In which a Guest Blogger tells her story about Elbe Hills Challenge
Everyone, say "hello" to Sky and her standardbred mare Cricket. Sky wrote today's post about the Elbe ride. The pictures all came from my cameras.
Elbe Hills Challenge. Not For Wimps.
This was the second year of the Elbe Hills ride and as a fledgling ride with fledgling ride managers, there were a few bumps that needed to be smoothed. The biggest bump being the 400+ feet of climbing we had to do at the end of a hard 50 mile climb. That part was the hardest to bear... just when you thought you were in smelling distance of the camp, up you go again! And down you go again.... ugh.
But I am getting ahead of myself... lets start where rides really start... at the beginning!
|Tight quarters for horses and rigs (and Tinydog, center)|
Backwoods horse campers rode all around us, big horned saddles and cowboy hats perched jauntily, an odd counterpoint to our rough and tumble helmets and biothane. This was my first camp in 10 years of endurance where we mixed with a regular camp crowd and it took some getting used to. I found myself making a point to remember it wasn't "just us". That became pretty clear at the ridecamp meeting when we started a half hour late because management was out repairing ribbons and plate markers that had been sabotaged. (Considering the amount of traffic on our trails, I thought the trails were marked quite nicely. We only had one place where the ribbons were completely gone and we had to cast about at the intersection looking for the right direction.)
Aarene's note: I really thought the trail needed a lot more "confidence" ribbons. I know I'm spoiled by Gail Williams' style of trail-marking, where you can see a ribbon ahead on the trail OR a ribbon behind (or both), but considering the number of twists and turns on these trails and the potential for vandalism by local riders or local elk, it isn't a waste to post a bunch more trail ribbons. Ride management did use a lot more lime (actually, they used pancake mix!!) on the roads this year, which helped a lot.
|Sky adds notes from the USGS maps to the map supplied by ride management|
|This giant map was posted inside the meeting hall|
Aarene's note: Ride management really listened to riders' comments from the 2010 ride, and the elevation gains and losses were much more reasonable this year (except for the afore-mentioned last-minute pitch up a 500 ft elk trail and a corresponding pitch back down the other side of it). The trail contained frequent but not overly-long stretches of road to allow riders to "make time"...and we did!
We started the next day at 6AM. Still dark at this elevation and time of year. I've started at dawn before, but never so pre-dawn that I wore my headlamp to the start line!
|One of the few photos from the first loop--my camera doesn't like early-morning twilight!|
After that, we were pretty much alone on the trail most of the day.
We climbed up and up and stopped to take pictures of the sun as it rose above the lake and mountains. It was stunning! Lovely weather accompanied us all day. We wore cooling vests but only soaked them for one loop in the mid afternoon... I never felt really hot.
We sponged the horses at every chance we got though, they worked hard to drag us up to 3100 feet after leaving base camp at 1400 feet.
|Both horses drank like camels all day|
|While Cricket and Sky consulted the vet about low gut sounds, |
Fiddle happily gobbled up all the delicious stuff that Cricket had declined to taste.
|The grass on the trail was very tasty!|
And while an hour is plenty of buffer time... it was my closest shave yet. I don't like cutting it that close on a 50. A long day on the trail for all of us; the horses looked great by the end. Cricket's gut sounds made it back up to a B and the two Standardbreds got A's on most everything else! We had a grand time and came in 14th and 15th out of 21 entries on a very hard trail.
Camp dinner as previously stated was delicious. Corn on the cob, ribs, pasta, salad and loads of dessert. The awards were that night and we all got a horse shoe hanger. As the tail ender, I also got a new poop fork! They called it the "hind end" award. Cute. Aarene and I traded awards... I got her pink halter from last year and she got the fork. I have 3 already!
|Fiddle models the pink string halter--definitely not her color. I didn't photograph the manure fork.|
|L-to-R: Fiddle, Aarene, Cricket, Sky, Hector, Penny, Effie, Morghan, Victor, Bunny, Heather |
All the standies at this ride finished their distances!
|Table-walking, not to be confused with "table dancing."|
This object is designed for humans to climb, not for horses.
After most of the camp left on Sunday, we moved across the road to a better equipped camp site where we could spread out and have a more private camp.
|New camp site = lots more room!|