|My awards for completing and coming in last place|
So, the trip begins with the obligatory check engine light leading the way like a beacon to the fun times ahead! Just being on as a symbol of hope is not dramatic enough to mark this auspicious occasion, about every 5-10 minutes it must flash at me to show it’s enthusiasm!
Whoot hoot! You know, this particular road trip was not supposed to happen at all, but it did, and here is why….
|Marco sez, I know what this means!!|
Off we went lead by my brave check engine light, that for some reason only comes on when I am actually leaving town, not when I put 500 miles on it locally, or when I bring it in 100 times to the mechanic to find out why it is coming on… but I digress. I will now consider it the “we are heading out far from home and I shall lead the way light” assuming that “check engine” simply fit better on the dashboard. We met Caitlin at the gas station nearest the mutual interstate exit to fuel up on cheap petrol, caffeine, junk food... and in my case air in all 8 tires and an oil check 'just in case' that is what my brave light was trying to tell me. The weather early was incredibly foggy, but cleared up pretty quickly in favor of brilliantly blue skies and sunshine. For a very realistic view of what it is like to head out with me on a fall day in a caravan on top of a mountain...here ya go! It was actually the trip back home, so the check engine light went off as soon as we started up to leave camp :/
Our journey to Skymont was amazingly uneventfully (aside from our brave light), and we found what looked like a perfect spot.
The camp site was close to the vet check AND had a port-o-pottie right at the corner. Yes, I know, most people do not consider being close to a portolet as a positive attribute for a camp site; however think about the amount of water or other hydrating beverages most folks will partake in when they are about to go 50 miles in a race, and you will realize how WONDERFUL having a close potty is at 3am in 30 degree weather! One issue though, what are the pink flags in front of my parked rig for? Is this a saved spot? Up comes someone to answer my question in an unexpected way… ground hornet’s nest :/. Well, they don’t seem too upset with our noisy entrance, aaaand actually they seem quite content to stay in their little flagged nest area. A conference is held, ok, it was me and Caitlin, and we decide to risk it for the primo site. Throughout the day they would land on us and our stuff, never with a hostile gesture or action. I think at one point I had seven on my upper torso and Caitlin was counting into the teens as to how many were on her gear she needed to work with to feed her pony... I kept thinking of my friend Cindy who is terrified of bees, much less these mean and hostile looking creatures :-D. Not a sting was had by us all weekend, but I hear our neighbors much farther away from the nest were not so lucky ;). Susan was nice enough to step in and be the ride photographers on Friday and had a great picture of the campground up on Skymont, so I stole it! This is what it looks like at the Skymont camp grounds folks, this is a ride I hope will continue to happen as it truly is one of my favorites!
|Home away from home!|
|Curtains and ride clothes!|
|Heat for 30 degree evenings once we leave the fire|
Ride day: STUNNING is not the word, but I don’t think there is one that can describe the beauty we were in awe of all day. I have been in this area for almost 20 years and can say that the colors and the exquisiteness was beyond any other year. I felt like I was in a Batman comic coming around every corner “BLAM” “POW”... now I understand the comic book logic. We came around one corner and the yellows were so bright I really thought I was getting corneal damage! There were just enough leaves off of the trees to see the magnificent bluffs, but enough on the trees, and in so many vivid colors, that it was as though looking through a kaleidoscope at the vibrantly dyed cotton balls on the neighboring mountains. POW, come around another corner to some sort of incandescent light/lime green moss (?) on the rocks and fusia leaves peppering them while simultaneously falling on my helmet. POW, another corner and every single red, orange, brown, green, and yellow in existence is in a row on the trees in front of us with a nice trail to take us through them in the perfect order, making sure anyone who made it this far gets a glimpse at every one. BLAM, the trail turns so narrow on a bluff that you can look down literally less than a foot from your horse’s foot fall and see the colors on the trees that spiral down about 20 stories to the rock floor… may I mention here how HAPPY I WAS to be on trusted trail pony and not green new to the trail mare that likes to leap sideways for no apparent reason? Yes, some days I do make excellent decisions.
|Photo credit: Susan Franklin|
The first loop was great, and quite frankly I was beginning to wonder on several occasions if we were off course as we did the first and second loop with only seeing one other competitor on each; but the trail markings were so great that I would only wonder for a moment before a confidence ribbon marked the trail. The most awesome quality time with my Mostoved Marco was had for 25 miles of breathtaking views! It was great too as Marco actually seemed to forget we were competing and was stretching and moving out nicely on a loose rein. I will say though, by the end of round two I was definitely feeling how out of shape we both were. I was purposely staying as far off my horse's back as possible, and consciously thinking about my balance and being light in the saddle as I ride in a treeless and I was very tired. Marco was certainly not a bottle rocket anymore, and it was actually quite a nice relaxing ride... which means he was very tired! Because of his tender tootsies I had him shod and padded all around, and I sure was glad as I had forgotten that this ride is not just on a mountaintop, but on top of a rock mountaintop ;). So while we were not really conditioned for the ride after a miserable summer, at a conservative pace we were still set up to succeed.
|Photo Credit: Susan Franklin|
About half way through loop three we met up with a nice gentleman named Gordon on a pretty mustang. We chatted for a while and we both seemed to have the same objective... TURTLE AWARD! Fyi for non-endurance folks, it is what is sounds like, an award for coming in last place... to finish is to WIN! At one point we were cantering along a wide dirt portion of the trail that had the front runners coming from the other direction back out on the trail. None of us slowed down and just gave each other high fives as we passed at a gallop, it was really quite nice. Our camp neighbor Becky Bunnell was one of the front runners and she cheered us on as we swept by, love my endurance peeps, such camaraderie! As Gordon had won the Turtle Award several times in the past while I had had the award ripped from the jaws of victory at the last moment at several rides (thanks Caitlin!), he was happy to oblige my fancy and let me win it in the end ;).We did the last loop and a half together and both our horses vetted in great :) Marco actually vetted in better than the last several rides, probably because he was perfectly fine with slowing down and doing things my way... yes, I am a woman, I must point out that I have been right this whole time!
|Photo Credit: Susan Franklin|
All and all, an awesome weekend with friends, camp fires, and views to die for... quite literally if you were not careful! Marco's vet card sez... even without any conditioning all summer long, he is still fit enough to do a slow 50 mile mountainous ride and be happier after the ride than before it! That is my tough little Paso Fino!