Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Equus Migratus

Tuesday October 31 2006

Winter coats are thick: it’s about time for the Eastern Sierra Equus migration.

Gretchen and I are taking Raffiq and Spice down to Ridgecrest this coming weekend. It looks like once my job is over, I’ll be taking care of them and keeping them in shape down there for a while this winter. My horse Stormy is hitching a ride down with them; I’ll be taking care of him and watching his shape this winter, as in, Fat Boy is going on a diet. I haven’t informed him about this yet.

Gretchen and I will ride for fun this weekend, then ride for consequence the next weekend. We’re aspiring to do the 75-mile Git-R-Done ride. It will be Spice’s first venture beyond 55 miles. I wonder if Larry the Cable Guy will be handing out awards at the finish?

I expect we will spend some time shaving horse hair this weekend. With the morning temperatures in Bridgeport often around 18*, and at least one morning down to 8*, Spice and Raffiq have grown very woolly, especially Raffiq. This weekend I couldn’t take my fingers out of his plush, thick, soft coat, softer than any stuffed animal. He didn’t want me to take my fingers out, because with all that hair, he wanted a good scratching! The coats are great for keeping warm here in Bridgeport, but it will be too much hair for Ridgecrest, and positively too much hair for an endurance ride. It’s like when I’m out hiking in the cold – start off with 4 layers, but no matter how cold it is, after 10 minutes I’m down to 2 thin layers. A very hairy horse can easily overheat on an endurance ride, even if it is the middle of November.

Our forest service horses are pretty woolly too. Tom wouldn’t let me leave off scratching under his chin today. They’re up at our barn now, getting their shoes pulled for the season, and getting fattened up a little bit (especially the older ones Red Top and Brenda) before we send them off to their winter pasture. It will be cold and snowy at times where they’re staying, but nothing like Bridgeport, where it can be –20* for 2-3 weeks on end.

In a couple of weeks, with all the horses moved, what will I do with myself??

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Earning a Bear

Thursday October 26 2006

Most of this summer I’ve been, well, not exactly complaining about only seeing 2 bears, but perceiving, regularly, that I have seen only 2 bears this summer. I saw 6 last summer and 6 the summer before. Where have all the bears gone?

Well, some days you just have to earn your bear.

Earning your bear might entail starting work when it’s 8* outside, driving a couple of hairy 4WD roads up to 8500’, then hiking several miles up and up and up an undrivable former mining road to 10,650’ doing an archaeological survey. You gotta sweat and get the heart rate up, peel the layers off as you climb higher, stop to rest and discover and eat some foxtail pine nuts while getting sap all over you, and go where no man has gone for quite a while, where only a lot of muscle and lung power will get you now, and the bear just appears.

The road we had to survey started at the scant remains of an old stamp mill from the late 1800’s and wound up through aspens stands and then above where aspen grew; up through sagebrush-covered hills and then above where sagebrush grew; up and through foxtail pine forests in harsh alpine habitat. We started encountering some snow patches, and there, crossing our road in some snow: nice big footprints – “Bear!” It’s been so long that I’ve seen a bear that I was so excited by the footprints that all I could think about was getting the camera out to take a picture of them. Being so focused on those footprints, it never crossed my mind to notice how awful fresh they were, nor to actually look for the animal that had made them.

As I put my pack down to rummage through, Amy said “Whoa! There he is!” He was about 40 feet away from us.

At one time in the 1800’s and early 1900’s, up to 10,000 grizzly bears roamed the Sierras of California. The grizzlies carried with them the image of a fearsome, formidable killer, though most of them really preferred to be left alone. A 2000 lb bear was not uncommon, and the largest on record weighed in (dead) at 2200 lbs, in 1866. By 1922, they had gone the way of the buffalo - they were slaughtered, and there were zero grizzlies in California. Posthumously, if you will, they were named the official state animal in 1953. Now California just has black bears (which can come in any color, including brown), and while there have been black bear attacks (think problem bears in Yosemite), most (and all I have ever encountered) run away from you in the wilderness in fright, which seems kind of incongruous, being such a large, fast, powerful animal.

This one was a young ‘un, 2 or 3 years old, and he ran scared, above the tree line but below the snowy ridge, far and away. We got several seconds’ worth of viewing pleasure through the trees.

Amy said “Whew! My heart is pounding!”

It hadn’t even crossed my mind to be nervous, I was so excited to finally see another bear.

I wasn’t nervous at all… until I was subsequently attacked by a blue grouse. Actually, the grouse had been minding his own business and was strolling out of the foxtail pine stand on one side of the road to the stand on the other side, and we happened to meet at almost the exact same spot at almost exactly the same moment.

The grouse took to the air in frightened flight at this unexpected human, and I took to the air a foot off the ground myself at this unanticipated grouse, with my heart pounding. I must have had some post-traumatic bear willies after all.

We made it to the top of the road, where old mine pits and shafts perched just below and just over the top of a spectacular ridge. They were likely associated with the remains of the mill several thousand feet below. You wonder what on earth made those early miners come all the way up here to dig for riches, and how they got on up here, and if they got rich. All that’s left now are a few timbers from collapsed shafts and a few rusted cables.

It was a beautiful day up on top of the mining world, with the near peaks of the Sierras to the west and the Sweetwater mountain summits far to the north, and Potato Peak and Bodie Peak (which hovers over the old 1860’s ghost mining town of Bodie) to the east - and a great day all around for this summer’s Bear #3!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Fat Boss Man

Monday October 23 2006

I think my horse at one point must have lived through one of the World Wars and was on food rations, or he heard of some horse who was, because all he does is stuff his face with a vengeance. I believe he is afraid he might go short of food again one day so he’s making up for that very slight possibility. And he is fat, oh lordy, is he fat. He looks pregnant. Maybe he thinks he should be eating for two.

When, once or twice a week or so I walk out into the big dude ranch pasture to see him, he can’t always pause long from his eating to let me pet him, although today he was quite happy to see me. He actually stopped eating to watch me walk up, and he paused, oh, like 30 seconds before he had to go back to stuffing his face, and, he even stopped eating a few times for more smooches.

He’s a very jealous sort, that Stormy. When he’s not so obsessively hung up on eating, he gets very possessive, can’t stand to have other horses close to us. Today a nice friendly paint horse wanted to meet me, so he started walking up to investigate. Stormy’s ears flattened against his neck and he charged the paint horse. Now, a timid horse would wheel and flee in fright at this big handsome thoroughbred charging him ready to kill, but this paint was no timid horse. (Most of them are not; Stormy just thinks he’s top horse on the totem pole – he never gets it, no matter how many times he gets bitten or kicked.) The paint just slowed his steps and looked curiously at Stormy, while Stormy was the one who had to stop short. Stormy saved face by keeping his ears pinned, and when the paint didn’t pin his ears at Stormy, Stormy was able to walk away, like, “Huh! Scared you! Kept you away from my mom!” Stormy went back to grazing and pretended he didn’t see the paint come up to me for a pet.

Covetousness flaring again, Stormy tried it two more times when he deemed the painted interloper to be too close to us. I think he did it because he felt safe that the paint wasn’t actually going to beat the shit out of him. Again, both times the paint just looked at him, didn’t even bother to pin his ears back to show who was boss, didn’t squeal at Stormy when they bent heads and touched noses, but it let Stormy again think that he’d protected me and kept me to himself.

He only shows off like this when I’m around. I don’t let on to him that I know who’s boss in the Hunewill pastures and who’s not.

By the way, in the 4 miles of pastures between the Hunewill Ranch and Bridgeport, without even looking, I saw 10 hawks, 1 golden eagle, and 2 ravens. Happy Bird-day!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

High Desert II, Nevada

Sunday October 22 2006

Checklist for a 2-day endurance ride: helmet, chaps, bags o’ clothes (several changes of tights, Tshirts, long underwear, rain gear, jackets, underwear, socks for any kind of weather), sleeping bag(s), pillow(s), raven.
Arrival at ride camp Friday night: set up high ties on trailer for 2 horses, hay bags, water. Take horses out on short warm-up ride. Prepare and eat dinner. Grain horses. Go to ride meeting, visit with friends. It’s dark and chilly. Blanket horses, take them on a walk through camp, refill their hay bags and water for the night. Get our things ready for tomorrow: snacks, water bottles, clothes laid out, raven in saddle bag, set alarms for 5 AM, (UGH!), crash.

Alarms ring at 5 AM – UGH! Bodies don’t move from out of warm sleeping nests till 5:15. It is very cold outside (someone later said 16*). Hard to leave warmth of nice trailer, but horses are hungry and ride start time of 7 AM is steadily approaching. Refill hay bags, break ice in water buckets. Prepare horses’ grain, mixed with hot water from the kettle. Feed the horses, go back in trailer to re-warm up and force breakfast down. Take horses on a walk through camp in the cold morning darkness, as are many other riders – get the circulation in those horse legs going after a night of standing tied to the trailer. Shooting stars are everywhere – I see at least a dozen, without even trying. Saddle horses, throw a blanket back over them until we are ready to ride off. Make sure I’ve got everything: helmet, bandana to keep ears warm, chaps, butt pack, water, gloves, raven in my saddle bag. Do I wear an extra coat, a 4th layer? I foolishly opt not to, thinking I will be hot enough that I will have to take it off in 15 minutes, and especially so that I match, with my red and black tights, chaps and new jacket, and I stay pretty damn frozen for a good 45 minutes, and am never warm enough to peel that 3rd color coordinated layer off (Boy do I look good!)(though my horse and I did not completely color coordinate). The starting line is 15 minutes from camp; everybody walks there, horses blowing smoke from their noses, people huddled down into their layers.
7 AM start down the desert trail. Spice does not buck under Gretchen, and Raffiq only pulls hard on me the first 5 minutes – we’ve started in back of the fast and exciting front-runners. First loop is 30 miles (takes us about 5 hours), then an hour vet check back in camp, and the second loop is 20 miles, all winding in and around Ft Churchill State Park, a part of it along the Pony Express Trail, along the Carson River Valley lined with huge graceful old cottonwoods, the yellow leaves in the middle of their striking fall color change. It’s not a particularly hard ride, no huge hills, and only one long sandy wash, but it’s a true 50 mile ride – it’s LONG.
We’re finally done at 5 PM, tired like the horses, as if we’d been 9 hours in the saddle – which we were.
Not much time to kick back and relax (other than a Dr. Pepper) when we get back. We unsaddle, brush the horses while they eat hay, and mix their grain. Take them to the vet check for the finish exams: we both get completions, but Raffiq’s feet are a bit ouchy; I won’t ride him tomorrow. Get back to the trailer, grain the horses and throw light blankets on them. Refill hay bags and water. It’s time for the ride dinner (BBQ! Chile rellenos! Chili!) and the day’s gossip: one guy got tossed off, broke his shoulder and ribs; the gal that parked by us at 2 AM had broken down on Highway 50, then missed the turn to ride camp and got stuck in sand, unloaded her horse to get unstuck and he scraped up his legs, and her friend hauled another horse for her to ride for tomorrow; one guy and his horse fell into the Carson River during our long after-lunch river crossing when his horse got dizzy. Then it’s back to the trailer just before dark to bandage 8 legs. Back to the ride meeting, then back to the trailer. Take the horses on a leg-stretching walk through camp, change their blankets for heavier ones, refill hay bags one more time. Go inside and get ready for tomorrow, then crash.
Camp is dead quiet tonight: dead tired sleeping horses and humans.

Even though I’m not riding, I resist the terrible urge to stay in my cozy sleeping nest, and get up at 5:15 AM anyway (UGH!) to help Gretchen and Spice get ready – Raffiq must be fed too. It’s butt cold outside again, and they will start off their ride with the long frigid river crossing. We go through the morning routine of feeding and walking the horses, going in the trailer to warm up. I’m disappointed I’m not riding, but then, it’s awful cold out, and my warm bed hasn’t been made yet…
I lead Gretchen and Spice up to the start where Spice instantly bonds with some other buddies. I watch the river crossing – Spice has no problem following everybody, but one wild horse refuses the muddy slope down to the river and dumps his rider and runs through camp. The horse is caught and the rider, who will get stitches later for his split chin, gets back on and tries and tries to get his wild horse to go into the river. I can’t watch anymore because I don’t like to see accidents. (He never got the horse in the water; he instead rode the 30-mile limited distance ride starting at 8 AM.)
I go back to the trailer where Raffiq the Drama Queen spends the next 10 hours screaming for Spice. I crawl back in bed for an hour because I’m chilled to the bone, but Raffiq’s screaming doesn’t allow for much peaceful slumber.
It’s a gorgeous day for a ride, although it’s nice enough if you have to sit in camp too. Raffiq quiets down when Spice comes back into camp for lunch at 10:30, then starts his screaming when she goes back out on her 2nd 30-mile loop. I take Raffiq on several walks through camp, stopping each time at a soft sandy spot to roll.
Gretchen and Spice complete their ride at 4:30. We grab a ride dinner, load up the horses, and are back home in 2 hours.
Great way to pass a weekend!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Happy Bird-Day!

Tuesday October 17 2006

Yea, sure it’s my birthday this month, but what’s important is – it’s Happy Bird-Day month! Every day is Happy Bird-Day! Birds out the wazoo!

Two weeks ago while out working we saw a golden eagle being chased and harassed by two ravens. The two ravens took turns dive bombing the eagle, and when they got a good peck on him, the eagle squeaked. We could hear him and the squawking ravens even when they were out of sight. I won’t even mention the multitude of red-tailed hawks about the last two weeks, hunting, flying over and checking us out, sitting in meadows, and along one hilltop, 6 hovering motionless concurrently in the updrafts along a hilltop. Northern harriers all over the valley pastures. Three possible goshawks yesterday. Last week we went out to try to rescue an injured eagle. We found no eagle, but obviously acquired many eagle karma points.

Yesterday, we saw 3 golden eagles. One was alone; two immatures were flying together, high above a ridge, up, down, back and forth, close together, further apart, going different directions, coming back together, hanging in the updrafts. It was like they were on a date. Once they came together and tried to grasp talons and spin (I witnessed this once – stunning – a National Geographic moment) but they didn’t get a good grip. This is a method of courtship between eagles. It’s not courting season, so this could have been practice courting between a couple, or siblings from the same nest practicing. We watched them for 5 minutes till they disappeared from our view.

Today we saw 3 more immature golden eagles (different area). One alone, later another one – joined by a second one. They flew around together, apart, together, going higher and higher, thousands of feet up till they were a speck even in my binoculars.

All these eagles pretty much make up for the lack of bear sightings this year! What’s next?!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Bridgeport Bushwhackin' Bit_hes

Sunday October 15 2006

Hmmm. I don’t know if Suzanne is going to ride with us anymore.

She’d been wanting to ride with us all summer, we’d been trying to get together all summer, and in fact I hadn’t even seen her this year before today. Finally we 3 all found the time, got together, and went for a ride.

Our plan was to ride up the Masonic road, up and over a 9,000’+ saddle, and loop back around and down the Aurora road. (Masonic and Aurora are old ghost towns, as is Bodie; these roads all interconnect)

Suzanne hadn’t ridden since June, but she was prepared for the estimated 5 hour ride. She wasn’t prepared for an exploration adventure, which, when Gretchen and I explore, always, without fail, becomes a bushwhack. And, which we had not planned on doing anyway.

Heading up the trail, the horses resembled slow, brown, unenthusiastic slugs, but then, they did a long steady strenuous climb, and, with their thick winter coats, and the rapidly warming morning, they were sweating profusely a few miles from the top, so it was excusable. And they’d had a good workout the day before.

So after several miles and a couple thousand feet of climbing, we rested in a nice aspen grove towered over by rocky cliffs, then led the horses on foot a ways uphill to see just how much further we had to climb. Well, after 50 yards, we humans had had enough climbing, and figured the horses had, too. We could at least peel our jackets off, (which we did), while the horses’ wooly coats showed them no mercy. And there was no water up ahead on the trail. And, if you have never done what your horse does, I encourage you do get off his back and get off your own butt once in a while and try it yourself. Wonder why your horse is trotting so slowly uphill or in the sand? Get off and try to trot your own self along the same terrain. Unless you’re one of those iron men or women who are in super shape, and do ride and tie, or who run the Western States Tevis Trail 100 miles on foot, then you’ll know and feel how hard your horse is often working.

Anyway, we turned around and headed back for home down the same road.

Until we came to a turn-off to the right, which we’d never taken. I think it was Gretchen who said, “Let’s try this one,” although I think she blamed Spice for making the turn on her own.
We rode a mile or so along this road. It was heading in the general direction of Bridgeport, but it was staying up on top of a ridge while the Masonic road headed downhill. We hoped our road would eventually turn down and into the Masonic road, but, as often happens with these myriad roads, it dead-ended.

Well, what to do? Turn around and backtrack, or bushwhack down-and-up to the Masonic road? We could see the road from where we were atop the hill; it looked pretty straightforward, down this hillside into the wash and back up the other hillside. It was rocky, but then, all of Nevada and this half of California is rocky.

We started sidehilling down, leading our horses on foot, Gretchen and Spice ahead, followed by Suzanne and Buddy, followed by me and Raffiq. Raffiq is always slow going downhill, so we got a good view of everybody. The hillside wasn’t too tricky – at first – only rocky. Really rocky. We zigzagged back and forth. Suzanne slipped and fell on her butt. The closer we got to the bottom, the rockier and steeper it got, and the brushier it got, making it a bit tricky on where to step. Gretchen and Spice, well ahead of us, let out a few whoops, then yells, “Don’t come this way!” They’d made it into the wash, but the route was not recommended. “Head further that way then come down.”

But Suzanne and Buddy had come to a spot that looked too steep; Buddy balked while Raffiq and I made a turn and sidehilled the other way. We finally made it down to the wash, but Suzanne was still stuck with Buddy up on the hill. I hung onto Spice and Raffiq while Gretchen climbed back up the brushy rocky hill to help Suzanne get Buddy down.

Meanwhile, waiting in the wash, the hornets found us. Great! I had been lucky enough not to be stung all summer (knock on wood, and I shouldn’t even be saying this yet) despite the plethora of hornets this season, and I sure didn’t want to start now. At least I do carry benadryl with me, but I’m not quite sure how I’m going to react from a bee sting – they get worse every time.

Finally Suzanne and Buddy reached the wash, and we had to get moving because of the hornets. We now had to bushwhack up the other hillside about the same distance to reach the road – but, how? That hillside was steep, rocky, and very brushy. The ‘easiest’ way appeared to be the wash. Which worked fine for about 50 yards, but then that started becoming gnarly with brush and willows. But the hillside above us looked pretty impassable. Gretchen decided to continue braving the wash. Far enough behind with Raffiq, all I saw was a human and horse being wholly swallowed up in willows. They completely disappeared. The hillside above looked formidable, but the willows ahead looked scary. I picked one iffy spot above us, and said “Come on Raffiq!” We jumped up out of the wash, and started scrambling up the hillside. Sidehilling would have been preferable, but sometimes the brush was so thick it was impossible to get through, and we had to climb upwards.

We heard yelps from Gretchen below, which confirmed that the willows (and hidden rosebushes) were impenetrable. They had to abandon the wash. Suzanne and Buddy had already opted for the steep hillside. We all scrambled up, leaped bushes, slipped on rocks; we huffed and puffed, we sweated like pigs – horses and humans alike. Spice slipped and almost stepped on Gretchen’s foot; Suzanne fell on her butt again. Twice.

We had to stop and rest a few times. (See how hard our horses work when they carry us!) Finally we got to where we could see the road, yay! But to actually get up on the road we had to scale a 10’ berm of soft sand and rock, blocked by a near-barricade of pinyon branches. Suzanne fell on her butt again. And got stung by a hornet. She said “Do we get a badge for this?”

“Yes! A Bridgeport Bushwhackin’ Bitc_ Badge!” Gretchen and Spice made it up onto the road first. I turned Raffiq loose while I tried to clear a mess of branches out of his way. Suzanne tried to lead Buddy up the berm but slipped and fell again. She let Buddy go, we cleared out of his way and smooched to him to get up on his own. He had a hard time getting up, but he made it. Suzanne and I scrambled up on our hands and knees, and I called down to Raffiq, “Come on Raffiq!” He just stood there looking at the 5 of us, so I went back down, pointed him up and let him go, and scrambled up beside him.

I gave Suzanne some benadryl, and we stayed off our horses and continued walking down the hard-packed road to the valley. Once we reached the bottom, we got back on, and the horses amazingly got more energy, especially Raffiq in front, especially when we turned toward the lake shore. He had wanted to go out by the lake on our way out, but we hadn’t. Now we were headed right for the lake, and I had my hands full keeping him down to a fast trot.

We got to the lake shore, and we all had a nice canter in the sand, a fine end to a, um, well, exercise-ful day. No need to do any aerobics this evening.

Instead, I will be crafting some Bridgeport Bushwhackin’ Bitc_es badges for our new riding club.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Eagle in a Haystack

Friday October 13 2006

Some people walk into the Forest Service office today, tell our front desk guy they saw an “injured eagle” ”between Devil’s Gate and those shacks” “on the south side of the road.”

Forty-five minutes later, the front desk guy discovers I’m in the office (uncommon, for a Friday). Amy and I get the go-ahead to go find the eagle and take it to a raptor rehab place near Reno, and so launches Eagle Search and Rescue!

How does one rescue an eagle?

Well, first you have to find it, and, good luck with that. (Note to injured bird incident reporters: give many details! Pinpoint it on a map! Take mileage! Note landmarks!) Where exactly between Devil’s Gate and ‘those shacks?’ Which shacks? If those people were rich mansion-living hoo-hahs from L.A., they might have called all those log cabins near Devil’s Gate ‘shacks.’ (One is selling for $750,000.) Maybe they meant the old pack station cabins, about a mile west… or maybe the cabins another mile down near the hot springs… or even Wheeler Guard Station another 1 ½ miles on, or the next old barn (‘shack?’) another mile on… Or maybe they meant the hard-to-see shack (I would call this a shack) a little back in the pines 1 ½ miles east…

And, was the eagle right by the road? In grass or sagebrush or under trees? On the ground? Hopping? Wing/s flapping? Moving? Acting weak? Maybe it had just pounced on a rabbit, was flapping around on the ground trying to hold onto the rabbit and just looked disabled… Was it a bald or golden eagle? Was it even an eagle? A guy I once worked with on the trail crew came back from a hike one day, saying, “Man, I was hiking through these aspens, and this huge eagle attacked me! It was mad! It was dive-bombing me and screeching at me – I had to run!” The attack bird was more than likely a Northern Goshawk, since it was in the trees, and dive-bombing, which is goshawk habitat and behavior, though the goshawk is a little over half the size of an eagle. Perhaps it really was an eagle, but then, this same guy confused turkey vultures with hawks.

And if you do find an injured eagle, how do you catch it? That is a good question. I’ve held spotted owls caught by a noose, and I rescued a long-eared owl two summers ago, but an eagle (if it was an eagle) is big – even a juvenile is going to be 2 ½ feet tall with a 6-7 foot wing span, and those talons…

You bring your supplies: a friend had big portable dog kennels – but he was gone. Instead, I emptied out a big walmart tub with a lid, and brought that along. Leather gloves a must (too bad I didn’t have armpit-length gloves, or chain mail). A thick wool blanket, (and 2 thick tarps for backup) to throw over the bird, and to pad the tub. Binoculars for good measure, and a camera. A little bandana or shirt to cover the bird’s head to help keep him calmer.

If his wing/s are injured, you throw the blanket over the bird, reach in carefully with one hand, slip your fingers around his feet, and as someone else carefully removes the blanket, hold the bird’s wings down close to his body (and try to avoid that beak). With its wings folded and his feet in your hand, the bird is pretty much immobilized. If the bird’s foot/feet are injured, well, I’d have to figure that out when we found him. Of course, this is talking a scared little 12 ounce, 10 inch tall bird with 12” wings and a little beak. What would happen with a mad, big 15-pound plus bird with big sharp talons and a big angry beak, I’d also be playing that by ear.

Well, we walked and walked for several miles each way from Devil’s Gate – along the highway, 30 yard off the highway, both sides of the highway. We came across about a dozen dead deer, a dead great horned owl (barely recognizable), a dead magpie, and, right on the road shoulder… a broken eagle feather, I think a tertial wing feather. We scoured that area extra carefully, but no eagle.

Where could it be? Where did these people actually see it? If it was really injured, how badly? Meaning, how far could it have hopped or flopped away? It’s not easy for me to weave my way around sage and bitter brush, so it can’t be easy for an injured bird to walk or hop very far. We searched tall grass, sage and bitterbrush, willows, ditches. I was actually really tuned in looking for a smaller bird, and I think we would have found any hawk-or-larger-sized bird, if it was there.

We found nothing. Very disappointing: I really wanted to rescue an eagle. I expect many injured birds brought to WAIF – (The Wild Animal Infirmary For Nevada, www.waifnv.org" www.waifnv.org - donations accepted! Nancy Laird, who runs this place, has dedicated her life to this, and does the work of 20 humans, as does Suzette, her assistant – newsletters are sent to donors) don’t make it, but they receive the best effort and the best care and are either put down humanely or rehabbed and released as soon as possible. The owl I rescued two summers ago had too badly broken a wing; he was put down.

I’m hoping that though not finding and rescuing an injured eagle, but really wanting badly to do so, and searching hard for it still contributes to great eagle karma…

Sunday, October 8, 2006

Super Spice

Sunday October 8 2006

So, after colicking at the EHSC endurance ride in August and getting the flu, and almost drowning in a bog in September, Spice completed Saturday’s Comstock 50-mile endurance ride. In fact, she bucked at the beginning under Gretchen, zipped along quite nicely the whole ride, and bucked again in the last mile.

It started out as a dark and stormy night the night before… dark clouds, rain, a bit of hail – and LIGHTNING! It looked like we were driving toward some rain (or snow?) clouds, and as we arrived at base camp and set things up, those clouds were getting darker and closer. Unbelievably then, it started lightning and thundering, and sprinkling, and we scrambled to move Spice over to Raffiq’s side of the trailer - a little more out of the wind – and get heavy rain blankets on them before I had to jump inside and cower away from the lightning. The thunder cracked and boomed, big hard cold rain fell, and the horses turned their butts to the storm. I sure hoped this was passing through and we wouldn’t be caught out on horseback in a storm like this tomorrow! Rain and hail, miserable wet and cold I can take – but lightning? No way!

The storm did pass, and it was clear and crisp in the morning, but not as cold as we expected it would be. Spice must have been feeling so good and excited to be back on the endurance trail and feeling healthy, she bucked and scooted and shied the first mile, much to Gretchen’s discomfort. The starts of rides, you never know how your horse is going to behave – or not. Another friend rode her horse Mira with us; Mira was also a little wound up, as this was her first endurance ride in over a year.

I rode Raffiq, who is such a big Drama Queen – any time Spice or Mira did anything, he’d overreact with a big spook or bolt forward, where I’d have to haul hard on the reins or he’d be off at a dead run. If Raffiq were human, he’d be Nathan Lane who played the gay guy in The Birdcage – shrieking in a high pitched voice and dramatizing anything that happened. Geek!

It was a great ride – a hard climb at the beginning of the two loops, then long and steep downhills, one sandy wash to go up and down, all of which we took it easy walking over and through. The rest was nice soft trails or jeep roads we trotted along, cruising along, the horses each deciding who was going to take the lead and how fast we’d go. The weather was nice and cool, so the horses didn’t have it too hard even with their winter coats. Spice didn’t really seem to get tired at all, and, judging by the buck she employed in the last mile, she’s recovered from all her trauma.

Virginia City 100 2007, here we come!

Friday, October 6, 2006


Friday October 6 2006

All I have to day about last week doing archaeology work is this:

Sunday, October 1, 2006


Sunday October 1 2006

It’s that time of year where my biological clock kicks in… my biological wanderlust clock. Time to condense, time to get ready to pack up and move somewhere. About a month ahead of departure time, (as in now), I start to get restless, I pace around, I start to reduce things into smaller piles, rearrange things back into their bags, cull things that I really don’t need to be carrying around with me. Maybe it’s the fall nip in the air, or the aspens now earnestly changing bright colors, or for, oh, the past 20 or so years I’m always moving somewhere about this time of year so it’s ingrained in my system.

When you get older most people are inclined to settle down. The older I get the more I want to wander. There’s so many new places I want to discover, and so many places I want to go back to, and never enough time. Maybe I was born in the wrong time?

And as usual, I’m not even sure exactly where I’m going in a month’s time or so, when my job is over. Don’t know quite what I’ll be doing, or where I’ll be doing it, or where I’m going to leave my horse.

Sometimes I about can’t stand it – can’t sit and read or write or watch a movie, can’t do anything but go ride a horse – which is where we headed today.

We chose Big Eagle, a good hard stiff climb for the horses (we have a 50-mile endurance ride next weekend), and hopefully some good fall aspen colors for us humans to partake of.

Stormy clouds had been blanketing the area the last day or two, but produced no storms. Today the weather looked suspect again - heavy clouds and no sun - and, after we’d saddled the horses, “What do you think about those storm clouds over the Sawtooths?” “Hmmm… well… let’s try it anyway.”

We tied jackets on the backs of our saddles, and headed up into the mountains, and boy, did we time the fall colors perfectly! Sometimes the aspens start changing at the end of August and are blazing in September, but this year for whatever reason, they held onto their green leaves, with only a few infrequent groups changing here and there. Until today! I don’t think I’ve ever sent them like this. Bursting out everywhere, brilliant, dazzling yellow and orange – tunnels of bright yellow we rode through and under, bright yellow carpets of round leaves, dazzling yellow and orange blankets splashed over the mountainsides, among the dark evergreens. The layers of purple mountains and the dark blue skies – it was definitely raining up on Eagle Peak ahead – made the brilliant yellow stand out even more. Of course I didn’t have a camera since my stinkin’ little Minolta digital finally died on me recently. It rained on us (but no lightning!!!), cool fall mountain rain, but it didn’t matter because the colors were brilliant and the fragrance of the rain-sprinkled ground was intoxicating.

Which just served to make me more restless when I got home… Time to do more packing and pacing…