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[RC] The reason we ride... - Dean A. Conti

We all have our own reasons for choosing to be involved in Endurance Riding. It can be the camaraderie, the competition or just a good excuse to spend time on our horse away from it all.


On Wednesday here in Seattle the weatherman said that it would be the last of the 70 degree days until next spring. Wanting to get in on the action, King and I headed up to Crystal Mountain Ski Area that is located a little over an hour away, on the east boundary of Mt Rainier National Park. We parked at the Sand Flats Horse Camp (built by Backcountry Horsemen) and headed up to Norse Peak and Goat Lake. It is a very Tevis like trail, starting at 4000’ and going over a pass at 6000’ through incredible alpine forests and around shear rock cliffs. The Vine Maple and Huckleberry was doing its fall thing with bright greens, yellows and reds. This feast for the eyes coupled with the wonderful high alpine smells and absolute quiet and warmth on the south slope made for a special assent. We dropped down into Goat Lake for a quick drink and snack. The area looked like a farm yard there was so much activity from Elk. I never saw them but a couple of bucks started to bugle from the next ridge over, marking the start of rutting season.


On the ride back up to the pass I noticed a herd of Dahl Sheep on the backside of the ridge I missed on the way in. So King and I climbed to the top of the peak (6305’) and came out just a couple hundred feet above them. From small yearlings to the patriarch, there were almost two dozen and they were mostly unconcerned with our presence. King is a grey so they probably though he was a lost long legged cousin. A pair of Ravens did come over to investigate, cackling and laughing at the intruders. The view from the top is dominated by Mt Rainier with its 14,410’ height only 10 miles away. Across its east shoulder stands Mt Adams off in the distance. The glaciers were brown and grey, cover with the summer’s debris; waiting for the season’s first big snow (may be happening right now). Watching the disasters from the Gulf Coast makes me realize how close we all are to some major problem. If any of these large volcanoes let go (Mt St Helens was a small one), look out…


King and I are new to each other and he doesn’t have a lot of trail experience (5yo full Arab). He has never spooked but he certainly has been shying away from the scary stumps, rocks and dirt piles. This trail is all single track, cutting across steep hillsides and with drop-offs, so not a good place to have a melt down. King had a prime chance when a Grouse jumped up from 3 feet away to land in a tree near by. Thankfully all he did was a little twitch and a head bob, without even losing stride. Heck, I jumped more than he did.


So in three hours at a walk, trot and a (little) canter we covered 10-15 miles with over 6200’ elevation change. The sun blazed down with the Lenticular clouds on the mountain peaks marking the change in weather and the inevitable march of the seasons. Almost assuredly without my involvement in Endurance and the associated “pressure” to train, we would not have gone out.


Protect your sanity. Breathe deeply. Hug your family (human as well as horse). Relax and go riding.