Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Poke in the Eye With a Sharp Stick

Wednesday January 27 2016

It was probably more like a piece of hay that poked him in the eye, but it was bad enough at noon to leave Jose with a weeping, swollen eye (surely aggravated by him rubbing it). In the desert, one might immediately suspect a cactus thorn as the assailant, but the poke probably happened a couple of days ago and was likely from stemmy hay.

Veterinarian Dr Stacey Sickler, a friend from seems like eons ago, was able to come out in the afternoon; and by staining his eye, we could all clearly see a couple of scratches on the bottom corner of his eyeball. She left us with antibiotic ointment to put in his eye four times a day for the next week or two, and this spiffy pirate mask (racehorse blinkers, with strong velcro holding an eye shield in place) for him to wear.

Though he doesn't enjoy having a sore eye, Jose thinks he makes quite the dashing, swashbuckling pirate on this ocean of desert sand.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

My New Friend: The Roadrunner

January 19 2016

Walking into Jose and Smokey's pen one cool morning to clean horse poop, I was startled to see a Roadrunner hanging out on the tack room porch. I froze, wanting him to stay a while. Jose walked right by him; Smokey walked right by him. I approached Jose and scratched his neck, 20 feet from Roadrunner. Roadrunner just sat there, blinking in the sunlight.

I slipped on the other side of Jose, still scratching him, now 15 feet from Roadrunner. He didn't care.

Jose walked off, and I casually took a few steps toward Roadrunner. He didn't flinch. I walked within 8 feet of him, and sat down. Roadrunner blinked in the sunshine. I struck up a conversation with him. I think he was listening.

After a while, he hopped off the porch and walked 2 feet closer to me. He pecked a bit in the dirt, then turned his back to the sun and fluffed up his feathers, so the sun would strike his dark skin which quickly absorbs heat. I like to think he was showing off a bit for me, too.

I kept talking to him, he continued to be unconcerned, and as soon as he warmed up enough, he turned back around, and stepped toward me again, digging in the dirt. And he walked toward me again, totally unconcerned, even if I moved my hands or shifted my seat. I was conversing with and sitting 4 feet from my new Roadrunner friend.

Roadrunners are fairly common in the southwest deserts. They have a zygodactyl foot - 2 toes are directed forward, 2 are directed backward. The X-shaped footprints they leave behind are said to be used as sacred symbols used in some southwest Native American tribes to ward off evil spirits, because the X-tracks disguise which direction the bird is traveling (it throws the evil spirits off track).

My close encounter with my new Roadrunner friend happened two mornings in a row. The second day I had my little camera with me.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Death Valley Encounter - Day 3

December 30 2015

Because, what else are you going to do 2 days before a new year, besides ride!

I again rode the 50 miler my pal Jose (with The Raven of course!), with Steph on Smokey, Gretchen on Coquette.

Never known a horse to appreciate scenery more than Jose!

Steph and Smokey climbing, up and up the Slate Range, with the Panamints in the background

I'm fascinated by the Panamint Range

Climbing back down down down the Slate Range. A gnarly trail that everybody got off to walk and lead their horses

You can see a couple of horses descending the steep hill above Jose

The trail beckons

Jose gawking at the scenery again. He poses nice when he does this!

Shadow and rocks

A selfie of me videoing a selfie

And top photo by Steve Bradley, one of the best spots ever for ride photos!

Day 1 is here.

A full recap and many more photos are here:

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Death Valley Encounter - Day 1

December 28 2015

It's been some 9 years since I rode the Death Valley Encounter endurance ride. It was good to be back on some of these old rugged, challenging trails.

Though the ride no longer actually goes inside the park, the scenery is still exceptional, particularly of the Panamint Range. The old history of the area is fascinating, and the Slate Range and the Panamints (indeed the whole area around here) are dotted with abandoned gold and silver mines.

I was terrifically grateful to be riding in the winter and not the summer! We actually had cold enough morning temperatures (21* to 31*) to wake up to a couple of inches of ice on the water buckets. Days were sunny and cold, horses were fresh and strong. We rode the 50 milers on Days 1 and 3.

I rode my pal Jose, with Steph on Smokey, Gretchen on Coquette, and Peggy on Zane.

Here's a taste of some photos from Day 1:

Starting out with long shadows on a 21* morning

Climbing the Slate Range, with the Panamint Valley below and Panamint Mountains beyond

In the Panamint Valley, looking toward the Panamint Mountains

Riding along the ancient Lake Panamint, now a dry lake bed, with the fascinating Panamint Mountains beyond. 

Climbing back up the Slate Range out of Panamint Valley

Steve Bradley took this fabulous photo of us cresting the Slate Range in the morning.

Day 2 coming soon, and more photos and story at: