Thursday, August 4, 2011


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.
More roots.
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!


  1. Beautiful ride, and what a good Kate mare!

  2. Hooray for Kate (and you)! Beautiful ride, and I'm glad y'all had fun.

    I sent a text msg to Ryan about training Maddie, and told him to pick up the phone if you call or text him, so hopefully y'all can get together.

  3. What a beautiful ride, and what a good horse Kate is! I am so jealous - I would love to be doing this type of activity (though my back will not allow it) - these are the sorts of trails I backpacked in my younger, healthier years. Sigh...such good times, those.
    Interesting concept of 'twelve heartbeats per group'.

  4. i love that area so much! there is a horses only campground at salmon le sac (by roslyn) and i put a geocache there cuz i was so thrilled that we camped in a park that said "Stock Users Only" haha!

    i have some lovely pics of my man and i riding out there and some of it was on cliffsides that really worried me. i almost couldn't look down.

    the mare took care of my man, and baasha enjoyed himself as i didn't make him carry me most of the way.

    there were odd people out there collecting oregon grape in big clusters and carrying them on their backs. that scares almost every horse! (what do they do with the oregon grape?)

    thank you so much for sharing pics and the story from this most precious area in our state.

    and i'm a northern exposure fan too!

  5. Thanks, Kate & Aarene. She WAS a good girl. (Aarene, I'll try calling him tonight.)

    Jean, there wasn't anybody under 50 on this particular ride, and at least two of us were over 70! I figure by the time I reach that age, Kate will be a nice mellow 16, so maybe I'll still be at it. (Gee, wasn't it just last week I was ready to give up the whole equine proposition!)

    Lytha. I'm glad I brought back pleasant memories. The Salmon le Sac campground was closed last year (I think it got flooded out and had to be rebuilt), but I think it's open again now. There were only a couple of places on this particular trail that might give one pause, but I've heard there are others that like you describe. That's what I really appreciated about Kate on this ride, she was watching what she was doing, and thinking about both our safety. And the club rides through "Cicely, AK" at least once a year for lunch at the Old #3 in Ronald (posts in July of this year, and 2009).

  6. Wow, what a beautiful ride!! Good girl, Kate!

  7. That sounds like my kind of ride. Lovely photos!

  8. EXCELLENT RIDING!!! I love this truly...kate has come into her own routine with you- an-d she is a ROCK STAR!
    That area is very beautiful...loved seeing it and your group shot is too cool.

    Mine is thinking more now too...after our ENDLESS- hot -Prairie rides. I like it..I can bve anywhere in the group now! I am so happy it is happening for the both of us! We have the best trail horses ever... your wonderful QH and my fine boned, thinking-TB!


    Smiling for ya from here!