On friday afternoon July 2nd we packed the trailer up and headed out for Naches. This time, the weather was very pleasant. On saturday morning it was brisk, in the high 50's - and the rest of the day kept to a pleasant range of 70's and low 80's. Much better than last year, when it was like riding in a 110 degree boiling pot on the top of a mountain.
This is known to be a very technically difficult and challenging ride (nicknamed "the little Tevis of the North"), so I opted to enter Ox in the 25 instead of the 50. I had high hopes of doing his first 50 this year, but I had to seriously reconsider about it happening at this gut buster. It was a good decision, because he was tired enough by the time he was finished with his 25. We also encountered problems with hoof gear, so it was a wise decision not to push it.
Watching other riders ford the creek ahead.
On this particular ride, our two back hind Easyboot Gloves became somewhat of an annoying plague. The very first thing that Ox did was slide down the enbankment into the creek and rip a big piece of the gator off of his right hind boot. It got caught on a tree root that was sticking up out of the bank, and he later proceeded to step on it and rip it even more when we turned around to head back up on top to pull it off. The gator was completely shot and the boot would be of no further use, so I yanked it off and we proceeded onwards. From the previous year, I had seen a lot of people having problems with all types of boots on this ride - and there were quite a few riders that came across the finish line with horses that had a few bare feet. Little did I know, that was to be our destiny as well...
After we had forded the creek and made our way into the ride about 5 miles, the left hind boot started giving us problems. During some steep rocky switchbacks, it wouldn't stay on and was dangling along like a passenger on the back leg. I stopped to clean it up and strapped it on tighter, but it didn't matter. Somewhere along a big switchback climb, it came off and there it remains, lost forever. When we made our way into the vet check at mile 10, we were officially barefoot on both hinds. I have come to the conclusion that Renegade boots are probably going to be the only ones we will use in our foreseeable future. Gotta start shopping E-Bay again...
Craig caught a ride up with Alex Rivas, who was going to crew for his wife Shannon at the vet check. After a few wrong turns, running the truck over a log, and trying to figure out some chicken scratch type of directions - they managed to find their way to the check. I was very surprised to see Craig there, as he has never met me before at a check. It was kind of nice having somebody there to hold your horse while you run to the porta potty. I usually opt to tough it out for the entire ride, and wait on those things until I get back into camp.
Coming into the check.
Getting the sponge. Ox is slowly but surely becoming much better about water in general. We have practiced going across the Umatilla river at home and other bathtime rituals. He is getting much more tolerant of letting me sponge him down at rides, which I'm very happy about. His mother isn't very fond of water as well, so I guess it runs in the genes.
The rest of the ride back into camp went really well. I met several nice new people while riding, including a local gal from Paso astride a 25 year old arab gelding. Since Ox was hoofin' it free as a bird in the back, we slowed down quite a bit and took it easy. We ended up coming in 24th, which isn't too bad. Craig and I enjoyed a really great salmon and pork rib dinner that Gail and her husband barbecued for the entire ride camp, and then we hit the sack. Sunday morning was the start of our mighty trek up north to visit Cathy Leddy and meet Tommy at Cascade Gold Akhal Tekes.
A view of Mt. Rainer state park. The road going up north towards Seattle was very narrow and winding, and there wasn't a place to pull over and take pictures, so I just snapped a few from the cab of the truck. Craig's trusty GPS in the window led our way.
Neither one of us had been to this park before, and there were some really stunning views of the mountain range.
Dropping down onto the other side of the park there was lots of snow - even in July - and there was this really cool lake that was starting to thaw out. I can't remember the name of it, but it was very neat to see.