Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Pre-ride jitters

The truth is, the Mt. Adams ride is already fading from my mind. I think that’s how it is supposed to work when they go really well. You ride your ride, and there’s no need to obsess afterward!

I’m not a big worrier anyway, FYI. I’m one of those who errs on over-preparation right up until the point where push comes to shove. Then, if I want to do something badly enough, I’ll just wing it. Hence, our chaotic ride at Grizzly.

Mt. Adams is my favorite ride. That’s hard to say, because there are so many excellent rides up here in the NW. And this year, I’m going to be trying some new ones. But for now, as of today, Mt. Adams is my favorite ride, and has held that position since the first time I did it. (Lo, those many years ago, with Topper.)

Since it’s my favorite ride, I make a point of going regardless of what it does to my work/life schedule. This year, I was especially determined to go because my Walla Walla friends (Laurie, Heather and Hope) would be there. I miss those ladies so much it makes me crazy sometimes. 

I made a really lazy start on my trip Friday morning—slept late, took a luxurious shower, gradually pulled my stuff together. Brian came home after an early-morning staff meeting to see me off. Unfortunately, he was determined to make it to his 11 a.m. Kempo class, but also determined to watch me leave for the ride. This meant that he started “helping” me pack, and rushed me through the part of the packing process where I wander the house randomly opening closets and seeing if I need to take anything from them.  So yeah, totally forgot the camp chairs and my PNER officer jacket. Ooopsy!

It was after 11 when I got out to Abiqua to pick up Blue. Again, I lazily loaded up my stuff. There wasn’t anyone out there to rush me.

So here’s another one of those subtle differences between Walla Walla and Salem. Driving to Mt. Adams from Walla involved a lot of very easy driving on empty freeway with lots of places to stop. Driving up from Salem involves fighting traffic along the winding two-lane highway that goes from Silverton to Oregon city, then fighting bizarre mid-day Portland traffic on I-205, then coming back out onto the busiest stretch of I-84, then choosing between two narrow, grated bridges over the Columbia… anyway, it isn’t the same relaxing, soul-replenishing drive as it was from Walla. (Have I ever mentioned how much I enjoy a long, solitary drive on an empty highway? Too late now.)

Once across the Columbia (I took the Bridge of the Gods at Cascade Locks), I had about 20 miles of bendy, tunneled highway 14 to take before the turn north to Trout Lake. I wouldn’t bother mentioning this except that I fell in behind a rig I recognized. Monica and Cathy were going nice and slow, and since they were in front of me, setting the pace, I didn’t have to feel guilty about the line of cars behind us. :) Also, it’s just fun to have been doing this long enough to know people and rigs by sight. (It’s the little things, guys!)

We pulled into camp, and boy were we in for a surprise. The field was PACKED. I did this ride last year during the EHV scare, and we parked right next to the gate. This year, I had to drive through a virtual horse trailer city to find a place big enough for me to park and save room for Laurie’s rig too. I was lucky that it just happened to be relatively close to a potty and a water trough. Darlene even said in the ride meeting that she though they were nuts to put a potty so far down the field. Little did she know…

I called Heather to let the Walla contingent know that I had saved them a spot, and to warn them how full the field was. I didn’t want them to get discouraged on the quarter-mile drive down camp looking for my little setup. :)

One of the nice things about living closer and arriving relatively early is having time to set up in daylight and really think out the shape of your camp. The whole field was full of lush, green grass, so I set up Blue’s pen as fast as I could. He was a grazing machine, which was fine with me. As long as he’s eating, he gets into minimal mischief. That makes it less scary to leave him alone in camp while I register and get my vet card.

Oh, the line at registration. And the line to vet in. Such lines! I bet I waited at least half an hour to register. Honestly, that minor annoyance was drowned out by how happy I was for RM Darlene and PNER as a whole. A well-attended ride has a much better chance of being financially stable and coming back year after year. Standing in long lines is a good omen for the sport.

I went back for Blue and vetted in with Dr. Jen (again, wonderful to start “knowing” all the people at a ride). Blue pulsed at 40, which is pretty typical for him. He was all A’s down the card except for an A- on guts (fair enough, he didn’t touch his food in the trailer) and an A- on skin tenting. This is something that I’m not sure how to deal with. Blue has a lot of excess skin on his neck/chest. Like some mustangs, he has something almost like a borderline dewlap, and always looks wrinkled compared to every other horse I’ve ever owned. Is that something I can reasonably bring up with vets? I could bring pics that show he’s like that all the time regardless of stress, feeding, hydration and exercise level. He’s like the equine equivalent of a shar pei. Would it make a difference if the vets knew that, or are they seeing something in the tenting that I’m not seeing?

Anyway, it’s not like an A- is a bad score. Not obsessing. Not obsessing. Not obsessing.

As long as we were all the way over at the vet check, I figured I might as well take Blue up to see the start. This Mt. Adams camp is the “alternate” ride camp. In a normal (i.e., dry) year, camp is up at a forest service (?) horse camp a couple miles up the road. Since this alternate camp is on a private ranch, the start has to be controlled. The first quarter mile is pavement, including a bridge over a raging mountain creek. Coming back into camp, that’s great. It is the perfect excuse to dismount and let your horse pulse down as you walk the last little bit. Going out, it is a nightmare scenario, where amped-up horses slide around on pavement, spooking and jigging their way up to the trailhead. I wanted Blue to see it so he’d understand. We walked the paved part and maybe a half-mile into the trail. I didn’t want to see too much of it and psych myself out. I just wanted to know what we’d be up against.

But Ruth, you’ve ridden that trail before! Surely you remember how the beginning of the trail looks! Well, no. I rode it on Otto last year, and it was, at best, a blur… and at worst a sort of slasher flick montage of holding on for dear life. Riding that horse through a start scared the poop out of me. Make no mistake.

Walked back down to camp and met Laurie coming up to register. Hugs all around. They found the parking spot I saved for them and everybody was unloading and getting settled. I helped as much as I could while still getting my own stuff set up. After the WW people were registered and vetted, Heather, Hope and I took our horses up to look at the start again.

By the time we got back, it was getting on toward evening, so we had a little light supper and then gathered up our stuff for the ride meeting. It was already getting chilly, and I began to worry about the long, cold night ahead. I began to worry a bit more when Darlene announced that there were 70-plus riders in the LD. A murmur went up in the crowd.

I guess everyone else, like me, had been hoping that those long lines of people were all doing 50s. No such luck.

Heather, Laurie and I talked quite a bit about how we might deal with this scenario. They decided that since they were both on exceptionally fast horses, their best bet was to start right at the front and just try to stay there.

Before I knew how many riders there would be, I was planning to hang back and turtle again like at Grizzly. With 75 riders, many of them newbies who would likely bolt the start and fizzle the end, that wouldn’t be the best option for Blue. What we needed was to find a comfortable gap in the middle of the pack and ride in a bubble as much as possible. We had to do as everyone always says and “ride our own ride.” I crawled into my sleeping-bag-and-blanket cocoon still pondering how I might make that happen. Yes, indeed, this was going to be a challenge.


  1. although hotr is my favorite ride, mt adams is the best place i've ever ridden. in my region of germany a typical endurance ride is 1/3 pavement (and they go fast on it because it's what they train on). i hope you got some nice photos of mt adams!

  2. Can't wait to hear the next installment!

    I don't think I'd worry the skin tenting at all. There are no prizes for vet card GPA's. ;) He's not going to get pulled on skin tenting unless he's really marginal on all the other hydration parameters - I just don't think an A- for one marker really matters. :)

  3. What lytha said. Also, what Funder said.

    As for me: "come to Renegade this year!!!!"