Say that Blue was “forward” on Sunday would be putting it all-too-mildly. It felt like we could have done 50 miles, all uphill, were it not for the loggers using the trails as a sort of catchall for the branches they trimmed off. The mountain bikers that I met on my way up (their way down) said there were log jams all the way up the Huckleberry trail, so I took the Loop Road trail instead. It was in pretty much the same condition after the first two miles.
I wish I had a picture. Basically, the trimmings (everything from twigs to four-inch-diameter limbs) were covering the trail for 10 or 15 yards every quarter mile. We bushwhacked through one, but it was a huge hassle to dismount, find a path, remount, ride the fire-breathing dragon for 3 minutes, dismount and do it all over again. So we turned around.
Coming back down, at a walk on the muddy gravel and rock, I gave Blue his head mostly… hoping that he would tuck his butt and concentrate without me micromanaging.
He did a pretty good job without any major bobbles until he caught sight of a couple horses in front of us. The anxiety-fueled racebrain had him walking faster and faster, then jigging, then trotting, then TROTTING (!!!) downhill on slick, muddy rock to catch them. I tried an SRS, but got a sideways jigging sliding stumble—and did I mention the trail dropping off into the Molalla river canyon off to the side?—so, coward that I am, I allowed him to catch them rather than risk SRSing us into the chasm. I know that means it will be even harder to stop him next time, but at least no one was hurt and there WILL BE a next time.
|Who, me? I'm a GOOD BOY.|
I DID make him go ahead and pass them, leaving them immediately, so he couldn’t get attached and didn’t receive any emotional benefit from his redonkulous behavior. We passed politely and then powered up another hill. Sadly, the downhill side on this new trail (Rim trail) was ankle-deep clay-mud and slick as snot. Blue wasn’t handling it well (can’t blame him; I struggled too), so I dismounted and had a long walk on slick single-track before we crossed back onto the gravel and I could remount.
I jogged him down again, and this time there was no one to catch so we were OK. He still had gallons of gas in the tank, but there wasn’t anywhere else to go, so I got down and walked him down the last long, rocky downhill stretch.
Overall, I liked the Molalla River Corridor. I think that once it dries out it a little more will be exceptional conditioning ground. In the meantime, I’ll probably be back to tackle those long uphills on the gravel a few more times.
The only real drawback I can see is that it was crowded. The parking area was a jumble of trailers, and we had to park on the side of the road down a ways from the trailhead.
I am intrigued, though. There is a logging road (helpfully labeled “Molalla Forest Road” on my DeLorme) that can be accessed at the same point. The gate was open, but it was bristling with “private road” and “no trespassing” signs, so I’ll need to call Weyerheuser and see what the deal is.
That road goes all the way back to the town of Molalla, and could be humdinger of a conditioning road if the loggers didn’t object to me being there. Blue doesn’t mind trucks and I don’t mind dust.
Looking at the Google satellite images, I can see that the road has some homes along it, so it seems like the gates would be open all the way up to town. I’m new to this sort of thing, though. I don’t want to upset anyone in my ongoing quest to find all-season riding options.
On Monday evening, we had a really good ride by ourselves at home. Blue again trucked up the hill gamely. Coming down, we took the switchbacks. I was able to collect him up, but he was still very heavy in front. I had to stop and show him each hairpin turn rather than lightly directing. But at least he went willingly and took the bit of mud and water in stride. I took him out on the road a little too. We didn't go far, but it was my first attempt to ride him away from the barn on a fairly busy paved road. He didn't bat an eye. There is a good horse somewhere deep under all that naughtiness.
Tomorrow we have an appointment for massage with Sarah of Topline. Sarah happens to be a fellow boarder, so it is particularly convenient for everyone involved. Blue has been sensitive over his loin because of our ongoing canter negotiations. I'm hoping Sarah can give him some relief and show me some useful stretches. I'll be sure to post some pics!