This year was a little bit different…plans got sufficiently gremlinized that I ended up not crewing for any one specific person, but rather ran around doing some Tevis webcast photography, and catch-crewing (aka “throwing ice cubes at people”) down at the Chicken Hawk (mile 64) vet check.
I also got in some excellent riding time and trail exposure, and a much-needed confidence boost and self-validation.
To start, I flew in to Sacramento on Wednesday afternoon. Lucy picked me up and we headed straight to Auburn for the pre-Tevis barbecue. Kaity met us there, and we did our annual round of “eat food, catch up with people, and tour the barns.” I’ve been existing in a somewhat introverted, hermit-y stage of life right now, with the majority of my human contact being via email or over the phone…and the in-person contact with friends and people of my endurance tribe was exactly what I needed. Nothing like the therapy of good friends and some saddle time.
Since we didn’t have a significant amount of pre-ride prep to do, Kaity and I were able to do things like get in a morning run:
It was a pleasant surprise to realize that I didn’t completely die tackling the rolling hills after doing nothing but flat surfaces for the past several months, and very little by way of running. Small victories, right?
And then we got to go ride. Since I’m slated to take Lucy’s Roo (aka “my favorite little grey Arabian gelding”) to the Tahoe Rim Ride next month, I wanted to get as much saddle time in with him as I could during this trip. So we loaded up and headed down to Auburn, with the plan to ride from the Tevis finish at the fairgrounds up the trail to the Lower Quarry check and back, about 12 miles round trip. I’ve ridden from the finish to just past No-Hands Bridge before, but never crossing Hwy 49 and going up to Quarry.
The trail is lovely — lots of single-track, plenty of shade, and even some water crossings. Roo was in a bit of a spooky mood (he always has to test me) so I was doing some pretty engaged, active riding…but for whatever reason, even with his spooks and shenanigans, I’m very comfortable riding him. He reminds me very much of a just slightly larger, spookier, gelding version of Mimi, and 98% of the time, his spooks either make me laugh or swear, but rarely scared.
On the river road heading to Quarry, Roo gave me a very impressive hard-stop-and-partial-spin spook…the kind that I was pretty much resigned to not being able to save…and then my knee ran into the pommel of the Specialized saddle I was trying, and all was well, and Roo didn’t get the inglorious title of my first catch-ride to offload me. Normally I really like my English saddles, but the little extra security of the Western-style endurance saddles may be a good thing right now (and maybe always on something that may be a little more spooky and/or unknown).
The river road is wide (albeit with a drop-off edge on one side, but everything has a drop-off of some sort around here), and is a good trail to be able to “let down” mentally, provided you have a horse that isn’t fresh and looking for things to spook at. :P (Translation: On ride day, this is a good “mental break” section for you and the horse, since it’s in the dark, and they’re probably not interested in spooking after 94 miles.) Since it was hot, with no shade, we trotted all the way to Quarry, then rode past the check a short ways to the now-closed Mountain Quarries Mine.
There was a nice cool breeze blowing through, so we hung out in the shade and breeze for about 15 minutes, getting a snack and cooling off, before heading back down the trail. It was a repeat of heading out — moving out when we could, random Arab spooks, and committing as much of the trail and specific turns and intersections to memory as possible.
It was sufficiently warm when we got done, and a quick stop in to the 7-11 on the way home netted me heaven in a cup — a Coca-Cola slurpee, which I haven’t had for years…but sounded perfect at the moment. Logistics for how to obtain one and still keep it slurpee-esque for a vet check might have also been discussed. ;)
Swimming, grocery shopping, and dinner and drinks on the back porch while discussing the who’s who on the Tevis rider list rounded out the day.
Friday morning, Lucy and I headed up to Robie Park to watch the vet-ins and for me to do my usual “connect with the Renegade riders.” I got some photos, remembered how hard it is to breathe at 7200′, and obtained an impressive Robie Park dirt tan-line on my legs after tromping around for just a couple of hours.
Friday evening, half a dozen of us that would be doing various and sundry webcast and/or crewing/hanging-out duties the next day gathered for Mexican food and margaritas. Half a dozen endurance ladies do not need margaritas to have a good time, and much hilarity was had before we packed it up and headed out to the Squaw Valley area to truck camp for the night. The plan was to be at the Hwy 89 crossing when the riders went through (roughly 6 miles into the ride) and get video of them going by. (I did this in 2012 as well, and this year, the normal video-taker, Crysta, was riding!)
The bench seats in the cab of crew cab Chevy Silverado are not designed to promote comfortable sleeping. Just saying. I was actually glad for 5AM to roll around and for an excuse to finally just fully wake up and get on with the day. A corner 7-11 took care of the immediate morning coffee needs, and we made a beeline down Hwy 89 to the point where the trail comes down the side, crosses under the highway next to a bike path, then comes up and runs along the overpass bridge (concrete barrier between the vehicles and the trail) before picking up the single-track trail that climbs up and away from the highway.
The first riders were there just before 6:00, and the field was through by 6:30. Once we wrapped up there, we headed to Auburn, with a brief stop at Starbucks for more coffee and breakfast, then onward to Robinson Flat.
I circulated around RF, taking pictures of riders coming in, and vetting, and leaving. It was interesting to stand and watch continuous vetting and a number of different horses going through, not just the extreme focus and concentration that comes from crewing a specific rider and concentrating on just getting them through the ride.
We stayed until most of the riders had left, and then gathered our things and headed back down for a brief stop in Foresthill to gather some things (a few people had asked us to haul ice in to Chicken Hawk for cooling), and then we headed back out to the Chicken Hawk check. At this particular check, you have to park about a mile out and then walk in to minimize traffic.
The front-runners came in about 3. At 64 miles in, and the two largest canyons behind them, the horses all look pretty tired at this point. Front, middle, or back of the pack…I saw very few that were perky and sparkly at this stage…but they’re also only 4 miles away from another hour-long hold at Foresthill and the revival of nightfall. (Even the front-runners will end up spending at least a few hours in the dark.)
I ended up helping probably half a dozen friends and acquaintances at this check — we had lots of ice, so were able to generously dole it out and create buckets of ice water for sponging. When the time comes for me to do this ride, I will definitely be sending a crew member in with ice at this point, because it makes such a huge difference in cooling. The water at the check isn’t always cold, especially the later the day gets and the longer it sits out, and I’m shocked by how much body heat horses can hold/generate, so the ability to cool them down quickly and have them stay cooled down is invaluable.
We stayed at CH until about 7:15, then went back to FH to drop off people’s coolers, hang out for a few minutes, and then decided that the need for dinner, after munching on snack food all day long, overruled everything else. A stop in to the McDonald’s drive-through (because trust me, after a day of Tevis, you are not fit to actually go anywhere that would be considered “in polite company” since you have horse mash on your shirt, sunburn spots where you obviously missed with the sunscreen, your legs are the color of red Sierra foothills dirt from the knees down, and your socks are filthy enough to stand on their own power) netted us dinner, and the Kaity and Renee headed to the fairgrounds to watch the finish while Lucy and I went down to No Hands Bridge.
That was quite exciting to watch the front-runners come through at that point. Karen Donley came through within 5 minutes of us getting there. She had a bright headlamp that lit up the trail, and the came trotting down the trail, around the turn, and then tore off at a gallop across the bridge.
Not 3 minutes later, the Fords come down…no lights on their horses, no headlamps on themselves. There was a brief pause to slosh water on their horses, then they too went galloping across the bridge, and we all waited to see what the outcome was…would they catch Karen in those last 4 miles?
Ultimately, no, they wouldn’t, and Karen would end up coming in 19 minutes ahead of them.
I actually had cell service at that point, and had texted Kaity and Renee with a heads up of what was happening and to let us know the second someone crossed the finish line. We stayed for the first 6 horses to get to the bridge, then headed back to the finish to watch the rest of the top ten come in before finally wrapping things up around midnight and heading back to Lucy’s.
It was really sweet to get a real shower, a real bed, and a solid 6 hours of sleep before going to watch Haggin Cup Sunday morning. This year, all of the Top Ten horses showed for it (there have been years where a couple of them have elected not to show) and the Haggin Cup ended up going to Lisa Ford’s horse GE Cyclone.
Final results were 165 starts and 87 finishers.
Monday rolled around…and this was the day I had been waiting for. I was going to get to see the California Loop, or “Cal Loop”, the trail after Foresthill. (Known for its narrowness, switchbacks, and drop-off trails above the American River…most of which ends up being done in the dark. Fun times.) I’ve been wanting to see the trail for a while now…but at the same time, I was also quite nervous, as I’ve not exactly been the bravest and most confident soul of late. Thursday’s ride had helped in that department, but this has been somewhat of a slow, insidious process of demoralization and loss of confidence…it probably won’t all come back overnight.
However, I was riding a horse who has ridden it multiple times, being escorted by two other horses and riders who have ridden it multiple times, both in training and in the ride.
Since, despite the name, Cal Loop is a one-way thing, (well, you can make it a loop, but it ends up being something like 38 miles) Lucy’s hubby Patrick was our trailer shuttle driver, dropping a car at the end, driving the trailer up to the start, waiting for us to head out, then dropping the trailer at the end and taking his car home.
We started off pretty much right in town, outside the Foresthill cemetery, versus further down at the mill site (which is private property and only open/accessible on Tevis events), and I was treated to the “full Foresthill experience” including trotting down the road to get to California Street and the trail access.
As for Cal Loop? I loved it. It’s an active ride, and there’s a few parts that made me make sure I was really sitting up and staying balanced, and Roo made me squeak a few times when he was tailgating too close and would trip on a rock <scowl>, but overall, I thought it was amazingly gorgeous, and I have every confidence that by the time I get to Tevis with my own horse that I’ve put a lot of training and ride time and miles on, I will not have a problem with trusting that horse and trotting onward through the dark.
Apparently I’m in quite the habit of leaning to the right…which doesn’t actually help when the dropoff is to your left. ;) I’m very strongly right-side dominant, but this has gotten to the point where if I’m centered, I actually feel like I’m sitting off to the left. Riding with others and having it pointed out was quite helpful, and something I need to concentrate on addressing.
All told, we did about 22 miles. We didn’t follow the ride route exactly, since there’s no way to safely cross the river without it being lowered. So we went about a mile down the trail towards the river before turning around and heading up Driver’s Flat road to where the trail was parked. Roo impressed me to no end with his very grown-up marching up the road…which is about an 1800′ elevation gain in 3 miles, all uphill, and I’m feeling really good about tackling Tahoe Rim with him next month.
Sadly, even Tevis vacation has to end sometime, and I wrapped things up and headed back home on Tuesday. Sad to go, but I was also missing the dogs, and my very own pony. It was a fabulous trip, I learned quite a bit, added to my own personal “notes for Tevis” file, and got some much-needed saddle time in…and some very good downtime and time spent with my friends and endurance “tribe.” Sometimes it’s really, really tough to live such a distance away from so many of my really good friends, so I have to make the most of the times I do get to see them…and be thankful that there’s easy communication via things like texting and Facebook.
And that’s a wrap on Tevis…until next year…