View from the ground

Life has tossed a few loops at me this summer, from Kade's second broken arm, job loss and Tom hopping back and forth to Phoenix, not to mention the unreasonable heat and wildfire smoke hanging over everything. I'm writing this on my friend's living room, PNER Green Bean mug full of coffee in one hand, kid playing on his iPad and stuffing his face full of bagels and remarking on the ducks once again taunting the dogs.

I picked up blogging (again!) as a way to remain somewhat publicly accountable for my new exercise plan. Since my last post I've only put in two solid bike rides, although I've been working out a different way; horse back riding, schooling horses in the ring, on my feet or in the saddle a good chunk of the day.

I have so many horse people I look up to, from the newly Tevis buckled Jala Neufeld to my old Fjord and Dales farm owner Marcy Baer, still going strong in Vermont. I have long held an educational view, accepting I will never know everything about horses, but by golly I'll spend a lifetime trying. Due to this I always look around the horse world from a learner's mindset, hoovering up everything and filing things away for later. I rarely toss anything out as complete hogwash, always mindful of the
occasionally huge leaps between disciplines.

There are a few basic things I hold to as someone whose goal is to be called 'horsewoman', mainly being mindful of the horse's point of view in what we ask them to do; letting predators on their backs, trailering to strange places, tolerating everything we toss at them, and always trying to keep their comfort levels in their terms in mind.
So for someone who still and always views themselves as a learner, it's taken some doing to gracefully accept that in a small way, I do have some wisdom and knowledge to share.
(I swear this isn't a humble brag post, stick with me!)

Since my day job was cut, I've been spending the bulk of my days helping a friend with her still relatively new boarding facility up in Washington. And by helping I mean giving lessons, evaluating horses, and giving horses some tune ups. Me, giving lessons! Helping other people not only be better riders, but figure out how to enjoy their horses more.
Despite the heat, long hours on my feet, a general weird feeling to be teaching people *cough* mildly older than myself, and a weird case of what was probably pink eye…. I've loved every moment of it, of watching concepts click in someone's mind or seat, of hearing owners gush over how much calmer their horse is. Even Tom has seen how much calmer and happier and flat out excited I am, and is fully supportive of trying to make this training concept work, however we can.

I've been in full on research mode the past few weeks, reading and plotting and mulling ideas about *gulp* setting up an actual horse business. I have already identified my niche- kids and reriders or older new riders, people who want to work on themselves and making their lives with their horses easier and more enjoyable. I know where my gaps are as a rider and horse person, which is why I'm as dedicated to learning as ever. I still have big goals for myself (Tevis 2020 anyone?) but this doesn't discount what I do know.

Part of this post was to finally process how I feel about the whole experience (weird! Excited! Happy!) but also toss my little shingle into the wide ring of horse people in the Pacific Northwest. If you find yourself looking for lessons or boarding near Olympia Washington, give T and A Ranch a look. It's the facility I would build given the time and inclination, and it's a fantastic place to learn to ride or keep working on things 🙂

See ya on the trail!

Mt. Ellinor

I always have the same thought when I go hiking: “This is why I ride horses.”

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Not to say riding horses is, per say, easier overall. Just ask my thighs, calves, & bouncing boobs at the end of a long ride. But it’s a different kind of work, & besides the few times I’ve landed on my ass glancing wonderingly at the sky, I’ve never had to pant like a dog while riding.

 MEPOINTMT

Last Saturday I summited a mountain. It wasn’t my first, that was Mt. Washington in New Hampshire during college. It’s the kind of climb where it always felt vaguely unfair to me that I had toiled up & up & up that rocky face, only to be confronted by a family who’d driven up the other side in a minivan, but I digress.

 thatsup

Mt. Ellinor is the most rewarding climb, which is what everyone kept telling me on their way down as I sat, sucking down Gatorade or panting at the edge of some switchback. I lost count of the number of times I almost quit, decided it wasn’t worth it, & went down to the comfortable embrace of the Emerald Queen.

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I was alone, aside from the 200 odd other people on the trail that day, & the only thing I was accountable to was the picture in my heart of the view I’d seen, from one of the photographers I follow on Facebook, where they’d summited the mountain few days before. I wanted to see Seattle, Puget Sound, & the Olympics from a high I had to earn.

So after every switchback, rock scramble, & random bug slap, I seriously reevaluated my priorities, going through the stages of grieving, only “Jame’s stages of hiking.”

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The first ½ mile or so is a jaunty, “look at me! I’m hiking!” easy moving out. This drop rapidly to a settled “fuck this all”-itis I carry more or less until the first viewpoint.

 Hiking sucks. Bugs suck. I could be holed up in a bookstore somewhere, not sweating like a pig & using my own two damn feet to get up this overgrown rock. Hiking is overrated. How much farther? A 1000 feet up that? I’m a crazy person. Why hasn’t somebody locked me up yet, for my own good. Oh look, look at the hot college students scampering upwards & downwards like puppies. Nod & smile & say some sarcastic remark, but take a breath first or else you sound like a mosquito. Why is everyone on this trail so nice, hiking sucks. You people are weird. How far is the car if I turn around now?

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That’s when I looked up from my toil, realizing I was halfway there not because of any trail markers but because I was in a zone I’d always been fascinated with in college, the krummholz. It’s a subalpine zone where the trees still survive, but due to poor soils, erosion, & near constant wind, they don’t grow very high & they have a very dense, gnarled growth. It’s a sure sign you’ve almost reached tree line, & that was the first thing that kept me moving upwards at a glacial but slightly more determined pace.

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The second was reaching the first real viewpoint at tree line, soon after watching a bachelor party tramping & chattering downwards.  I was able to stop & enjoy the view of the lake below, & just make out Puget Sound, but Seattle was hidden by a cloud bank that was rapidly filling in the waterways & valleys below me & chasing me up the mountain. It wasn’t the view (or the selfie to prove I’d earned the view) that I was set on, & besides, the real rock scramble had just begun.

 Also, for every single downwards hiker that flat out lied & said “You’re almost there! It’s so worth it!” Bless your hearts, honestly, cause I almost lost it halfway up the talus steps.

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Now, I’ve been a happy tomboy a great majority of my life, & pink was the worst color to me for years (still kinda is, I mean, c’mon why does every girly thing have to be pink?) But the noises I made when I scrambled up the last sharp boulders, rounded a corner & saw this laid out before me after 3.5 miles & a 3000 foot climb, well, can only be described as not quite hysterical squealing.

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So, I summited a mountain. I earned my right to sit on the couch half of Sunday, reading a book & petting the purring cat. The house is still a bit in shambles but it pretty much always will be, & it’s fine place to be.

To climb a…saddle?

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My son continues to impress me each & every day, but last Monday was even more so as I saw him through other people’s eyes. I didn’t want to deal with the crowds camping over the holiday weekend, but I had an itch for a view. So I settled for a hike, but in my way of scattershot planning, picked one that was harder than I expected. The world’s longest suffering boyfriend headed back to the car after 2 miles of upward, slightly buggy heat, but the kiddo stuck with me even when we gave him every out possible.

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And boy, did that kid kick ass. We headed up to the saddle near the summit of Mount Hamilton (we didn’t head to the summit as Kade is only 5, & that’s a steep cliff to sidle along). This is on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge, which took us 9 miles, 2000 feet elevation gain & loss in less than five hours. Being in the brilliantly green, growing woods we can focus inwards and outwards at once, covering such topics as finding the best stick, what airplane is flying above (Tom would know), why Mommy goes to her boring job everyday, & the somewhat incomprehensible to anyone over the age of 8 games he plays at school with his friends. Kade earned his giant bowl of chocolate ice cream with whip cream & a cherry on top a million times over (we started naming what we wanted when we reached the car on the way down; ice cream, always ice cream).

So far this season we’ve done four major hikes together, but this one we didn’t start until later in the day & was by far the hardest I’ve ever asked him to do. Kade only faltered at the end, when the ice cream the boyfriend had grabbed for us in Stevenson had melted because it took us so long to get down (this was solved by a quick stop at the thank you a zillion times for being open on a Federal holiday Baskin Robbins!) I only carried him for about 50 feet, & he hiked the rest with me, hauling his little Deuter pack of snacks & a change of shoes. While we were on the saddle, taking pictures & stuffing said snacks down our gullets, a few very nice gentlemen offered to take one of my current favorite pictures of the both of us. They kept mentioning how big a deal it was that this little kid made it all the way up here, all by himself (well, with some hand holding & much encouragement from the mommy lady).

I’ve been hiking ever since my parents first kicked me out for a summer at a camp in California when I was ten (or was it eleven?), & hated it for a good long while. Oh, I loved the arriving somewhere, but the whole hauling things upwards I didn’t cherish (this is why we have draft animals people!) It’s only since Kade came along that I’ve learned to love it, even when I don’t stop to think how big a deal it is to other people to see a little kid hiking like he does.

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We get so distracted in our daily lives trying to juggle the day job, the hobbies, the household, the cruddy adulting stuff that I push the hiking & camping as a way to focus just on this golden kid. He’s growing up & forming & becoming himself right before my eyes. He wrote his full name for the first time without help last week!

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Choosing a trip to do, pouring over the maps, loading up & heading out gets us just that, out where we can both loosen up & just enjoy being together. At this point it seems likely I’m only going to do this kid thing once, & while I make plenty of questionable decisions & struggle to pay enough attention, getting outdoors with Kade is my way of being the best parent to the best kid, if only for a weekend & the price of a campsite & a tank of gas.

wemadeit

I keep wondering what he’ll remember, what the highlights of his childhood will be when he’s my age & older, & I know it won’t be the busy afternoons holed up inside with Legos or the iPad while we clean house. My great hope is that it’ll be those trips to the endless waterfalls, writing his name on the beach, seeing all the creepy crawlies & fliers the woods can hold, or conquering a freaking mountain with his own legs.

saddlewin

Sore, sweaty, tired

I know I’ve shouted my thanks on Facebook already, but a huge thanks has to be repeated for everything that went into getting me & almost 200 other riders on beautiful, expertly marked trails on Mt Adams last weekend! The stars aligning & all the hard work & effort put in was astounding, & now that the soreness is wearing off I can better appreciate all of it!
I’m not going to do a blow by blow account of the ride, but more a general overview of things that stuck out at me, & things I need to work on before I hunt down another ride, if I can between house buying craziness & camping with the kiddo as much as possible while the weather holds.


I did complete the race, & thankfully Shadow was in much, much, ten times better condition than me at the end. I made the mistake of not wearing my Camelbak to try to avoid all the sloshing, & so drank far less water & more Gatorade than my body liked. So I threw up after Allyssa trotted out Shadow for his completion vet check. No bueno, drink more water.


My core was juuuuuust enough to keep me ahorse, but only on a saint that never once spooked. My left leg was numb by mile 12 & this did not improve my posting ability one bit.

I have two good pictures from the photographer, & one of me at the final vet check right before I ditched all my food into the grass. Two are faintly attractive, the other shows that I really did earn that completion, by enduring & trying not to whine too much.


Maaaaan it was pretty. And perfect weather. And Shadow’s trot is a thing of beauty for an Arab, sitable (though I need a double bra next time, so told by the bruises on those lady parts), calmly ratable & smooth. I couldn’t have asked for a better horse to ride my first time out in two years.

I’m addicted to endurance riding. Every time I think I could be happy enough not doing it, I score the magic of a ride & remember that nope, this is my thing, so I return to scheming my way onto horseback as often as possible. Because dirty, sweaty, sore & grinning is perfect (now just gotta learn to drink water…)


I am also on the hunt for a good pair of riding pants. Yoga & running pants aren’t going to cut it for me, so what’s best, a nice pair of Kerritts or spring for something like Crazy Legs Tights?

I will keep working on my reputation as a solid, caring, directable catch rider…or in other words, growing up to be like Kathleen Jepson, though I’m less specific about riding pretty spotted ponies!

Endurance people are the best, hands down, in the horse world, & just the best in general. Not enough can be said about their general awesomeness, caring, & ability to kick ass.

Get it out there

  
The world is bursting into crazy spring, cherry blossoms, tulips, rainbows as far as the eye can see. The south wind is blowing hard & of course I’m full tilt crazy. Each spring comes, & that exuberant south wind fairly shouts at me to set loose, make a change, hit the road. This year is no different; I’ve got a long road trip ahead this weekend, the plans & gear & to do list painstakingly obsessed over, the closets are looking a bit bare, & the patient boyfriend has persuaded me not to tear the apartment apart in my quest to make it different.

  
At the same time I’m a little more settled than usual, my job proceeding apace, Kade’s still in preschool though kindergarten looms at the end of the summer, I’m able to work with horses each week & soon, so soon I hope to add riding every week to the list. Included in all this is the writing group I’ve been able to wiggle my way into, & I love every moment of it.

  
The south wind pushed me to do something crazy last week-volunteer a sample of my last NaNo novel I’ve been working on for public consumption & critique. Gulp. Thanks buddy! So now I have to choose what is hopefully a somewhat coherent, sorta polished 10,000 word section of the story I’ve been penning since November…which no one else has read. Well, I’ve read aloud some of it to the five year old, but he thinks everything I do is awesome (unless it involves some form of the word “No.” Then he’s not so keen on it!)

  
Part of me is quietly freaking out over someone reading my writing-well, at least something I’ve put more effort into than, say, my woeful fourth attempt at blogging. The larger part is happily ticking away, mulling over which section to present & what kinds of critique to ask for. 

Between sharing my work, the world’s best (and most patient) boyfriend, my cutest blondie, a short work week and camping in the Horse Haven hills to look forward to, it’s a good time to turn 27 🙂

  

Switch it up

  
I’ve been running a bit intermittently since Turkey Day, even going so far as to acquire two pairs of shoes just for running, plus a Camelbak waist belt, again, just for running. I tried running in high school & frankly sucked at it, but considering my life now it’s a good way to exercise, fairly cheaply, for the time I have available for exercising. I’m even bandying about the idea of another half marathon, only much better prepared this time around.  
Running for me is mostly a solitary endeavor, considering schedules & where I’m at with my training. I’ve started considering what I would like my summer to look like, & while I will keep running, I’d rather spend my money on something which I already love-camping & hiking with Kade. He’s at that utterly awesome age of “old enough” for certain things-he can hike 5-6 easy miles all by himself now- & “young enough” to still think doing everything with mommy is awesome, & fascinated by everything I point out, like this morning’s uplifting sunrise, he was so excited by this.

  
So instead of trying to psych myself up for a daily run, I’m switching my focus to prepping to carry two people’s worth of gear to a pretty campsite up a fairly easy trail. Kade is made insanely happy by maps, so we’ll spread out a few topo maps of Oregon & Washington & try to find a half dozen under 10 mile loop or our & back hikes. We already know he loves to camp, but our first non-car camp trip will be close to home just in case, so one of our lovely, long suffering family members can rescue us if necessary.  

  
I can tell I’m much more excited by the thought of these trips, & not a marathon, because I’ve already compiled an extensive gear & needed gear list, places I want to go, training tips, & trying to remember what’s in a good hiking first aid kit…and reminding myself that wherever we go, so does Laila & Kade’s green blankie!  

I will also be actively bugging people for trip ideas, light weight gear reviews, tips & tricks for making the hike & camp set up easier & as comfy as possible for a tired mommy & kiddo at the end of the day. Most of my hiking experience is with groups, so I’m used to carrying a lot of gear, but setting up camp basically by myself at the end of a day, plus encouraging/keep Kade from jumping off cliffs, will be more an adventure than any marathon could give me!