just barely see the trailer in the background

they leave chalk signs on Bath Rd to tell you how far you are...
I'm side-eyeing it more than the horse

down Volcano Canyon

Volcano Creek

where the trail crosses and continues -- this is looking
towards the Chicken Hawk side

pausing to water the boys in the creek

Going up towards Chicken Hawk, we saw bear tracks in the dust. And passed this really creepy-looking tree, all charred and dead in the middle of a bunch of greenery.




The new trail out of Chicken Hawk is interesting – I would love to see what it’s like after a winter of getting bedded in. As it is now, it’s very dusty, and there are random small holes to trip over/step in that are hard to see due to the fine, powdery footing. It’s definitely made for small, zoomy pones, with more twists and turns…but far more interesting than the old road. Slower, for sure…but I’m guessing the trade-off of having the larger vet check and more space is probably worth the trade-off.

going up to Chicken Hawk -- flyin'!!!

The boys got to clean up the hay leftovers at Chicken Hawk, and we surveyed the suddenly-ominous skies. “But rain was predicted for the high Sierras, not the foothills!” protested Kaity. The port-a-potties were still in place from the weekend, so we made use of the facilities, went through the check to the road and then back into the check – miming our way through “ride procedure” and then back out to the new trail.

"Nomz" go the boys.

rider refueling

coming in to Chicken Hawk from the road -- ride direction


leaving Chicken Hawk on the new trail --

heading towards Volcano Canyon

bombin' down the road!

I actually really enjoy Volcano Canyon – running it in the direction the ride goes is fun. A lot of the downhill can be trotted/shuffled down, so you can really make time. We briefly got sprinkled on (if a dozen drops of rain counts) going up the canyon when we passed through a break in the trees, but that was it.

yes, Roo, I *know* you enjoy tightrope-walking the edge

makin' time! (camera doesn't cope well with low light)

dueling cameras

Tevis ribbon!

going down
lookit that pone corner at a trot!

Kaity stops to smell the bay leaves

"Why are we stopped? WHY???" Fidget pants r us.

the clouds we were racing

cool rocks

back at Volcano Creek

scenic moment

"Ani, don't LEAVE me!!!"

bottoms up! (there were trout in here)

mining remnants (and there were mining claim signs on
some of the trees)

going up!

drinking at the spring halfway up Volcano Canyon

at the top of the canyon, almost to Bath Rd

New appreciation for how far up Bath Road you still have to climb – it’s not “just around the corner and you’re there.” But since the boys had only done about 8 miles at this point, as opposed to the 68 on ride day...we trotted.

at the bottom of Bath Rd, just out of the canyon. on ride day,
they have troughs here.

about halfway up

at the boundary of the Mill Site -- approximately where they
set out the trough on ride day

We did a bit of hay clean-up at the Mill Site, then headed back to the trailer. We got sprinkled on yet again right about the time we were getting in the truck, and then that was it for the rain.

The plan for the afternoon was to finally, finally go play at the American River Confluence. Every year I’ve been to Tevis, the topic of playing in the river has been talked about, and never ends up happening, so we were determined to make it happen at some point this year.

It’s been something that has been added to the “must do yearly” list. We found a spot that was just past No Hands Bridge, with its own “private beach” with areas to swim, wade, or just sit. Beautiful, clear, cool water, gorgeous views…definitely a relaxing way to spend the afternoon.

view from our private beach

No Hands Bridge from below

Monday night wrapped up with me doing some creative packing (I was bringing home a saddle pad Lucy had borrowed and a quilt she had put together for me), but I managed to get the important stuff in there (and ship the less-important things home).

TUESDAY morning wrapped up the fun…we did some vehicle shuttling and shuffling to enable Kaity to ride the California Loop from Foresthill to Driver’s Flat, one way. Once we got her situated and trailer moved, Lucy dropped me off at the airport on her way to work. Fortunately, my flight home was much quieter, and my parents brought my little Artemissy-puppy to the airport to pick me up!

THE WRAP-UP: The more I crew, the easier it gets. It really helps when you’ve crewed multiple times for the same rider, and for the same horse. You learn quirks about the horse (For example: Fergus can be touchy about his ears, so allow a couple of extra minutes to bridle, and don’t unbridle him except at the big checks. He’s easier to syringe from the off-side. He prefers LMF and beet pulp sloppy mashes to pellet mashes. He likes bite-sized apple pieces hand-fed to him.)

I also learn new tricks every year, things that get filed away in my mental filing cabinet of “how to make my eventual Tevis ride easier.” Things I would like my own crew to do. Notes to self on my own care. And, of course, seeing as much of the trail as I can ahead of time to know what I’m up against and how to best train for it.

This might not be everyone’s idea of a vacation…but in my world, it was exactly what I needed. (And I’m ready for vacation again, thanks…)

Monday, August 25, 2014

Epic Tevis Adventure, 2014 Edition: Part Two B: Foresthill - Sunday wrap-up

When we last left off, Kaity and I wrapped up the Robinson Flat check and were heading back to Foresthill...

Then it was down to Foresthill, where we found the trailer, found a Funder, got everything we would need for the evening set up, got the cart ready for meeting Lucy on Bath Road, then we wandered over to see what food vendors were set up this year. An excellent taco truck provided sustenance, then we went down and hung out on Bath Road – word was that the front runners would be coming through shortly, and we will had time before we had to leave to meet Lucy at the Chicken Hawk check.

Funder shows off her shiny truck tailgate step

So we found a spot in the shade and hung out and watched Jennifer Waitte be the first rider into Foresthill, followed by Tom Johnson (who rides a beautiful little grey Al-Marah mare I was drooling over the entire ride…my love for these horses is a bit sickening, I know…), Tennessee Lane, and Heather Reynolds.

AM Lady Liberty Wins -- such a pretty mare!

After watching them come in, Kaity and I headed out to meet Lucy at the Chicken Hawk check. It may seem redundant, having a crew person (or two) meet you at a check that is only 4 miles away from your next big hour-long check, but both Kaity and Lucy have called Chicken Hawk a tough, low-point check for them, so I can see the value in having your own personal crew to give you a mental boost. 

Fergus wasn’t particularly difficult to get cooled down this year, but if it’s a really hot day or your horse is having trouble pulsing down, I can see where it’s super-helpful to have someone to help with that process. Plus, there is still one more canyon – a small one, but still goes down and up – left before Foresthill, and I can see where hitting that with a horse who has had a chance to cool off and refresh a little bit could make the difference between a horse that drags up Bath Road versus one who is a bit more sprightly.

At Chicken Hawk, we hung around the check itself for a bit, getting a feel for the new layout – has a couple of bugs to work out, such as the vet area possibly being a bit close to the out-times. They had hay out near the out-timers for horses to eat after vetting, but it wasn’t actually apparent from where you were standing and looking in that direction – as was evidenced by the large pile of hay still there when we rode on Monday. Consequently, we went back to the hay/mash area for Fergus to eat some more, and then had to navigate through the crowds to get to the out-timer.

troughs, food, sponging in lower area, vetting and out-timer
at the top

Having a good spread-out space and a graveled area to sponge was very nice – I had never been to the old Chicken Hawk check before, but Kaity said this one was much, much nicer. Less mud from sponging meant it wasn’t so hot and swampy, and being on a slight rise, it was catching some breeze as well.

We met Lucy down on the road into the staging area, walked up to the troughs, and got to work cooling Fergus as he drank and ate. They had sponges and buckets there, as well as alfalfa and large pans of LMF mash. The volunteers were also excellent about keeping the sponge water topped off with cool water – excellent service!

Lucy and Fergus coming in

After vetting, we gave Lucy a few minutes to sit and Fergus a few more minutes to eat, then piled the girl back on her horse and sent them on their way.

vetting at Chicken Hawk

You can’t drive in to the Chicken Hawk check – have to park about a mile out on the road and walk in/out. We were all prepared to hoof it out of there, but managed to bum a ride from a volunteer who was driving out and had half a dozen people piled in the back of the truck. That shaved at least ten minutes off the time it would have taken us to get back to the truck!

Back at Foresthill, we found fellow crew member H, set up and waiting on Bath Rd with the cart, and we settled in to wait for Lucy. We didn’t have to wait too long before the large Golden Freight Train came powering up Bath Road. We stripped tack and hosed him at the trough set up on the road, then took him up the road to the check. He was still a little high on his pulse, so he got hosed some more, then once he was down, he was pulsed, then over to the vet line for his check – also successful!

eating in the vet line at Foresthill

Fergus trot-out...he looked more inspired IRL

Back at the trailer, we got him started on munching while the rest of us prepped tack stuff for the ride portion. Funder taped on the headstall to Lucy’s helmet, I taped glowsticks to the breastcollar, Kaity changed out saddle pads, and Lucy showered, changed, and ate.

We were scuttling a bit to get everything done in time – that hour seemed to go by awfully fast. Until we got to the out-timer, that is, and they noticed a mix-up on Lucy’s out-time slip – they had written too early of a time on her card. By the time we got to the out-timer, we still had about four minutes to kill, so Fergus got to stand up the troughs and I spent the time stuffing as much last minute hay into him as I could. They left right on time.

waiting to leave Foresthill

on their way again!

(Funny enough, this is actually my own personal strategy I use deliberately at rides – I mentally “reset” my out-time to anywhere between 2-5 minutes before it actually is, because I hate leaving checks late…when you ride a back-of-the-pack turtle horse, every minute is precious.)

Once the girl + horse had disappeared into the darkness, we packed up the trailer and all made our way back to the Fairgrounds. Lucy had reserved a spot in the North Lot camping area (the same spot Kaity had last year), and it got all prepared for Fergus’s arrival with his Spring Tie, shavings spread, and food and water waiting.

We all stayed up chatting for a bit, then gradually succumbed to the idea of grabbing even a couple of hours of nap-time. I stretched out on the backseat of Kaity’s truck, and dozed fitfully only to discover I was laying with my head facing downhill. That never works, so once I righted myself and tucked into my sleeping bag (I can’t believe I was COLD…but 2:00AM + being tired will do that to ya…), I managed to snooze for another hour or so.

Based on her times, and online tracking and updates, we expected Lucy in around 4AM SUNDAY, so we were waiting for her on the hill at the Official Timed Finish (which they had all lit up with Christmas lights – pretty!) by about 3:30ish or so. It’s fun to watch the riders come in – you can usually see glowsticks before anything else, so you wonder if that’s your rider yet…you try to remember who they were riding near…you whoop and holler and cheer…and keep watching for glowsticks…

fancy decorated finish

Lucy and Fergus had three very bright green glowsticks (battery-powered, reusable type, so brighter than even the standard green crack-and-go type)…we kept watching…riders we knew had been riding near her came in…and then there they were.

Fergus was doing his big striding/shuffley/gaity thing he does, and he just marched right under that lit-up banner, and just kept on marching right down to the stadium. 100 miles, and he still was doing his Big Trot around the stadium…and predictably spooked at the chalk finish line.

heading into the stadium


All day long, every time we saw him, his attitude had been “Yeah, I got this.” He knew exactly where he was, what he was doing, and how this game was played. They finished faster, too. (22 minutes faster, and Lucy was almost spot-on with her goal time of 4:00AM – they came in a 4:03AM.)

The same attitude carried over to his final vet check – he strode out, he strode back, and he looked absolutely fantastic. And then he proceeded to drag me back to the trailer for food. Kaity wrapped his legs, then we took him back down for one final check – within 1-2 hours of finishing, the horse has to come back for one final metabolics check, just to make sure they’re not experiencing any kind of delayed post-ride problem.

final trot-out

When the head vet of Tevis does the final check on the horse and says he looks good, you know he looks good. And he did. He really did. Back at the trailer, Fergus settled in with a few more bites of food, then he was ready to sleep. Kaity and I threw sleeping mats and sleeping bags on the ground behind the truck – I figured that as soon as the sun was up (which was going to happen in about an hour at this point), I would be awake…but what they heck, it was a chance for another nap at least.

I managed to sleep until almost 9AM.

A shower was the first order of business, and it involved a bunch of us ladies commandeering the men’s room temporarily when it was discovered only one shower in the women’s bathrooms was functioning. Fastest shower ever – and it still didn’t remove the Tevis tan line of dirt embedded around the ankles – but at least removing the outermost layer of dirt felt really good.

Tevis tan line -- sexy, no?

Then we grabbed breakfast and watched the Haggin Cup judging. Five of the Top Ten horses showed this year. I would love to be a fly on the wall for the Cup Committee discussions – it would be fascinating to know what was said, what was seen by Committee members, and all of the other factors aside from just the trot-out that we see that go into the decision of awarding the Cup.

I did a bit of shopping at the Tevis Store – wanted to get raffle tickets for the big raffle they did to support the rebuilding of the Swinging Bridge, and got a couple new decal stickers and new Tevis t-shirt. Drooled over shiny merchandise with “Tevis” embroidered on it, but my deal with myself is that my name actually has to be on that rider list before I will justify anything beyond a t-shirt. (Don’t mind me, I’m weird. I also won’t buy any of the silver buckle decals or pins or anything until I actually have a buckle, either.)

my friend Hannah came in NINTH on her
home-bred, raised, and trained gelding Stuart
(she rides in Renegades, and her finish was the
first Top Ten Tevis finish for Renegade)

I’m usually pretty mentally cooked by the time the awards banquet rolls around. Fortunately there was plenty of tasty food, I stood and clapped in all the appropriate spaces, and then it was done. We socialized for a little bit afterwards, then headed back to the trailer to wrap things up, pack up Fergus, then head back to Low Camp. The rest of the evening was low-key, hanging out on the back porch, then eventually turning in at a fairly reasonable hour. Kaity and I were going to do one final ride in the morning…because OF COURSE that’s what you do the day after you’ve been crewing Tevis all weekend. 

...more still to come...