Sunday, May 22, 2016

Q's History

Last week I got a wild hair to finally try to find out what both of my horses' true backgrounds were so far as their breeding went. I receive so many questions about that aspect of them and I've never been able to answer with any certainty. Obviously they're well-put-together, athletic, and have phenomenal temperaments, but I still can't help but wonder to myself what breeds they're composed of.

I reached out to both original owners of both horses as far back as I was aware.

Griffin's trail dead ended pretty quickly. The girl who originally had him (prior to friends of mine picking him up) was pretty young when she had him and unfortunately remembers nothing about where she got him from. Bummer. But I wasn't too surprised to hear this. I did ask if she knew what his breeding was and she said, "TWH, Arab, QH, paint". Well, that doesn't help too much! Still, not surprising.

Q's trail gained a lot more information though! 

I first called the cowboy I got her from. He remembered her and he remembered me and he noted again (as he had when I bought her) that he was happy she had found a good home because he really didn't want to take her to the slaughter auction. He gave me a name and number for the lady who gave her to him originally. He thought he remembered Q coming from around my home town. 

I found the lady on Facebook and sent her a message on there, waited a day or two, and then called her, as well. (What can I say, I prefer written correspondence to a phone any day. It's a lot easier to take notes and keep them when they originate as text than to take notes via phone conversation! I just can't write quickly enough it seems.)

She called me back in < 24 hours.

She was really happy to get an update on the horse after so long. She told me that one of her coworkers got Q as a 2 year old. She said she was spirited and obviously needed more time than the lady could give and needed her own person. She said Q went to the cowboy when she was 3 years old. She asked how old I thought Q was now, and I told her 10 based on vet's estimate based on her teeth. She told me she thought she'd be closer to 8 than 10. 

She told me that Q was a kicker; if another horse brushed up against her or near her backside she would strike out. I noted to the lady that I'd never observed that level of kicking behavior from her in our 4 years together unless a horse crowded her for a good while or in a very rude manner. (And oft times, she would give a warning hump of her back more than a true kick.)

When I asked about Q's breeding, she told me she was half Morgan and half Arabian. She didn't come from a breeder, but from a lady who had a Morgan mare and bred her to an Arabian stallion. She believed she was bred somewhere near my hometown. Go figure!

She was happy to hear from me and get an update on Q. She couldn't remember her original name (and my sharing that it was "Janni" on her original Coggin's didn't ring any bells), but she really liked her new name. She said getting a happy story update like this really brightened her day!

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Conclusion? I've got a Morab mare, which fulfills suspicions that many (hi, Nicole!) had all along. She may be a year or two younger than originally thought (really need to try to get several photos of her teeth to analyze), and she may have been from closer to home than I'd originally realized all along! 

I feel like a kid on Christmas morning finding out about this! After a weekend of weddings around mostly non-horse people, I'm thrilled to finally share the discovery with those who will understand my excitement a little more. 

I wish I knew more on Griffin, but hey, it is what it is! One mystery solved is better than none. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

I Want a New Stupid Human

Spring in West Virginia, especially Canaan Valley and Dolly Sods, is always unpredictable at best. In fact, we joke that Canaan has 4 months, June, July, August, and Winter. In actuality, there are records of snowfall in Canaan and the Sods every month of the year except August, I believe.

A couple months back, Nicole (Saiph) and Carlos asked about setting up a training ride in the Sods in May when they could bring their own horses up to ride. We'd done a ride in September when they rode some of Dan's horses, but they really wanted to bring their own. Dan and I set it up on a weekend that would work for everyone -- the second weekend of May. In theory, the weather should be sorted out by then. ...in theory.

Of course, the weather has been all over the place. Nicole says it's been atypical in her area of Maryland, but for our area of West Virginia it's been pretty spot-on all things considered. Pretty spot-on in this instance means rain. Lots of rain. Moderate, variable temperatures and lots of rain. And of course, it isn't May in this area without the threat of snow at least one day in the month. And, as luck would have it (of course), that snow threat fell right on the day we'd planned for our ride in the Sods!

Because I'm a horrible influence on my friends, Nicole wasn't appalled by this weather report. She didn't want it to be cold and rainy, but she was totally game for the snow. Well then. Game on! Her bff from Florida was going to be in tow, too, though, and I was pretty certain she wouldn't be quite as psyched. ;-)

Friday

I borrowed my dad's truck for the weekend (thanks, Dad!) so I could bring both Griffin and Q to Canaan. They both loaded and traveled with no issue Friday afternoon.

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I may be biased, but I think they're pretty good looking beasts

I settled them into their stalls in the barn at Canaan and both dug into their hay without a moment's hesitation. I ran home to Dave's to change and came back to get in a few solo miles on Griffin. I'd never trailered Griffin to a new-to-him place like this and taken him out on a solo ride before. At 5½ years old, it was due time we gave it a whirl!

3½ miles on new-to-him trails with barking and chasing dogs, an adjacent field of excited strange horses, a two-lane country road, and stretch of short quiet-ish trail - and none of it fazed him! He was a little light in the front end when we walked by the field of strange-to-him horses the second time. And by "little light" I mean, he pranced just enough that I would be able to call it "light in the front end" as opposed to prancing. He did his fair share of delicate dancing, too, but not once then or at any point on the ride did I feel like I'd lost his brain. He kept his hamsters firmly on their wheel in his head and listened to me like a very, very good boy.

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Canaan Valley springtime <3

Saturday

The weather was beautiful Friday night and the next morning for a bit, but it deteriorated quickly after that. Mist, rain, wind. All of these came and went through the day, slowly building and becoming worse with time as temperatures steadily dropped.

The Maryland-Florida contingent arrived midday in the middle of the deteriorating weather. Nicole's girls were getting shoes reset by Dan at the barn and I was quite hesitant to venture over there at all with the gusting wind. I'd been in my pajamas at Dave's most of the day and really had little desire to go stand out in the cold. However, a text from Nicole lured me out of my warm cocoon eventually and I joined them in the cold barn (doors closed against the wind) as Dan finished up the mares' feet.

Post shoeing, we all headed back to Dave's to change before heading into town for dinner and beer. And, by 9pm that evening, it was snowing. Fortunately, cold libations kept us from caring too much in the moment.

Stumptown (Nicole's photo)

Sunday

Sunday's weather report promised 20-30 mph winds and intermittent snow showers all day with a high of 35°F and windchills in the low 20s°F. But no rain! The winds gusted hard against the house a few times Saturday night and my mind immediately flipped back into "ski patrol" mode as I heard the wind and watched the snow build up on the roof of the garage. By daylight Sunday, I was mentally prepped for what would be a pretty extreme ride in the Sods.

Originally, Dave was going to come with us making us a group of 6 (Nicole, Carlos, Dave, me, Dan, and Nicole's bff), but ever the fair weather fan, he opted out when he saw the weather report! I really wanted Griffin to go though and knew I had multiple girlfriends in the valley who had a great interest in going on a ride like this, so I sent a probing message out to Kate who quickly agreed to join despite the weather. (She's born and raised in Canaan and I knew she'd be game!)

We all met at the barn to prep the horses and set up our trailer shuttle to Timberline at 10am. It took a bit of time to jumble everything together. We were finally headed up Timberline to access the Sods around 11:15a amidst intermittent snow and sun thanks to the strong winds.

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Kate on Griffin. Snow on trees.
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Our intrepid group climbing the Wall of Tears into the Sods

The sun made everything more bearable. It wasn't steady, but the breaks it gave us from the gusting snow were quite welcome! However, despite those breaks of sunshine, the weather was absolutely brutal during the non-sun moments.

And that's where the title of the post comes in. See, I really couldn't do much more than laugh during moments of strongly gusting winds and horizontal snowflakes. And I wasn't the only one. Kate and Nicole were right there with me. Kate because she's WVian born and raised like me, and Nicole because she's a fan of my kind of crazy apparently! (I'm a bad influence...)

The horses though? Not as pleased. At least not my two, or so I joked! I started giving them voices, "I hate my job. I hate humans. I hate stupid humans. I hate MY stupid human. I want a NEW stupid human! Can I exchange this stupid human for another stupid human? In a warmer place?! Or maybe if I tell my stupid human I take back all of the bad things I ever did we can quit this?"

My horses are saintly creatures. Honestly. And honestly? Griffin loved every moment of his day. Q enjoyed herself, too, minus the snow blowing in her ears. She was game, she led a little, and she performed beautifully.

We saw a few crazy hikers in the Sods (though not very deep into them), so at least we weren't the only crazy sick-in-the-head people out there! (I remarked as much to one hiker which earned a chuckle on his part. And I even knew one of the other hikers we ran across! We're all crazy in WV...)

During the second major snow burst, the flakes were the fluffiest we'd see them all day. Kate and I made an honest attempt to catch them on our tongues. Giggling all the while.

Kate and I with tongues out catching snowflakes, Nicole giggling, photo by Carlos
 Dan and Dakota led most of the ride, with Dan's mare Nell with Nicole's bff aboard following. Carlos, Nicole, Kate and I switched up the order behind them continually throughout the ride, but always kept Griffin in front of someone as he had boots on and I wanted to keep an eye on them.

...until he lost two in one fell swoop in deep Dolly Sods mud! I was able to recover one, but the other was lost and gone forever. The first boot I've officially lost for real. I yanked Griffin's remaining boots for the rest of the ride (until we descended the Wall of Tears again when he had his fronts replaced) to avoid worrying about them any more. (UGH!)

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Shortly after the boot mishap, we reached an area of the Raven Ridge trail that is absolutely primo for galloping. I was in the back at this point and absolutely ready to GO. Q was, too! Dan on Dakota's fast trot had moved out way in front of Nell, so I pulled Q out to the left of everyone, pushed her into a canter and eventually a gallop and passed them all (knowing those horses well enough to know they would be able to handle this without majorly spazzing).

I giggled as Q surged happily ahead and heard Kate on Griffin behind me mutter an excited, "OH HELL YES," as she pulled him in right behind Q.

We accelerated until we'd caught Dan, slowed, giggling, and then neatly passed he and Dakota at a moderately paced trot as we made a left turn onto Bear Rocks trail.

The wind and snow really picked up right around this point. Nicole called it sleet, but to me, it was styrofoam pellet snow. Despite it, I urged Q into a canter for another stretch after checking that all were behind me. It was the first time she's been in the lead at a canter on an easy stretch of trail in a VERY long time. She did beautifully. <3

We kept the pace up for a good while, making a left onto Beaver View for a time.  ...until I heard Dan right behind me, "HEY SLOW DOWN!" I halted Q almost immediately as Dan on a very impatient Dakota surged past for another couple of strides. Dan turned to tell me to please not pass him like that  again as Dakota had lost his shit for the first time in about a year because he couldn't be in front any longer. No harm, no foul though. All settled neatly back in and was fine for the rest of the ride.

Our group kept our speed over the easier terrain for a couple more miles before we re-entered rocky terrain where we were forced back to a sedate walk for the rest of the ride. And about 15 minutes into the walking stretch, the sun came back out and the clouds really cleared up! Quite serendipitous really, as we were back at the western edge of the Sods that overlooks Canaan Valley. The view cleared up beautifully just for Nicole and Carlos to enjoy it for the first time! (The fog obscured it their first time there last September.)

Kate and I joked with Dan about the weather as the Maryland-Florida contingent took photos. (For once, I didn't feel the need to take photos.)

After, we descended back down Timberline to the trailers. We'd completed 15 miles in about 3 hours.

Dan shuttled his two back to their field while Kate and I waited with Q and Griffin in the parking lot, and Nicole's bff promptly hid in the warmth of the truck while Nicole and Carlos took care of their mares in preparation for their trip home.

I chatted with Kate about the ride for a bit during this time. She's grown up riding horses and recently spent a year in Austraila where she worked on a ranch and rode/trained multiple horses - so needless to say, she knows her way around the animals! She thanked me for the invite and noted how she's wanted to get into riding like this for a long while. She also complimented me on Griffin, noting how FUN he was to ride and that I'd done a really good job with him. <3 He really is a freaking BLAST. I hope to have Kate join Dan and I more in the future.

Nicole and Carlos were finishing up with their mares and loaded them to drive home. I told Nicole I'd understand if she didn't want to be my friend after the level of crazy from the ride. She grinned HUGE and reassured me that she'd had a BLAST; Carlos seconded. I really am a horrible influence on these islanders!

Dan arrived back with my trailer as Nicole and Carlos were ready to head out, so we all pulled out together.

It was a great, albeit crazy weather, ride. Not quite the heat conditioning I'll need for the OD100, but I'll take it nonetheless.

I'm really grateful for the crazy friends who join me on these adventures. <3

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Travel Tuesday: Final days of 2016 road trip

After a rest day on April 11, Dave and I were energized and ready to try our hand at desert climbing on the 12th. We headed out relatively early (for us on vacation) to Arches Nat'l Park with our eyes set on a desert tower climb, Owl's Head. The approach was a laughable 60 seconds and the climb, while awkward as hell for our climbing styles, was easy and relatively straightforward. It was enough for us to be able to say we'd climbed a desert tower!

We'd planned to potentially hit up other climbs in the park, but after that one, we just decided to drive around and see all of the significant arches in the park. By the time we'd completed that task, we were pretty exhausted. Walking around in the sun will do that to a person.

The following day we did some more desert climbing with our host's daughter and boyfriend. It. Was. HOT. And I had finally ended up sunburnt for the first time on the whole trip from the previous day's desert wanderings, so my heat tolerance was nil. Dave jumped on a huge 180' crack climb (crack climbing is a monster all its own and something I've got little experience with), and I tried, but just couldn't do it. I think I got 30' up the thing before calling it quits. I simply was not comfortable at all and did not trust my shitty ankles (old injuries) at all with the required maneuvers. If it had been a splitter crack straight up the middle of a face instead of in a corner, I may have had better luck, but the combination of crack and corner did not agree well with how my body is accustomed to dancing up the rock. I am not swearing off crack climbing completely, but that climb on that day, definitely no. Still, a good experience and I'm glad I gave it a go - but I'm equally happy that I called it quits and didn't risk injuring my ankle(s). (I broke my big toe on the trip and that is injury enough for me!)

After climbing, we headed back to the house where I took a short nap before we headed out with our hosts to bike the Hymasa and Capt. Ahab trails.

The parking area for these trails did not lend itself to any kind of warmup before jumping right onto technical single track which screwed with my head something mighty. As with lead climbing, I can get awful caught up in my head. I need time to warm up and reacquaint myself with my bike and the terrain before it gets tricky. Immediately jumping into the proverbial deep end on the Hymasa trail (which really wasn't bad at all) that evening was a monster of a mental exercise for me that I was having an incredibly hard time with because I kept digging myself into a mental hole and my physical responses were suffering as a result. I continued on in this negative feedback loop for the first 45 minutes or so of the ride before I finally settled down enough to enjoy myself.

The first half of the ride is all uphill in order to enjoy coming back down the same trail. Dave and Tony took the more technical Capt. Ahab trail down while Pam and I traversed down the trail we'd climbed up. I got off trail a few times on the way down, but I enjoyed myself nonetheless. I was feeling a LOT more confident in my downhill skill after a few days in Moab. Ledges and drops that bugged me significantly before became like nothing!

Dave and I headed for home the following day. We made one stop to see my cousin in Colorado on the way, but beyond that we boogied straight on home within 30 hours of departing Moab.

It was an incredible trip (on a budget to boot!) and Dave and I both had an absolute blast. Being away on vacation is always so enjoyable, but coming home afterwards is just as nice when you live in a place like ours. <3

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Rock formations in Arches Nat'l Park
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View from atop our climb
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Desert tower selfie
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The tower we climbed, people visible at base of climb
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Selfie with tower to the right
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Another shot of the tower
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Delicate Arch
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Another angle to show the delicacy of the arch
Unfortunately all the other arches photos are on my DSLR
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Gorgeous view heading out of Arches
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One of these is not like the others......
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Atop the Hymasa trail
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Blooming desert along the trail edge
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More views from Hymasa
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Quite the drop!
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No filter here..just setting sun on red cliffs
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Being a child again amidst a basketball court of trampolines where my cousin (also pictured) works

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Travel Tuesday: Road Trip days 9 - 12

On Friday April 8, Dave and I awoke on top of Gooseberry Mesa among the sagebrush. It was beautiful.

The weather was ominous, promising rain, but we decided to squeak in a bike ride anyway and see more of the trails than we had the previous evening.

That "squeaked in" ride turned into a 10 mile venture of amazing views. The trails literally travel along cliff rims. I had to dab a foot in a few places not because the terrain was tricky, but because I was too caught up in looking at the view that I worried I might accidentally bike off the edge I was SO close.

Gooseberry is right near Zion Nat'l Park and the Zion 100 ultramarathon was going on that day. Our trails were shared with some of the course and we even chatted it up with the aid station up there (mile 40). I was shocked to find out that even on that wild terrain, the runners would only gain 10,000' elevation throughout the course. For comparison, the OD 100 I plan to attempt in June climbs over 17,500' from what I've looked at so far!

After we finished what has easily become one of my favorite rides ever, we packed ourselves up and headed the 30-40 minutes over to Zion Nat'l Park to hike. Dave had never been there and I hadn't been since 2002 or so. It was raining for the drive over and our arrival, but by the time we hopped in the shuttle bus into the park, the rain slackened up.

We hiked the Angel's Landing trail (which is less of a trail and more of a via ferrata sans via ferrata; Dave and I were both very surprised that the NPS doesn't limit people on that trail more or make you sign a waiver!) which climbs over 1500' in about 2.5 miles. I *thought* I'd done this trail when my family came years before, but within about 20 minutes I realized there was no way in hell my mom would have wanted to do that hike! Dave and I loved it though.

There were OODLES of people up there and we made a passive game between ourselves of passing as many as we could on both the up and the down legs of the hike. We were dressed for the hike a little better than others, and we were much more accustomed to traversing terrain like that. The height and exposure didn't bother us at all. We were mostly just impressed to the point of shock that there were SO MANY people up there with such little experience. Regardless, it was a GREAT hike with incredible views. The sun even came out for us once we reached the top! Gorgeous.

By the time we were finishing the hike (RIGHT as we finished, actually), the rain picked up anew. We donned our GoreTex, happy we'd planned ahead, and weren't too bothered.

Dave had been texting the folks we'd planned to stay with at primary destination number 2 all day, and we made the decision after our hike to drive to Moab after dinner. We'd get there around 1am, but the thought of a BED and a ROOF and a SHOWER after a week+ without those sounded BLISSFUL. Nothing like rain and cold after a week in the warm desert to push you in the direction of creature comforts!

The drive was uneventful and quick thanks to 80 mph speed limits and we reached our destination right when we expected. We both showered and crashed HARD, waking the next morning much refreshed.

The folks we stayed with are friends of a friend at home. We got to know them better over breakfast and then throughout the day as we biked. We went to some easier trails to get accustomed to what Moab had to offer over at the Bar M trail system. We did a casual 8 miles that day.

The following day was the big ride. We caught a Coyote Shuttle at the Chili Pepper bike shop to the top of the Mag 7 trail system. From there we spent the large part of the day riding 25 miles (3100' descent and only 1000' ascent) on absolutely INCREDIBLE trails. I LOVED it. It was certainly intimidating in places for me (a newb), but I really did enjoy myself and I enjoyed the experience even more when it was over and I realized I had indeed lived. (I'm so accustomed to not saying much in the moment in fear of jinxing it! I've done that all too often with horses and endurance, so I'm cautious to really let loose until things are over, haha.)

The day after the Mag 7 marathon bike, Dave and I kind of relaxed, saw sights in town, bought souvenirs for those at home, and were generally lazy. Dave did bike that night with one of our hosts while I got a head start on homemade taco night and drank many margaritas (with agave and hand squeezed limes because there is no other way).


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The trail rode along the rim
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We couldn't get over the view
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It was so stunning
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What an amazing place to ride!
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The sun playing on the rock was creating some beautiful colors
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Still not over the view
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Riding along
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Seriously cool trails
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Slick rock!
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So fun
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Really pleased with my new bike for this trip <3
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We would ride out to the point above where the slope drops into a saddle
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On the point in the previous photo
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Looking back along the area we'd ridden


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The Virgin River flowing in Zion Canyon
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Narrow
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Hiking up the 21 switch back section of the Angel's Landing Hike
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The "trail" will ultimately climb UP this thin ridge bordered by 900'+ cliffs on either side; no ropes or protection beyond random chain "rails"
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Looking south
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Looking north
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South
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Pano going south to north from L to R
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South
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Back down we went. These "railings" were your only "protection"
Photos really don't do it justice. We would ultimately end up far right corner on the ridge
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We were at the top of that!
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All Smiles
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And again

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Vista along the Bar M trail system
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Loved the red rock!
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Tony telling Dave about the landscape
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Riding along the Lazy EZ trail
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Moab!!
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Kickass little area for kids to get comfortable on mountain bikes
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Our shuttle to the Mag 7 trails
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Vista along Mag 7
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Trail is on the right
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Rode along this ridge/cliff
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Desert blom
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Reminded me of some kind of reptile
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Slick rock; trails were marked with paint blazes
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Mag 7 photo
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I love the dust churning up behind me
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Cruisin'
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Dave climbing up a little wash
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Petroglyphs!!
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We'd ultimately end up on the far side of this road on a bike path and some more singletrack
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Pretty happy after 25 miles of riding =)