Friday, January 29, 2010

jusr another beautiful day...

So today Vickey and I headed back out to ride. No agenda, just a ride. Jon lost his hatband running around the desert on Tuesday, so he came to go back out and retrace our route from Tuesday to find it. So he went one way, and we went another.

The horses were good. We got to the area where all those coyotes were a couple days before, and Dakota (who was leading) was being VERY cautious. He remembered. And he was gonna be really careful not to get eaten. But, we didn't see anybody.

We ended up doing a longer loop on account of it was such a nice day. We did 10 miles, and, we did it "backwards" from the way we normally do it. IT is amazing how it looks like a completely different trail when you go the other way around. In one section, back in the back, there was a big area that had lots of freshly uprooted trees. Big trees. WE think a micro-burst, or the 80MPH winds we had the previous week, must have taken all of them out. Shame, too. Big trees and cactus just turned over in place. At least we only saw a couple of Saguaro that got killed. Those dudes are TOUGH. Amazing, as their root system is only about 8 inches long.

Santana was pretty good. I had to get after him to walk off faster when he took the lead. I can feel him wanting to gait, but not quite sure how to put it all together. We attend a LArry Whitesell clinic in MArch, which should be invaluable to both of us in that endeavor.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

what an adventure!

So, this morning we set out again, trying to figure out this trail that the park manager had inked in on a trail map. Vickey's hubby Jon was able to join us this time. He was jealous of our adventure the day before. That, or he didn't trust the two of us to stay out of trouble. And, trouble did find us.

We set off on the quickest trail to get us back to the starting point of "working backwards" to the elusive proposed trail in the back of the park. This took us on a well travelled, popular trail that goes between two small mountains. It was an overcast, cool, kind of creepy morning. On our way, I saw two coyotes run across the trail. Vickey saw them too. then, seconds later, we saw two MORE run across. Out came the cameras, we love getting pictures of these critters. Well, whodathunk, after four coyotes were spotted, a pack of eight more ran across, very close to us. Dakota, who was in front (Santana WAS leading most of the way, but then decided, just before the first coyote sighting, he wanted Dakota to go first.....hmmmm. Wonder why? Send the white horse first!) decided he should turn around and go back away from the coyotes. Vickey was busy playing Ansel Adams, and, lost her balance and came off Dakota. (who was a good boy and stood there looking at her like, "what are you doing down there? There are wild animals here, get on and lets get OUT of here..!" She was fine, it was a slow motion fall. She did end up with cholla on the back of her coat, but fortunately it didn't go through to her skin. I got my leatherman out and pkucked her back. By this time Jon caught up, and he luckily he didn't see her fall, or the comments would have been flying! By the way, Santana didn't react at all to Dakota's reaction and Vickey's fall. This boy is a keeper. We all saddled back up again, the coyotes seemed to be circling us. I did have my Glock on my hip, but, was hoping I wouldn't actually need to use it. Yeegads! The horses moved on down the trail, VERY cautiously. We were after all, still surrounded by at least 12 coyotes. There had to be fresh kill on the ground. Not too far ahead was a hiker and his dog. While we spoke to him, a biker came through as well. We warned both of what was ahead, and we stared back on our mission. Not a couple minutes later, the loudest ruckus I have EVER heard in the desert. The coyotes were all howling and barking and carrying on. I think the hiker and his dog got to them, and the coyotes were threatened by the dog thinking it was gonna get their kill, or, there were two pack of coyotes fighting over the kill. We waited for a few. And, being brave, decided since we didn't hear any screaming, that the hiker, dog, and biker made it through ok. WE kept going. After a mile or so, the horses "calmed" down meaning they weren't looking for predators. They never spooked or anything, they were just walking very cautiously. But then they got out of scent's way. amd we were back on task. The skies cleared and the sun was out. I found the point marked on the map called "The Gap." This used to be my favorite lunch spot, before the parked closed it off. But, we had our Golden Ticket's, and could go where ever we wanted. And I needed this spot to try and see the proposed trail that would take us all the way to the back of the park. I saw what I needed to, and we were off. Sure enough, after a couple of miles in a wash (with more paw prints...) we ended up at the back fence line, and found the gate marked. We saw the house that we went behind yesterday, and, we were right. The only through there would be to cross that ravine (Snowy River) . We were in the right spot yesterday. IT is just impassable right now. Bulldosers could make it accessable, but I doubt the county will want to put that kind of money into it. But thats why we werethere. To ride these proposed areas and report back with our findings. Jon marked several waypoints and coordinates on his GPS, and, we headed back. Our mission was accomplished! We started back, and took a brief lunch break. We ate, then headed the rest of the way back to the trailer. It was a really fun day.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Golden Ticket!

So, today was an awesome day. Vickey is involved in everything in Queen Creek, it seems. She has been asked to attend meetings regarding our San Tan Park, and give input. Well, she was asked by the park manager to ride some proposed trails in the park, according to a map he had made, and give him feedback on the proposals. And, lucky for me, she invited me to go along!!
So, the bus picked Vickey and Dakota at 9am, and with our "Golden Ticket" in hand (the map of proposed trails) off we went. We were so excitd, because this gave us permission to bushwack, and basically go willy-nilly throughout the prk. This was a top secret covert mission. Even the park hosts didn't know anything about the proposed trails. We went back to the very back entrance to try and find and follow the trails he had proposed back there. We had gotten a lot of rain, and the bushwhacking was slow going. It was very rocky too. WE saw on the map that we needed to get around Rock Peak. There was a house there as well, but, we knew the house couldn't be IN the park. We finally found a very nicely groomed path, linedwith rocks on each side, that went towards the house. It looked like we were going up the driveway, and we really didn't want to get shot for trespassing, but, we knew it was IN the park, and couldn't be private property. I thought Dakota should go first since he is white, and white is the universal symbol for peace and surrender...... Sure enough, it took us up around behind the house. It was really rocky now, and, in order to continue on to where the map said we should be, we would have had to do a re-enactment from the "The Man From Snowy River." There was quite a steep ravine there and, the footing was really bad. I decided at this point, that the Park manager must have just used an Etch-a-sketch to draw the proposed trails in. It was too dangerous to go on, so we turned around and went back to the trailer. Santana's feet were soft from all the rain and lack of anywhere dry (besides his stall) to stand. The rocks were a little hard on him, and he was being VERY careful. But through all that bushwacking and the very hard work asked of him, he acted like a seasoned 15 year old horse. Such a good boy. His feet held up quite well despite being soft from the rain, and we were traveling through and over boulders.
We left that trailhead, and went back to our usual trailhead to check out some other proposed trails. These were more "familiar" as they were trals we all used to ride before they closed them off. We set off again, following more familiar trails that we had ridden, but not in years due to the park closing them off. But it was so nice to be out there, where nobody else had been in a long time. It was quiet and peaceful. We had such a great time, and it was geting late, so, we headed back to the trailer. I told Vickey I was SURE I could find that silly trail that ended in Snowy RIver fashion if we hit it from the other side first, and went backwards..... she was game, so we planned to head out again tomorrow. Stay tuned....

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

weather woes...?

Build an ark.

If I had been listening to the fine folks who forecast the weather, I would have built an ark in preparation for this week's weather starting yesterday, Monday. There are/were three huge storms, that were to bring us massive rains and massive flooding. Our first storm was supposed to hit yesterday. It was a little overcast, and there were a few light showers, but, I didn't see animals coming in two-by-two anywhere. I could have ridden, but was scared off by the weather reports. I didn't want to get caught back in a wash when a flash flood came through. Silly me, I shouldn't have listened to the weather folks on TV. This morning, the second storm was due in. But, it was sunny and wonderful at 8am, so, Suzie and I met at the San Tans to ride. We set off on a shorter route, but decided it was soooo nice to go and take a longer back-trail loop to make a ten mile ride out of it. It was super windy though, and the horses, who hadn't been out in five days, were a little fresh. Not naughty fresh, but, ears pricked forward at every little thing , and all the strange noises the wind was resonating. But it was a beautiful ride, and we figure it will be the only ride we get in until next week, because the really big storm is due in on Thursday and Friday.... It did start to cloud up by the time we got back to the trailer, and, at 6pm, as I type this, it is raining......maybe the weather folks sometimes know what they are talking about....maybe.

(the picture is of Tommy working in the San Tans..)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Another field trip

I had always wanted to go on some "field trips." Exploring places I had heard about but never been to. Suzy and Tommy are willing participants, so, we decided to go to the Spur Cross Conservation area. This is about two hours north of me. I had heard that it was very pretty up there.

"The bus" picked up Tommy and Suzie at 9am and we were off on out adventure. It took us two hours to get there, but it was worth the drive. It was very pretty. This was part of the county park system, so my annual parks pass was good here too. It was a Tuesday, and a beautiful day. We were the only trailer there. Hmmm. wonder why.

It didn't take us long to figure out why. Two words. Rocky and elevation gain. Ok, that was three words. We started out on the trail and almost immediately had a water crossing. Santana thought it might be easier to drink the level of the water down first, then cross. We crossed the creek, and then started a very long, steep, rocky ascent. The horses were working hard, and I wished I had put boots on Santana. I mean, I know he has great feet, but this was ridiculous. Once we climbed that. There was another ascent. and another, and another. The view was gorgeous. The horses were huffing and puffing. We had a map of the trails with us, and headed for a loop marked for horses. We started down it, but decided to turn around shortly into it. It was really only suitable for hikers, and maybe mules. Tommy wasn't used to this kind of thing, and I was worried about Punkalicious's feet. The way back was a little easier as it was almost all downhill. But still rocky, and loose rocks at that. We rode for a total of about two hours before getting back to the trailer. With a two hour ride home, and wanting to avoid rush hour traffic, it was a full day.

Silly cowhorses, cactci are not meant to be eaten...

So, we went on another group ride, this time with only six horses, as opposed to the 16 we went out with on Santana's very first group ride... Two of the riders were cowboys; ropers to be specific Cowhorses are used to working only in arenas...not so much out on the trail. Santana led the way. He was walking right on out at about a 3.5mph walk. The much bigger horses weren't keeping up very well. At one point, I saw a horse coming up behind us, without a rider... hmmm. I stop and look behind me and see one of the cowboys on t he ground. Vickey had to go and fetch his horse. Silly horse decided to reach out and grab a chunk of cholla, which is NASTY cactus. (See picture above) She grabbed, and then she bucked in protest to the cactus sticking to her muzzle. Ouch. We girls had our leatherman tools with pliers handy, and the cowboy was able to get all the cholla out. The rest of the ride was uneventful. Santana likes to walk out, and I can no longer stick him behind these slower horses and make him plod along. He will not develop the muscles he needs to gait by plodding along.

I know, its been a while...

Yep. Its been a while since I've posted. Not because we haven't been out riding, we have. I've just been REALLY busy with work too, so, getting on the computer has been almost non-existant.

Ok, so I'll update you all on a couple of rides we've done recently......

Friday, January 1, 2010

Another first, First group ride

Well, yesterday was Punkalicious's first ever group ride. He had never been out with more than two other horses before. This was the third annual "Circle your Wagons" ride put on by a friend of mine. This year, it was out half way to Yuma, I think, in the MAricopa Wilderness area. Which, is 20 miles past Maricopa, by the way...
Thankfully, Vicki and Dakota were able to go with me. This turned out to be HUGE for me, or I don't think I would have gotten through the day. I picked them up at 7am (ugh, after not getting home from work the night before until about 11pm...) After about an hour and a half, we foundsigns that brought us into the parking area. About the parking area.... we were about 50 feet from a VERy active fright train track. About every 20 minutes, a BIG train would go through. Not the best place for horse parking...Santana wasn't too sure about these very loud things at first. HE danced around a bit, but never blew up. Once everyone arrived, we took off on out ride. Santana was fresh, and raring to go. I was very unsure obout this, there were about 16 horses, and he was certain that he needed to lead the ride. I was certain that he did NOT need to lead the ride, and hence, we had a differing of opinions. Thank goodness for Vicki. She kept me calm and talked me through the first few minutes; minutes that I thought I might not survive. I don't have any experience with this situation. But he never was dangerous, no threat of bucking or rearing, he just wanted to GO. We had to go through a tunnel, under the RR tracks to continue on the ride. Everyone had to dismount as this was only about 7 feet tall. He had no issues with the tunnel. He just wanted to go. I was told this was a "crushed granite" trail. It was very rocky. Another chance to test his bare feet.
Anyway, we all re-mounted once throught he tunnel, and we were off. I had to keep zig--zagging Santana across the trail to let him "go" with out letting him have his way of passing everyone. This was the conpromise we made. He did a lot of trotting, but never tired. The trains kept passing through, as we were riding parellel to the tracks. He did very well, and we did a ten mile ride. The trail was very flat, nothing challenging except the trains! After we got back, we had a little cook-out at the trail head with the folks on the ride. IT was a fun day.