Sunday, May 24, 2015

In which the joys of volunteering are espoused by somebody who knows

Is there anything better than getting really dirty...
and fixing stuff that needs to be fixed?

We built up this turnpike with native gravel and rock in 2013.
It still looks--and works--great to keep the horses out of the mud.

I've been documenting our volunteer trail work at the Renegade Rendezvous ridecamp since 2009, with plenty of photos and explanations about what is needed to put this ride together every year.  

Renegade Rendezvous 2010  Best overview of what we do.  Also, a post about dogs in camp.
Renegade Rendezvous 2011  Best photos here!  Lots of flowers!
Renegade Rendezvous 2012  Lots of friends and family joined us
Renegade Rendezvous 2013  Doing trail work when you can't walk is really hard
Renegade Rendezvous 2014  Returning to camp in the sunshine--lots of work to be done!

It's a beautiful place to spend time with friends...and while we're up there in camp during the week prior to the event, we get a ton of work done to prepare the trails for the hordes of riders who will show up on ride day to share a long distance adventure with a horse on some of the prettiest trails you will ever see.

We've got a faithful group of 4-8 people who show up every year, ready to work and have fun.

This year, however, we will need a LOT more volunteers than usual, because it turns out that

Yes, this is the SS Illegible and yes, he did park
that helicopter right off the starboard side.

helicopters are really messy.

After many years of threatening to log our corner of the Naches Wilderness, it's really happening.

And, because many of the hillsides where trees are harvested are really steep and also quite remote, the trees are being pulled out by helicopter and then staged in meadows...including the meadow that houses our ridecamp.

This twin-rotor, single seat helicopter can move a lot of trees

The problem isn't the staging meadows.  The problem is the mess that logging operations leave on our trails.

Limbs, branches, and tree tops scattered randomly on the hillsides...
and over the top of our trails.

We went up to camp this weekend to check it out.  The news is not great:

In addition to the usual seasonal blowdown, the trails have a ton of tree shrapnel
on them, and will require a LOT of work to clear.

The work is not impossible.

These branches can be pulled apart by hand

This tree top needed several people with tools to move it off the trail

The same trail, partly cleared

We use chainsaws,


and a fair amount of effort

to build the trails that our riders love.

It's not easy.

Dogs help.

but the work is very rewarding.  

There's really nothing like the satisfaction of trotting down a trail and recognizing a stretch of terrain that you, personally, cleared and prepared.  

Maybe you can point to a spot on the trail where the rocks have been raked away.  No horse is going to "meet his rock" here, because I threw them all off the trail! 

Maybe your horse climbs up an embankment and stops to breathe on a switchback platform you cleared and flattened.  I know there is good grass here, because I saw it when I helped build this.

Maybe you see branches by the side of the path, and you remember that they used to block the way.  I cleared this.  I made this trail.

Want to join the fun?

This is how Santa spends his off-season.
You'll want Santa to remember you this year!

We will be gathering up at the Renegade Rendezvous ridecamp starting around June 27th, and working through the week prior to the July 3-4th events.  We welcome hardworking volunteers.

If you've got a chainsaw, or trail building equipment and skills, great!

If you've never done anything like this before, but you're willing to help out with building, mending, and marking trails, that's great too.

What are you waiting for? 

We need your help this year. 

Come for a day or two before the ride, or join us for the whole week. 

Bring your horse, your kids, your dog, and your work gloves.

Green beans, this is your opportunity to get to know the trails and the folks who make endurance rides happen.

Experienced riders, here's your chance to pay back the universe for the happy hours you've spent on trails that other folks built.

Everybody:  join the fun. 

Contact Renegade Rendezvous ride manager Gail Williams and tell her you want to help.  Or contact me via the comment box, and I'll make sure you get the information you need.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

In which "couples therapy" is on hold, and I haven't written much

It occurs to me that I haven't actually written much about our winter
Dressage for Endurance Riders lessons.

Dory makes us work and (mostly) doesn't make us cry.

Contrary to what lytha says, dressage is not a crying sport.

That doesn't mean it's easy.  It's not easy.  But, hey.  

We are endurance riders.  We eat easy for lunch so we can get back out and ride another 25 miles.

Sometimes, even the warmups are difficult.

Stand in your stirrups for a lap around the arena.
Now, post the walk for a lap around the arena.
Now, post the walk without stirrups all the way around.
Oh, you're tired?  Too bad.  Do it all the other direction.

Margie's legs are short and her horse is tall.
She is extra-motivated not to fall off during stretches.

We've spent the whole winter improving our equitation.  Our posture is better.  Our legs are stronger.

Rating the trot:  collected.  working.  extended.  and back to collected again.

But mostly, we communicate better with our horses now.

Ariana is accustomed to making all the decisions for her rider.  
She and Patty have improved their negotiation skills.

It's not always smooth.  Sometimes there is backsliding.

Kolton joined the group recently, and practices like crazy to
keep up with all the ladies.

When it works, it really works.  We get lots of good feedback from Dory,

and lots of encouragement from everyone.

Lessons aren't just a way to pass the time while the weather outside is frightful.

Lessons help us take stuff like this...

...and this...

...and turn it into stuff like this.

Mt Adams Endurance Ride, 2015

We'll spend most of the good summer weather out on the trails, of course.

But come wintertime, we'll be back in the arena, improving our couples communication.

What about you?  

What do you do in the "off-season" to improve your skills? 

How does it translate into your "on-season"?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

In which we show that a weekend in ridecamp can be fun but not posh

Skipping ahead to the punchline:
we finished our second ride of the year, 55 miles, at Mount Adams

Fiddle heads out on loop #3 with some of the competition for the
Endurance Standardbred Award: Heather and Bunny (pink) and Syd and Kandi.
Bunny won the award in 2013 and 2014.
Photo by Sierra Westlake

But of course, the weekend isn't just about riding.
How much stuff can we cram into
the tack room of my tiny trailer?

The weekend starts before we leave home!

Patty shoves in a few more buckets
Dory's trailer is bigger, and needs bigger tools to get things loaded.

A little more...a little more...a little mo--okay, whoa!

When we get to camp, we unload the trailer and the truck.

All that stuff came out of the dressing room.  Roo helped.

Then it's time to set stuff up.  The horse corrals go up first, of course.
Waiting for carrots.  Waiting.  Waiting.  PATIENTLY WAITING.
Then the people quarters.

Du's tent is pretty awesome.

I think it's also slightly larger than my first apartment.
This tent has a front deck and a back garage--you're supposed to put your bike
in the back, out of the rain.  We put other stuff there.
I opted to set up a bed in the horse trailer.

The SS Illegible, cleaned out and ready
for weekend lodgers
People have asked, so here's a bunch of pictures of the setup.

First, a floor mat

Next, the mattress.  This is the mattress out of a friend's
RV.  It has a "weather resistant" cover, so it's pretty
easy to keep clean.

Our clothing bags go up front

Eggcrate and memory foam for extra comfort

A cheap thrift store blanket, easy to clean when we
get home.  This also  adds "grip" so the sleeping bags on the
next layer don't slither off the mattress.

Top layers:  a sleeping bag, topped by a down comforter,
another sleeping bag, and another cheap blanket,
with a floofy dog as the cherry on top.

On the short side wall, extra flashlights and hooks for coats and hats.

Once the beds are set up, we put the kitchen together.

An ancient three-burner Coleman stove.  I learned to cook on a stove just like this.

A propane camping oven--excellent for baking potatoes and yams.  

While we are working, folks come visiting.

You gotz the carrots unpacked yet?

Come back little deer!  I'z gonna make espresso!
Our camp might just be the prettiest place in the state.

Postcard:  Wish You Were Here.

Finally comes the riding part!

Heading out for a shakedown on Friday morning

Good footing (except for the rocks) and excellent trail marking!
Later in camp, there is a distinguished guest talking about her adventures and answering questions.

Valerie Kanavy

And we talk to everybody!
Sherri found her old showing coat in a closet and figured I should wear it.
Totally Sgt Peppers?  AWESOME!

Soon enough, it's ride day.
I don't take many pictures of the early loops because the light is pretty dim.
The photo doesn't show Mount Adams, which is enormous, and positioned
right between Fiddle's ears!

Out on the trail:
The red loop through the burn

Sunshine!  We had rain forecast, but it missed us.

HAM radio crews help keep us safe.  Communications via cell phone are
spotty in this part of the world.

More trail, more sunshine.
Kathy and Andie invited me and Fiddle to join them again on this ride, but Fee really needed to "ride her own ride" so we stayed solo all day.  It's not as social, but it's so pretty that I don't mind.

La-la-la trotting

Up the big hill.  We walk all the steep stuff on hot days.
At the vet checks, I strip tack to help cool the Big Dark Machine, and we let her eat.

We had a 16-mile loop, a 15-mile loop, a 13-mile loop and a 10.  Fee thought that leaving camp after 45 miles was a dumb idea.

Is this a 75-mile ride???
But we trotted it all down and finished in good form.

Official Ride Photo by Jessica Wynne

The new "Morrison" loop was the prettiest.

Back in camp, I saw a horse who reminded me of Baasha.

Not just because he's grey, although most greys look alike to me!
This horse had such a sweet inquisitive face, he reminded me
SO MUCH of lytha's horse.
After the finish line, the horses are settled and fed, and then we start taking care of the riders.

You can pay $43 for a foam roller, or you can borrow one of Roo's toys
to roll out your sore muscles.  You were planning to throw that thing, right?

And the next morning:  awards!

Ride manager Darlene snagged a purple bucket just for me!

At the campfire, necessities were provided.

And on the way home, we stopped for the traditional Survivor's Brunch.

Cinnamon roll the size of my head.
It may not be Fancy.

But it's Good.