Sunday, September 27, 2009

Little Bear at Little Elden

I'm sorry, did you think you would see pictures of a small bear? I'm not deliberately misleading you - there is a trail up at the Little Elden horse camp called Little Bear. I'd heard a lot about it but never ridden it before this trip. And I'm not sure I will ride it again unless someone else has RECENTLY been on it...

It's a fairly technical trail. It goes to the top of the mountain which is 9500 feet elevation. I'm not sure where we started but I would assume somewhere around 8000 feet... it's a steep narrow trail. We were a good ways up when we came to a downed tree - across the trail and too large for the horses to get over it. A steep slope up to the right, a steep down - WAY down - to the left. Our leader went up about 5-6 feet to where the tree was a bit smaller and laying flat on the ground, over it and back to the trail, with two more following - it looked pretty scary to me, very steep and the horses were slipping and scrambling, but there was no turning around on that narrow trail with 12 more people behind me so I turned up the hill a little sooner than they had hoping the angle would lessen the difficulty, and prayed real hard! On the far side of the tree I lost Sherman off my lap - he ended up on Katie's neck! But he didn't fall since I had him clipped to my belt loop. Rocket stayed in the rear saddle just fine. One more passed over behind me and then I heard a big commotion and yelling and turned around to see my friend Lisa's turquoise shirt rolling down the mountain. I didn't even see her horse Lady...

That got the adrenaline going... I unclipped both dogs and dropped them on the ground, hopped off as fast as I could trying to stay on that narrow trail, gave Katie's lead rope to my friend Pat in front of me and got back across the tree as fast as I could. A couple more downed trees laying parallel to the trail about 3 feet below it had stopped the downward roll of Lisa and her horse... and luckily Lady had slipped and fallen in such a way that Lisa was above her as they both slid/rolled down the mountain. By the time I got to Lisa, Lady had regained her feet and gotten herself back up to the trail, going straight to the next person in line who had dismounted and grabbed her reins. Another gal and I got to Lisa about the same time, working to calm her down and assess her condition. Scrapes and bruises of course, but it seemed her only "serious" injury was a sprained or possibly broken ankle. Once she got her breath back and realized she was pretty much ok, she wanted to see the horse so we got her back up on the trail. Lady had multiple small cuts and scrapes on her legs but otherwise appeared to be fine. She wasn't even limping! In the meantime a couple of folks pushed and shoved and wiggled and heaved and got that log to slide down just far enough that the rest of the horses could continue ON the trail.

Long story short we got Lisa back on the horse and took the safest route which was continuing on up to the top of the mountain. Took a nice long break in a beautiful meadow there, iced her ankle and everyone had lunch, and the trail down the other side was not near as steep. Lisa really wanted to turn back but we convinced her that going downhill that steep, when she couldn't put any weight on her one ankle, would be a BAD idea.

Back at camp we put Lisa in a chair with her feet up and unsaddled the horses, washed Lady's legs real good and got medicine on her owies. She generally freaks about aerosol cans but she did really good with the medicine. Got her settled back in her portable pen to find that Lisa had left the chair and was checking for bruises. Her comment later was that she looked like a bad Picasso!

She didn't sleep much Saturday night, every time she moved the pain woke her up. SHe and Lady were both stiff in the morning and Lady's one leg, with the most cuts, was slightly swollen, but still no limp. Took her for a walk to loosen her up and then several us went for a nice slow short ride, including Lisa and Lady, in the hopes of working otu some kinks before the long trailer ride home.

Lots of thoughts about what COULD have happened kept running through all our minds. Ten feet earlier on the trail and there wouldn't have been any downed trees to stop the fall... if Lisa had been hurt bad enough she couldn't ride how the heck would we get her down??? If the horse had been hurt bad enough she couldn't walk... I don't even want to go there.

As we so very often say, it could have been so much worse... but these are the rides that create stories. Uneventful rides are sure enjoyable but we would miss so much gorgeous country... 3 other people hit the dirt that day as well but those were more "normal" incidents and no injuries so we can all laugh at those folks. And it was great to see us all work together, both right after the fall and up at the meadow, and later in camp, taking care of what needed to be done and all pitching in together.

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