Saturday December 2 2006
I never ever get on a horse anymore without acknowledging the fact that I might not return in one piece, or I might not return because I’m in pieces, or I might not return at all. It’s not a fear; it’s just a fact, because it’s happened before. ‘Course you can apply that to anything in life – driving a car, or walking out your front door everyday, but with horses you have that little extra Horse Factor of Unpredictability lurking.
And every time I return from a ride, not in pieces, I recognize that fact as extra icing on the already delicious desert of getting the opportunity to ride a horse. Even if some days you really don’t feel like it, or the weather’s crappy, the company’s lousy, your horse is being an ass and you’re behaving worse, you can still get something good out of every ride, especially if you come back in one piece. Every healthy ride is a treat and a privilege. (Though grumbling sometimes is allowed.)
And when the you do feel like a ride, and the weather is gorgeous and company and scenery is great and your horse is having a good time, well, is there anything better?
And so, after having not been on a horse in 3 weeks (gasp!), and acknowledging that I might be altered in a few hours and maybe not for the better, I climbed on Raffiq, and with Gretchen on Spice we headed out for an excellent ride in the fantastic weather in the delightful desert of Ridgecrest (delightful in the winter, anyway, when it’s not 30* and blowing a gale).
We’d planned on a ~20-30 mile ride, catching the last loop of the 20 Mule Team 100 loop across the highway, getting there by shortcutting, weaving through the desert hills and canyons. I’ve been riding that desert for 5 winters now, and I’ve got names for usual routes I do and new ones I’ve discovered.
There’s Raffiq’s Canyon where several years ago Raffiq’s cinch broke while Astrid was riding him, and with the saddle hanging and flopping by the crupper and breast collar (pieces breaking away) he bucked and fell and tumbled and crashed and fell off mine tailings to the bottom of this canyon, and they thought they’d find him dead. (They didn’t, though he was banged up; we’re still riding him, and he’s had no problem riding down Raffiq’s Canyon since).
There’s Holly’s trail, a nice climbing training trail named after Jackie’s past mare Holly, and Princess Wash named after a crabby mare (short for: “She Ain’t No Princess”) that I rode. There’s Murr’s Canyon, where the mule Murrtheblurr and I have motored down. There’s Stormy Summit West and East and South named after my thoroughbred Super Stormy (!!!) who was able to bravely go out that far on his own (!!!) and conquer those hill tops.
There’s Car Seat Spring Mine trail where, yes, an old car seat spring was dumped in this collapsed mine shaft. Next canyon over is Carcass Canyon, where the historic mine trash – old rusted barrels, stoves, machine panels – looks like carcasses from a distance. There’s Nail Hill – watch for nails.
There’s Nazi Canyon with swastikas and GWAR proclamations painted on rocks (and GWAR stands for… Great White American Retards?? Because who else would deface rocks like that?), and next to that, perhaps appropriately, is Jesus Loves You Canyon (painted on a rock).
Well, you don’t take any of these to get to the start of the 20 mile loop across the highway, and we couldn’t figure out which of the bazillion other trails to take for shortcuts (“this is it” “well maybe it’s not” “it’s the start of the 20 Mule Team trail we want” “or maybe we want part of the one loop of the Fire Mtn ride” “oh wait, yes this is it, I recognize those mines” “well, maybe I don’t; all the mines look the same” “oh yea, I’ve been in this wash, this is right” “no, wait, this one looks like all the other washes”). But the horses cruised right along anyway despite the confused pilots, so, as we ended up way out of the way from where we were going, our ride turned into a fun spontaneous ramble through undiscovered (by us) hills and washes and boulder fields, with a few ravens keeping an eye on us here and there.
We weren’t sure quite where we were, only knew the direction we wanted to head to get back. You can’t get lost in those hills if you get up high (we reached a very high point) because you can always see Ridgecrest down below to the northwest and the Sierras to the west. We got really lucky and didn’t meet a single motorbike or quad the whole ride, and randomly we found a nice sandy canyon to trot all the way down that looked familiar – “Oh, look! We’re in Jesus Loves You Canyon!”
And maybe somebody does love us, because we got back home after another lovely ride, topped by the icing of returning intact and rejuvenated!