The Purgatory Pucker

Sitting here on my couch this Tuesday night, it's funny to think that just a week ago this morning, I was galloping an awesome horse up and down amazing trails in Durango, Colorado. I was so incredibly lucky to be invited by Rusty Toth and Kevin Myers to ride the 1st (annual??) Purgatory 60 Endurance Ride, held at the Durango Mountain Resort in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. I can't say I was invited because I'm *that* cool, but mostly because Rusty wanted to see an experienced endurance vet as the head vet of his ride and my husband fit the bill. No matter, I was stoked to be a part of it. 

Part of the Hermosa Creek Trail just a few miles into the start of the ride. Beautiful. 

We arrived in Durango about 11am on Friday, the morning before the ride. We were quickly shuttled by friends up to ride camp where I got to spend a few minutes watching The Bootmeister expertly adhere Glue-Ons to patiently waiting feet, and I remembered once again how dang LUCKY these people are to not have to do the gluing by themselves! I would loooove to have someone else glue boots for me and hope these guys appreciate what they've got! Christoph is amazing- always with a smile and dealing with what's dealt without a negative word. Top notch. I have to admit, I thought all the gluing was a bit overkill- after all, it was only a one-day, 60 mile ride. But I won't lie, I was pleased that my horse had all his boots glued-on and was looking good. I wouldn't know how thankful I would be to have those boots glued until the next morning. Sue Summers, from Washington, was also there and she and I went for a quick spin to work out tack kinks that afternoon, and we were ready for the next day. 

As I'm sitting here a week later, on the couch, with a margarita, I laugh at the description of the trail that's noted on the ride website- "This ride has no road: You will travel on single track with sections of wider trail and open meadows." Pretty clear, yes? Well for some reason my mind did not compute "you will travel on single track" to "you will actually ride 60 miles of single track trail." Yes, I know. I can be slow sometimes. To me, this was the best (and worst, at times) part of the whole ride- 60 miles of single track! 

We woke up bright and early on Saturday morning. Well, not exactly bright but pretty early. I started tacking up Quake and was pleased with how not cold it was. Unfortunately, after about a mile of trail, the rain started. And continued. Conveniently the rain fell, making the trails slippery and the narrow trails on steep hillsides even more slippery and steep. Oh my gosh, what did I get myself into?!?! I I watched with my breath held while the horses in front of me kept on keeping on, miraculously keeping all four on the floor. My horse? He was a rock star and never bobbled. All day long. If he ever comes up missing, he WON'T be in my pasture. Just sayin'. 

I was quickly (very) thankful for the boots that were glued on Quake. Not only would it have been inconvenient to lose a boot on one of the scary trails, but the rocks were plentiful and I know Quake appreciated the extra cushion of the Sikaflex. As quickly as it started, the rain stopped and before I knew it we were at the first vetcheck. Quake passed his check with flying colors and I caught my breath from the altitude. Yes, it does make a difference. Off we went again, this time by ourselves, just Quake and I enjoying the INCREDIBLE trail that would take us from about 8,000' to 11,000'. About halfway through our second loop, we caught up to my new friend, Jo Pavlis, who owns and operates Mile Makers. Jo was riding an impeccably behaved and painfully beautiful stallion who appreciated having some company. I also enjoyed the company and pretty soon we were cruising into the second vetcheck and only a few 15 miles away from finishing back at camp. We've got this, we thought. 

Jo and her handsome stallion, Ramone. Beautiful horse, fun girl. 

Very shortly after leaving the vet check, wet stuff again began falling from the sky. I think my boots had *just* begun to fully dry at the same time the hail came. And came harder, and harder. Pretty soon our hands were stinging, our horses were trying to stop with their heads down and the ground turned while. Awesome. Once again we were soaking wet and slipping and sliding down the trail. But what a beautiful trail it was! Of course I can say that now. And then,  just as soon as it started, it was over and the trail was as dry as if it had never happened. Amazing high mountain storms. 

Quake and I and Jo and Ramone navigated the steep downhills and admired the breathtaking scenery on our way back to camp. After a quick oops moment (I was so turned around I didn't know whether we were coming or going), we were just a few miles from camp! Almost done! The last few miles of trail seemed to be the rockiest, and I was again thankful for the cushion that the Sikaflex gives these horses. While Gloves are appropriate for 95% of single day, 50-ish mile rides, there are times where the extra protection is worth it. This was one of those times. 

Quake looking off the trail to this... 

We finished the ride in the top ten of the limited 40-mile entries. I know the first and I believe second place horses were booted, as well as the 4th place horse who is new to boots and also won BC! As the BC award was a custom-made saddle donated by Mile Makers, this was one of the more hotly contested BC's I have ever witnessed. I believe there were seven booted horses in the top ten, which is a dramatic percentage. The top ten blankets were an incredible bonus and the 38 out of 44 riders who completed were ecstatic to have finished such a challenging course. This was one of those rides where you know you did something the next day. One of those rides that stay with you for months. One of those epic adventures you never forget about. One of those rides riders joke about having to change their shorts and text messages to friends like "I didn't die!" 

Thank you, Rusty and Kevin, and mostly Quake. It was an experience I won't likely forget. The Purgatory Pucker. I hope to be back! 

 


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