Yesterday we made that happen.
I spent several hours looking at maps and calculating distances. I decided we needed to take the shorter route on trail (4.5 miles) to the Colorado trail to the dam at Waterton Canyon. I think K wanted to do the longer trail, but I didn't think we would have time. The longer trail is 9.5 miles and I didn't expect to be able to travel faster than about 3 mph. The trail is all singletrack and winds through the forest similar to the Colorado Trail. I figured if we took the shorter route it would be a 6.5 mile ride to the top of Waterton Canyon and take about two hours. I calculated that J could drive the truck around and park, then ride up the canyon in two hours. If all the things worked, we would come together by the Saratosa Dam at the top of Waterton, then ride down the canyon to the trailer. Total would be about 12 miles.
When we got to the barn I discovered that my stupid horse is continuing to paw his front left foot against something (we have looked and looked and can't figure it out) and rasping away the side of his left hoof. He's taken enough hoof wall off that there is a hole through the side of his hoof and you can see the sole. We noticed the issue about a week ago and thought he was doing it in turn-out, so we changed his turn-out location. When I went out to change his bandage on Friday night, the hoof was worse. I talked with the barn manager on Saturday morning and we are both at a loss. He is going to completely lame himself if he continues on. I am going to get some line chalk (use it to mark a straightline for construction - it's bright blue) and put it on his hoof, to see if we can figure out what he is doing.
He's still sound for now, so we headed out. We picked up K and headed south (over an hour drive) to get to the trailhead. When we got there we found a dozen horse trailers lined up in the parking lot and along the road. There was a local riding group (Backcountry horsemen?) doing trail maintenance on Indian Creek and the Colorado trail in preparation for riding season. They remove downed timber, cut back low hanging branches and rebuild trail where needed. We rode behind them by several hours and were the beneficiary of a lot of removed tree trunks. We were able to squeeze the trailer into the lot and unload. I tried to get boots on Ashke's front hooves, but it was a no go. His feet are really flared out on the inside and I think his feet are bigger than they were a year ago. I know there are spots that are rocky on the trail, but I also knew we would be going slow, so we rode anyway. Additionally, the park ranger gleefully told us three bears had been sighted on the trail but couldn't tell us the location. And I had forgotten by Bear bells at the tack box at the barn. I spent most of the ride chanting "3 bears, 2 bears, 1 bear, no bear" in my head as we rode. No bears. Thankfully.
K and I got ready, put pelleted feed in our stowaways for mid day meal for the horses, then climbed aboard and I kissed J goodbye. I think she acts like a safety blanket for both myself and Ashke, because he did not want to leave without her. He spent the first mile and a half looking back over his shoulder for her. After that mile and a half, he got a lot more forward. Although still pretty wary of shadows and downed timber.
I took pictures of everything but the watercrossings.
The trail was so incredibly beautiful.
We went down for the first two miles
A year ago, we purchased a Garmin Viveo for T to use when running. I decided that I was going to try it for the ride, since my phone loses gps signal in the mountains. I really needed a way to track both distance and time if we were going to meet J when I expected to. It worked great!
Lots of green
From 2.3 miles to 2.7 miles, we climbed.
There was some pretty technical rock we had to maneuver through.
We came to a ridgeline that extended for about a mile.
For some reason, Ashke would suddenly shift gears and trot or canter a slope.
Mostly canter on the up and trot on the down.
There seemed to be no rhyme or reason, but since I was letting him set the pace, we went with it.
Most of the trail was sand or soft packed dirt.
There were stretches of rock though.
This was the highest elevation point of the ride.
The views were spectacular
I dismounted to fix Ashke's front leg guard and then we pressed on.
There was more climbing, but not as steep or as rocky.
There was one place in the trail at 3.5 miles in where there was a slab of rock that needed to be ridden down. We opted to step off and let the horses figure it out on their own without being on their backs. Ashke walked down the face without a single slip. Eddy followed. We found a rock and remounted.
So very serene.
About four miles in K asked about lunch, but I had planned on eating when we met J. She was pretty famished so I pulled a bag of trailmix from a pouch I could reach. We each had a handful (not sure why not more - I tend to not feel hungry when I ride) which held us over until we got to the meeting place.
After a final climb, we hit the Colorado trail at exactly 4.5 miles and about an hour and a half of riding. We were averaging 3 mph and running just a little behind if my distance calculation was incorrect.
The most southern end of Waterton.
We reached Sarasota dam about three minutes after Tia and J got there.
The timing could not have been better.
We ate lunch at the dam (it was pushing two in the afternoon and we were hungry) with J and Tia, then headed back out. Ashke refused to leave without J. He was dragging his feet and looking back over his shoulder until J got out in front of us. Then he lined out into his running walk and just ate up the terrain. He has a 4.3 mph walk when he gets going.
We did some trot but mostly walked the canyon. I was worried about his feet and his sore leg and didn't want to push.
One of the only pieces of ground safe for me to canter on.
Eddy took a side trail, since K was working on getting him to go away from Ashke.
Ashke got very nervous and up. We did leg yields across the road until he decided walking was okay.
Grass area filled with holes. Eddy and Ashke reunion after a full five minutes apart.
J had parked at Waterton Canyon parking lot instead of Chatfield, which made the ride 12.25 miles. I was a little disappointed when she first told me, but pretty happy I didn't have to ride an additional 3.5 miles when we got to the trailer. Riding up and down hills is much more demanding, even at the walk, than walking on the flat. I need to get back into shape.