Saturday morning came and camp was alive. For once we were not the first ones awake. In fact, Wyatt chose to sleep in and I began to fear that we would miss the start of the ride.
Eventually he opened his eyes and off Dusty went in a scurry to make it out after the 50s but before the LDs. His one goal: catch up to and pass Liz and Dom.
I took a much more sedate pace to my morning and eventually wandered over to the start with Wyatt to watch them go. I figured the horses going by would keep him entertained. The trail was announced open at 0630 and the front runners raced off in a blur with some bucking and rearing but no accidents. Liz and Dom waited until mid pack and then headed out themselves. Q looked cool and calm, but ready for what lay ahead. Dom's horse gave some trouble but she is a great rider and before long they were out of sight.
Dusty left about 20 minutes later on foot.
A lot of endurance, for those not on trail, is a whole lot of hurry up and wait. I figured two hours at a minimum before they were back, but more like 2 1/2. I wanted to be there for the first check to help with Q since Liz's Dave hadn't even been to a ride before and he wouldn't know what to expect.
I fixed breakfast and then we played in the tent and read some books before the LDs headed out. For all those who are anti LD due to their tendency to race, I question what rides you have been at. The LD riders mostly walked out of camp with the front runners holding a slow and steady trot. No shenanigans, no incidents, no racing. Much more controlled than the 50s. Not all LD riders want to zoom around and be done by lunch.
I can't recall exactly what I did to pass the time, but I believe it included a lot of playing with his dump truck and talking with Dave. I know that by the time I wandered over to check in with Mike as to the ETA of Dom and Liz, I was already tired and running out of ideas.
Knowing they would be in soon, I hung out in the crew area with Wyatt playing with his dump truck. He desperately wanted to play in the water buckets, but I told him it had to wait. Instead he practiced sponging Kenai. Poor dog.
They showed up looking great and with big smiles. Holding Wyatt in one hand, I helped to untack as best I could and scrape the water Liz was sponging onto her. She looked like she had barely done anything and once Liz headed to vetting, I headed back to our camp.
It is hard to crew and watch a toddler, so I did my best and tried to hang out and talk with Liz about her first loop. Dusty came in with 20 minutes of her hold time left and I urged him to get back out there! The good thing about running is no hold time. So he could get a decent head start. He had put in a fast 16.5 hilly miles and was very proud of himself for passing some of the 50s on trail having started 20 minutes behind them all. He was looking good and having a good time.
Once everyone left again, I had the brilliant idea of taking Wyatt and Einstein on a hike. I figured we could go on the now vacant blue loop since everyone else was already out on yellow. I strapped him into his pack and hoisted him up. Then I fell over.
This was Dusty's job. I hadn't hiked carrying him all summer due to how big he has gotten and the fact that the frame is too long for my back and hit the top of my butt with every stride. It wasn't a big deal when he weighed 10 pounds, but at 35 it was much more annoying.
I unhooked Einstein and off we lurched up the hill out of camp. A quarter of the way up and I couldn't breathe. That mother was steep! Wyatt asked me if I was ok. I wheezed back that I thought so and trudged on. Another quarter of the way and I stopped again. Wyatt asked if I was going to make it. Yes, my son. We would make it. I may have to crawl, but we would make it.
I kept the swearing to inside my head only, I don't swear around Wyatt at all, and made it up that blasted hill. I turned left to follow the blue loop and planned to go as far as the right turn up the steep hill a mile later.
The hike was extremely tough with the added weight and Einstein tugging on his leash. He is so used to being let off since he is great at staying close and has an amazing recall for being only a year old. With horses out on trail and not knowing for sure nobody would go this way, I kept him on.
Some indeterminate length of time later I made it back to camp. After unloading Wyatt, I found Mike again to verify the ETA and noted that I still had plenty of time. Time for lunch, hot dogs from the concession stand, and a nap. I warned Dave back at camp that this could get ugly and headed into the tent. Thankfully, Wyatt did fall asleep which allowed me some shut eye as well.
We woke up in time to catch Liz vetting in for her second hold. She told me that they had passed Dusty on trail a ways back and that things were still going great for all involved. The camp was buzzing with rumors of trail sabotage as a major turn had all of a sudden had the sing pointing the wrong way after the first 4 had gone passed. Not knowing the trail at all, I kept my head down and stayed out of it.
It's been too long for me to remember everything anymore, so I can't say if Dusty came in before they left out of the hold or not. I'm thinking they left before but I could be wrong. Either way, Dusty came in looking worn. He had an empty beer can in one hand and I knew he was done.
He said he could tell his glucose was super low and the beer had done wonders. He hadn't planned to run this far and so his nutrition and sleep leading up to it were not sufficient, but he had had a great 30 mile run on steep, rutted and muddy trails. He was happy and I was proud of him.
Selfishly, I knew this also meant I would have help with Wyatt and could fully devote myself to help Liz with the final vet check when Q would be the hottest and most in need of a quick vetting.
And that is exactly what I did. Once I saw her coming in, I left the boys to their own devices and helped pull tack before she even got close to crewing. I helped sponge and Qs heart rate dropped quickly. The mare looked fantastic. Over to vetting she headed and I got busy carrying her tack back to camp. The worst part, for me anyway, of having no crew (I am always crew less) is cleaning it all up after you've completed. You are tired, hot, smell bad and are hungry and the thought of carrying all your tack, buckets, sponges, etc... back to camp just stinks. So I got busy. Between Dan, Dave and I we had everything back including my EZ Up Tent within 10 minutes.
Dinner that night was the best pasta I had ever had. I got the spicy sauce and it was mouth watering good. Those people sure can cook. The only time all weekend I got ticked about the very loose dog policy was at dinner. Everyone brought their dogs. Large crowd, lots of dogs and food is a bad combination and I watched more than one dog fight break out. One lady, in front of us in line, had her dog seriously attack another. She just shrugged saying her dog had had enough and was stressed. Then put him back in your camp and let him de stress. I swear if any had come even close to biting Wyatt I would have boot kicked its head in. Dogs don't belong at dinner.
I paid minimal attention to the meeting and then helped put Wyatt to bed. After he was down, I came back out to find Liz and Dom to chat and we all eventfully made it to the bonfire. The fire was huge and the two man band was entertaining under the full moon. Originally I had planned to join Dave, Dan and Orion on a moonlight ride using Griffin, but when the time came I was tired from a day of chasing Wyatt and I also partly chickened out. It was dark, he was a horse I barely knew and the others were also friendly near strangers. I could see a million things that could go wrong and so instead I passed.
I went to bed.
The morning dawned bright and early as usual and we found ourselves being the first ones up again. We ate breakfast and started the arduous task of tearing down the behemoth tent and piles of toddler things. The rest woke up in due time and we talked about the day. I had really, really wanted to have Liz show us some of WV but we needed to be on the road toward home by lunch and we didn't leave camp until 9. Liz had been worried that her SUV would have trouble making it out of camp with both horses in the trailer. Simple solution: hook it up to our truck and we would haul them to her barn. So we did and made plans to eat at Bob Evans afterward.
Her barn is absolutely gorgeous and the horses hauled nicely. We dropped Einstein at her apartment and headed to breakfast. Wyatt was exhausted and while he had been a super star all weekend on his first ever camping trip, I could tell his fuse was short. He squeaked through breakfast with the help of being allowed to leave the table to wait for food. Typically he is not permitted up until we are all done eating, but we made an exception this time.
After breakfast we headed back to grab Einstein and head home. It had been a fantastic weekend, a massively successful first camping trip, and a wonderful way to make new friends. We said goodbye and about 8 hours later pulled back in suburbia already missing the hills, wide open spaces and fresh air of WV.