Saturday, September 21, 2013

Storm Wrack

We did a trail ride today. It is the same ride we've done more than a dozen times, but today it was like doing it for the first time. There was storm wrack and flotsam from the flooding and rain all over the trail. In some areas the ground was etched with 10" deep rivulets in the sand and gravel where the water washed down. In other areas, the grass was swept flat from the water that washed over it and in at least two places the trail was impassable at one point. One of those places was a bridge. The water had washed around the footings, taking trail and trees out in it's rush, but which the City of Arvada had fixed first before working on other stuff.

Cali and Ashke were both very forward. I think we are almost to the point where we could trot and canter the circuit and still have fairly fresh horses at the end of our ride. We traveled pretty quickly where we could, but some parts of the trail were so washed out it wasn't safe to canter, or even trot, for that matter. The long, downhill segment next to the road and the Frisbee golf park was washed away, deep and clinging in some spots, etched with deep trenches in others. At the end of that section, the road dips and there were road closed nets strung up across the trail. N and I decided to go around and see why they had closed the trail.

There was a fence and a couple of trees that had washed out, stretching the fencing across the road. We played with the idea of moving the fencing or flattening it down, but there was no way I was going to try to walk Ashke over it, especially since there were other ways we could go. We turned and went under the bridge and up onto the other side of the road. The berm there was very wide and gave us a great space to trot up the hill to the top, where we crossed back over. We also discovered the trail goes alongside a golf course and winds farther back into the neighborhood. We may need to explore that path one of these days.

At the top of the hill, we crossed the road again and headed toward Tucker Lake. J and T decided to take a brief rest so N and I continued toward the long hill up. As we were leaving the lake, Cali got really spooky, which was kind of a theme for both horses today because of all the changes in the trail. N turned to try and see what was spooking her and we discovered a very bright, pink girl child chasing us up the hill. N did the proper thing and gave her some pointers on the proper way to approach a horse and I dismounted (Ashke's not crazy about small children) to let her come and greet them. She asked for a ride. We politely declined and suggested her parents take her to a barn and get her a lesson if she wanted to ride. After a couple of minutes we sent her back to her parents and set off again.

When we got to the bottom of the hill, neither Cali or Ashke was in any mood to go quietly up: this hill is one of their favorite places to race and race we did. At the top we stopped and waited for J and T. Then T took off up the long hill. We walked up past the boggy part (there is still so much moisture and standing water in places) and then Cali moved in front of Ashke and galloped up the hill. I let Ashke go, but I was fighting him the entire way. When Cali is in front all he wants to do is race. We pulled up and N asked me why I didn't just let him go. I told her I was afraid he wasn't ever going to stop. (I meant that he would keep racing until he had definitely won and although that might be fun on a flat track, it's not really something I'm happy about where we are riding). N told me that all I had to do is sit back, tighten my knees and ask him to slow down and he would. (She was talking about me letting her get out in front and then cantering Ashke up to her. Except that Ashke hates being left and gets very vertical when that happens. Think Lippizzan capriole.) She suggested that I give him his head and then I would understand what she was talking about. She moved Cali into the grass and took off at the canter.

In her defense, N was expecting that I hold Ashke until she stopped and then ride up to her.

As soon as Ashke hit the grass he left the area at a dead run. This was a source of great entertainment to T as I went racing past him with a look of utmost terror on my face, reins clenched in one hand, holding the saddle in the other, trying to steer Ashke around the ground terrors waiting for us. There is one place where the road curves to the left and the two foot of mown grass veers with it. We went straight ahead. The grass is knee high and spotted with big yellow bushes and yucca plants, which Ashke delights in jumping, still at a dead run.

We caught Cali.

She took exception and shot both hind feet at Ashke as we streaked by, who responded with a double hoof kick out back. N was shouting that we were too close and I shouted back that I had no control. Ashke was going to win; hell, high water and rocks be damned. N realizing I was on a run away, slowed Cali and at that point Ashke began listening again. We stopped. I was laughing and gasping for breath, while N kept trying to apologize. We agreed that my "letting him go" wasn't a good idea and that I was right when I said he wasn't going to stop. N had no idea we were gaining on her, but Cali knew, and the double hind leg kick at us was a surprise. Then the kid joined us and laughed at me, doing screwy faces to show N what I looked like as I streaked past him. Both horses were really up and had no desire to slow down. We did give them a little bit of a break, while I checked Ashke's boots.

So hard to tell we had just ridden over a mile at a canter up a fairly decent grade. Boy, they love being out on the trail.

Can't tell I just had a terror filled ride of my life, can you?

It took a little bit to settle them down and get their heads back in the game, since we were going downhill for the next mile.

Something strange happened about then. The bicycle riders became very polite, slowing and asking if they could pass before going past us. Several of them got off their bikes and stood at the very edge of the path until we had gone by. At least one guy went completely off trail to bypass us. N was amazed, since at least part of our ride is taken up with educating the riders on the dangers of not letting us know they are there, or who has the right of way on the trail. They were so polite. So cautious. We thought it was our lucky day.**

When we got to the bottom of the hill, this is what we found.

The stream bed was destroyed. Further East, it widened into a fifty foot swath that took out the sidewalk around Arvada Res. There were huge trees that were uprooted and swept downstream.

This stream bed was maybe four feet across before our storm; it was at least thirty feet wide at this point. The bank to the right of the photo was at least fifteen feet high.

Thankfully the bridge was still there and they had filled in the huge gaping hole cut by the stream (raging river) between the trail we were on and the bridge. The dirt path they had filled in was at least twenty feet wide. It would have sucked to have had to turn around and back track to get home.

We trotted most of the way home from this point forward.

***Again, every time a bike rider came by they were very respectful, pulling off to the side or waiting for us to tell them it was okay. Even the people walking with their dogs were very polite. When we finally caught up with J and T, T asked how the bicyclists were behaving. We said that they were being amazingly polite when they came up to us, stopping and waiting. Both J and T busted up laughing.

Come to find out, they were telling people they passed, "be careful, those horses kick".

We decided we needed to have them ride in front of us all the time. At the last bridge before the neighborhood, T passed a biker going the other direction at a very fast rate of speed. The trail takes a 90 degree turn and then crosses the bridge. We were just entering the bridge when the fast biker would have hit the corner on the other side, except T told him there were horses that kick and the guy braked hard. He was also very polite going past.

We made it home in one piece.

I'm not sure I like the new display on iOS 7. And I forgot my phone, where I have the app settings so I can see what I want. J downloaded this after we were on the trail, so we get what we get. And J carried it with her, instead of me carrying it on the horse, so the map isn't exactly right, but at least there is some information.

The total ride was probably closer to eight, but who's really counting, right?