Tuesday, January 03, 2006

DVE 2005 - Karen Chaton

Karen Chaton

We lucked out and were able to get down to the start of the ride
between a break in storms. The roads were clear and the weather was
nice on the way down and after we got to Valley Wells. When we got
there camp was still not very full and there were plenty of open
spots left. We pulled in towards the back and parked. I had let the
horses out once on the trip down and cleaned all of the mud off of
their feet. Now they had to finish drying out. It took me awhile to
scrape all the rest of the mud off of them. I was really looking
forward to the ride and excited that the weather was looking to be a
whole lot nicer than it was the year before.

I entered my young horse Zenos for the first day of the ride. He's 7
and has done a few rides this last year. We started out in the
morning riding with Dave Rabe, and a junior -- one of Kayla's cousins
named Patrick Freeman, he is 15 and this was his first multiday
ride. We had a nice start down the road with good footing, across
the highway and then up into the foothills. It wasn't long before we
heard people behind us yelling 'loose horse'. We turned and could
see a horse running loose towards us. Dave Rabe went over to try and
catch the horse, he had the reins and then the horse spun around and
got away from him. He got off when the horse stopped and almost had
it caught when it took off again. He got back on and took off after
the horse. Patrick was wondering what to do since his sponsor left
him and I told him don't worry we were both sponsoring him so you can
keep going with me and Dave will catch up with us after he catches
the loose horse, which he did.

The loop was really nice, we had lots of good footing mixed in with a
bit of rocks and some up and downs and dips, washes and trail mixed
with roads. I hadn't done a very good job of getting the cables
tight enough on Zenos' Epics, and by 11 miles I had to get off three
times to adjust them. He was good about it, and while frustrating at
the time it was good experience for him to have to learn to stop and
stand still while groups of horses trotted on by. Our first vetcheck
was at about 12 or 13 miles back in camp where we had a half an hour
hold. We vetted thru with no problems and went back over to the
Laksos' trailer (Patrick's grandparents) and spent our vetcheck there
letting the horses eat while I got Zenos' boots all straightened
out. We left Valley Wells and now were going point to point over to
Ballarat http://www.ghosttown.info/ca/ballarat/ and http://www.desertusa.com/mag99/apr/stories/ballarat.html where the
next vetcheck was, and then after that onto the finish at Indian
Wells. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, not too warm and not
cold. We were taking turns letting all of the horses lead or
follow. This was the first time on a ride that I had let Zenos lead,
and he definitely was comfortable being in the front, and also is
happy to be in the back (unlike Chief, lol).

The vetcheck at Ballarat was nice, we vetted thru and husband Dave
was there with stuff for myself and Patrick, as well as Dave Rabe and
Becky and Sue. Mike showed up on his m/c and we all hung out and let
the horses eat and had fun. We fed Patrick a pbj sandwich and gave
him a frapaccino which perked him up and pretty soon we were off to
do the next few miles into the finish. The horses were all doing
well and I was really pleased with Zenos' attitude, I had wanted to
ride him on this point to point day to see how he'd do going and
going away from where he started in the morning. He had never been
to Indian Ranch before, but he seemed very happy to keep going, love
having that kind of an attitude in a horse! We were trotting along
and all of a sudden I heard a little click sound and my foot was
hanging on one side -- my stirrup had fallen off!!! I stopped Z and
Patrick pointed out where my stirrup was back there on the ground,
lol. Got off and went back and got it, turned out the screws had
come undone and ooops, it came off! I was able to fix it and ride.

Indian Ranch is located in the Saline Valley, which gets its name in
part because they mined salt from there. Also, I found this on the
web: "Indians maintained a very successful ranch from the late
1800's up to about 1950 when a tragedy occured that led to the
abandonment of the property. The tragedy involved the murder of a 22
year old caretaker for a mining company by 13 and 15 year old members
of the ranch. The mining company had diverted the water flow that the
ranch depended on."

The next day came fairly fast, and before I knew it we were getting
ready to head out. I alternated my horses and rode Chief on this
day. Patrick was riding a different horse this time, Qwest (the same
horse Kayla finished 1st on the last day with) and Dave was riding
Lightning again. We rode back to Ballarat and had a trot by on the
way there and then headed up the big mountain. This is a really big
climb up, several thousand feet, and the footing is not the greatest
so it's a tough day on the horses, especially any horses that aren't
in condition. Luckily it wasn't freezing cold like in some
years. We took our time going up alternating walking with
trotting. The horses were drinking well as there was a lot of water.
Chief was trying to eat anything brown that he could find, but it was
pretty slim pickings thru there. We got up to the top and Sparrow's
son was there with water for us. The views were so incredible! for
the last two years on this ride we haven't been up to the very top,
only partway up, and last year not up at all so it was nice to get up
there again and get to look over Death Valley on such a beautiful day!

The climbing isn't over yet once we get to the top, we still had to
go up a little bit more, then down, then more up, and then down and
down and down. Dave Rabe did most of it on foot, and Patrick
alternated trying to be on foot and on his horse. He wasn't having
much luck with his horse behaving, poor kid was having to deal with a
horse that wanted to jig or trot, anything but walk. On the way down
we passed up the Ribley's -- Robert was helping Melissa walk, as her
horse had fallen with her and she was not looking too good. She made
it tho, and went on to finish the ride and I think all 4 days.

Chief was getting into his fast walk that he does, over 5 mph, so I
just stayed on knowing I can't really walk myself any faster than 4
or 4.4, especially over rocks. I kept looking back and making sure I
could still see Patrick, as he kept falling back farther and
farther. Dave was back there on foot too. We finally made it back
down into Ballarat for the vet check. I know my horse was starving
and was on a mission to get there! We went to the water, and then I
got Chief's pulse first, then Qwest got his. We went over to where
husband Dave was parked with John and they had all of our stuff for
us. Dave handed Patrick and I a pbj sandwich and frapaccinos and
whatever else we wanted. I had realized after a few minutes that
Dave Rabe hadn't come over and was still at the water, I asked why
was he still there and they said his horse hadn't come down
yet. Darn! He had led on foot the last 11 miles we'd gone, but his
horse was not having a good day and they pulled. Patrick and I both
perked up again for the last part and headed out back to the
finish. We had an hour hold here, and the horses had eaten the
entire time we were there. They really needed to eat and were quite
perky on the way in. We finished by dark, so we had a couple of
hours to spare anyway. I was still riding fairly conservatively, yet
still a little faster than usual because I am alternating horses. I
know that Chief could go considerably faster but the ride season is
just starting and I don't want to have him get too beat up going
faster than he needs to go on some of that crappy footing. There
were some horse that finished this day that looked worse than the
footing did this day, so going faster might get me done sooner but it
isn't always the best choice for the horse to do that, even if he can.

The third day was Zenos' turn again. He had been a good boy in camp
and had eaten well and rolled quite a bit in the soft white sandy
stuff there. We were moving camp this day, riding to Panamint
Springs, so I had everything packed up and led the horse off while
Dave left with the rig to go to the next camp before the start so he
would be gone before the horses started. I walked over to wait for
Patrick to be ready and Z reached thru their corral panels and pulled
a pan of feed over and helped himself. lol I think he's got the
makings to be a halfway decent endurance horse!! It was time to go,
so we started out. Dave Rabe was still packing his rig up so it
could be moved, and was riding his other horse Holy. We went ahead
knowing he would catch us and that he was better off starting out
alone on Holy who can be a handful.

The weather was still quite wonderful. I've been riding Zenos in a
s-hack and he does so well in it. I can't get over how calm and laid
back he is already. We take turns leading or following or going side
by side, and move out everywhere we can move out. A lot of times our
average speed drops below 5 mph, but we can't do a lot about that
because of the rocky footing. We only had one vetcheck this day,
about 31.5 miles into the ride. I had done a better job this day of
adjusting the cables on Z's boots, and only had to get off one time
all day to make an adjustment. We had a half an hour hold at the
check on this day. The horses ate the entire time and pretty soon we
were off again. Just as we were leaving, Dave Rabe made it into the
check with Holy dragging him in ;). We were able to pick up the pace
in the next few miles and did a fair amount of cantering. Again, it
was a point to point day and I was elated to see how much Z was
wanting to go, not knowing where he was going or caring that where
he'd come from was the opposite direction that we were
headed. Yay! We did zip along fairly fast the rest of the way in
and finished at 3 o'clock. I had time to give him a bath, which was
nice as I washed tons of that white fine sandy stuff out of his long
winter coat. Everytime he'd shake a cloud of white dust would come
off of him, so I was sure glad to have him clean. I just kept
changing his fleece blankets out under his other blanket until he was dry.

The fourth day always seems to come by too fast. I hate when the
rides start and then seem to end just like that. I know Patrick was
having fun and excited about riding all 4 days, his first
multiday. He was back on the same horse he rode on days 1 and 3, and
Kayla was riding Qwest. She'd finished up in the front on the third
day and gotten BC on Gemmy :), and finished first on Qwest the last
day. We headed out down the road out of Panamint Springs and down
the road to begin our long climb up Darwin Grade. I had my New
Years' party hat on Chief. Patrick wasn't ready in time to get his
on. He'd also forgotten his elytes. Turns out he hadn't forgotten
them, he had just packed them on Kayla's saddle is all. hehe.

We walked and trotted up the hill and the horses were doing really
well. Chief can get really competitive with other horses, so Patrick
had to try to keep his horse back and was doing a lot better at
it. We went down, then thru the sandy canyon and then back up on the
semi paved old road to the town of
Darwin. http://members.aol.com/dierdorff/darwin/index.html (about
whether or not it gets windy there, this is on the site: Mojave
Desert residents really do not use a tire chain bolted to a phone
pole as a wind sock. They use a small boat anchor chained to a
boulder because phone poles can sometimes blow away.

We were nearly there when we came up a draw and were hit head on by a
gale force wind. Woohoo!!!! My helmet visor splatted against my
face and I couldn't see squat. We were now heading downhill, I
couldn't see anything and the horse was taking over, which is
probably a good thing. I just hung on and finally was able to regain
my composure and stop from laughing. Not that not being able to see
is funny, but after four days out there you get a little weird. The
horses were all excited and frisky, Chief was wanting to go full
tilt, and I had to work to get him slowed down thru the town of
Darwin. We made it to the end of town where the LD vetcheck is and
water. They told us that they were changing the trail and to follow
the arrows for the LD trail, after having the vets check our
horses. Dave said he wouldn't crew this day for me, as he hates
going up to the top of the mountain and sitting there in the blowing
wind, so John said he'd take my truck and go up. so of course, they
changed the vetcheck so that John and my truck got to drive up there
and back :P. Meanwhile Dave is trying not to laugh too hard....

The next part of the trail was super nice, the LD riders really get
all of the good sections of trail on this ride! We cruised along at
a nice trot for almost this entire next part. Then we looped back up
and over Darwin Grade. We got off to lead down and when we got back
on everything was soaking wet. I guess it had been raining, just
lightly enough to get stuff wet without us really noticing. We
weren't cold though, Dave was wearing shorts and a tank top (and ski
gloves, lol) and until I sat down on my wet saddle cover I was plenty
comfortable with just a windbreaker on. The clouds always make the
colors stand out so well.

With the trail change we were going back to Panamint to basecamp for
our vetcheck and hour hold. This trail change made this day a lot
easier than it normally would be. Patrick got his party hat attached
to his horses head at lunch, so both of our horses were in a party
mood for the last part of the trail. We headed out, we were riding
down alongside the highway for a few miles to a water spot, and then
back again. The storm was coming in and following us. We headed out
and as we went along we could see ahead how the wind was kicking up a
sandstorm ahead and we were riding right into it. Oh boy! My visor
was doing that slap me in the face thing again, so I yanked it
off. It's like driving a car with a hood up when it does that. It
was so windy we were leaning sideways to stay upright and sometimes
when a motorhome went by doing 65 mph, it would suck the wind around
us and blow us over. We were laughing though and having a great
time. Even with a little wind, I'd still rather be there riding than
to not be there riding :). Besides, it was still a hundred times
better than the weather was the entire time the year before, so I'll
take it without complaint! We got down to the water and then turned
and headed back. We saw a big beautiful rainbow across the valley,
and the clouds engulfing Panamint Springs up ahead of us, with all of
the colors in the desert it was a really beautiful scene.

Along the way we saw a tourist stop and get out of his car. His hat
blew off and he took off running after it. He ran and ran and ran,
and there was just no way he was going to catch that hat.

This ride was a lot of fun, as always. Jackie has a lot of
volunteers who help make the world go around, without them we
wouldn't get to do this, thanks to all!!! Turns out that getting
back home again was the biggest challenge of all, lol, tho we made it
home safe and sound, and hope everybody else did too. :) Here are
photos from myself and Sue
Benson: http://aerc.org/Photo_Gallery/DVE05/DEATHVALLEY2005.html


in NV

No comments: