Sunday, August 16, 2009

Crane Mountain Lookout Ride

Today, I ventured out on the trail with a friend who is a Tevis and all around endurance veteran. In fact, she finished the Tevis in 8th place on one of the two times she has ridden and competed in the race.
I met her at her ranch in Bigfork and then we trailered to the trail head that would take us out to the Crane Mountain Overlook. Crane Mountain looms high above Flathead lake. It's steep, rugged beautiful country. We parked the trailers at the parking area , saddled up and headed up the road for the first 3 miles, an uphill climb along a gravel road until we hit the trail head that would wind us up , up and up to the overlook. It was only about 3.5 miles to the overlook once we started on the trail head but it was alot of up and down with alot of sticks, stumps , rocks and roots along the way. W e also had two narrow wooden bridge crossings over rushing mountain creeks. One month ago, the area was on fire but today , you wouldn't have known it. The forest and all it's greenery was heavy with dew, dripping and soggy from all the rain . Everything smelled so clean and renewed. There is nothing like the smell of a fresh mountain forest after a rain.
JB crossed both bridges like a champ , which I expected he might since I have done alot of bridge work on our obstacle course. The approach to the second bridge was a long steep down hill ride and the trail was rather narrow with a steep drop off to the right. Normally I would have preferred to get off and walk portions of trail like this but by the time I realized it , it was too late and there was no room to get off without putting us both in danger of coming off the trail. The recent rain caused the footing to be very muddy and slick and it had caused much of the edge of the trail to be very soft. JB nearly gave me a heart attack once when his back right foot got a little close to the edge and the trail fell away underneath us. Luckily he caught himself and we were fine but my heart was in my throat for a second!v I was rather happy to get to the bottom of the ravine, get over that bridge and scramble up the steep climb out of there.

We made it to the overlook and let the horses rest a bit before turning back. It was beautiful and if you looked straight down you could see the trees just below that had burned from the fire. As we made our way back the same way , I could sense JB was growing a bit weary from all the tough climbing. If he is tired and has to travel down hill, he gets a bit stumbly so several times I would get off and walk him to give him a break. We had a lot more down hill to ride yet and I wanted to spare him where I could.

We finally popped back out on the gravel road, and JB perked up right away. It was like he had a second wind and we walked along at a pretty good clip until we arrived back at the trailer. We rode for about 4 hours total and went approximately 10 miles, most of it uphill or downhill.

I was very pleased with JB today. He handled himself very well, even during the times when the youngster getting ponied got away from Sherrie and turned around on the trail , heading right at us! This was one of the most difficult terrain I have ever taken JB on. I can see that he definitely needs some work on being patient when he is behind another horse because he gets rushy and doesn't pay attention to the trail. He likes to lead the pack and set the pace. I was also able to see that he needs alot more time on more difficult terrain to help him strengthen and leg up.

We were both glad to see the trailer but today was definitely a good day, even if I am exhausted. Better yet, I got time to bend the ear of an endurance veteran.

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