Tuesday, July 31, 2012

On the Trail of the Old Gold Miners

Monday July 30 2012

When it gets too unbearably hot in the Owyhee desert, you load up the trailer and head for the hills. A steep twisting road takes us up into the Owyhee Mountains, up the old dirt Silver City stage road. Even though it's graded and well maintained, it sure makes me glad I'm not a stage coach driver back in the gold rush days - and it still makes me a bit nervous with its steep grade and sharp curves. The road deposits us 2500' above the valley floor where it's a delightful 15 degrees cooler, and a hundred years older.

Karen and I ride her horses Rusty and Gil, through the streets of Silver City, 

an old mining ghost town and national Historic district, which produced some of the richest hauls of gold and silver in Idaho's history, and which served as the county seat from the late 1800's to early 1900's.

We successfully explore a new loop on some old back mining roads. We ride past many old mines - adits tunneled into the mountainsides with their white tailings scarring the slopes, and open shafts sunk straight down right on the edge of the roads. 

We ride up alongside a series of tailings and a newly-under-construction road, which are part of the Oro Fino mine, originally discovered in 1863, and now being re-mined. 

Now the Silver Falcon Mining company is sifting through 30,000 tons of tailings they've hauled down from the mines, including the Oro Fino, on War Eagle's flanks. I'd heard they were going bankrupt and so pled for permission to start leaching for minerals. They just won that request. Doesn't say what process they'll use, but the industry standard for leaching gold is cyanide, which is of course toxic to the environment. And people. One can only hope there's no leak in their liners anywhere.

According to one source, the original Oro Fino mine produced $1,800,000; according to another source, it "yielded $2,756,128 in six years, without any considerable cost to its owners." That's at the value of the dollar back then. Silver Falcon expects to recoup 6 million dollars worth of gold and silver from the tailings.

But gold fever hasn't grabbed us, and we're more interested in riding these historical trails, like this steep descent from the War Eagle saddle, and 'discovering' new sights, like this cool old mining shack. 

Note the old outhouse that perched right over the creek (!!! woe to the downhill neighbors!).

The ponies work hard, climbing 1500' to 7600', just 300 feet below the top of War Eagle peak, then scooting and slipping back down the other side, reminding us just how hard the mining days must have been, not just for humans, but for the 4-legged beasts that toiled the roads, making possible the Gold Follies and Dreams of men (and women) of the Idaho Gold Rush days.

[slide show here]

Saturday, July 28, 2012


Saturday July 28 2012

The heavens are unsettled, clouds roiling and boiling, thrusting upward into the blue sky, pluming, bulging, aspiring to thunderheads, shading gray and cobalt, boldly edging out the sun. 

They swell into rumbling threats, shedding cracks and booms. Silver spears spat from the sky shimmer in slices of sunlight, spattering hairy coats long deprived of water.

When purple clouds open up and dump rain, it is like manna from heaven to this thirsty desert ground; but Luna dislikes the alien gift from the Sky Gods. Unsettled, she whirls in agitation, seeking shelter from the hurled drops, but under the sky, there is no place to hide. Tail tucked between her legs, ears flopped back, she protests the unfairness of life.
[slide show]

She hasn't learned yet the art of stillness, of patiently waiting out the rainstorm, head to the ground and butt to the stinging drops, because it will pass.

The storm does pass, but when the next onslaught of storm clouds flings ice balls with biting disregard, even the most stoic Rain Waiters wither before the assault. The herd becomes unsettled, swirling, bolting, running from the insult.
[slide show]

And the sun chases the ice balls onward as another thunderhead builds in the west for the next round on this Owyhee summer day.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Water Boy II

Thursday July 26 2012

Jose knows how to cool down on a hot day. He sees me with a hose, and he comes up to take a shower. Sometimes I'll call him when I'm watering, and he'll come up. Sometimes he'll stand near a hose and stare at me, clearly telling me he wants a shower.

He knows how to get his whole body wet by spinning around. He especially likes water sprayed on his chest, and at least once every shower, he likes to duck his head under the stream of water.

Here he is at City of Rocks, giving himself a shower.

Love Jose!

[video here]

or link:

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Ode to Winter

Sunday July 22 2012

As I melt and disintegrate in my puddle of sweat, 

I dream of winter, where

brains don't fry

motivation doesn't wither

ambition doesn't shrivel

ice cubes in your iced tea last longer

there are no bugs bugging horses

there are no bugs that, no matter how tight you keep your doors shut, swarm your lights at night and discourage you from reading, and leave a coating of bugs on your desk (table, sink, bed) in the morning like a dusting of black powdered sugar

rattlesnakes are huddled in dens dreaming of summer, instead of laying beside trails rattling and hissing at your horse

Lightning storms don't strike fear in hearts and fire danger doesn't exist

It's too damn hot to do anything but close my eyes, and dream of winter. Please, Winter, come early!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Running With The Big Dogs

Wednesday July 18 2012

We didn't see Owyhee Super Luna for 2 weeks while we were at City of Rocks, and while she grew bigger, she didn't forget us. She whinnied a greeting when I got back.

Besides mom Perry, 1 or 2 aunts or uncles hang out with her in her big home pen. On her 10-week-old birthday, we let her out for the first time with the whole herd.

Here's how it went:

Saturday, July 14, 2012

City of Rocks: Day 4

Saturday July 14 2012

It sure wasn't hot temperature-wise today, but it was hot in a lightning kind of way! It started out with a cool overcast day, and around noon the thunderstorms hit us. Terrific downpour in camp. One lightning bolt dropped within a couple hundred yards of camp; another hit closer. Spooked horses. Two got loose (were quickly caught). Spooked people (ME!!!). Bolts dropped a couple hundred yards from riders out on trail - including the German Canadian Bates Creek Team! Rushcreek Mac, with Katrin riding bolted and reared, and was forever after shaking and jumping with every crack of thunder. He comes from the Rushcreek Ranch in Nebraska, where thunderstorms can be fierce. A while afterward, Katrin farted in the saddle (oh… she is going to kill me for saying this : ) and it scared Mac so bad he crouched down.

But everybody survived, and pretty much had a great ride. 

Here are a few pictures from the day:
Karen and Thunder - one of the 3 4-day horses on the 50's.

This junior, one of the Church kids, rode the 25 with her sponsor - bareback and with just a halter - and won! These kids know how to RIDE!

German Canadian Tie-Dye Bates Creek Team!

Endurance riders in City of Rocks National Reserve.

Anya and Jose! Twin Sisters in the background.

Katrin on Mac explaining the terrifying bolts of lightning. Anya said Jose only flinched when the bolts hit.

Above: Dave Rabe (55,000+ miles) and White Cloud (5000+ miles). They were one of the three 4-day horses on the 50's.

Friday, July 13, 2012

City of Rocks: Day 3

Friday July 13 2012

Overcast, no thunderstorms, and about 75* - couldn't ask for a better day for Day 3 of the City of Rocks ride.

Jose and Anya!

Jose and Anya!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

City of Rocks Day 2

Thursday July 12 2012

It was another hoooooooooooooot day but about 35 tough cookie endurance riders still hit the trail today. I quit looking at the thermometer when it reached 98.6*.

We had another fire/smoke scare - a cloud of smoke rose above a different mountain, and soon the smoke in the valley was quite thick. Steph had been out looking over tomorrow's trail on the ATV and came back in a panic because the smoke was so thick. We called the BLM and found out the fire was way off in Utah - just funny how smoke can make you think the fire is just around the corner.

Tomorrow's forecast is about 10 degrees cooler - hallelujah! Saturday's forecast is for 82 degrees and 60% chance of thunderstorms (eek!).

Lynne White and Otis, on Otis's first trail ride in Castle Creek State Park.

Connie and Finneas at a water stop near Bread Loaves

Up top:
Dave Rabe and Karen Chaton in Castle Creek State Park.

Day 3 tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

City of Rocks Pioneer Endurance Ride Day 1


Wednesday July 11 2012

I think we pulled it off - Day 1 of the City of Rocks Pioneer Endurance Ride. 

It was hot (it got up at least to 95.7*), some ribbons were eaten by cows (I got dropped off early in the morning, and I hiked down that same trail and replaced the missing, digested ribbons), a few people missed a correctly marked non-turn (but I learned how to mark it better), the thunderstorms skipped us today, we had only 1 pull out of about 35 starters, and despite the heat, a good time was had by just about all. Even the locals seemed happy to have us here, hanging ribbons on their trails, riding through their cow pastures.

I met the last few 50's out on trail with cold drinking water, and this evening, the "GONE SWIMMIN'" sign will be hanging at the entrance to Ridecamp, because we'll be hanging out in Durfee Hot Springs!

Here are a few photos:

Vet check at the Bread Loaves, a popular climbing rock.

Connie and her new horse Saruq at the vet check (If Finneas sees this he will be soooooo jealous).

Anya trotting out Jose at the vet check.

Horses in the distance.

Up top, the Bates Creek Team at the last water stop! German Canadians Katrin riding Mac, Anya riding Jose (she said "Wow he does like to look at the scenery!") and Katya riding Batman.

More pictures, and future videos to come here:

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

City of Rocks: Sabotaged Ribbons and Smoke!

Tuesday July 10 2012

I got dropped off at 7500 feet to hike down the trail to the Bread Loaves to confirm the trail markings for tomorrow's Day 1 (and all 4 days) of the City of Rocks Endurance ride… and some of the ribbons had been either eaten by cows, or pulled by people. 

I know cows eat ribbons (but I don't know why they eat ribbons), but why would people pull ribbons? Steve Bradley our photographer, while out scouting good picture-taking spots, discovered where some missing ribbons were: some campers had helped themselves to some and had pinned the bright colors to their camp clothes line. I mean - really? 

Now tomorrow, even though I hung out new ribbons, I have to re-hike the trail ahead of the riders to make sure the new ribbons haven't disappeared again. I would have brought my hiking shoes if I'd'a known I'd been doing so much hiking! But that's OK, because the views are spectacular, no matter how many times you see them.

Meanwhile, the fire report: We heard that the fire back home at Oreana is under control, with crews just watching hot spots. That's a great relief.

Meanwhile, here at City of Rocks, with today's afternoon thunderstorm, we suddenly saw smoke rising above the forested Albion Mountains - not far from where we started our hike this morning, where the riders will be riding. It overshadowed Ridecamp.

We called the Forest Service to ask about it, and they said they were just sending out crews to check it out. Steve rode out to a lookout in the mountains, and got a great shot of the smoke plume:

He saw a chopper and two planes flying around. Then when another thunderstorm dumped a bunch of rain in that area, a valley-full of white smoke blew our way - the kind of smoke you get from a doused fire.

A couple of crises averted today - just routine modus operandi for an endurance ride!

Monday, July 9, 2012

City of Rocks Trail Marking And... Fire at Home...

Monday July 9 2012

We're here at City of Rocks marking trail (on the ATV today!), enduring thunderstorms and a lot of delicious rain... and this afternoon I just got an email from a neighbor back home:

"Fire in Oreana - 
This afternoon there was a lightning strike near Oreana that started a fire.  It started on the south side of Hwy 78 and moved across to the north side near Rye Patch Road.  It appears all structures are safe.  The wind is blowing it away from Bates Creek. Rocky was there stopping traffic from proceeding southwest.  Hopefully the road will re-open by tomorrow and I will be able to give you an update when I get there."

Just 4 miles from our ranch.

4 miles from Stormy.

We've been somewhat frantically calling home to see what the status is.

Fortunately it sounds like the wind is blowing it away from us, and there are fire crews, dozers, helicopters on it.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

City of Rocks Trail Marking Day 2

Saturday July 7 2012

We got some stares from climbers and hikers and campers, as we rode through City of Rocks National Reserve, with our horses wearing hula necklaces

"We aren't doing this just to look cute," Connie told one gaper, "even though we are."

Today we avoided the thunderstorms while out riding - yay! 

Of course we spent the evening in the Durfee hot springs; then back at camp as the sun set, we caught a spectacular weather show: the backside of a thunderstorm, a wave of dark clouds and light clouds and golden sunlight and a bright rainbow, pushing down the storm southeastward. A swirling lightning show lit up the clouds as it got dark - far enough away that I wasn't scared!

Four more days till the ride starts!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Mark The Trails and They Will Come

Friday July 6 2012

And we're off… starting the trail marking for the City of Rocks Pioneer Trails Endurance Ride.

I'll leave out the part about the thunderstorm (lightning tends to give me a brain freeze while I'm terrified - and the lightning stayed one valley over, but the thunder was loud enough for ME to hear), and the rain we rode through (which to me was quite pleasant!). 

And Steph timed it just right so she picked us up, in the rain, at the bottom of our trail!

More to come.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The City of Rocks Journey Begins

Wednesday July 4 2012

Yesterday Regina and Kat and I hauled a 4-horse stock trailer full of stuff (John said "Pack It Like You Mean It", and we did!) to City of Rocks basecamp in preparation for our 4-day City of Rocks Pioneer Trail Endurance Ride on July 11-14. 

It was a 4-hour drive there (got stuck trying to get through Albion, where the streets were clogged with 4th of July Parade stuff). Once there, we unhitched the trailer, and put up fencing for the 8 or so horses we'll be using to mark and unmark trail, and to ride during the ride. It took us 4 hours to get back, not counting the birthday party/dinner at Virginia's that we had the luck to time just right.

Today, Steph and I are headed back to City of Rocks for good with 4 horses, and everything else including two kitchen sinks, for a couple of weeks. Judy's already on her way with 3 horses, and Regina's following on Saturday with 3 more horses.

Meanwhile, here in Owyhee a Fire Weather Watch is in effect for Friday and Saturday:







So, in addition to losing my marbles getting ready for the new City of Rocks ride, I'll be worrying the rest of my head off about FIRE back home.

Oh boy!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Owyhee 4th of July!

4 July 2012

Here on the Crick in Owyhee, we do it just a bit differently. The parade comes to us!

Happy 4th everybody!

[video here]

or link:

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

I'm a Big Girl Now

Sunday July 1 2012

Two months old and Owhee Super Luna had her first trim.

Any two people can outmuscle a 2-month foal and have their way with her - grab her, force her into a corner and overpower her into standing still and holding her feet up.

Or, you can make it easy for her to stand still and willingly have her feet picked up, held, and worked on.

You won't find any better shoers/trimmers with more patience than Linda and Mike of Perfect Balance. 

They have the knowledge, the skill, and the timing to work with pretty much any equid that needs foot work. 

Luna's been wearing a halter and dragging a lead rope for a few hours almost daily for the last month, and we've picked up her feet, though we haven't been holding them up for any length of time.

Today was Luna's first time to stand there like a big girl, hold her feet up, and have them trimmed. With Linda and Mike working together, and with only a little initial resistance from Luna, it went smoothly and quickly.

Luna gets to know Linda (you can see Luna wasn't too worried)

Luna gets to know Mike

At first Luna had a few objections for holding her foot up longer than she wanted to

But eventually, and with little objection, she allowed it to be held for the work to be done, with no fear

She even let her front feet be set on the stand

The back legs were really no big deal either

Afterwards, she didn't even run to mama to nurse… instead she stood there for 5 minutes while I scratched her, all over