Part Three : The Ride
I don't have many pictures from ride day, because I was much too busy to shoot them!
Hot weather was forcast -- we'd been having temps in the 90's, so we weren't surprised by this -- so the start times were set for Really Dang Early in order to get horses out on the trail and up the biggest hump of hill before the heat of the day hit full-blast. That meant a start time of 5:00am for the 50-milers...and an early alarm clock for those of us on the ride crew, who needed to feed our own animals and hit the road to set up the various vetchecks before riders arrived on the trail.
Filling water tanks was an all-day task. We took turns running the water pump and driving the water truck to various parts of the trail.
The 50 mile course heads out of camp by crossing a small creek (where tightly-wound and inexperienced horses often balk, offering riders the first chance of the day to get their shoes soaked by freezing-cold mountain snowmelt) and then heading up a steep gravel logging road for about 2.5 miles. I always love the start of this ride, because even the silliest horse settles down pretty quickly in order to push up the hill. At the crest of the hill, the trail slopes gently down through the trees, across tiny creeks, and then wanders up again around the side hill to a ridge overlooking the mountains for miles around. If you are crazy enough to ride the narrow ridge after dark, you can see the lights of Yakima in the distance. From the ridge, the trail continues upward, winding through trees and over logging roads, always up-up-upwards.
The water tank at 9 miles featured a wedding party this year! They were getting ready for a ceremony and all-day party. We had to detour the trail a little bit so that we weren't running 35 sweaty horses and riders through the middle of the wedding!
At about 16 miles, riders are surprised to find that they've already found the first vet check at Lindsey Camp. This is a quick stop: only 15 minutes required, which is barely enough time for the horses to grab a few bites of hay while the riders quickly pee, see the vet, and fill pockets and packs back up with supplies for the next leg of the journey.
From the first vetcheck, the trail continues upwards again, over the top of Clover Springs (about 3,000 foot elevation gain total). Clover Springs is the top of the ride, and probably the prettiest place I've ever seen--sorry, no photos! Maybe next year!
After Clover Springs, the trail starts to drop a little, but still has a lot of up-and-down through a boulder-y section of trail. The Toad hated this stretch, so I often ended up on the ground, walking beside him so he would go forward out of the "Doldrums". From the Doldrums, it's just a hop-and-skip over recently improved trails (we did those last year!) to the second vet check.
After a long hold here, the 50-milers and 25-milers share common trail down to camp--about 12 miles. Much of this is on old logging roads built into the side of the mountains, so riders often have a view of 180 degrees or more. After a few miles of road, they drop off down some old elk trails to some even older skid roads, and then alternate between elk trails, skid roads, and meadow trails all the way back to camp.
The Renegade Rendezvous Ride is challenging and strenuous, but completely do-able for a fit horse and rider...and without doubt the prettiest 50-mile trail in the Pacific Northwest region.
Years ago, a PNW rider moved up to this area with her horse for a month to prepare for the Tevis ride. She not only finished Tevis, she took the coveted Haggin Cup for Best Condition....and since Tevis is considered one of the most challenging rides in the world, that gives you an idea about the terrain of the Renegade Rendezvous Ride!
Back at camp, there is one more vet check at the finish line, and the horses judged "Fit to Continue" (i.e. the horse is sound and metabolically stable, and could reasonably be asked to leave camp and trot another 10-20 miles) are given completions.
It is a sad thing to be pulled at the finish line, but not at all unheard-of, especially at this ride. Riders have to be careful AND lucky in this sport, and especially at this ride!
Then, when the horses have been cooled, cleaned, and fed, it's time for riders and crews to relax.
Stephanie is a visitor from Austria who broke her arm three weeks ago...but she wasn't about to miss the ride. Somehow she also banged up her leg, so she's wearing an arm cast and an ice boot!
These kids didn't ride--although they have both finished endurance rides in the past--so they had plenty of energy for a pine-cone fight around camp.
Dinner after the ride is a salmon/ribs/oyster barbeque, which was quickly devoured by riders and crew. Then awards and recognition for everyone participated. And then: bedtime at last!
Part Four: The Mare