Friday, September 4, 2015

In which we celebrate Flashback Friday : a story about Story

This photo popped up on my Facebook "Timehop" yesterday.

Sherry and Madeline, Hana and Jim.  Hana's first LD ride!

It came from a photo album of printed pictures that I scanned and posted on FB about 5 years ago.  The photos themselves were taken in 2004, at the Northwest Labor Day Ride.

The NWLD ride was never a good one for me.  According to AERC stats, I've ridden 96 competitions in my lifetime (Limited Distance + Endurance distance), and I have 8 pulls.  Two of my eight pulls were at the NWLD ride, which takes place about 30 miles from my house.  Sigh. 

But the story about the 2004 ride isn't about getting pulled.  It's about the night after most of the riders had gone home.  Jim and I stayed an extra day to help ride management pull ribbons.   Most of the horses in our camp were gone, but we kept Story with us to help with the trail work.

You can tell this is Story and not Fiddle because Story wasn't GINORMOUS.
She was about 6 inches shorter (but her head was almost exactly the same size)

We were camped in a big open hay field, with just a few other rigs.  lytha was there, with Mack (and possibly also Princess?) tied to her trailer.   Our Canadian friend Terre was there, and one of the local vets had stayed also.  

In the middle of the night, Story started up an enormous racket, spinning in her paddock and blowing that freight train snort that means "EMERGENCY! BATTLE STATIONS! THIS IS NOT A DRILL!"

Story was not a panicksome horse.  If she pulled the emergency cord, there was probably something out there.

So I took a look.  

With me there to back her up, she stopped spinning, and stared at the target of her wrath. 

 "WOLVES!"  she snorted.  "WOLVES!"

For years I have taunted unruly ponies with threats of leaving them alone for the wolves to eat.  
It's an empty threat.  We don't have wolves in the Swamp.

Except, that night, there were wolves.

Really.  Wolves.  Several of them.  

Ahhhhh.  Right.  Because there was a woman up the road from the camp who raised wolves and wolf hybrids.  She had ridden through our camp, bareback, on her stunning white Arabian stallion, with her long hair flowing out behind her, and several of her wolves at heel beside.

(I'm not making that up.  Also, did you know that if you google "unicorn wolf" you can find thousands of images, almost all of them ridiculous?  It's true!)

Apparently, the Wolf Lady liked to let her children roam free on the mountain at night, the neighbor's chickens (and children) bedamned.  

lytha's horse was raised in the civilized world.  "Doggies!" he said, and went back to eating.

But Story and the Canadian lady's horse were from the Great White North, and they knew what they were seeing.


Koszaar was on a High-Tie, and Terre said that he nearly pulled the trailer over on top of himself.  

Story was counting on me.

"Go on, wolves!" I told them.  "Move out!  Go home!"  Or something equally inane.

They believed me.  They left.

Ever since, I have threatened unruly ponies that I will leave them alone for the giraffes to eat. 

It's an empty threat.  

I think.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

In which we see river monsters, otterkin, and other fancy stuff

Tsagaglalal, "She Who Watches"

When travelling on the Dry Side of our state, Jim and I keep our eyes open for supernatural creatures, like those we've read about.

Werewolves, vampires, gremlins and more...
in Eastern Washington!  Read a sample chapter HERE

We've been big fans of Patricia Briggs' urban fantasy books since Moon Called was published (ye gawds, in 2006?) and always nod knowingly when we meet up with sketchy folks east of the mountains--we figure they are probably werewolves, just trying to get by.

Patty and her husband Mike announced last spring that they would host a "Hurog Howl" camp out at Maryhill State Park, the setting for the latest book in the series, and Jim and I signed up.  A weekend away from the farm without a horse seemed like an excellent way to wind up the summer.  

The Columbia River, viewed from the
Stonehenge Memorial at Maryhill

(Of course, we didn't know then that most of the state would spend most of August on fire, except the part that was under water and in the dark from power outages as the result of a weekend wind and rain storm.  We need the rain, sure.  But most folks were a little grumpy that the much-needed rain also knocked out regional electricity for 2-3 days. However, when you're camping, a power-outage is pretty meaningless, so we were in excellent shape with our cozy bed inside the truck canopy)

We'd been promised A Dragon, and we saw it when we got to camp:

We didn't get to see it fly, though.  Too bad.

Fully inflated dragon kite, photo stolen from Patty's Facebook page

We kept busy with other stuff:

A trip up to the Stonehenge Memorial overlooking the river.

Unlike the English Stonehenge, this one is made of concrete, and took only
about 11 years to build.  

The inner circle of stones bear plaques naming the soldiers
of Klickitat County who died during WWI.

The entire structure was commissioned by millionaire road builder
and local eccentric Sam Hill, a Quaker, as a reminder
that humanity is sacrificed to the gods of war.

Power-generating windmills in the distance

Saturday morning we were up early

Breakfast sans electricity:  not a problem

so we could head out to view the petroglyphs at a nearby state park.

River Monster...right?
For centuries before Lewis and Clark showed up, native people lived in this part of the Columbia River Valley.  The fishing at Celilo Falls was good, the hunting of elk and sheep was good, and the land supported thousands of people.  Smallpox and other diseases arrived via traders who had second- and third-hand contact with Europeans, and the population was greatly diminished by the time the Corps of Discovery hove into view.

Seagull?  PacMan? Only the artist could say for sure.

The artists painted and carved their images into the rocks here for a thousand years or more.

And in 1957, we threw it all away.

A few stones were chipped out of the canyon walls and transported to high ground

to display for tourists.   The rest were drowned.

On March 10, 1957, the gates of the Dalles Dam were closed, trapping water above.

Six hours later, eight miles upstream, Celilo Falls was drowned.  And all the artwork in the lowlands of the canyon with it.

Some few petroglyphs survive in situ.  They are closed to the public, except via guided tour.  

We got one of those.  And this is what we saw:

"Ladder man" an often-repeated image

River Monster again?  I gimped the photo to show the teeth
that are barely visible in bright daylight, but easy to see on a rainy day.

The reason that the Confederated Tribes closed the area to casual tourists:
graffiti.  Biggify the picture to see.

Of course, the image everybody wants to see is this one.

Tsagaglalal, She Who Watches.  Whereas the other images in this area seemed
weird and foreign to me, I laid eyes on her and immediately thought,
"Oh, a Haida Bear.  Just like we have at home."

This image is both a carving and a painting, and it's much larger than the pictures around it.

Tsagaglalal also (apparently) figures prominently in Patty Briggs' latest book, but I haven't finished it yet, so please: no spoilers!

Later in the day, Jim and I wandered over to the Maryhill Museum, a weirdly eclectic collection of beautiful things.  

Edward S. Curtis' photo of She-Who-Watches, taken in 1910, surrounded
by local artifacts.

Gilded furniture that had belonged to (and been designed by) Queen Marie of Romania, juxtaposed with Greek Orthadox paintings, modern representational works, a collection of handcarved chess sets from around the world, one cool kinetic sculpture that was ziptied shut and wouldn't move, a large collection of Native American artifacts arranged by region (not just local--there were stages showing New England tribal art and sub-Arctic artifacts too), and

Auguste Rodin's unfinished life-sized sculpture of Eve.
picture stolen from Wikipedia.
of course, some Rodin originals.  I don't know why I didn't shoot a picture of Eve--I spent a lot of time looking at her.  The museum caption said that the Italian model for the piece was very well known, but Rodin was frustrated while working with her because her dimensions seemed to change all the time.  Well, duh, she was pregnant.  It cracked me up.

Back in camp, there were shenanigans.

Anarchy Scavenger Hunt - very fun.  Ask me to explain the rules sometimes.

Small children and dogs

I walked the dogs beside the river, and Foxie was Quite Sure that He Saw Otterkin.  

Or maybe it was a River Monster?

Anyhow, he kept me safe.

At night, we sang filksongs, and Patty read a bit from the work in progress.  It was, in fact, quite a lot like a science fiction/fantasy convention...but out-of-doors.  It turns out that Patty and Mike Briggs, and a lot of their friends who were camping with us, are horse people in real life.  So we got to talk horses, even though none of us brought any with us.

Definitely an improvement over the crowd crush at Comic Con!

At last, we loaded back up in the truck and headed home.

Roo and Foxie Loxie:  veteran road trippers
The two-day ride over Labor Day weekend has been cancelled, alas.  Even with the rain, the fires are still burning and the smoke is still smokey on the East side of our mountains.  Apparently, the werewolves aren't into Magical Firefighting.  Too bad.

So, we'll be home for a couple of weeks, doing normal home stuff for a while.

But Foxie now patrols the perimeter of the yard every morning and night.  Just to make sure that none of those Otterkin followed us back from the river.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

In which we're packing for a (non-horse) road trip, so here's a video

A few months ago, Santa Jim asked (very sweetly) if we might go camping 
without the horse this summer.

As focused as I am on riding this season (while I still can*), I cannot say "no" to that good man**

So, we're packing the rig*** to go down to a non-smokey part of the state for a camping weekend with the two younger dogs**** and without the Dragon*****

Here's some video I took on the trail today.  Please note that I hold onto the camera with both hands while shooting video (yes, I know, I need a GoPro!******) so the Dragon is making all the choices as we trot up this trail.

Enjoy.  I'll meet y'all back here next week.

*   My organic hip has not fallen apart yet.  I got an injection 2 weeks ago that is helping...some...

**  Could you say "no" to Santa?  Me neither.

***  The truck is never completely unpacked during ride season.  We take out our laundry and the food in the cooler.  Everything else lives in the truck until November.

****   Luna will stay home with Monica.  I think they plan to stay up all night giggling while I'm gone.

*****  There will be a Dragon.  Just not MY Dragon.  I can't wait to get pictures!

******  I heard a rumor that Santa Claus reads this blog.  I hope it's true.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

In which smoke gets in our eyes...and tack, and clothing, and hair...and our lungs

I haven't talked much about this season's wildfires, because they really aren't very close to us.

The nearest of the fires is about 60 miles away, in the Newhalem area.  But the smoke is here.

If I hadn't taken the picture myself today, I would think the sky is full of
clouds and rain.  But, no.

It's hot here, still, partly because the smoke traps the heat. 80 degrees in August isn't unheard of, but it's really unusual to have so much heat for so long.  Everything is very, very dry.

The grass is dry.  The evergreen trees show less stress than the deciduous trees.

The air quality isn't horrific, but Fee and I were not inclined to go zooming around with all this particulate floating at head height.  So, we explored.

It was the good kind of exploration, where I only vaguely
knew where we were most of the time

When we're training with the Suspects, we tend to stay on the main track.  The footing is good, and we all know where we're going.

 With everything so dry, however, erosion of delicate trail tread isn't really an issue.  So Fiddle and I wandered around, checking out alternate routes to our usual destinations and taking lots of pictures.

I haven't been on this trail for several years,
but I do enough riding in the area that I had
a pretty good "vague notion" of our location.

I did make a point of going up to the Monument.  I wanted to see how hazed-over the view from the top looked.

 "Apocalyptic" was one of the words I heard the hikers using.  That seemed about right.

Usually we can see Seattle from this point

Visibility so bad that you'd never know Puget Sound is right there.

Here's a blog post from October 2011 with photos taken in similar locations to the pictures above, if you want to see how different everything looks right now.

 Leaving the Monument meadow, we took an unfamiliar trail that meandered through a re-growing clearcut

The Swampland version of a corn maze:  these trees are
probably 15 years old or so.

and then through a more recent clearcut

This section was logged 2 years ago

We saw plenty of bear sign and coyote sign, but no bears or coyotes.  Lots of crows, though.  And

The deer aren't terribly shy right now

a deer munching her way down the trail.

Back at the trailhead, the weird orange light really shows up.  Here's the picture from two days ago:

This photo was taken Friday around noon

Here's the picture from today, taken at almost the same time of day, in the same location.

Cue the zombie apocalypse music, right?

I'll be glad when it rains again.  Maybe Saturday?  We can hope.

Friday, August 21, 2015

In which it's a Goldilocks day for riding: not too hot, not too cold

I haven't written much about training rides lately

The Suspects were all busy today, so Fee and I went solo.

mostly because I haven't done a lot of "training rides" this summer.

Fiddle and I have completed 330 miles in competition so far this year, and also logged quite a few trail-building miles.  At this point in her career, the Dragon has the trail skills she needs to gracefully handle all kinds of terrain, and she doesn't need to build fitness. 

At age 13, with nearly 1000 miles of competition and at least triple that plonking around local trails, what my mare needs a lot of this summer is rest.

Real rest,  meaning no hill work, no speed work, no agility work.

All summer, our between-ride excursions have generally been casual jaunts with a friend or two, covering 7-10 miles in a couple of hours.  No hurry, no scurry.  

She's only been out twice since our 50-mile completion at Bare Bones on August 1st, and both of those rides were short and casual.  

She had a chiropractic exam and adjustment yesterday, and Dr Fehr pronounced her solid and good to go.  

Fiddle loves Joanne

She held the last adjustment really well, and (although my riding is increasingly lopsided as my organic hip continues to slowly fail) her back and neck are strong and evenly muscled.  

Our next ride is two weeks away, and I'll be gone next weekend. So today, we went for a longer ride:

(at this point, a truly tech-savvy person would insert the map of our track, but I'm under a Very Bad Tech Moon, so I'll just do the old fashioned thing and post the LINK HERE)

About 18.5 miles in a little over 3 hours.  A little less than 3,000 feet of elevation gain/loss--we didn't go up very high, but there was lots of up/down on the route I chose.

I'm not completely technically inept, by the way.  Here's a video of the trail.  Can you hear how dry the trail sounds under the hoof clops?

There was also

It's been a long time since I've seen a harvest of straight cedar trees.
Around here, loggers most take doug fir

active logging.  We stay out of the way of rigs, and wave at the truck drivers.

It wasn't too hot, it wasn't too cold.

I thought (hoped!!) it might rain, but the sky stayed dry.

The lower elevation trails clearly got more rain than the higher trails did.
These still smelled wet, whereas some trails up top were crunchy.

We got a little precip this morning, but we're still way behind on moisture.  The trees are already dropping their leaves, long before the calendar says it's autumn.

Undergrowth is still pretty lush on
Chanterelle Hill

I also looked for mushrooms, but it's still too early.  Ahhh well.

Back at the trailer
She's ginormous

My horse looks Good.