May 25, 2015

Brick House Adventure

I'm not sure what has been up with me lately. Well, that is not really true. I do know the cause - or more accurately the many little causes - that have created my anti riding funk of late. This time last year you couldn't keep me off Gem and I was riding 2 weeknights plus the weekend every week without fail. This year? Barely at all.

My eye is set on 75 miles over two days in Sept with hopefully the help of a fellow blogger. It is now nearly June and Gem has basically been a pasture puff all spring with the exception of a few rides here and there. It is high time to get back into some sort of a groove again to get her as ready as possible. With my life right now over conditioning isn't much of a concern, but too little is.

With that in mind I headed out to Brick House this morning for a 9 mile ride. I had wanted 12-15, but the way the trails are set up it is really hard to do that distance without doing an out and back and I really don't like those types of rides.

I had ordered a new pair of stirrups with cages off someone on Facebook and really wanted to try them out. I'll put up a review of these and the Garmin 310xt in the next post.

New endurance stirrups with cages

We started out on the blue and yellow trail which is measured at 5.75 miles per the park service. Gem was annoying at the start. She ping ponged her way down the trail in absolute protest of having to work. It took several deep breaths and a big discussion as to what forward really meant to get her butt moving down the trail without shying from left to right at every stinking branch, twig, lump of dirt and leaf we came across.

Twisting single track with dirt footing. My favorite trail conditions
This type of footing keeps Gem more occupied

Eventually she understood that I wasn't messing about and got down to working. I know the first section of trail super well from hiking as well as riding it before. There is a nice stream crossing which she handled just fine as well as two bridges of doom. She went over both with only a little resistance and I was fine with that.

Creek crossing

Bridge of Doom #1. She balked a bit but went over with minimal fuss

The last time I rode down there was when I did the 20 mile loop and got horribly lost. Yellow/blue dead ends into an intersection of purple and red. The long way around is to take purple, but I didn't have enough time to do that entire loop and Gem doesn't need to be going 20 miles right now anyway. Instead I hooked a left and went on red which cuts it down to the 9 miles. I had never been on red before, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I won't be taking it again.

It started out just fine, but the footing became really bad fairly quickly. Remember my annoying rant about trail conditions? This is what I was talking about. The footing was so torn up from people riding when they should't have been and it made for very slow going. I was seriously concerned Gem was going to twist or pull something.
Trail destruction. The clay down here bakes hard and doesn't pack down once it dried like this.  
We were still making fairly good time when she slammed on the brakes at this:

The approach. Just right of the trees was the only safe entry into the water. To the right is a 2 ft drop off over granite. 
To give her credit this was pretty crappy. At the approach I could see many issues right away. On the right hand side is all that crunchy black anti erosion material the trails down here love. Gem hates this stuff. She has gone over this at various water crossings numerous times and hates it every single time. The bright orange fencing laying on top didn't help. To the far right is a 2 foot waterfall over slick granite. To the left is the muddy creek without a visible bottom. It got very deep. Just right of center is the only safe path.

A closer view of the black anti erosion material. It makes a loud noise and caves in when walked on and is like a honeycomb 

To the left is a deep hole that on the edge went up to my knee. It got deeper in the middle. You had to enter just left of the black material and head towards the mud just left of the material on the other side. 

She refused many times and eventually I got off her to lead her over. Better to be safe than to keep arguing over it. Except she wouldn't be led over it either. I accidentally went too far left and sunk to my knees learning how deep of a hole it really was. I didn't get angry with her though. She honestly tried to cross, but the entry was terrible. There was a small section that you had to enter at the correct angle to avoid both the black paper and the deep hole and she went too far right. She stepped on the paper which crunched under foot and she freaked out. I was proud of her though - her freak out was just backing up and planting her feet. She could have spun and run or reared.

We were at an impasse. I don't usually let her win over stuff like this, but this was pretty dangerous to begin with. I didn't mind her refusing much. I was debating on turning around and going back the way we came (there were no other visible places to cross that were safer) when a husband and wife came toward me. The opposite direction had much easier entry and even with that their horses balked significantly. They made it across eventually and the husband asked if I wanted him to go back and lead us. I was very thankful for this and Gem followed with only a few snorts of disgust. Good mare.

After that the trail was kind of crappy for a ways. They had put some gravel down,  but the trail was eaten up like the above for the next 2 miles. It was stop and go for a long time.

I do love riding down there though. You are practically in the middle of nowhere to begin with, but once you get back in the woods a ways all you hear are the birds and little scurrying critters you stir up. I don't run into many people or horses on the trails. It is like I am in my own little world far away from everything. I love it.

After spending the majority of the time in the deep forest with trees close in on both sides, the shock of popping into the logging area was real. The trees had kept the sun out except to speckle the trail in spots of light, but now the sun was full on and very hot. It looked like a war zone.
Logging region. Fairly new given the size of the new growth. I wish I remembered more form my field ecology class. At one point I could have told you pretty closely how old this area was given the types and sizes of the trees. Alas, that information has left my brain. 

It wasn't long before we dove back into the woods again and made it back to the trailer. Per the measured distances on the map we went 9.50 miles, but the Garmin read 8.85. Not that bad given the tight tracks and dense tree cover. Gemmie was sweaty and a little tried at the end, but a soupy mash and sponge bath cured that.
Back into the old growth we go

My favorite tree. It must be at least 100 years old
The branches just beg for climbing

Overall it was super nice to be out and about again. I'm sad that I lost a lot of the conditioning I had on her going into the last 50, but she should gain it back quickly. I can get to the barn Tuesday nights and have a new plan of attack for that plus a weekend morning. With all of June, July and August to go we should be ready.

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