Friday, October 14, 2011

In which Fiddle and I explore some eroded trails (and some good ones)

I used to ride at the "Bracken Tract" of the Pilchuck Tree Farm every week.  The trailhead is only 15 minutes away from our house via truck/trailer. 
This commonly used trail has been "armored" -- reinforced with roadbed rocks
Eventually, there will be trails from our house to the trailhead, but that will probably be YEARS in the future.  The land for the connecting trail is already set aside, but money for developing a heavy-use public trail is scarce right now.
Un-armored trail next to the creek.  This turns into a bog in winter.
 I haven't ridden at Bracken much in the past 18 months because almost two years ago somebody dropped a logging truck sideways on one of the bridges (ouch).  With the bridge out, there were only two trails open between the parking lot and the main "network" of trails covering hundreds of acres of woods, meadows and (you guessed it) swamps.
This trail is so eroded that my stirrups drag the ground on the sides when I'm riding Hana. Fiddle is taller, so the stirrups clear the dirt by about an inch when I ride her. 
The two surviving trails were not very well-designed to start; now they are now in very poor shape.  The trail tread is deeply dug into the hillsides, and at the bottom of each hill is a bog.
When your trail runs through a swamp, there's no way to build it so it will stay dry unless you bring in a LOT of rocks.
This trail  (above) is less-used.  The tread is wet, but not too muddy yet.  Another month of rain and trail users will make it very slick and mucky.
A trail on the side of a hill stays dry much longer. 
This one, however, has trees growing almost on top of the trail tread.
 Trails out in the "network" were in better shape, as they don't get used as much, and most riders travel this terrain travel at a sedate pace.

The trail (below)

"fall-line trail" <--cussing in trail-builders parlance
is built on the fall-line of the terrain, which means that water has no alternative to washing right down the middle of the trail.  Thus, the tread is completely falling apart, even though it gets very little traffic.
Overcrowded!  These trees will only get bigger!
Obviously, the trail (above) was put in when the trees were little seedlings.  Because this land is a Tree Farm, the owners of the property don't want young trees chopped out just because they interfere with trails, but merely "limbing" the trees won't be enough--in a few years, the trunks will impede the trail.  Ooops.
Sidehill trail in a wetter section of the woods.
 If the right side berm of the trail got knocked down, the water would drain out of the tread
 instead of running right down the middle of it.
 The trails near the bridge were in good shape, since they've been un-used for almost two years. 

Although this trail (below) looks wet because it's been rained on recently, the tread has about a 5% cant to lense right, so water doesn't puddle on the tread or wash down the centerline.
A little bit of slope to the trail means that water leaves the trail!
 The trail (below) has been armored and culverted because it crosses a swamp. 
Blackberry bushes on both sides of the trail...good erosion protection,
but it will need to be patrolled with weedwhackers...or blowtorches
If it hadn't been reinforced with Very Large Rocks, and if the blackberry bushes weren't slashed back a few times a year, this trail would disappear completely in less than 12 months.
This is a beautiful trail in good repair. 
The tread is sand, the berms are gone, there are no puddles. 
Gold star!
Former logging roads (below) are built above-grade (1-3 feet or more above the natural terrain) and are heavily armored so logging trucks don't get mired. 

Once the trucks move out, we are left with very sturdy "trails" to ride. 

We ride retired logging roads almost exclusively in winter--the natural trails are too muddy.
The common trail back to the parking lot shows damage caused by many hooves.
Fortunately, no matter where we go

it's pretty.

Life is good!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

In which Pickles Marie takes me for a walk in the sunshine--hooray!

We're starting to "hunker down" into our winter mode now.
Pickles Marie on the trail
Although the skies were perfectly blue this morning, the temps were near freezing when the farrier showed up and it took me almost an hour to warm up properly after going back into the house.

So, I went out for lunch with a bunch of Fish, and then
Camo-Pickles, the same color as autumn leaves (she's in the center of the picture)
Pickles took me for a walk.

We've been on this trail before. 

We walked it in August while the truck was in the shop. 

Obviously, there have been some changes.  
Pickles looks for ravens

For one thing, all those pretty leaves that are on the ground now were still stuck to tree branches the last time we walked here. 

For another thing, those blackberry brambles on the ground reaching towards my dog's feet were about 2 feet further away from the center of the trail in August.  This is their "sneaking up" season.  If this trail isn't maintained in the next few months, the brambles will be impassible by March.
Still looking for ravens. 
I'm not sure if she likes them or hates them, I only know that she's always watching for them.

The biggest changes, however, are visible in Pickles herself.  

She wants me to throw a stick.

This picture (below) was taken on that other walk in August:
Pickles Marie after 14 days at Haiku Farm

 Here (below) is the picture I  took today: 
Pickles Marie, HF + 75 days

If I could possible communicate with the people who dropped her at the shelter a few months ago, scrawny, un-spayed, full of worms, covered in fleas, bald and scabby from an untreated flea allergy, what could I say to them?

I've thought of a bunch of mean things I'd like to say. 

But today was sunny.  This little dog is happy, and healthy, and gaining fur and muscle every day. 
Blue sky and fluffy dog = happiness
Today, I'd like to say to those people:

This dog is happy now.
I'm so happy that she's happy with us at Haiku Farm.

(You know the next line, don't you?)

Yep.  It's good.

Monday, October 10, 2011

In which we go outside and get really wet...but not very tired

Despite some VERY soggy weather
Patty and Shade, Sirie and Arianna, wet but still riding
it's been a good week.  We usually ride on Thursdays, unless the rain comes down sideways.  Sometimes even if the rain comes down sideways we ride, but it's been coming straight down recently, so we've been riding.
Fiddle loves to run up "her" hill, even in the rain.
Riding lessons would be no fun in the rain, so it's fortunate that there's a covered arena available. 

"Here, hold the cat while I tighten Hana's girth for you."

Duana and I went for a lesson on Friday.
Practicing the canter.  Hana is good at this.
I got some good pictures of her and Hana, but , although she remembered to bring her camera, it stayed in a pocket someplace.  Sigh.  I love her anyhow.
"Here, hold this pitbull while I fix your bridle."
It's nice to see that Fiddle's dog-hating ways haven't influenced Hana negatively.
Rhetta is the nicest dog!

On Sunday, Duana and her husband Jason came up to visit the farm with their lovely dog Selah, and we all went for a "hike."
Selah and Pickles on the Boulder River trail
I consider an outing of less than 6 miles a "walk".  But I did carry my hydration pack and a few snacks, so I guess it was a "hike" of sorts.  Also, we were on a trail, not a sidewalk.
Lisa and Mimsy
It was sooooo pretty.
Jim and Will
Really wet, though.  Every time I took off my coat, the rain would dump down.
At least it wasn't cold. 
Duana, Jason, and Selah
I made better clothing choices this time than I made at the Bare Bones ride.   The purple shirt is fact, it's the shirt I used to ride in when I was riding distances longer than 50 miles.
Aarene and Pickles Marie
 Nice to see that the purple shirt still works (and still fits)!
Waterfall into the Boulder River
Here's the thing about Swampland trails:  they may be wet...
River below the trail
...but they are  pretty, too.
After about 2 miles of uphill walking and 2 miles back to the truck, Lisa asked me a question:

"Don't you ever get tired?"

I actually had to think about that for a while.  Get tired?  From walking?  Or riding?  Or working? 

Actually, no. 

The thing about riding endurance is that doing it will teach you just how far you can go.  And that, although you may get hungry, thirsty, sunburned, frozen, and grouchy, there's still a little farther that you can go if you need to go there. 

It's like pain.  When I studied karate, I learned how much a broken finger hurts...and I learned how long it takes to heal.  After I'd broken a few fingers, I stopped worrying that the pain would go on forever, because I knew it wouldn't. 

With fatigue, as with pain, I know how far I can go: VERY far. 

Farther than I usually need to go.  I know I can't go on forever, but I know that I can go really, really far...and since I know that, I don't spend time or energy worrying about how far I can go. 

If you don't worry, you can go farther, and you aren't bothered by fatigue or pain.  I know it sounds crazy, but it really works.  The fear that the fatigue or pain will go on forever is much more difficult to bear than the actual fatigue or pain.  So, if you aren't afraid, it's not that difficult.
Sunbreak!  Quick, take a picture!

This was Pickles' second trail walk.  The first was a 1.5 mile stroll on a "handicap accessible" trail when we were camping at Elbe.  She learned the basics, and tired herself out--she'd only been with us for a week at that point, and had very little strength.
Pickles Marie and her polarfleece superhero cape--it  keeps her bum warm!
On this walk, she refined her trail manners:  keeping with the group, sitting politely when we met other people/dogs/children, and generally trying to boss the group into staying together like a proper flock.  She did great!  She's learned to pace herself, and doesn't worry about anything except keeping my left foot where she can see it.

It's hard work being a Trail Boss dog, though.

Life in the Swamp.  It's good.