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Monday, January 25, 2010

Be prepared!

Not directly horse related, but it's a trail I do ride on.  Additionally, the same concepts here apply to riding in wilderness areas.   This is the second time in one year that something has happened to a member of a party I was with and after injury, we had to help ourselves out of a wilderness area.  During a preride of the Tevis trail, an experienced endurance friend fell with a horse, and her leg was gored by a rock.  Stuff happens!
I have a training spot that I jokingly call my "Tevis trail".  It looks fairly innocuous at first glance.  Located in the Bay area with good footing and wide open jeep trails, it doesn't exactly scream EXTREME!!!!!!  Flipping through a hiking book, you might notice it has been rated a 5 out of 5 for difficulty and you might scoff - "bay area wimps, why - I've been on the Tevis trail.  Your little trail does not scare me!". 
I would tell you that you are wrong.
Very very wrong.
  • I would tell you that I have hiked and ridden this many many times and there isn't a mountain or canyon on the Tevis trail that compares to the elevation changes on the Ohlone wilderness trail.
  • I would tell you that this trail has whipped mine and Farley's butt every time.
  • I would tell you that it has devoured everyone I have I brought along to share it with.
  • I would tell you that on this trail, was the single experience in my life where I have been physically pushed the brink.  The thought crossed my mind that maybe I couldn't just gut my way through it. 
  • Every time I have ridden or hiked it (with or without overnight pack), 2 days later (thanks to DOMS) I could barely walk and simple things like stepping off curbs or going down stairs were IMPOSSIBLE.
It was this in mind, that prompted me to pack a rather zealous day pack for Saturday's hike with my aunt and cousin. 
Experienced hikers, Terry and Karla are probably the only members of my family fit enough for this trail right now.  I was excited to finally share the experience.  The Ohlone trail has that sort of magic where you just kind of forget about how hard it was.  After all, the Tevis trail looks hard.  The wide, spacious jeep trails that make up the Ohlone trail are safe and inviting. 
Even in the dead of winter, after lots of rain, I had a full camelpak on.  I also packed granola bars, poptarts, along with my water sanitizer and a multitude of emergency items like matches and duct tape.
We got a later start than I would have liked, but we would still be back before dark.  Our destination was Murietta falls, the tallest waterfall in the bay area, which only flows after a large storm that saturates the land. 
The trip out went well.  It's mostly uphill, but I knew from past experience that what took us 3 hours to hike up, would only take 1.5-2 hours to hike down.  It was this in mind when I ate my last poptart and the last of my food at the falls and started towards home. 
Karla and I talked and joked.  Often, we stopped to make sure Terry was making her way behind us.  After descending a set of switch backs, we realized she was reappearing behind us.  We sat down and waited.
Terry finally came into view and I could tell immediately something was wrong.  I have problems with my IT band off and on so I could empathize - excruciating pain going down hill with the feeling your knee is certain to explode. 
I whipped out my day pack and immediately peppered Terry with questions.  Do you want to wrap your knee with an ace bandage?  How about some Ibprophen?  Here's my camalbak - drink all you want, I have a water purifier with me.  Use my trekking pole.
Now my aunt, being the tough, independent, opinionated person she is (sound familiar anyone?) did not want my help but I was not taking no for an answer.  I had packed this stuff for just this occasion and she was going to use it darn it! 
After wrapping and drugging, I announced that Karla and I were going to pull her up the last big climb home by our belts.  I know from tailing a horse how much easier it makes the hike.  Karla and I fell into line like a pair of experienced plow horses and off we went!
After the climb there's a relatively flat section, then it's 2 miles of steep down hill (we are talking like 2000' drop!).  At this point I realize that we are NOT getting down before dark, or before the park gates closed.  I don't wish to alarm Karla with my thoughts of cars getting towed, tickets, us getting locked in etc., so I send her on ahead with the vague instructions of she needs to leave us and get the car and move it to the closer parking lot, and entertain any rangers that might want to keep her company.  I know the trail well so the dark wouldn't be a problem.  However long it took us to get to the end of the trail, we were going to make it. 
Terry and I got lucky and there was moon enough to see by.  After hiking for ~ 1 hour in the dark, we came to the parking lot amid shouts, lights, and cheering.  Food was thrust into our hands, and the car was waiting, along with the ranger that confirmed that she would have shut the gates if it hadn't been for Karla. 
I was quite proud of my ability to take care of the situation.  I try and strike a balance between the 2 extremes - overly OCD prepared, and the "I'm so burnt out on my OCD lists that I'm just going to wing it".  It's hard!  One thing that went very well was that each one of us had a map because the map doubles as the wilderness pass.  So when Karla went off, she had a map without depriving me or Terry of one.  I wish I would have had my headlamp.  I thought about it when we got to the trail head and realized I had forgotten it.  Fortunately I'm familiar with the trail and it is impossible to get lost on it. 
We finished off the evening with the BEST mexican food I've ever tasted.  My mom over at Food Adventures Etc. (see blog list on the right hand side) had reviewed it and gave it rave reviews.  She didn't exaggerate at all.  It was the BEST mexican restaurant I've ever been too.  Search my mom's blog for the restaurant she reviewed in Livermore, CA and it should come up.  I highly recommend the Burrito with Shimp and Suza sauce. 
Terry's already planning our next hike.  It's at Ladybug and we've already verified the difficulty - it's a 2.
Terry - if you are reading this, best wishes for recovery!  


  1. I'd almost wished I'd been there. Almost.

  2. Headlamp. Interesting that you should mention the lack of a headlamp--I just read an article in the nat'l BackCountry Horsemen mag about a nighttime mountain rescue where two people on 3 horses went in to get a distressed hiker (altitude sickness). The SAR folks loaded the horses with oxygen bottles and headlamps, but the riders had to travel the trail without headlamps in order to save the batteries for medical personnel. Um, shouldn't the riders have packed their own headlamps, extra batteries, etc. in addition to water and food for themselves? That struck me as very odd.

    Having said that, I probably need to check the batteries in the headlamp that rides in my saddlepack. I bet they're dead....!

  3. And the trouble with dead batteries is... they leak. It's not easy to keep up with the various flashlights and batteries that we have salted around for use and for emergencies. There's the little flashlights in each exterior cubby hole of the trailer, the headlamp and good flashlight in the trailer, the bedside flashlight (in case of emergency) the back door "what are the dogs barking at?" flashlight, the "feed the dogs, shut up the chickens, get the wood" headlamp, the glovebox flashlight in each vehicle...
    One battery I don't put in my stuff anymore is Rayovac. I've had more leaking with those than the rest.

  4. Do you mean my Ladybug--out of South Fork??

  5. Going out on the trail can be a pleasure but it can turn into hell in a blink of an eye. While so far I haven't had too many issues riding (well, there was the quicksand), I've been in hiking parties where people twisted their ankles and sustained heat stroke.

    While it may sound a tad paranoid, taking a supply of emergency stuff can be a lifesaver (even though I don't always follow my own advice). If nothing else, I at least have a Swiss Army knife on me at all times- sounds silly but it comes in handy. I also carry a Leatherman in my cantle pack.

    For lighting, I have found glow sticks to be useful- they last a long time and you don't have to deal with batteries (the Army seems to run on glow sticks).

    Call really paranoid but I tend to avoid riding alone unless the trails run near "civilization". Call me a weanie but I'd rather have back-up if something goes wrong.

  6. Yes Sharlene, I do mean *that* lady bug! :). Then this summer we are planning an excursion to saw tooth.

    So I just took myvery low batteries out of my headlamp that sits in the truck. It was a very expensive headlamp from rei and when I told the ver nice guy helping me that I always ruined lamps because of leaking batteries so I was worried about buying an expensive one, he told me the
    I didn't have to worry about it, it usually happens when the unit gets damp, if it's not a waterproof unit. Something to think about because I know all my flashlights are exposes to damp conditions.

    For those of you interested, I rode farley today- she felt excellent. Obviously it's a play it by ear until I can get more miles and another lesson on her, but right now I'm very hopeful to 20 mr is go. It's funny, as I threw a leg on today I realized that even though 11 days feels like a life time, it really isn't !!!!


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