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~~Last updated October 2015~~

Music or Noise?

"Ride To a Different Drummer"

I have this friend I ride with that drives me crazy. You might recognize the type.

She never stops talking! We can literally ride for hours and all I have to do is nod my head now and then. I often wonder what people like that do when they are alone. Do they talk to themselves? Or do they just drown out their own thoughts with unnecessary background noise? You know the type -- they always have the TV on even when no one is watching it. If they have music on, they will talk louder to be heard over the music instead of turning the music down. They are always bombarded with sound (noise) and never seem to know it. These are also the kind of people who take iPods, etc., camping.

WHOA! I go camping to get away! Away from people, away from crowds, away from traffic, away from NOISE! Please, do not bring your noise camping with you!!!

I prefer the quiet. To listen to the wind playing softly with the Aspen leaves. Aspens make a sound like no other tree. The way nature devised the aspen leaf, with a flat stem, it becomes susceptible to the slightest breeze. The leaves shimmer in unison, responding to their environment like the strumming of harp strings. The music of aspen leaves in a breeze is all the music my ears need to hear.

But back to my friend. We rode together quite often. We both had Arabians, both had been into doing Endurance Rides, and both loved to just get on our horses and ride, ride, ride! Believe it or not, a lot of people who own horses, ride in an arena (endless circles) or trail ride for maybe an hour--two tops--at a gawdawful Quarter Horse walk (read: slow). I'm more into riding for the sheer thrill. I love to haul! I also love to explore vast networks of trails that would take a hiker a week to cover--all in one day. Travel light, travel fast! Even at a fast pace, you can 'sit back' and enjoy the scenery!

But back to this one friend of mine. Perhaps I'll call her Ranelle.

When she moved to Tahoe, I heard that we should meet and ride together for weeks before we actually ran into each other. I figured, if you rode Endurance, you were ready for all the trails Tahoe has to offer.

Not so! Wrong! Think Again!

Just because someone can get on a horse, point it's nose to the next vet check (like an aid station in a foot race) and complete 50 miles in 6-8 hours, doesn't mean that you can really ride trail! This, I found out for myself. First thing I noticed with Ranelle and her fearful steed, Rusty, is that Rusty REFUSED to go first down a trail. No problem, I thought, Gabe likes to lead, so this will work out perfectly! I will lead and she will follow! Unfortunately, when the trail was washed out, and we had to do an about-face... Rusty was suddenly FIRST and couldn't move. Great. Just great.

Ranelle lived in the foothills and rode the end of the Tevis trail as her regular training rides, deep in the bowels of the treacherous American River Canyon. Cool! (no pun intended LOL)! I figured we'll get along fine. I'll show her all my High Sierra Trails. We'll have fun cantering our endurance-trained mounts together all over the Central Sierra--what could possibly be more fun?

Well, I found out we ride to the beat of a different drummer. My idea of really riding includes going "off-piste," off the beaten path. I really enjoy ambling along beside a river, striking out cross country through the forest, with towering fir and pine tress to negotiate. I'm not afraid to look at the topo map and say, " humm, I wonder if we can there their from here."

However just because Ranelle had done a couple of 50 mile Endurance Rides, doesn't mean she has ever stepped a hoof off the trail. She freaks out if she can't follow the beaten path.

"Where are you g-o-i-n-g" she shrieks whenever I wander off-piste. "I dunno, over there, perhaps," I mumble and keep going. "But where's the trail?" she wails, worried that her horse might stumble in a hole or trip on a rock.

blaze marking trail on tree"Hmmmm., the trail seems a little faint through here," I muse, "maybe you should look for the blazes."

Blazes, in the west, are used to mark the trail. They are a mark, hatched into a tree every so often along a designated trail. I prefer blazes over rock piles (ducks or cairns) as rock piles can get knocked over (my husband does it on purpose) and a light snowfall can obscure most trails and make rock piles all look alike.

Blazes, however, can easily be followed regardless of the snow cover. The only challenge becomes when the blaze is very old and looks like any other scar that tree may have suffered long ago. I have followed 'scars' for many miles before concluding that they weren't really blazes after all! *and, since then, the Forest Circus has deemed blazes unhealthy to the just forget the previous paragraph, it will do you no good to save your hide in the wilderness.*

So, I left it to Ranelle to hunt feverishly for blazes, imagining many among the folds of the red fir bark. That way, I could wander peacefully off-piste while she follows, anxiously searching.

I do love to ride by myself most of the time, but sometimes it's nice to invite someone else along to show all these glorious trails to. Not many people can sit in a saddle for 6-8 hours or more a day, and Ranelle was the last one to ever complain about how long a ride was ... well ...except for one ride we did together: Wolf Creek, 40 miles on the Golden Canyon Loop, including the PCT to Wolf Creek Pass.

But that's another story! Stay safe out there and have fun!

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Site Originally Created October 24, 1996. 

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