Saturday, June 30, 2012

Clarks Fork Horse Camping - Day One!!!

I have been friends with Kay Stahl and her daughter Sandy Rahilly for many years.  Sandy and her husband have been horse camping and packing all of their married life.  A couple times a year, they take their horses to Clarks Fork just below Sonora Pass to one of the few horse camps in California.  When she asked if I would ride one of her horses this year, I jumped at the chance!!

There are 14 horse camps with one large water trough in the middle.  Not being a fan of a communal water supply for our horses, we hauled water from the tent campground.  There is plenty of room to line tie the horses and park both trucks and trailers.  They had already been camped for a few days when I arrived.  My truck is on the left.  My back seat folds down and with the addition of an air mattress, makes a nice bed.
Cooking in camp is a big deal, and Sandy and Evan have it down.  Here's the kitchen stove and camp lights, with cast iron skillet, coffee pot and "wash" pot.  The dutch oven at bottom left, comes into play in a couple days.  All of the food and supplies are kept in her horse trailer because of the local black bears.  Although we didn't see any this trip (thank goodness), they have dealt with them many times before.  ALL food must be locked up and NO garbage kept in camp.  I didn't even keep a package of crackers in my truck.  They can easily break windows if they smell anything ... and they have GREAT smellers!!!!
The horses were tied about 20 feet from camp.  Called "line tying", a long line is stretched between trees.  The horses halters are tied to the line with large rings which allow them to move from one side to the other.  The requirement other than water, is feed for the horses.  You have to haul all your own feed (usually hay) but since there was quite a bit of grass in this area and we were the only campers, Sandy turned one horse loose to roam around and graze, while the other stayed tied up.  It's very rare than one horse would leave his buddy, and neither one traveled out of site.  This is Patches on the left and Petey on the right.
Sandy's dog Ollie (it's a girl ... something about being short for a Greek Goddess!!!) had the most beautiful yellow eyes!!  She went everywhere with us, leash free ....  except for crossing roads, when we put the horse lead on and led her from horseback.  No ... she never got stepped on!!!
A better picture of Patches, we were getting ready to ride out for a few hours.  Since they had been on a very long, hard ride the day before, we did a short trip up the river.  At an altitude of 7200, these guys have to be in shape ... and Sandy is a master at getting them ready!!!  It involves almost daily riding at walk, trot and lope as well as feed management.  Over 5 days these two climbed well over 4000 feet.
I'm riding Petey here, following Sandy up the trail.  You can see Ollie in the very front.
Once we returned and fed the horses, we took off on foot around the entire area, crossing the bridge and heading up the other side to Sand Flat campground.  This river was about 150 yards from our camp and full of trout (you will see some later).  Whenever possible, we watered our horses here.
Unfortunately Sandy couldn't remember the exact spot where the log was that we would cross over to return to camp.  I found out quickly that camping with Sandy is an adventure.  We decided to just remove our boots and cross here.  It ended up being much deeper than we realized and both of us came out soaked above our knees ... but at least our boots were dry!!
Can't wait for day two!!!!!

My Horse Rig

Since I'm going horse camping at Clarks Fork in the Sierras, and you have seen the images of my RV rig, I thought I should show you my "horse" rig.  I have an aluminum fifth wheel three horse slant load Four Star trailer with tack room/bedroom (that's a mouthful!!).  It's much easier on horses to travel long distances at an angle than straight on, thus the "slant load".  Once each is loaded, a panel slides over to help give them stability.  Each has a feeder and a large window!!!  (They're not spoiled ... much!)  I only haul two at a time, leaving the third stall for hauling hay and grain.
The entrance to the tack room is on the opposite side.  Behind the door is a large screen door.

The fifth wheel overhang is a queen sized bed.  Especially nice for horse camping.  I don't have to worry about bears!!!!
The trailer is rigged with lights everywhere, even outside, run on a battery.   If you arrive late, floodlights illuminate everything so you can safety unload the horses.
It has a large wall with hooks for hanging all kinds of horse gear and three pull-out saddle racks.  I ride two saddles, one for show and one for general work.  There is room enough for a small wardrobe, a clothes rack and plenty of room to move around and change clothes.  Both the red box and the gray step stool hold medical supplies for the horses.  The saddle racks swing around until they are outside the trailer for easy access when saddling.
In the back, the door for the horses to enter is the large one on the right.  The one on the left is for storage, but becomes my shower room when camped.  Solar showers work great and are a welcome luxury.
It's an awesome trailer that I have had for about 16 years.  It has been from northern Idaho to the Mexican border and is still in great shape.  Horse camping is great fun ... my horses have always been a big part of my life.  Haven't taken them out in this for some time, but plans are in the making!!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Back to My Roots ....

Although I have two horses, I haven't ridden in some time.  They are both pretty old (going on 24-25) and one has bad feet.  Even when I lose both these guys, I will never lose my love of riding.  I didn't realize quite how much I missed it until recently.

My friend Sandy horse camps with her family quite often up in the Sierras near Sonora Pass at a campground designed especially for horses and their riders called Clarks Fork.  She has asked me several times, but I was never able to go because I worked.  BUT NOW!!!!!  I'm all over it!!!

Lucky for me, she has an extra horse and no one to ride with her.  She has been riding them a lot lately so they will be in shape for the 9000 foot altitude.  Today I went with her to make sure my saddle fit Pete well enough so it did not cause sores.  Horses have different size withers and backs, so saddle fit is very important.  I have ridden this saddle for 25 years and it's still in great shape and fit him fine.
My pickup license plate was COWGRL for many years, so I had these spurs made with the same name (leaving out the O due to the short space).  My second pair has my name on them.  There is nothing more important to a horse rider (not counting the horse!!) than his saddle, spurs, bridle and hat.  Everyone has their own ideas about what they feel works best for them.  No need to stick a horse with sharp rowels (the round thingy) so I had mine made with blunt edges.
Although most trainers ride their horses in a snaffle bit for a few months as a training device, I use it on my horses exclusively.  It's easy on their mouth, yet gives you feather touch control.  The lighter you are with your hands, the softer the horses mouth, the more control you have.  I could spend hours on this, but ... moving on ...
We saddled up this morning at her ranch outside Merced and rode for two hours through the orchards and fields, walking, trotting and loping alternately to "leg them up" like I would for a half marathon.  Boy was I surprised at how much my knees bothered me (and my butt, but we won't go there).  It takes all over muscle control to ride a horse, especially one you are not familiar with and I was feeling every one of them.  That's okay ... you couldn't tell by the smile on my face.  I loved every minute of it.  Next Wednesday I pack up and hit the trail to Clarks Fork for 4 days of camping and riding.  No RV this time .. it's a little too big for the campground.  I'll sleep in the back of my truck.  I do have a bad feeling about this whole thing ... I see new trailer tires in my future ... and maybe even a new horse if I can find a place to keep it while I travel!!!

So for now I'll don my hat and say so long Pardner .... Happy Trails!!!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

To Answer Your Questions .....

YES ... it is VERY SCARY driving this rig!!  At least for the first 5 hours!  I know I'll get more comfortable the more I drive it.   And it's worse when towing!!!  One good thing ... no need for exercise.  I can run my heart rate up to 140 while seated in my comfy drivers seat, just getting on the freeway!!!!
First step ... motorhome
Second step ... buy toad (towed vehicle)
Third step ... get hitch so vehicle CAN be towed
Fourth step ... get brake system for toad

The first two steps were easy.  It was the last two that were more difficult.  The recommended hitch was the Roadmaster Sterling.  It was purchased and installed at Camping World, Rocklin California.

Since that time, I haven't been anywhere, afraid to travel over any passes without the required buddy brake system ... that and the accident!!!   Wednesday was the day to go to La Mesa RV in Davis California to have the SMI Air Force One brake system installed.  Upon arrival, I found out my service advisor had "moved on" ... that means fired in English ... and the only person who knew my name was Valeri the parts girl.  After several stressful minutes and an estimate $1000 more than I expected, I helped my NEW advisor unhook my jeep.  At that point he make the remark that the mechanic didn't need the jeep.  WAIT WAIT  .... it's a "Buddy" brake.  The brake system goes ON the jeep!!!  You can imagine how nervous I am getting now!!!!  With an estimated 7 hours installation time (really???) I head out with my friend Cyndae to check out the University town of Davis.

After some heavy shopping and no buying, we went to the Dumpling House for lunch.
It was the best homemade dumplings I've ever had and all this food plus drinks and an appetizer was $19.
As we drove around, we came across a cupcake house ... Let Them Eat Cake.  Sounded good to me, so we checked out their Paris themed bakery and ate a cupcake.
Best cupcake I've ever eaten.  I'm sure it weighed in at 2 pounds ... chocolate cake with caramel filling and caramel creme cheese frosting.  I could have eaten six of them!!!!!
By this time I'm really nervous about the RV, so I attempt to call and check in with them.  Big mistake .... BIG!!!  No one is there, no one answers the phones.  I finally call La Mesa RV in San Diego, who transfers me to the main Davis number.  A secretary tells me everyone has gone home, but she will try to find the remaining service manager and have him call me back.  Oh My!!!!  But good news ... he does, and the RV is ready to pick up.   I asked if the mechanic could explain how it was installed, where it was, how it worked, does it need maintenance, etc ... stuff my Dad taught me was important ... and was met with some resistance from the "men" ... now four of them standing around my jeep.  Thankfully, the guy that installed it didn't have a problem with that and explained everything.  The small coil is a breakaway safety (if the hitch fails, it will break and apply the jeep brakes so it won't pass me on the road).  The larger coil is hooked from the RV air brake system to the jeep brake system, allowing pressure to be applied to the jeep brakes every time the RV brakes are applied.  There is also a fuse under the hood of the jeep.  Had I not asked about the entire system, I might have had to drive all the way back to Davis just to have a fuse replaced.  Everyone that saw or heard about this system, came out to tell me it was the neatest thing ever!!!  I just told them it was DAN's idea!!!!  Dan knows!!!!
A rough California road ride home, I unhooked everything, parked the RV and collapsed on the couch.  A two gallon marguerita would probably help lower my heart rate, but instead I sit down with my puppies to plan my next trip.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Little of This and That!!

Haven't posted in awhile ... since the new jeep accident.  There just hasn't been much to talk about.  I have been waiting for the repair shop to do their work.  Seems it's always hurry up and wait.  Ron Smith Auto Body Shop in Merced handled the repairs for my insurance company, Safeco.  Like everyone else, I hate paying insurance ... but when you need them and they respond immediately, they get my support.  I reported the accident Tuesday, took the jeep in to the repair shop on Wednesday and they ordered parts.   I returned on Friday to leave it for repairs and by the next Friday it was done, looking brand new again.  AND the repairs by this shop are guaranteed for as long as I own the vehicle.  Any problems they will fix for free including paint and clear coat.
In the meantime, I made an appointment with LaMesa RV in Davis California for installation of a buddy braking system.  Having read about the "pedal on the floor" models that never work right, I called my RV mentor Dan, whose recommendation was the SMI Manufacturing Company Air Force One system that would work with the air brakes on my Phaeton.  The problem of finding someone to do the install became a nervous one for me.  I could drive to San Diego (over the steep Grapevine) ... or to Morgan Hill (over the steep Pacheco Pass) ... or back to Yuma (over the steep Tehachapi Pass) ... or worse yet, have a friend install it.  All of which were too scary for me.  Finally I reached LaMesa who agreed to do the install in Davis California where I don't have to tow the jeep over any steep hills.  I'll let you know how that goes next week.

In the meantime, I drove a friend to their friends "yard sale" in Turlock.  And what to my wondrous eyes did appear??  The perfect adirondack chair patio set for my back yard.  At one third the cost of a new set, having just been beautifully restored, I couldn't turn it down.  I have added a few accessories which make it perfect for my morning coffee!!!
Lastly, those who know how active I am ... one of my favorite things to do is bike ride.  This is my triathlon road bike.  It is so light I can lift it with one hand.  Agreeably not the most comfortable bike to ride, but you get used to it.  The piece sticking up attached to the handlebars allows me to rest on my forearms, giving my shoulders and back a rest.  Yes, it's weird looking, but very fun to ride!!
I've been working on more distance and am up to 12.5 miles.   Not far by biking standards, but I'll keep working on it.  Yes I wear a helmet ... falling off at 20mph would probably kill me.  With a helmet, I'll be broken to pieces, but my head will be intact!  LOL  Hopefully with some work this will read 50-60 miles.
That's it for now.  I'm off to get the RV ready for it's trip to Davis tomorrow.