Monday, July 15, 2013

Another scenic weekend

Another weekend where I have little in the way of plans reaps huge rewards in the adventure department. Saturday I woke to realize that former plans that had been botched (first to go to the Clinton Anderson clinic in Harrisburg, PA, and then the contingency plan of climbing all day) now left my day wide open for other plans.

I bopped up to Canaan Valley for a short meeting with the patrol to meet some of our new candidates. The weather up there was idyllic. No humidity. Lower 70s. Blue skies with a cloud scattered hither and thither. Light breeze. Oh, Valley, I love thee.

Timberline slopes to left, Canaan to right.

I hung out with our patrol directors and lead instructor for a bit, secured my room situation for the winter, and pondered working at two resorts this season. The Valley has two resorts, Timberline and Canaan. I work for CV right now. Timberline is just down the road though and has a relatively young patrol. It would be a great experience to meet more people and learn their way of doing things as they differ from CV's. Additionally, their patrol has a lot more telemark skiers than ours. This would be a blast for me as this will be only my third season on teles. Time will tell.

I stopped by the pro director's condo (soon to be the head instructor's condo) before rolling home. It is settled in the heart of the Valley with views of both resorts. They had windows and doors open to allow the breeze to come right through. If I hadn't been restricted by needing to get home and take pets out, I'd have lingered on their porch chatting all afternoon. It was perfect up there.

Canaan's slopes.

But alas, dog duty awaited me at home and a friend was due to come into town that evening. Thus I journeyed back and tended to the dogs.

My friend Ari (who has the Freisian sporthorse) came down for a bit to see my new place. She currently lives across the road (the Freisian sporthorse breeding facility is across the road from my apartment) and had watched the entire renovation process of the barn take place. She had been eager to see the place since I'd added my own touches. It was good to visit with her. She shared exciting news that she'd be moving her horse Eli to Dee's where my horses are. Super excited to have a riding buddy there with so much jumping experience. We're bound to have a great time - especially once my new jumps arrive later this summer ;-).

Ari headed off to work and I lay lazily about the apartment sipping beer and reading Game of Thrones until Jeremy arrived. I owed him a lesson on Q. I'd been saying for ages I'd give him a riding lesson and it was time I made true on that statement.

Long story short with the riding lesson: Jeremy's a very good sport, keeps his eyes traveling ahead at all times, and has great balance...out of the saddle. I kept him on the lunge as he'd never been on a horse before and just led him through Q's maneuvers that way so he could focus on what it was like to ride. I pointed out subtle things that non-horse people take for granted when they think riding is "easy". I pushed Q to a trot when Jeremy was ready. He stayed relatively balanced, but my caution that sometimes when on a circle at a trot and canter people tend to lean too far to the inside really struck a chord with him. For some reason he put undue weight in his outside stirrup.

You know that whole "a balanced rider can ride a horse with a loose girth" thing? Uh, yeah. He put wayyyy too much weight into the outside stirrup and the saddle slipped around, Q slowed, and he plopped lightly onto the ground. ...and I nearly fell on the ground laughing. We righted it, I tightened it tighter than before, but still not enough apparently as the same thing happened again. SIGH. I refused to tighten it any more, as Q was already being a saint about so much of what was happening.

So we proceeded with a bareback lesson. I showed him how to vault up onto her back a la Legolas. Because he's a very talented climber, is very strong, and very aware of his body, he nailed this maneuver on try one.

And thus I had Q walk a few circuits. Then she trotted and suddenly his balance was perfect. It was down right impressive. I have trouble riding this horse bareback and he just went with it like a pro. I'd prepped him for what cantering was like, he showed zero apprehension about it, so I told  him, "Ready to canter? Okay. Q, can-TER!" And up they went. And he rocked his body right into the movement, a look of realization of how much nicer and easier cantering was than trotting appearing on his face...until I didn't look where I was sending Q along the circle, she saw the saddle we'd left on the ground, spooked, and he came tumbling off for a third time. There was a little more concern this time, but he was okay and popped back up upon my insistence that you can never not get back on after a fall. He popped back up for about 45 seconds and we walked over some ground poles and a cavaletti. Ended on a good note for Jeremy, and then I hopped back on Q to "reset" her, ended her on a good note, and turned her out after stuffing her with peppermints. She's such a saint.

The following day Jeremy took me to a new-to-me climbing destination. We had a slow start to the morning, but its not a very well-known climbing area so we weren't concerned. There were more people there than he'd ever seen, but we still never had to wait for a climb. We did two 9s, he did an 11b, and then we both did a 10a and then decided it was time to swim.

And guys, let me tell you, don't you EVER touch a damn caterpillar. I know many of them to be poisonous, but one missed my notice on my backpack when I put it back on and I got stung twice on my back. A prick sensation was shortly followed by an intense burning and stinging. Tears lept to my eyes as I danced around whining from the pain. > 24 hours later, I have pink and purple bruising from the encounter. F*cking caterpillars. I swear.

Fortunately, the cool water of the Potomac cooled the caterpillar sting and aided my growing heat illness symptoms. Kenai swam and swam and swam and swam and swam. He was the happiest water dog you ever did see. He'd go out, do some circles, come to shore, shake, repeat. SUCH a happy dog.

With ample light left in the day, we decided to detour on the way home to see Spruce Knob. Jeremy had never seen the views from the top before. The boulder field up there is hands down my favorite place in the entire state. I'm always eager to share this place with friends. Spruce Knob is the highest point in WV (and several surrounding states) at 4,863 feet. Small to you west coast folks, but keep in mind that the Appalachians are the oldest mountain chain in the world. Hard to say how tall it once was!

The light was golden and perfect atop Spruce and through the Sinks of Gandy on the drive home. The temperature atop Spruce was around 15 degrees cooler than the crag we'd been at earlier. I was almost chilly in my shorts and t-shirt. All the same, it was a gorgeous summer evening up there. It was a great end to an incredible day of WV adventure.

A dead (go spider!) cohort of the caterpillar species that stung the ever-loving shit out of my back.
During my pain dance antics, Jeremy spotted this Imperial moth; the caterpillar is NOT one of these
This guy was massive, much larger than my hand.
Jeremy prepping to rap off the 11b he just climbed
A currently happy Kenai; he was cranky when he couldn't find a nice nap spot
Climbing limestone means seeing fossils everywhere
It was my first time climbing limestone
I forgot a he got to drink like a baby bird
I can't climb with Jeremy and not see one of these guys
And Jeremy continued to "win" with his nature spottings when he spied this bald eagle hunting trout above the Potomac; eagle is just right of center
The large fin in the center is Nelson Rocks; the mountain behind with the exposed cliffline is North Fork Mtn
There is a 24.3 mile ridgeline trail along that mountain that affords the hiker with some phenomenal cliffside views
Looking west from Spruce Knob
Looking south from Spruce; boulder field is dead center (not the scree in the foreground)
My FAVORITE place in this state.
Looking southeast from the boulder field
"Simba, one day all that the light touches will be yours." ...he only wishes. So much climbing. The most distant
mountain (blueish) is the VA-WV border.
Uh, can I mention now that all photos were taken with my Galaxy S4?! How incredible a job it does!
Bleeding heart. Caught this blooming well over a month ago when
we climbed Seneca...Spruce Knob's elevation delays all things.
My dog loves this place as much or more than I do. He absolutely adores the high elevation areas of WV.
In my favorite place with my favorite guy, Kenai.
Yokum Knob to the left, the Sinks of Gandy cave extends under this whole formation of land. The copse of trees on the left hand side of the photo is the boundary for a huge cornice that forms in the winter. Yokum is a superb spot for backcountry skiing in WV. Kite skiing happens here, too. The only trick to any of this is getting there. They don't plow these roads in the winter and this part of the state gets more snow than anywhere else. <3

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