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[RC] Whiskeytown Chaser - part 2 - superpat

The start of the ride was a sane one and both "babies" took it all in stride and when we turned onto the single track trail from the dirt road, we were happy to find that the footing was wonderful with no slippery mud. Decomposed granite in this area makes for great trail. It was raining lightly by now and the foliage on the hillsides and along the ravines made for a beautiful ride. This is such a pretty area. About a half hour into the ride, we saw riders returning along the trail. They were certain that they had missed a turn somewhere and were retracing their steps. We had questioned the lack of flagging earlier so were not surprised at this turn of events. At one point there were at least ten riders (half of the ride participants) milling around riding back to check turn-offs and possible routes. A few riders had ridden these trails often and opted to go on saying that at some point, the trails would converge and we would be able to pick up the actual flagged trail. Wanting to ride the trail as it had been routed for us, others decided to turn around and go back to the last known flag and search for the correct trail. This area is criss crossed with trails that are used by mountain bikers and horsemen and the choice of turnoffs is abundant. After some searching, we saw a glimmer of a flag about 50 yards down another trail but no flag to indicate a turn. But it was the correct color so we headed down that trail.
By now it was raining for real again but the horses were doing great and it was turning into a real adventure. A little muttering about  how hard is it to hang a "reassurance flag" every now and then, but all in all, just something else to deal with that makes endurance the challenge it is. At another point, we arrived at a very large parking lot that we knew in advance we would come to but there was a choice of trails taking off from various parts of the area. Luckily, there was a group of riders ahead of us who called to us not to take the trail we had selected. That saved us from who knows how many miles of back tracking. The winds had come up and it made me wish I had worn that extra poly pro sweater I had left in the trailer. I usually overdress at the start of a ride and I usually find myself stopping to readjust for being overheated. No chance of that happening today, however.
There were parts of the trail that would serve the 25 milers as well as portions that would be ridden again on the second 50 mile loop. Where it was apparently questionable, management had written on signs with arrows pointing the correct direction depending on which loop and mileage one was doing. Problem was that the winds had blown down the signs and the rains had so disintegrated them that it was necessary to dismount, unfold the cardboard and try to imagine which directions were which.
There would be one out vet check and because of the weather, the vet had said that he would make it a stop and go so that the horses would not get chilled. How happy we were to arrive at this point. We knew we were there because there was a lone white truck out of which the vet and his assistant climbed as we approached. Thinking that we had to be the last riders of the 50's we apologized for having made him wait out there for so long but he assured us that there were some riders behind us and he was so encouraging and upbeat that it was heartening. In fact, he told us how proud he was of us for hanging in there and riding under these adverse conditions. It was a quick check and we mounted for our trot out and we were on our way again.
The flags were sparse but we managed to follow the trail. After riding for some time at a pretty steady trot, Leighsa said "hmmmm, does this look familiar to you? We were trotting down a road that looked like any other road to me and I had not noticed that it was familiar so we continued. A few miles later, we encountered large remains of ashes where workers had apparently burned piles of debris. They spotted the road every twenty or so yards. I remembered encountering such spots earlier but thought that perhaps they had burned on many of the roads in this area. Then we saw a can on the side of the road that Leighsa remembered having seen before. Oh no! Don't tell me. I pulled out the map but it was one soggy mess and disintegrated as I tried to unfold it. By now, however, it was apparent that we were at the turn-off that leads to the out vet check and if we continued, we would be there in less than a mile or so. Ayeeee! This was turning into a frustrating adventure. We had done the first loop twice. As we rode back up the road, we encountered several groups of riders who were looking for the out vet check area. Some of them had managed to take the second loop trail which climbed Kanaka Peak, the highest point of the entire ride and had to back track. They were not happy. We also met some 25 milers who had gotten lost and ridden much of the 50 mile first loop. They were not happy. We met a couple of riders, one of whom was off and walking. Her four year old horse was on his first long distance ride and with the weather and the mileage, he was pretty tuckered out. He definitely was not happy.
(to be continued)