Saturday, July 4, 2015

Metolius-Windigo Trail

Shar and I wanted to go riding, but it was gonna be HOT, so we picked a trail that has river and creek crossings and shade--the Metolius-Windigo trail outside of Sisters.

When I arrived, Shar had already gotten our horses out of their respective pastures, and they were grazing on the front lawn.  I had to transfer my tack from my car, where it hadn't been touched since it was loaded into the car after the Sunriver ride.  It had been nearly two weeks since I'd ridden Arya, so I planned on doing a little groundwork with her to "touch base," but it was too hot so I didn't end up doing it.  Bad horse owner.

Shar was on her own for navigating us to the parking area, since I've never been there, but after only one wrong turn (and turning the trailer around), we found a great parking spot and got the horses unloaded and tacked up.  At some point, I realized that my reins were sitting back at Shar's house in my car, but luckily she had a spare set that I could borrow.  They were YELLOW and black biothane, so they totally clashed with my purple and black, but we managed to survive somehow.

It took me WAY longer than it took her to get ready, since I had to unpack some of the stuff I'd had at Sunriver and re-organize my gear, plus wet some stuff down with the water that was currently in my water bottles before refilling them with ice water I'd brought, but we finally got on our way.

I was SO nervous, since this was my first ride after getting dumped two weeks earlier (not Arya's fault, per se--she tripped on the trail).  But I took a few deep breaths and got on.  Arya was a perfect angel.  Shar got on, and we set off down the trail.  Arya was a perfect angel.  We got to the Metolius river, a wide but pretty shallow water crossing, with shallow banks into the water.  Arya was a perfect angel, and after a quick sniff at the water, marched right in.  At the far side, we let them drink and even eat a bit.  Then we hit the trail in earnest...

Here's me in my getup for the ride:

(All photos by Shar, since my phone has begun stopping the tracker when I use the camera)

Helmet with "DaBrim" for extra shade; Frog Togs (I think?) cooling towel, wetted down, under the helmet, draped down the back of my neck (the back part got stiff when it dried out, which was weird when I turned my head); bandana (also wetted down) around my neck, protective vest to hopefully cushion any falls I have while wearing it (I was worried it would make me really hot, and while I didn't take it off to compare, I don't feel like it made me MUCH hotter than otherwise), waist pack for my phone, and three hydroflasks of water in my saddle bags.  I left the sponge on from Sunriver, but didn't end up using it.  Haven't yet done it from the saddle...a little nervous to try.  :-)

When we'd walked sufficiently far that it would normally be time to bust out a trot, I told Shar I was still really nervous, but game to try.  She, ever the voice of reason, said no need to push it and we could just walk until I did feel ready.  Awesome.

We arrived at a creek crossing, MUCH smaller than the river.  Flash took his time getting a drink out of it, and Arya was very distracted and wanted to graze.  But I kept her pointed at the creek, ready to follow Flash as soon as he crossed it.  However, when her turn came, she sniffed at the water, looked at the mud, and said "no thank you!"  I had to bust out the dressage whip, and it took a few tries, but she finally got both front feet in the water and took a few sips.  Then I encouraged her to continue onto the other side, and she didn't like the mud, so she kind of lunge-hopped a few steps, plowed into Flash, stopped, and breathed a huge sigh of relieve that THAT was over.  Heh.

 But it wasn't over--there were a few more creek crossings.  The next one was pretty straightforward, though also had a bit of mud, and she actually plowed right across that one like a champ.

The next one, though, had a log or beam-type thing across the entrance to the water, so I was kind of worried about her stepping ON it or tripping over it, but she did okay.  But then she tried to veer off to the side and plowed me into some bushes.  Not fun.  But finally she headed across the water.  On the other side, there was a LOT of mud--a few steps worth--but on the side of the muddy path was an "alternate route" of many many little logs all criss-crossed.  a disaster for a horse, so not really an option.  She kept trying to point out the alternate route, but I made her stick to the mud.  Once again she kinda plowed in Flash, but made it across alive.  ;-)

At one point, I did suggest trotting, but the trail was tight with lots of bushes (with thorns!) and branches encroaching, so it didn't really work out.  Of course doing a few strides of trotting amped both horses up a bit, but I think it was hot enough they were much more okay with the aborted trotting than they would have been on some other day.  :-)

The trail opened out onto a dirt road, a nice place to go for that trot.  Besides, my nerves were much more under control.  We had a nice trot for a couple minutes, but when we slowed to a walk, my mouth was DRY, plus we'd lost the yellow diamonds that indicated the trail.  They must've shot off on a side trail at some point and we missed it.  Oh well.  We stopped in a shady grassy spot to look at the maps on our phones, and decided to try taking roads back to the trailer, and maybe stopping at the Camp Sherman store along the way.  What we didn't realize was the the store wasn't really ON the way, but oh well.  We meandered along dirt and then paved roads (most of the way, there was a trail parallelling the paved road, a bit off the roadway itself), then met up with the trail again.  We decided to head to the river so the horses could drink up and cool off, then check the maps again to see whether we wanted to ride the store, or just head back to the trailer (1/4 mile away or so) and either drive there or to a different place to get our human treats.

Me, checking the maps on my phone.  At one point, the phone dropped, but I miraculously managed to catch it against her shoulder and NOT drop it in the water.  And yes, that's a really long stem of grass hanging out of Arya's mouth...

We decided that rather than cooling off internally with ice cream, we'd just hang out at the river, pull tack off the horses, and let them stand in the cool water while we cooled our feet too.

So we crossed the river on our horses, dismounted and untacked, took our shoes off, and led the horses into the river barefoot.  BRRRR!!!  The Metolius is COLD!  (48 degrees F)  My feet instantly "burned" from the cold.  Shar didn't seem to have as much trouble with the cold water.  But the horses REALLY seemed to enjoy it!  They drank and drank, and eventually just stood there, even dozing off a bit.  We splashed water up onto their upper legs, bellies, backs, shoulders, and rumps with our feet as best as we could.  We stayed there probably a half hour or so.

Meanwhile, I'd finished the last of my water I'd brought, and had my empty water bottle there on the log we were sitting on, getting thirstier and thirstier.  The water was SO cold, and SO clear.  And SO tempting.  I thought about it.  The headwaters were probably a half mile or so away, and there weren't that many people or horse crossings upstream between the headwaters (springs) and here...  So once the horses moved away from where the water I'd be dipping into would have come from around their legs, I went for it.  I dunked the bottle, filled it up, and drank.  Shar took a sip or two, but I actually ended up drinking a bottle and a half of river water, I think.  I'm at about 20 hours post-river-water-ingestion right now, and no effects yet...

When we'd all had enough relaxing in the cold water, we led the horses back up onto the bank, Shar and I took turns putting shoes on, and she held Arya while I put mine back on (Flash is pretty good at standing where she puts him--Arya is easily distracted by more and better food, and it's much easier to put shoes on when you don't have a 1200 pound beast tugging on a rope in your hand).  When I finished with my shoes, I took advantage of the horse-free situation to go soak my shirt in the river and put it back on wet.  Aaaah!  That felt SO good, so I took both horses and suggested Shar do the same.  She actually had a long-sleeve hooded (but well-ventilated) shirt she was wearing over a tank top, so once she managed to get her limbs into it all the way, she had even more surface area being cooled.

I led both ponies over to where their saddles were, and all of a sudden, heard a funny noise that sounds just like the groans Arya makes when she hits the ground and rolls.  Sure enough, she'd stopped, dropped, and rolled.  She's never done that while still on the lead line before, but it sure didn't inhibit her much just now.  Flash just kind of rolled his eyes at her, and I indulged her, giving her plenty of slack.  She only rolled on one side, though.  Luckily, since she wasn't soaking wet, she didn't absorb a TON of dirt, so hopefully when I tacked her up, her pad didn't get TOO filthy.  So yeah, put the saddle on, girthed it up loosely, buckled the helmet and bridle to the pommel, piled the vest and now-stiff towel on top and flopped the breastcollar over them to weight them down, and we set off for the trailer on foot.

The trailer was in sight when the vest and towel hit the ground and spooked Arya.  Oops.  I gathered them up, she gathered her wits about her again, and we managed to make it back to the trailer without further incident.  We relieved the horses of their burdens, I poured out the baggie of carrots I'd forgotten to dole out during the ride into their hay for the ride home, and we set off.  We originally planned to stop in Sisters for a little treat, but decided to just get the horses home and get ourselves a treat after they were settled in.

When we got back, I hosed Arya off till she was soaking wet, then turned her loose in the pasture.  She kept trying to get free while I untied the halter, even though she's usually very patient.  Of course, she beelined for a nice dusty spot and rolled and rolled, letting the dirt soak up all that offensive water.  :-)  Then she headed for the water trough, got a good drink, and went and rolled AGAIN.  Poor pony, being covered with that offensive water (which she loved, by the way, and even drank from the hose while I was hosing her down).

So, it was a HOT day, but worked out to be a very nice ride with a nice relaxing cool-down with our horses at the end.  Always nice to spend quality non-riding time with them.  Thanks, Shar, for introducing me to this wonderful summertime riding spot!

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