Desolation Wilderness Vacation, Part Two

Submitted by Natalie Herman, Team Easyboot 2012 Member

In part one, we began our adventure in the Desolation Wilderness, west of Lake Tahoe, California. Three horses, three riders, three days of remote peace, quiet, and fun. We also found out how important it was for our horses to have good hoof protection in the sharp granite of the wilderness. This time we can see how wonderful it was having the great traction Easyboot Gloves and Epics provide on the long, flat slab sections of the trail. We never once worried about slipping on the trail, despite seeing much evidence for it scratched into the rocky trail by steel shoes.

The next day we set out in a new direction. One of the reasons we picked the camp we did is because there were a number of different trails to go down and we didn't have to ride days of repeat. Though the scenery is beautiful, three endurance riders and horses can cover a lot of ground in a day, so we needed a big playground. This trail was a little less maintained than the previous day's (which wasn't all that well maintained either - we had a lot of logs to step over or find ways around), so there was a good bit of bushwhacking involved. Den, being a poor open-country boy, wasn't all too sure about braving the big, bad vegetation, but became quite adept at it by the end of the trip.

Where's Waldo?? pushing our way through the brush and trees to navigate a fallen tree.

 

At least there was a reward out of all of the work. Lots of tasty grass out on this trail.

This trail had less of the sharp rock (less being a very relative term out here), but still many boulder fields to negotiate. As always, our Gloves stayed on well, though by the evidence left on the trail, other riders were not so lucky with their choice of hoof protection.

We found a beautiful creek out here as well. It ran down a pure rock bed, that would likely be impassable after the spring snow melt. Barely there in some places, and hard to tell how deep in others, the water was crystal clear. For sure not a place to venture with slippery steel shoes. Not a single piece of dirt or grass to get a grip on, our booted horses traversed the area with confidence.

This day we also had some fun doing a new horse sport - or at least we think it should be. We want to call it "Slabbing". You find the longest, most complicated stretch of stair-step rock slabs, and see who traverses it the fastest and most gracefully. This trail offered plenty of practice opportunities. In fact, if your horse is not a 'Slabber', you might as well turn back to camp, as there was no other way off the mountainside.

It started with easy, short sections.

Then it became much more interesting.

And more fun.

Sadly, I can not locate the videos I took of the slabbing. But this would be a great Trail Trial obstacle (ok, so all of it out here would, really) for bare or booted horses. From the slabbing area, it was not too far back to camp, and another well deserved nap in the last rays of sun for the ponies.

On the last day, we went for an easy ride. We found some nice logging roads where we could move out more, and went up to little lake, crossing through several open meadows.

There were also some fun single track areas past another, less developed, horse camp. We wanted to find a landing strip we saw on the map, as it was hard to imagine anywhere flat enough out here to land even a small plane. But sure enough, tucked in behind a tree line off some logging roads, there it was. Nothing fancy, just a large, somewhat flat meadow with no trees or bushes. I actually rode right by it, until Willi called us back to take a look. Some lunch, a few more fun trails, and we were back in camp again. Another great day.

As a grand finale to the whole adventure, Eowyn decided we hadn't had enough excitement during our trip. Actually, all three horses thought they should spice it up. First Den had decided right upon arrival to try and use the trailer window as an exit strategy. He was pawing the trailer walls, and managed to rear up and get one of his front legs through the window. Luckily he came away with just a little scuffing and not a single thing wrong with him. Next, Ro thought that we were not awake enough, and the second evening in camp, rolled on his highline and somehow wrapped himself up in the lead rope. Wound around a foot and his neck, close to choking himself. Luckily he was smart enough to lie still, which at first shocked us all, as we hadn't much any commotion, then looked over and saw a 'dead' horse on the line: he was that still. Oh the heart attacks that gave us. Then we unsnapped and unwound the lead, and he hopped up with also nary a scratch on him.

Eowyn decided she had to outdo everyone one though. The last evening in camp, after a perfect three days on the trail with no indications of any problems, and having eaten like the usual pig she was upon arrival back in camp, I noticed her being a bit restless while we prepped our dinner. Then while eating, she was getting up, then finding a spot to lie down; got up again, found another spot about 3 or so times. Not normal, but not acting really off beat either. Then after dinner she did it some more, and would wander to the end of her zip line, back to the food, grabbing a half-hearted bite and back to the end. I got up and went over to check her out. She was drenched on her chest, under her fleece cooler. Uh oh...

Over to the trailer I went, and grabbed my stethoscope. Her heart rate was normal (in the upper 30s) and respiration was too. Gut sounds were mostly normal, if a tad quieter on one side than the other. Then I heard it. Like some submarine sonar out of an old movie... PING...PLUNK...PING... Every now and then in the background of the 'quiet' side, was an odd pinging sound, that I remembered was supposed to be what gassiness sounds like. So we did lots of belly lifts (helps shift the guts around a little), tip of the ear rubs (a pressure point spot for stomach/intestinal issues), and walking - lots and lots of walking. At this point it was dark out and I was worried sick (nothing like a colic to strike fear into a horse owner's heart, especially when you are hours from help in the wilderness) All that yummy dinner we had indulged in earlier, was not sitting too well anymore. What a waste of good food.

She was pretty quiet. Every lap around camp (it was a huge campground, and I did good 15-20min loops around just a small portion of it) I would stop at the trailer and offer her some food and water, do more belly lifts and ear rubs, take her heart rate, and listen to her gut sounds. Then out again into the cold and darkness for another round. By round three, she finally perked up a little and whinnied coming back to camp. Round four she left a big manure pile on the ground and was pulling me back to camp. Once there, she drank and was wanting to eat again. Guts sounded more normal as well, so one more lap for good measure, then I put her back on the highline, tucking into her haybag again.

Whoot! Survived our first big scare! I hope she never does that again away from vet care. I set my alarm to go off every hour, as I didn't want her to relapse without me knowing about it. Not that the alarm was needed, as I got no sleep that night. I had my ears perked for the slightest sound of 'wrongness' and kept peeking out the door screen to make sure she looked normal. But all was well the rest of the night, and the next day on the way home. I have no real idea what caused it, though one of the hay bales we had along had a hint of mold in it, that we had weeded out right on the first day. Maybe hay, maybe too much grazing in the meadows, maybe the altitude or temperature change (all things she had encountered before with no issues).cWho knows. I did buy some probios after that, and now feed it to her before and during any road trips to help keep her guts balanced a little better. And my vet is setting me up with a wilderness emergency kit for my next trip, with the necessary things to cover such emergencies.

So, all in all we had a great trip, with plenty of fun and (not always welcome) excitement in the wild back woods of the El Dorado National Forrest. We are already planning next summer's outing for after the Tahoe Rim Ride, and I can't wait to explore some more of the beautiful backcountry of California and Nevada.

Natalie Herman


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