Sunday February 11 2007
I look out the window this morning and see a hawk flying low and close by – it’s a Northern harrier! I’ve never seen one here in Ridgecrest. What’s up with that?
The harriers start passing through the Bridgeport valley (about 4 hours north) in August and September en route to their winter grounds somewhere south, I expect in South America.
I’ve spent about 6 winters in Ridgecrest and have never seen one here before. Is this one lost? Passing back north early because of the very mild and virtually snow-less winter in the Sierras? Maybe it never migrated because of the mild winter and the abundance of prey.
Margaret and I ran out the door to watch it bewilderment.
I worked for the forest service in Bridgeport for many years with Margaret until she went off and became a district ranger in the Sierras. Margaret was the first one who taught me how to pack with horses, and in fact she now owns Woody, one of the old forest service horses – who’s Stormy’s buddy and sometimes-pasturemate now.
Naturally she works way too hard and too much, due to normal requirements of the job but also due to shrinking budgets. The people hired are fewer (same with my seasonal forest service work), but the workload increases, or the jobs double up. Funny how that works. But she was at least able to come down for the weekend and ride with Gretchen and me.
It blew most of the night, and was a bit breezy in the morning, but we’d already psyched ourselves up to ride at Brady’s. Gretchen and I are going to the 3-day Eastern Mojave Scenic ride next weekend, and this is a great training ride. Sometimes the foot of the Sierras don’t get the same wind that’s blowing across the flat desert and picking up speed as it hits Ridgecrest. But then, looking at the Sierras with the ‘tablecloth’ hanging over the peaks, we figured we’d have a little wind there, too.
We took Spice and Raffiq, and borrowed one of Jackie’s horses, Star. Now Star’s an older mare, about 15, and she’s very unique looking. A few people around here refer to her as Fire Mountain Ugly. (Jackie’s place is Fire Mountain Arabians.)
She does maybe look a bit better with a saddle on that covers up her big swayed back, and she does have a big head, and a rather angular body, but I still call her a pretty girl, with or without a saddle. My niece had a great dog once, Chucha, sharpei and stinky as all get-out, and one might have mistakenly called her UG-LY, but we called her purty, because we thought she was beautiful; and so Chucha spent her life knowing she was beautiful and the best dog in the whole world, and the happiest.
I think Star is the same - it just takes the right person to appreciate her beauty. She goes along nicely, and Jackie says she likes to do lessons and jump, in addition to hitting the endurance trail.
We had a bit of a breeze at the bottom of Brady’s, and weren’t bothered too much till we hit the turn that took us up the big climb. The higher we got, the harder we got blasted, till we couldn’t even hear each other yelling. Normally I can’t STAND the wind, but somehow this was okay, I guess because we knew once we crested the ridge it might let up a little, and once we were fully on our way back, the wind would be behind us. Besides, it’s so pretty up there, and the horses didn’t seem bothered by the wind.
We actually met some people on top who’d found a geocache. I think it’s amazing that our horses get up that long steep hill, but I find it really wild that somebody would drive up there. I wouldn’t have the nerve!
It was a good ride. Spice protected us up front from some horse-eating boulders, and Star protected us from behind from a cougar that she was sure might be lurking in the rock sculptures we rode down past on the last steep downhill.
It was blowing a minor gale when we got back to the trailer, time to pack up, go home, and sip a few brews out of the wind!