Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Moving Early

 So, when shit hits the fan, all you can do is duck or move out of the way . . . 

I have been taking lessons on Thursday night for several years now. Sometimes it moves to Tuesday or Wednesday, but we always gravitate back to Thursday. I have been riding with one of my barn mates and sharing lessons with her, because we are both working on the same things. It gives the horses a break between pirouettes and half-pass and sometimes you can figure things out by watching them in front of you.

The barn we were boarding in had a huge indoor arena with decent footing and horrible lighting. We ride outside as much as possible, but late fall, winter and spring, we have to ride inside. Its a necessity. And its why we were willing to pay $600 a month for the privilege. Mind you, that's for the stall with run, cleaning the stall and run, water, hay, safe choice grain and use of the facilities. No blanketing. No turn out. An indoor arena that leaks badly. Snow sliding off the roof of the arena. Tree branches scrapping and banging on the walls in the wind. Flooded runs and a tack room with a wall that rains water like a waterfall during inclement weather. It was impossible to ride early in the morning because the barn owner uses the indoor for turn out. They watered and dragged the arena on her schedule, which meant that some nights the indoor was wet, muddy and slick. But, we made it work for us, the hay was premium quality, and the horses seemed happy. And no one ever really wants to move barns.

On the last day of September, the barn owner gave us notice of the board increase (with no upgrade in facilities - every improvement made in the past two years we've paid for) of $100 a month. We were bound by contract to give a 30 days notice, which meant we needed to find a place within two days. Not a lot of time to work with, but we made it happen. Once we knew where we were going, we all gave notice. Thirteen horses were leaving. Eight of them went to my new barn, three of them went to a second barn and the other two went their own way. I'm not sure what the BO was expecting, but it doesn't seem like this is what she thought would happen. Instead of seeing her profit margin increase, she took a huge hit in potential income. It made her a bit surly.

Two weeks ago on Thursday, we were taking our lesson with Amanda. All of a sudden, with no warning (door!) at all, the BO yanked open one of the doors on the show barn, which shrieked horribly and scared the bejesus out of both horses. She glared into the arena and then stomped off into her side of the barn. No greeting, no acknowledgement of her poor choices. She left the door open, which her husband shut about twenty minutes later. This last Thursday, my barn mate and I went into the indoor and started our warm up. We had walked around the arena a little bit and had just started a jog when once again the door was yanked open. (No warning). This time both horses spooked pretty hard and I'm not sure another rider wouldn't have hit the ground. The barn owner stomped across the arena while we turned to watch her. Two strides from the light switches she said "I'm turning off the lights. . . . you might want to get off." Then the lights in the arena went off. My barn mate had gotten off her horse but I was still swinging down off of Ashke when the arena was suddenly in pitch blackness. I pulled my phone out of my pocket and got it turned on which helped us get out of the arena safely. 

I was beyond pissed. It was unprofessional. Reckless. Dangerous. Horrible horsemanship. And a breach of contract.

Amanda had received a text from the BO about the time we were swinging into the saddle saying that if we wanted to use the indoor at night we had to pay her an extra $20 to ride. Everyone was pretty pissed as well. There were at least five of us riding in the indoor in the evening that this would effect. The BO expected it in her Venmo account prior to turning on the lights. We were already paying a premium price for board, it was flat out extortion to ask for more, a poor business decision on her part, and just petty.

We texted the new barn owner and made arrangements to move the horses two weeks early. I took Friday off to move hay and then we moved everyone over the weekend. I will post the new barn photos next.


Monday, October 19, 2020

Crater Lakes

 After the trip to Diamond Lake, I was bit by the backpacking bug. However, there was no way I was going to be carrying 40+ pounds on my back up big mountains any more. The pack I was using was purchased in 1997, had an external frame, was heavy and didn't really fit any more. The tent weighed almost nine pounds, the camp stove was white gas and weighed almost 4 lbs. Things just needed to change. So, for my birthday, I gave myself a new outfit. 

 


This is the Osprey Rook 65. Empty, it weighs 3.52 lbs and the sales person at REI helped me get it fitted properly to my torso. I opted for an Osprey, since I have several hydration packs already, and the Rook would allow me to add the hydration pack inside. Having carried it up and down a mountain, I can say it is an exceedingly well balanced pack and balanced the weight very well. I never felt like it was pulling me forward or backward.

 

I ordered a tent off Amazon, which was on sale for 45% off. It weighs 4 lbs 2 ounces, so just about half of what the one I took last time weighed. It's a bit of a pain to set up, but once you figure that part out, the inside was very spacious. 
 
This is the best little stove and uses compressed propane, which is super efficient. It weighs less than a lb, with the fuel weighing in at 230 grams. It was about a third of the weight of the stove I carried for my trip to Diamond Lake.
 
I also updated the water filter. The one I had needs a new filter and they don't make them any more.
I really liked this one, especially since it came with a connector that will hook directly into my hydration bladder. It was quick and efficient. 
 
I also decided that my hiking companion could carry her own stuff.
The pack fit pretty good and she didn't seem to mind it at all. She carried a down blanket, her fleece lined Dover jacket and some freeze-dried dog food (and holy fuck is that expensive). The pack weighed 5 lbs fully filled.

I also changed the inflatable sleeping pad I had, thinking that the lighter weight one would work just as well (bad choice), packed a single hammock instead of the double, and didn't bring any Dr Pepper. The pack with the hydration pack filled to one liter and carrying 24 ounces of gatorade, weighed 33 pounds. I brought a light weight winter jacket (down filled that could compress), a micro-fleece top, a long sleeved shirt, thermal leggings, one pair of socks and one pair of underwear. I don't think I could lose any more weight when doing three season camping (fall night time temps) but I could have left the hammock. Since I think one of the only real reasons to camp is to be able to lay in my hammock, I don't think I would be making that decision.
 
Tonya and I, with Bernie (her dog) and Skittle (my dog) headed out early on Saturday. We got on trail about 10 am, and I was feeling pretty strong. We had pre-hiked the trail the weekend before and knew where the trail markers were and what to expect. The mental preparedness helps a lot when backpacking.
 
 
 
Skittle's only issue with her pack was the sides sticking out more than she was expecting.
She was pretty proud of herself for carrying her own stuff with her.

I was really much more excited that it appears.
I felt strong and determined.

 The first trail marker one mile in.


Most of the trail was about like this.
 

It is a beautiful hike, but parts can be very challenging.


This would be the more challenging part. One of them.
 

One of our many breaks. Skittle isn't about the selfie.
 

This is the second mile. Lots of ankle breakers. Not horribly steep.

Getting closer to the end of the hike. It's a nice overlook to take a break and rest.

Skittle was happy to rest against me. 
Before we really started climbing, we got the dogs down to the creek and let them splash and drink. 

My trusty companion just before licking the inside of my nose.
She has the fastest tongue in the west.
 

Crested the top of the trail. 3.2 miles with 1000 feet of elevation gain.
 

My tent, which I am very happy with. It was more than enough for me and Skittle and is big enough to accommodate two adults, if that ever happens again.

Really gorgeous pair of lakes. 10,900 ft high.
Took us 4.5 hours to get there. 3.5 hours of hiking and about an hour of rest breaks.
 

Just before sunset.

Definitely worth the hike.

Skittle loved her blankie and her jacket

Bernie snuggled into a down filled vest brought just for him.
 

She will lay anywhere I put her blanket.
 
So, I made a strategic mistake. I used T's inflatable pad instead of my hammock pad due to weight. What I didn't recognize was the hammock pad has "wings" and was insulated. The new pad was not. Both Skittle and I were cold, even with the fleece jacket on her. I finally had to pull her against my chest, then cover her with all of my extra clothes to get her warm. I won't make that mistake again.

Skittle suited up and ready to go.
It was 37 degrees and we could feel the storm coming in, so we headed out.

Ready to head out. 

Part of the trail I got a pic of going down. The last mile up is hard, but the last half mile is a son of a bitch. 

We hiked straight through, without stopping for a break. There were a couple of times where Tonya had to wait for me due to my careful approach to anything that might break me (loose rocks, steep steps) and Skittle was patient too. It was just as well we made it in one long hike because it was spitting rain mixed with snow as we hit the parking lot.


Two hours down. It snowed pretty good on Sunday afternoon. I'm glad I didn't have to try the rocks wet.
 
My recovery was much better after this trip. I drank better and ate better both going up and in camp. And I just think my body had started to adapt to the work, even after just a couple of trips. we were hoping to do one more adventure, but between the weather and all of the other craziness happening this month, I think I will have to wait until next spring. 

 

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

2020 Sucks

To make sense of this week, we need to go back in time and expand on some items.

In June of 2018, due to a series of unfortunate decisions on the part of our "old" barn owner, I moved barns. I moved to a barn almost 40 minutes away for a couple of reasons: 1) Amanda moved herself and her students to the new barn, and 2) we were having feed quality issues with the old barn and Ashke was losing weight. There was the additional benefit of having the barn two minutes from where Amanda lived (for blanketing, night checks on sick horses, checking on them when there were fireworks) and at the time we moved in, the board was about the same.

The physical benefits aside, there was also the benefit of boarding with women I feel like I had just begun to know. We moved into one wing of the barn and over the course of the past two years and four months, this group has become family. When we moved into the barn I already knew that my ex was having an affair. It was beyond obvious, and I suspected at that time the affair had started a couple of years prior. I didn't have definitive proof (harder to prove since lesbians have female friends that aren't lovers), however, my personal life was very solitary and lonely. The barn became my second home, and the women I boarded with were one of the reasons I was able to survive last year. One of my barn mates was my realtor, and she has become one of my very best friends. One of them is my vet and handled the spay of our three baby animals last year. One of them is a ray of light to everyone she is around, and has organized all of the get-togethers we've had as a group. Amanda is not just my trainer, but my dear friend. And one of them is the woman I ride with in lessons, since we both work on the same stuff and enjoy riding together (you can learn as much watching someone else figure out the canter pirouette as you can trying it yourself). I value and love all of them and have cherished the time spent at the barn, the moments of our lives that we share, the conversations and laughter. It's been a lifeline.

Tuesday night we lost one of the horses at the barn. He had broken his leg, had it surgically repaired, and then developed laminitis during his recovery. His owner had tried everything, but once the rads showed coffin bone rotation in both front feet, she made the decision to put him down. I didn't go to the barn on Tuesday, because they were taking care of him that late afternoon (and because I wanted to watch the debacle of a debate). Weds just after noon I got a message from one of my friends that a letter had been distributed, which she took pics of and messaged them to me.

The barn owner raised her rate for board by $100/month. 

I felt like I had been punched in the gut. Just to be clear, I am on a shoestring budget and I have no more money for board. I am very limited in my options. I couldn't afford to pay any more than I was paying now. I needed to find another place to board or I needed to sell Ashke. On top of that, we had eleven horses that we needed to find a place for, if we were going to stay together, which I didn't think would happen. I burst into tears at both the thought of losing my horse and at the thought of losing my barn family. I sent a message to my coworkers and then headed home. I just couldn't cope. 

In the two days since then, I have toured a couple of different barns, talked with a lot of my barn peeps, and just been amazed at the resilience of this group of women. We've found a place for eleven horses in stalls with runs, a huge tack room that doesn't pour rain during any storm, good lights and lots of outside space to ride and explore. And we will be paying less for the new place over the old one. 

 Most importantly, our core group will be staying together.




Monday, September 21, 2020

Diamond Lake

 So, in a fit of confusion about my actual age and level of fitness, I strapped on a backpack, loaded it up with what I considered a minimum amount of "stuff", grabbed my trusty companion dog, and headed to the back country. The backpack was 24 years old. The sleeping bag was new. The water filter was 24 years old, as was the camp stove. The tent, while a "backpacking tent" was not really light weight. Loaded, I had 42 pounds on my back. The first backpacking trip was to Diamond Lake, above Eldora, Colorado, a 2.6 mile hike with almost 1000 feet of elevation gain. Yes, I am that stupid.

Skittle was very excited to get to go. Little did she know the hell that awaited her.
 
Mapquest said it was an hour and forty-two minutes to the trailhead. We wanted to meet at 8:30, so I left about 7. It was just a little after 8 when I reached Nederland High School, the staging area for the trailhead. The officer running the roadblock directed me to get into line and wait until it was my turn to go ahead. Since my hiking companions hadn't joined us yet, that seemed like a good plan. I pulled into line and waited. My friend, T, and her three kids (A, J, and G) showed up about 8:45. We managed to move my truck to a parking space, with my stuff loaded into the back of her truck since parking at the trail head was very limited. T's truck was bigger and much more able to manage the horrible road conditions It was just after ten when we finally headed to the 4th of July trailhead, parked and loaded up.
 
Start of the trail. Skittle had already figured out "her" people and was very stressed that they were leaving without us. (We stayed with them for a week last year when I was out of the condo but not in my house yet, and she remembered them.)
 
There is no real way to make a hike that gains almost a 1000 feet of elevation gain easy or fast. It was a long, slow slog and poor Skittle took to looking back over her shoulder and bracing to help me up some of the terrain. 
 
I followed the pack for the hike. T and J were trading off handling Bernie (the Tiajuana dog they adopted a little more than a year ago). He was having issues with controlling his exuberance until we created the dog version of draw reins, with pressure between his front legs to keep him from pulling. We used parachute cord, but it worked. It was easiest to follow, since Skittle wanted to go faster than I could maintain when we were in front.

The trail was easy in some places and much harder in others.
 
This was the first waterfall we came to. By this time, J was carrying my sleeping bag, since I couldn't keep it on my bag. 
 
First waterfall. 
 
So we stopped at the waterfall to allow G to refill his water bottle, which meant unpacking a water filter and pumping. Mine was easily accessible (I expected to have to filter at some point) and I knew how to work it, since I had figured out how to use the filter before I had packed it, so doing it on the side of the mountain was pretty easy. That said, figuring out how to use the filter was pretty funny.

I read the directions standing in my kitchen, then pulled out a pot and filled it with water from the sink. I dropped the filter end into the water and started trying to pump. Nothing. I reviewed the directions, then tried again. Still no water. Aware that the filter was two decades old, I decided that I needed to check the filter tube to see if it was clear. I pulled the tube off the filter, stuck it in my mouth and inhaled. The hot water I had (mistakenly) filed the pot with hit the back of my throat and I choked (our water comes from a boiler, so just under boiling). I was standing in the kitchen, trying to inhale enough air to cough out the water that I had mis-swallowed, wondering if this is how I was going to die. I finally got my breath back and finally figured out how to make the pump work (dunk it completely into the water until the pump is primed). The boys filled their water bottles, handed back the water filter, and we headed out. 

This very cool tree was overhanging the trail, The wood was worn smooth from all of the hands that had touched it. 

This was the big waterfall about 2/3rds of the way to Diamond Lake. 
I was pretty busted by this point, and although I ate the "liquid" food I had brought, I really should have had lunch before starting the hike. 
 
The final 1/3rd of the trail was brutal. It is the steepest part of the hike at the highest altitude, and I was pausing to catch my breath every ten minutes or so. The temps had fallen, so I was sweating heavily when moving and chilled to the touch when I wasn't.
Skittle was a trouper, although we need to work on our selfie game.
 
 
 
The stream at the top. 
I was pretty much staggering at this point.
 
 
First glimpse of the lake. We had been told that Site 2 was empty and the best camp spot at the lake.
We were able to secure it and they were right. It was a very nice campsite.
 
 
When we got to the campsite we started setting up camp. It had sprinkled a bit off and on while hiking and both T and I were worried about getting shelter set up before it started raining for real. The tent was easy to set up and inflatable mats are simple now. I had also packed a super light weight down blanket for Skittle to sleep on. I used the new hammock straps to hang my hammock (and OMG, where have those been all my life?), then I got the stove set up and water heated. 
 
My little tent and hammock.

Nice little camp site.
 
I was feeling a bit of shock, stress from not eating enough and the altitude, plus just flat out exhaustion. The Mountain House Spaghetti with meat sauce was very good and I finished the double portion straight out of the bag. I fed Skittle her can of food (emptied out of the can into a quart sized freezer bag to save on trash and weight). Then I put on every piece of clothing I had brought and climbed into my sleeping bag. Skittle curled up beside me while I shivered for the next hour or so and dozed off and on.
 
During that time, T and her kids had gone to the lake. The boys were fishing and she and her daughter walked around the lake trail. When they got back I had gotten warm enough and rested enough that I realized how I wasn't making great choices. I stripped out of the clothes, removing the bottom layer that was still sweat soaked, and then dressed in the dry items I had. We then walked back down to the lake. Once I was dry and moving without exertion, I warmed up pretty quick. 
 
All the campsites are set at least 100 feet from the water, so that the water isn't contaminated by us dickhead humans. Site 2, where we camped, was farther back than that, and this was the site that greeted us as we walked toward the lake.

So the youngest boy, G, figured out how to reach under the overhang of the bank and catch fish with his hand. One of the ones he brought out, flipped out of his hand and flopped around on the ground. Skittle was very interested in the fact that something food like was coming out of the water.
 Everything was catch and release, plus not really big enough to keep.
 
Feeder stream into the lake.

Big rock I really wanted to climb on and sit in the lake, but didn't want to risk getting wet.
Colorado is under an open fire ban, plus this lake is camp stove only, so no way to get dry and warm if one gets wet.

The far end of the lake.
 
After watching the fish tickler catch numerous fish with his hands, we headed back to camp. I cooked another freeze dried meal and ate about half, feed Skittle some cookies, and listened to the kids laugh and joke with each other in that way that only sibs can do. Once meals were eaten, we had to pack up the food and trash and put them in the bear safe.
 
What is a bear safe? It is a container designed to hold victuals and food contaminate trash that bears can't get into. There was a warning on the website saying that the bear in the area of Diamond Lake had learned how to get food that was hung up in the tree and that a bear safe was the only option. When T told me to get a bear safe, I ordered the cheapest one on Amazon that would be there before Friday.
 
This is what I got. Empty it weighs 3 lbs.It's made of super durable plastic without seams that bear could get his claws into. 
 
Once dinner was eaten, all of the dishes, packaging, trash and wraps needed to be packed into it and the screws tightened. T's was a little shorter but bigger around and about the same weight. It's big enough it could hold a week's worth of food for one person, but it didn't fit as well as it might have in the pack that I currently have. We got everything sealed up and walked the containers across the meadow behind us to set them at the edge of the treeline more than 100 ft from our camp. I heard the bear roll T's container (she had a couple of metal spoons in hers) at about 4 am. We gathered the safe back up the next morning at least 100 feet from where we had set them out. They did their job though, since the bear didn't come into camp and didn't get into the food. 

The night was rough. I have a real hard time sleeping on the ground and I couldn't get my head to shut up. I finally, toward dawn, started repeating the mantra from Teen Wolf  "What cannot long remain hidden? The sun, the moon, the truth." I think I slept for a while then. My sleeping bag was warm, but Skittle was cold. She spent the night curled against me and I made sure the down blanket was both under and over her. Otherwise, I could feel her shiver in long slow waves. If we are going to continue backpacking, I need to get her a pack so she can carry her own food and clothing. She didn't even bark when the bear was playing boce ball with the bear safe.
 

 
Diamond Lake early in the morning, getting water for breakfast.
 
First thing in the morning, the boys went fishing. J and I went to the lake to filter water and then back to cook breakfast. The breakfast meal wasn't as good as some of the other meals I tried, but it was food. Skittle ate her morning can of food, and I repacked my bag. T and I had spent a lot of time talking about the options I had available with the improvements made in light weight camping gear. I think I need to decide if Skittle will be a regular companion on these outings (I really loved having her with me) and if so, can she pack her own gear? Otherwise, I would try backpacking with the hammock, rain fly, insulating pad and new sleeping bag. Of course, I have to know ahead of time that there are trees appropriate for hanging a hammock. Much to be explored.

We got camp broke down and packed up. We were ready to hit the trail by 10.
 
 
The seven of us ready to head back down the mountain.

I took it a little slower than the rest, although they were awesome about waiting on me.
Skittle knew when we got to rough sections of trail to stop and watch my progress as we moved down one step at a time. She was sooooo good, didn't pull and made sure I was okay.

Prettiest waterfall of the trip.
We ate snacks here and took a bit of a breather. The only uphill section of the trail came immediately following this spot.

Colorado aspen change overnight.
Some great color on our trip home.

T's oldest took this pic. 
 
Four hours hiking in and two hours hiking out including all stops and breathers. I hyper extended my knee slightly toward the end of the hike, otherwise came back in one piece. I have a good idea of what decisions I need to make and what I need to replace if I want to do this as a hobby. I was pretty proud of myself for not quitting, not crying, and still managing the 40+ lbs I carried. I do need to lighten the pack if this is going to be a regular thing.
 

Skittle spent the rest of the day and evening like this.
 

Almost at the bottom of the trail, completely wiped out and ready for a nap.
 
Overall, today I can feel the exertion in the back of my legs (hammies and achilles) with the biggest soreness in the lower leg just below the calf muscle. My shoulders are also bruised, especially where the strap of the pack pressed over the strap on my bra. I don't feel as bad as I expected to given the amount of effort it took, so I'm not as out of shape as I expected. I definitely use different muscle groups to hike vs riding, however.