Saturday June 9 2007
Steph and John are leaving tomorrow for Japan. Japan is putting on their first 100 mile ride, and Steph and John have been advisors for the venture. Despite them still having to pack, and take care of the never ending last minute endurance.net stuff, we still had time, or made time, for a nice 15-mile loop ride, over to and up Hart Creek. The Raven (Two) went along... time to get him back into the saddle (bag)!
It was a nice breezy evening, keeping hot temperatures at bay, and we clipped right along, cross-countrying up and down hills to get us onto the trail leading to the Hart Creek valley. Jose followed right along behind big striding Rushcreek Mac and Hoss, and we kept up a quick pace for quite a while, on coliche roads, in sandy washes, weaving through sagebrush on old cattle trails. Hart Creek still had a bit of water running in it, and the immediate area next to the creek was green green green, with grass, healthy sagebrush, and big locus trees. At some places, especially where we had to bull our way through willows, it looked like we were riding in a mini-jungle. The horses stopped to grab some grass, especially Mac, who probably hadn't laid eyes on such good grass since he left Nebraska, unless you count the other day when he either hopped the fence or crawled through it and helped himself to the grass in the front yard. Floods in this area two years ago knocked out Steph and John's bridge, and here in Hart Creek you could see where some obviously pretty high and strong water carved a big channel right out of the hillside that was taller than us on our horses. Swallows love the overhanging blocky clay walls left behind for their round mud nests. The creek narrows at one spot with hills on one side, and a cave on the other. That's on private property, so we didn't go snooping around, but some lucky soul is building a little cabin back there.
We rode up away from the creek onto a little flat, and came to a gate where John got off to open it, and I got off to scratch Jose's ears, which had filled up with gnats that just seemed to hatch today, particularly in Hart Creek-bed. (When we got home, they were there too!) Steph was leaning over on Mac rubbing his neck, telling him what a good horse he is. She just loves him, he moves wonderfully, is very forward, but very light – the cowboys at Rushcreek Ranch taught him to respond to seat and legs very nicely. He does wander off by himself away from the herd at times, though, as if he's looking for something – like Nebraska maybe? I think that when we take him out for endurance trail rides, he's thinking, “Well? We keep going, and going, and going, but we never find the cattle!”
John got back on Hoss, and we moved onto the road. Jose and I were behind Mac, when suddenly, out from under Mac's legs was...
“SH**!” I booted Jose to the side, and we just avoided walking over the same rattlesnake that Mac had obliviously walked over! John swerved out of its way in the other direction, and we all stopped and turned around to watch the maybe 18” rattler – not a big one - continue slithering off the road and into a little sagebrush. I did have the instinctive urge to follow it – I always want to touch wild things – but whoa! Stopped that thought right away. They can only strike a distance of about 2/3 their body size, but I don't need to test that theory, and I've touched enough bull snakes around here to fullfill my quota of snake groping.
He never did rattle – I think maybe he was as startled as we were, and like us, he didn't realize what had happened until after it had happened. Rattlesnakes are fairly deaf, but they sense vibrations very well; maybe since we'd been standing around a while and had just stepped onto the soft road, and he'd been on the move somewhere, we were all a big surprise.
We left the rattlesnake behind and continued on the road which swung back around to Hart Creek by where an old homestead used to be, and we kept following the drainage up to where cliffs rise up on either side to squeeze the creek. Jose and the Raven had a little photo session here. From here we left the creek and headed in the direction of home, only we had to turn away from it again, to climb to the top of the mesa, to get home. Hoss hadn't been this way before, but his internal equine compass was working very well, and he was quite certain we were going the wrong way. John had to do some convincing to get him going the wrong direction, and up a steep climb to boot! Jose followed ever- agreeably behind, while Mac hung back, grabbing abundant grass. He might have just liked to stay there and eat, then find his way back to Nebraska, and I bet you his internal equine compass was working just fine, and he'd have found his way there eventually.
But we climbed up this steep ridge, which got narrower the higher we got. When we reached the top, the Owyhee Front range was once again ahead of us (follow Hart Creek up – or Bates Creek the next big drainage over – and they will take you right into the mountains), and to our side and behind us spread the whole Hart Creek drainage, with a good view down to the Snake River plain. The sunset had vanished behind gray and blue storm skies, which layered the distant mountains and mesas to the north in special shades of blue and purple. Any different time of day, any different kind of cloud cover, gives you different colors out here, and not one combination I've seen has not been new and beautiful. And every time, the beauty just about knocks me off my horse - wow, what a beautiful place I get to ride in.
Hoss was happy when we finally turned in the correct direction towards home, and Jose took the lead on the way back. We were trotting down the final road stretch to home, when some sort of commotion took place in a bush to our right. Jose and I thought it was a rabbit, and we'd already passed it so it was no big deal, but Hoss, just behind us, apparently thought it was a rattlesnake, because he leaped sideways and forward, scaring Jose, who bolted forward. Steph, behind both of us, thought it sounded like hissing.
Either way, that's plenty of rattlesnakes for me, don't need to see anymore of those.
And either way, the Raven had fun in his return to the saddle!