Sunday, July 28, 2013

Of Horses and Humans

Rocky Mountain Penstamon
Returned late last night from the utterly insane experience of the Chief Joseph Trail Ride. An annual event where 160 owners of registered Appaloosa horses spend a week navigating their way along 100 miles of stunning back country trails that most humans will never ever experience. It is a sight to behold.

Indian Paintbrush
Imagine, if you can, towering, jagged mountain peaks stretching toward a turquoise blue sky. Fields of stunning wildflowers, waving in a gentle breeze. Deep, green canyons with fierce, noisy rivers crashing against the rocks.

I’m asking you to imagine this because my traveling companion managed to lose my camera the day we arrived in camp. 

The kick off to a week of hilarious drama that could be a highly entertaining made for tv movie.

Sego Lily
Double Trouble!
I was invisible. I don’t curl my hair, slather on tons of make up or weigh myself down with 20 pounds of cowgirl bling ~ aka rhinestones. And, therefore, I don’t exist.

This year, I traveled with twin 50-year-old (read: aging) rodeo queens who did just that, both competing for the attention of the same man. 

Pouting on the sidelines was the rejected ex-beau who’d waited a whole year to see twin #1 again. When she barely glanced in his direction, the special ice cream [that he'd brought for her] went sour and so did his attitude.

Fish, the only attractive single man on this fiasco of a trail ride, spent his week chasing after an 18 year old girl from Germany, who was easily young enough to be his daughter, and seemed quite anxious to go home.

Now that is not nearly enough drama to keep us yahoos occupied.

For good measure, we hired a low-functioning adult to drive our rig (RV + Horse trailer) from camp to camp. I'm not trying to be mean, here, or insulting. He was my favorite person on the trip! But, it took me the entire week to figure out how to communicate with him. "No, no, no, please don’t turn that generator off until the coffee pot is done percolating." He hears: turn the generator off. And, there you have it. Early mornings. Bitchy people. No java to ease the pain.

These are the times that try men's women's souls. Each morning at dawn, he would lecture me on how coffee is bad for you ~ all the while he’s working on his 2nd Mountain Dew.

Geez. I almost forgot to bitch about the other member of this ill-fated Donner Party. We brought along the most high maintenance California girl I’d ever met. She could not be bothered to feed, water or even saddle her own horse because she was having ‘a low energy day.’

Good times. (Are you laughing? I hope you're laughing, because I am. :)

Sweet Sable, resting in the shade.
I’m like a ghost on these rides. I saddle up my beautiful Appaloosa and as soon as nobody is looking, we pull away from the madding crowd and trot along the sidelines, just myself and Sable, immersing ourselves in the spectacular beauty that surrounds us.

We keep our eyes peeled for the secret observers who witness this ride: hawks soaring up above, cautious deer hiding in the brush, curious coyotes doing the same darn thing. Speedy antelope put fast miles between themselves and our thundering hooves. A terrified little bunny trembles under the sagebrush, trapped by 160 riders on horseback, cantering to the top of the ridge, flattening the ground surrounding his home.

Cellphone shot of us riding into Sunlight Basin.
On the upside, my super-fantabulous Appaloosa horse logged a hundred miles, in 5 hard days, through Sunlight Basin, with nary a temper tantrum. Perhaps she observed all the human temper tantrums and decided to give this weary cowgirl a much-needed break.

Riding into camp.
Earning my blonde hair:
I almost saw a bear! Turned out to be a cow. And, the whole time I was up there, I thought I was in Montana. Turns out I was in Wyoming. Whateva.

Lots of people have asked why I don't intend to do this ride again and ~ surprise, surprise ~ it is not because of the crazy ass human drama. I mean, really, without those shenanigans I'd have nothing to blog about! The Chief Joseph Trail Ride changes location every year, on their trek from Oregon to the Canadian border. For the next two years, they'll be riding across the hot dry plains of Montana where we'll spend as much time fighting with rattlesnakes and grasshoppers as we do with ourselves. Sable and I are moving onto greener pastures.

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Chief Joseph Trail Ride ~ 2013

Into the wild...
And, we're off! Like a herd of turtles. I guess that sounds silly but moving 180 spotted horses down a path is not so easily done. After Monday morning, we figure out who's fast, who's slow and la dee dah!

Yours Truly riding my horse, Sable, with Kirk and Snuffy.
It is a marvelous vacation ~ we anticipate this for 6 solid months. Even though, it is a hard, hard gig. Every moment out there is well worth the effort. It's called the Chief Joseph Trail Ride. It celebrates a defining moment in history. AND it benefits a whole lotta kids who need our help.

Janet and Phantom posing in front of the giant buffalo herd.
The only horses allowed on this ride are registered American Appaloosas.*  Huh? The best way to figure that one out is to look for the spots on the horses behind. Appaloosas are known for their delightful spotted coats.

Check out the near identical spots on our two black horsies. That black and spotty look is actually quite rare.

This is my 3rd year on the ride. This is also my last year doing it ~ and, so I'm feeling a tad wistful this evening. While it is so much fun ~ it is the most difficult ride I've ever done.

Seriously? You don't have a valet to carry this bag?

If you've ever been car camping, then you know that it's amazing how much stuff you have to pack. Imagine that with horses... Like small children, you have to pack everything for them, too.

And, every morning, you pull up stakes and move on to a new place to settle down for a night. We will ride for 20-25 miles on any given day. The horses don't care. They were built for endurance. My butt? Not so much. :)

Early morning water crossing.
Half the fun of doing this ride is meeting up with folks you haven't seen since last year. I dearly love this cult world of spotted horse lovers. IF you are a horse person, then you know that we search far and wide for a gentle spirit. That is why I am so enamoured with Appaloosas, such a strong, calm, easy-going horse.

Wild Fireweed
My days in a the saddle deliver some delightful discoveries! In these wild lands, I see wildflowers we only view in books. So rare. It's a huge delight to see them. Hop off the horse. And, photograph these amazing beauties ~ who survive on natural rainwater, alone.

Wild Gentian
And, here's a whole bunch more!

* This ride commemorates the flight of the Nez Perce Native Americans, seeking refuge in Canada. It takes 13 years to complete the Chief Joseph Trail Ride, spanning western wilderness from Oregon to 40 miles shy of the Canadian border, where they were forced to surrender to the US Calvary.

** The Nez Perce Native Americans bred these stunning spotted horses for agility and endurance.

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Monday, July 15, 2013

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day ~ July, 2013

Welcome to my wild side. This is the chaotic mess o' color that greets the folks driving past my front door. I call it the Big Rock Garden ~ and you can easily see why. That eyesore of a boulder is the size of a Jeep Wrangler. (I can only show half of this garden in a photo large enough so you can appreciate the bright bloomers.)

I always feel compelled to take close up photos of my flowers. Those make the prettiest pictures plus those close ups do a fine job of hiding all my weeds!

But, this Bloggers' Bloom Day, I thought I'd step back a bit and show you the full, flowering scope of my Big Rock Garden.

There is nothing too exotic growing in this flower patch. To survive here, you gotta be tough. You gotta laugh at the cold, embrace the heat, and drought, not to mention high winds. AND, the occasional elk that stops by for dinner.

The ones who can survive, typically thrive. Such as these Blanket Flowers, above. I did not plant them. They are wild volunteers who decided this might be a good place to settle down.

And, this massive clump of Chamomile, below. I did plant her but if she gets any bigger I might have to start charging her rent.

Pay a visit to Carol at May Dreams Gardens to meet other gardeners participating in this monthly meme. Happy Bloom Day!

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Tuesday, July 09, 2013

A Not So Novel Concept

A Picture Perfect Columbine. My most beloved garden flower.
One would think...
With all of the stunningly beautiful flowers ablaze in my summer garden...

Six Hills Giant Catmint.
That I would be blogging and bragging up a storm.

I do go out there, early in the morning, and enjoy their beauty. But, not like I used to. Not with a camera in my hand.

Wild Columbines.
 I guess it's become a safe haven that I'm less interested in sharing. Not sure what that's all about. This sudden ~ and near constant ~ need for silence, solitude.

Alone with the delightful chatter of songbirds, my one pesky squirrel and the drip, drip, drip of a hanging-on-by-a-thread broken water fountain. :)

Too much work. Not enough joy. I have been hating life.

Resentful of anyone asking me to add anything to this already over-burdened schedule. (I have no one to finger but myself for this mess, I'm just terrible when it comes to saying no.)

Maltese Cross.
While I was out there pulling weeds this morning, I came up with a Not So Novel Concept.

John Cabot Roses.
Live life instead of juggle it. 

Say 'no' once in awhile. Hell, say no every day. It's not like people ever reciprocate all those favors you do for them. Why should I feel inclined to bend over backwards?

Valerian (pink) and Marguerite (yellow.)
When I get done with this post, I am planning to call my most hated client and say something I've wanted to say for a good, long time:

"Hey, guess what! We're done."

Live on less. Enjoy life more. Whaddyathink? (PS: Yes, I did the math, I can still pay my bills.)