Now that I’m home and showered, time for my favorite thing: a trip report! The short version: a magical and relaxing time in the mountains with a good friend. More below the photo dump!
We were planning to go to Whitefish horse camp, father south, as I was hungry for those epic mountain views and glacial lakes that are only accessable for a few short months. Alas, nearby fires closed Whitefish, so we headed to Whispering Pines, a few miles outside Sisters instead. The road in is one of the best Forest Service roads I’ve been on in years! There were only two other rigs in camp, the major drawback being no pumped water. There is a creek nearby but you either have to haul water or take the horses down, which is no biggie as we wanted to soak their feet and stretch their legs. Otherwise its a beautiful and quiet camp, impeccably maintained with fresh gravel for the corrals and a handy wheelbarrow for manure.
Our first day was a long ride, 19 miles by Rachel’s tracker (my Apple Watch died at mile 16). We headed up into the Three Sisters Wilderness, grabbing a free self issued wilderness permit at the Scotts Pass trailhead. About half of the trails burned but most were clear, and still had running water. One benefit to fire is it really opens up the views! I got to drink up the Three Sisters and Mt. Bachelor to the south and Black Butte and Mt. Washington to the north. We had lunch at one of the cold and clear Matthieu Lakes, Tarma standing in the lake and muching on bright green grass while Rachel hand fed my silly dog his lunch and her apple.
The low point of the day came when we reached Lava Camp and headed down the Millican Crater trail, we made it about a quarter mile before all the uncleared blowdowns through the fire caused us to turn back. We rested at the lake and tried to decide what to do. Backtracking would put us at a 20+ mile day with a lot of elevation, doable for the horses but I was worried about Benny. He’s done 15 miles, but 20 mountain miles was more than I wanted to ask of him. Our other options included walking back on Highway 242 (discarded for obvious safety reasons) or taking the shorter original option and clearing trail as we went. We both had hand loppers and small saws, so we decided to risk it.
We managed to get through with some careful and slow detours, avoiding blowdowns and holes from burnt roots that can swallow a horse. I wouldn’t recommend this trail unless you know your horse and they can listen to you. I will mention it’s good Tarma tends to spook sideways and not a 180, as I usually stick with her. She decided one downed log was a bear and teleported sideways, and it wasn’t until we were trotting back down the trail again that my brain caught up and I shouted “WTF?” We took this last section slowly, giving Benny plenty of water and rest breaks. Thankfully I had my husband pick up four dog boots for him the week before, which were necessary for the long and rocky trails up there. He’s a tad sore and quite tired, but his paws are fine thanks to the boots.
The next day we just chilled. I finished two books, we ate and napped and relaxed in that way two busy women desperately need sometimes. Two hours before sunset we tacked up, left Benny in the trailer with a fan on, and rocketed up the butte behind camp to catch sunset from a closed fire lookout. Tarma and Cody bring out the race brain in each other, causing us to cook it uphill at endurance pace. I can tell the difference twice a week gym workouts are causing, I was able to trot and canter long stretches without loosing my balance or getting too fatigued.
I fulfilled a minor bucket list item, watching sunset over the mountains with a drink and my mountain climbing mare. Tarma marched up the final steep mile of the butte without breaking stride, as strong at the top as she started. If I could just figure out our saddle issues (which with some help I will be!) we’re as ready as can be for an actual endurance ride. We headed back down right at dusk, trotting quite a bit on the good roads before we lost all the light. Tarma got a bit too looky loo as true dark hit, so Cody went first as he has more night riding experience.
Tarma was so solid all weekend…minus two things. Well, one she shared with Cody. Heading out of camp the first morning they were both convinced they had missed the start of the race and were determined to catch up. As the humans we knew we had a long day ahead of us, and our attempts to rate the both of them were met with attitude. She also tended to rush through things, which I noticed at our last ETS event. She just wants to be through and done, careful doesn’t matter. We almost got in a few scrapes on some difficult sections due to this, so definitely something to address. Overall, a lovely and fun weekend in the high country, I got my fill of beautiful mountain views with a good friend, a happy dog and my strong mountain mare.