And she's an absolute ROCK STAR!
Wednesday's KVTR club ride took us west of the Kittitas Valley, outside (way outside!) of the Cle Elum/Roselyn/Ronald "metro" area, into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness area. It was about a two-hour drive to the Pete Lake trailhead, then we rode a total of nine miles in four hours (plus a half-hour break at the lake). Because of it's proximity to the Seattle area, it's a popular hiking area, so we chose to go during the week, to avoid the crowds.
It was the best club ride I have been on in three years, and one of the most outstanding experiences I have ever had in my fifty years on horseback.
It wasn't just the beautiful scenery and the great camaraderie...
I was riding the BEST HORSE EVER!
Kate was forward, responsive and careful. I let her pick her way, with very little input from me. When I did need her to move over a bit (for the sake of avoiding a tree or outcropping with my knees, or staying away from a steep drop off), all I needed to do was tap my heel on her barrel, and she yielded to the side. I just flexed my fingers on the mecate the couple of times she wanted to hurry up a little slope, and she came right back to me.
She was calm and confident--and so was I!
There was none of the hormone-induced shenanigans of last week. The only iffy moment was when we were buzzed by a fighter jet, seemingly just above the treetops, out of Whidby Island Naval Base. (We had been warned that this is a fairly common happening--the area is on one of their training routes.) Kate tensed up, but stood her ground. (Sorta ruined the whole "wilderness" aura, however.)
Kate didn't crowd the horse in front of her (last week she wanted her face buried in someone's tail the whole day), and wasn't at all upset when the Paso Finos got a little ways ahead of us. At the first creek crossing, she stopped for a half a beat, then trundled across; at the second crossing, she hesitated only a second, never really stopping her forward movement; after that she strode right across every rivulet and rushing brook we came to.
I've just got one thing to say:
I enjoyed the HECK outta my horse!
|Even with "trailer-pooling" the parking area was crowded (hikers park in a separate car area).|
|Into the woods.|
|Because most of the ride is in a nationally designated wilderness area, you're allowed "12 heartbeats" in a group, so 6 riders and 6 horses made up our contingent. There were 11 club riders altogether, so we went out in three groups.|
|The trail was varied and at times challenging.|
|I mostly rode on a loose rein, letting Kate pick her way. I only had to check her a few times, when she wanted to scramble a little on the hills.|
|We met hikers--some with, and some without, big bulky backpacks--but all pleasant and more than willing to step off the trail for us to pass.|
|Most of the trail was this rich, loose forest soil.|
|Once in a while, though, we had to traverse granite outcroppings.|
|One of the many creek crossings.|
|We crossed rocky ravines.|
|Some of the wetter areas had heavy fern and berry undergrowth.|
|Kate hunkered down for the little climbs, watching carefully where she put her hooves.|
|Roots were more of a hazard than the rocks.|
|A rocky step-down. If there was a choice of obstacles, you could see Kate look from one to the other, then consciously decide which she wanted to negotiate.|
|Another creek. Kate drank well on two occasions, once she was assured the others were stopped as well.|
|Our destination: Pete Lake, in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area.|
|Kate stood quietly in the trees with her trail mates.|
|This short stretch was the worst of the rocks, but I wish I had put her boots on (it had been reported that they wouldn't be necessary).|
|Kate really worked hard to pick her route.|
|Headed back along the Cooper River, visible through the trees.|
|Signs asked that stock not be brought within 200 feet of the Lake, so this was our group picture, on a rock in Pete Lake, with the Chikamin Ridge (I think) in the distance.|
In the photo above, the Pacific Crest Trail is somewhere between us and the ridge--I've dreamed of riding the entire length from Mexico to Canada since I was in college (the first time), but may have to settle for one state's worth...
now that I have such a great trail horse!