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Going with Gunner

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This weekend’s trail ride was at  Sunol Regional Wilderness in Sunol, CA.  It was only about 45 minutes from the house making it my most convenient trail riding location yet.  The trail ride program is run by Western Trail Riding Services, a concessionaire of East Bay Regional Park District since 2004.

I went on the 2 hour Flagg Hill trail ride and was accompanied by a really nice couple. I was given Gunner as my Steed of the day.  He is a beautiful Quarter Horse, seemed to have good breeding back ground and a beautiful head.  When I was assigned gunner I was told by the owner (Gary I think) that he usually rides him.  But I was given him because I had the longest legs (me with the longest legs?).  The stirrups were still a little long so he turned them side ways.  (Yup learned something new, never thought of that but it is a great idea.)

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The Trail Guide or Wrangler as he was called was Chris. He did a great job.  Definitely the best one yet.  He took the time to tell us a little bit of the history and the Native American tribe, called the Ohlone, who originally inhabited the land.  More recently it became ranch land and their abandoned buildings and windmill still exist today.

The ride itself was much more engaging than the run of the mill trial rides.  Chris asked us to keep 1 horse length between the horses.  Which is a great idea for ensuring the horses know who is boss and not letting them get all bunched up.  We crossed a stream, trotted on flat areas and let the horses drink at a watering trough, still used by the cows grazing on the park land. Gunner is a true western pleasure horse he has such a smooth jog.

Then it came time to canter. Chris told us to put 2 horse lengths between each other so that we had enough space.  As you can see I was last so I held Gunner back.  Instead of cantering off he started bucking!  Three big bucks that seemed to last an eternity.  Luckily I held on and rode through it.  Only loosing my stirrup and giving him a little piece of my mind by yelling at him.  Just didn’t want him to think he could get away with that.  After we collected ourselves we cantered off with no problems.

We made it to the top of the hill to witness the beautiful view in the cool breeze.

We got back to the Equestrian rental area I told Gary about Gunner bucking.  He first question was What did you do? So I answered I held on and stayed on.  But he meant what did I do to provoke his bucking and I explained how I held him back as requested before cantering.  He said that he was used to being up front so probably got annoyed by being held back and didn’t want to be left behind.  He also said that he had never done that before.  #Onlyme.  #NeverADullMoment.

An Afternoon with Indy

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This past Saturday I had the opportunity to ride a beautiful flea bitten grey anglo arab named Indy.

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Drinkers of the Wind

He gathered his people to show them the magnificent and magical being. “It drinks the wind,” he announced, and they called it for a long time Drinker of the Wind; only later was it called a horse. Every tribe wanted horses of their own, and from that first swirl of strength and beauty came thousands of others.

From Drinkers of the Wind by Amy Friedman and Meredith Johnson

I went for a trial ride at Point Reyes Arabian Adventures.  Susan who was a gracious host, called me earlier that day to tell me unfortunately my scheduled 2 1/2 hour ride was shortened to 1 hour because her truck was in an accident.  We rode around the property and up the hill to experience the breath taking views of Tomales Bay.

The trail was lead by Susan’s assistant and we were accompanied by a nice couple from San Francisco. One of them had been riding trails there for so many year she sad she had ridden every horse in the herd of about 15 except 2.

Since one of the riders was inexperienced I was allowed to  canter ahead of the group.  Indy was great, once I remember to gather him up and hold him in an actively engaged canter.  Funny as I was in the trail riding frame of mind to just let the horse canter but when I tried to do that he was all over the place.  Once I remembered to keep contact with him he felt much more collected.

It felt good to be trusted and allowed to experience the trail as an advanced rider.

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Before the trail started I rode around a smaller pasture waiting for the other riders.  The wild life there was amazing. A massive bird flew overhead when I was at the look out point. I think it was a vulture. This is a couple of pictures I snapped of a deer in a back yard.

 

 

Trail Ride at Five Brooks

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On Sunday, I went on  three hour trial ride that started at noon. I was worried it was going to be hot but in fact it was the exact opposite.  The ride was perfectly shaded by the tall trees and a cool breeze blew from the ocean.

Having been in California for 2 weeks, I decided it was time to get back where I belong… on top of a horse riding across the land.  I started my online research by looking at all the places that offer trail rides with in a 2 hour radius. My plan is to take a trail ride at all of them, find out the best ones around and blog about them there.

Five Brooks Stables  is located at the Five Brooks Trailhead that has many well maintained trails for horses and hikers.

IMG_2249.JPGThe parking lot was full of big trucks and horse trailers of locals who are taking the day to ride around Point Reyes National Seashore

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The Five Brooks Ranch seems to be a nice place.  They were friendly and knowledgeable.  The horses are in good shape and all of them had shoes on.  I was told at most each horse is used at most 5 hours a day on 2 trails.

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My ride was great!  It was awesome to be back in the saddle. I was accompanied by 2 lovely ladies, it is always more fun to ride in a group.  The horses were well used to the trails, just give them their head and they will find the best route.  Some of the trials were steep but they were very sure footed.

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My horse’s name was scout, originally they had me on a bigger horse but they could not get the stirrups short enough so I ended up on Scout.  He was a good boy, for me, but I didn’t let him get away with anything.  Which in his case was trying to munch on the green grass along the trail.  There was a crop attached to his saddle which I didn’t need to use. The trail guide (Stewart was his name I think) sounded impressed that I didn’t use it and said usually he needs it to keep him going.  I told him I used to teach riding lessons where none of my lesson kids used crop.

For the most part the trails were single lane, which made it interesting when we came upon horses or people.  Everyone was very friendly and moved to the side to let us pass. Sometimes I heard the trial guide call out if he could not see the approaching group to find out if they were on horseback, so they could plan the pull off and pass options.  We walked past one group of riders that had a riderless horse in the middle of their group (of 5 or so). That was the coolest thing I had seen in a while, what a great way to get a yearling used to the trails and in shape.

We crossed over a bridge, I just love that sound.

I found this hikers website that describes pretty much the whole loop we did: Five Brooks Trailhead leads to rain forest-like landscape

Tips:

  • Bring a water bottle
  • Ask for a saddle bag
  • Bring a light sweatshirt
  • If your on Scout, be prepared his saddle has no padding for your bum. Ask if they have any saddle seat pads.

@fivebrooks

 

Day 9 We Made it!

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With only an hour drive left we decided to sleep in. Then made the easy trip from Stockton to  Lafayette

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Almost there!

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oh look Windmills

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Approaching their house

Woohoo!  The trailer is parked in their driveway and detached!

Wow what a trip.  We were talking on the 2nd to last day saying we could keep on going.  It was easy (except for day 8), fun, loved seeing the sites, the different terrains, the mountains, canyons and plains.  I enjoyed having Riley with me as he is my constant companion and really such a cool dog.  Travis was the perfect Travel Buddy.  I would do it all again with them.  (BTW if you are traveling cross country he may be available for hire.)

Cross Country Trip Final Stats:IMG_2136

  • Total length: 35 1/2 feet
  • Estimated weight: 14,000 pounds
  • Total run time: 73 hours and 15 minutes. *note it kept counting if we left the engine running while parked.
  • Travel Days: 9
  • Number of states: 13
  • # of National Parks: 4
  • Distance: 3739 miles
  • Cost of Diesel Fuel: $799.13
  • Cost of Lodging: $808.73

road trippersYou can view information about our trip on RoadTrippers. Click here to see the stops, route, and more information about the sites.

Thanks for following us on our #neveradullmoment cross country road trip.

 

Day 8 A day of extremes

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Lowest to Highest  & Hottest to Coldest

We woke up to this view. I love driving in to a hotel at night and seeing how beautiful it’s surrounding area is in the morning.

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Today’s Stats

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At Death Valley we say “The desert is calling and I must go” a refined rewording of the old John Muir quote.

I have to say that is not the way I felt. I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

We drove from Las Vagas to Death Valley National Park and headed straight to the salt flats called Badwater Basin.

Named as such when one of the early frontier explorers noticed their Mule would not drink the water.  Interestingly enough the water is not poisoned just really salty. It is also the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level.

We got out of the truck and at 110 degrees the heat was oppressive.  On top of that it was really windy. So it was like walking into a convection oven with the blower on.  We really only stayed 10 minutes there to get the pictures and get back to the truck, where we left Riley in the AC.

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From there we decided to head to Yosemite but we had to get out of Death Valley first.  It was up and over some mountains and across a dry lake where the sand storm kicked up throwing sand across the road.

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As we were leaving the park we both agreed “been there, done that, don’t need to do it again.”  The desert is so bleak and colorless, definitely not our favorite part of the trip but we are glad we can say we did it.

As we drove down the road out of the desert we could see Mt Whitney in front of us. It is the highest point in California at 14,505 feet and is only 85 miles from the lowest point.

Oh yeah we made it to California!  But there was no sign to welcome us.  As we started our drive north we had never been so excited to see trees.  Big beautiful pine tress that we wanted to get out and hug.

We found out the road to Yosemite National Park was closed and also the next mountain road was closed.  We ended up taking 89 to State Road 4.  It started out beautiful as we slowly wound our way up the side of a mountain.

As we went up we saw snow on the side of the road.  So of course we had to stop and play in the snow in flip flops and shorts.

Then we saw this sign.  However we were already committed at this point and past the point of no return.

IMG_2127This is what Wiki has to say about our route.

The route runs through the 8,050 ft (2,450 m). Pacific Grade Summit on its way up to the 8,730 ft (2,660 m) Ebbetts Pass and ends at State Route 89 ten miles (16 km) west of Topaz Lake, on the California–Nevada border. The portion from Arnold to its terminus is designated the Ebbetts Pass Scenic Byway, which is eventually one lane.

Through the mountains, SR 4 is not suitable for large trucks, buses, or RVs, as it becomes very steep and narrow, with no center dividing line shortly after the Mount Reba Turnoff to Bear Valley Ski area, with tight switchbacks. The pass is not plowed for snow, and thus closes during the winter months often from November through as late as May.

So in the black of night we are going through this mountain pass in a vehicle that was way too long and heavy for the road.  It was so windy with hair pin turns and switch backs. At one point the tires spun when we went up hill around a sharp curve.  We had to watch for oncoming cars and there was barely enough room for them to get by.  Needless to say it was about 2 hours of white knuckled, sweaty palms driving.

The snow was piled up 4 feet and the temperature got down to 38 degrees.Travis did an amazing job navigating that road.

It was midnight by the time we got back to civilization and found a hotel with vacancy that took dogs. Phew what a long day!  But we ended up an hour from our final destination so we could sleep in the next day.

 

Day 7 Zion National Park

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Woke up to get some coffee and take Riley for a walk.  Discovered this hidden gem behind the motel.

Today’s Stats:

IMG_1995After breakfast and a quick meeting we were off to Zion.  Luckily Travis talked to a guy that told him about the drive was not an easy one especially pulling a trailer.  So he drove.

Funny this trip… I am a planner by nature but lately I have been trying to plan less and just go, see what happens. So I stopped over researching, googling everything and really knew nothing about the place I had planned.  I simple went on the app Roadtrippers and added placed that were in a 30 mile radius of our route.

So I had no idea what to expect of Zion National Park.  It was amazing but more of a drive through with scenic vistas.  Where the Grand Canyon we were on top looking down this one we drove through the canyon carved out by Virgin River.  The Mormons first settled the area and called it Zion for the bountiful land that the river fed.

In the 1920’s they built a tunnel. Cars were a lot narrower back then. So the wider ones require a tunnel traffic control.  Luckily we were just under that maximum width. What a crazy experience going through the mountain for 1.1 miles.  Felt a little bit of anxiety and Closter phobic.  Luckily they had 3 or 4 “windows” that opened up to let in light and let us view the canyon walls.

The scenic road took us down several switch backs to the bottom.  Where we exited on the other side.

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Then parked the truck and walked to the visitor center.

IMG_2024Riley was only allowed on one trail.  So we went for a walk.

It was so hot I decided to let him go in the river.  He is such a water dog went right in and laid down. 

Just before we turned around we let him in again.  This time off leash.  He went right in and started getting pushed by the current!  He went over a small rapid and tried to get out about 5 feet downstream from us.  We ran for him as he was struggling to get a grip hold to get out.  I asked Travis to take my hand them put one foot in the water and went down sneaker and all to my thigh.   I grabbed Riley by the scruff and collar and after a small yelp from him handed him to Travis.  Then with Riley safely on solid ground I looked at him and said you’re going to have to pull me out.  Wow what an adrenaline rush.  My heart was pounding after that one.  And Riley is just a happy as can be wagging his tail and shaking off the water. We walked back with one wet sneaker and one dry one.

Got back to the visitor center and sat on a bench to figure out the rest of the trip.  We have a couple of days left and not enough things planned.  I decided that since I bought the national park’s annual pass we should hit as many parks as we can.  So change of plans Hoover dam then on to the National Parks of California.

We started driving and it is getting hotter, in the upper 90’s.  It is feeling like the AC is not working in the truck.  So I found a Ford Dealership in St George, Utah.  They were able to take care of us right away.  So we enjoyed some down time and I got to write yesterday’s blog post.  They were so nice there.  I took up a table, plugged in and use the internet.  Riley was allowed to join us in the waiting room.  He was so good just laid on the cool tiles and accepted love from everyone who stopped to say hi to him.

IMG_2025Just over an hour later we are loving life with cold air coming out of the vents.

One more stop before heading toward Vegas.  Black Bear Diner, one of Travis’ favorites of the western US.  We found a shady spot and parked the truck so Riley wouldn’t get over heated. We asked the hostess if we could sit by the window so we could keep an eye on the truck with the window open.  We told her Riley was in it. After confirming with her manager, she said we could bring him in.  He was so good! Laid under the table and slept while we ate.

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Then posed for pictures on our way out.

Back to driving.  Oh look there is Arizona again.

IMG_2032Now Nevada

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Passed right through Vegas. Yes that is the space needle on the right.

IMG_2037We drove right past the exit for the Hoover Dam and crossed the Colorado River.  Oh look we are in Arizona again. Off at the first exit and back across the bridge and we are back in Nevada.

IMG_2041We find the exit and head to a security check point where they tell us that we can’t cross the dam because they need to inspect the trailer.  Since it is packed tight they would have to take everything out. So we went to a look out point that overlooked Lake Mead hoping to catch a glimpse of the dam.  No such luck.

Then we decided to cross back into Arizona again and see if we could access the dam from the other side.  The road is closed!  So we go back over the bridge and I am looking out the dam.  Hope to see it but again no can’t see it from the bridge.

Back in Nevada we notice a beautiful sunset and head to the lookout point again quick snap of a photo and back in the truck.

Still on the mission to see the dam we head in to the state park towards the lake again.  But you can’t see it from there either.  Ok we give up, find a hotel to crash for the night.  This one has a hot tub and pool.  So we spent the early part of the night soaking in the hot top looking at the moon through the palm trees.  Seriously you can’t beat this with a stick.

 

 

 

Day 6 Horseshoe bend and Bryce Canyon National Park

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“Wilderness is not a luxury, but a necessity of the human spirit.”

– Edward Abbey

The hotel we stayed at was the nicest yet.  We had a ground floor walk out slider to this view.  I worked for about an hour in the with this view. Not too shabby if I say so myself.

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This morning’s driving stats and where we are at:

So our first stop was horseshoe bend. We parked in the lot and walked about 1.5 miles to see this:

Next off to Bryce Canyon.  The drive there was amazing the landscape changes so much it is really breath taking.

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We made it to Utah!  The first time we stopped at the state line sign.

Travis has become quite the photographer and getting used to the facebook checkins.  This was him the whole drive to Bryce Canyon.

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Next Stop Bryce Canyon!  Seriously each wonder of the world is better than the next.

So many people stopped us to pet and ask about Riley;  Most of them from Europe.  We found out that Flat-Coated Retrievers are very common over there.  Spoke to one couple who had 4 of them.  Riley was just soaking it all in.  We spoke to another couple who used to have a Golden named Riley.  So they got their Riley fix by loving on him.

As we were walking out of Bryce Canyon we stopped at the general store for water. Ended up getting a slice of Pizza and an ice cream sandwich.  It was starting to get chilly so move to a bench in the sun.  Ahh perfect.  Walked back to the truck we started talking about selfies and selfie sticks (which I refuse to buy).  Then Travis told me about the selfie song.  When we got back to the truck and were driving out of the park he played it for me.  So funny! {Video to come when I have better internet}

We started heading to Zion Nation Park, only like an hour away.  Stayed at a motel about 15 minutes away.

Not our best motel but it was convenient.

Across the street was a restaurant where they advertise their Ho’made pies. The Thunderbird restaurant did not let me down I had a strawberry Rhubarb pie.

IMG_1989It was amazing! So the story is that back in the 30’s when this restaurant was first started they ran out of wood for the word HOME, so they shortened it to HO.  And it stuck..

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