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Horse Labor Day
August 15 - September 7, 2015
Goat club prospering - Lisa breaks her toe - Labor Day trip to Sierra Nevada
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Carol and our two goats.
The three Principals of our Goat Club.
First few days back home carried on in jet lag, and then school had started. Alas, our confidence in institutions did not pay off; both schools had entered our respective children in wrong classes, and we had to deal with it.
A day before her first school day, Lisa stubbed her little toe in our bathroom. I comforted her and taped her foot, but she stumbled over a crate of water bottles, which we had just brought and put down in the kitchen, two days later. She subsequently lost her ability to bend the toe, and we had to journey to the doctor. An x-ray found a fracture, and she was issued an orthopedic sandal, and got grounded from riding horses, running, jumping, and so forth.

Lisa on a trip with her broken little toe.
Lisa had to wear a protective sandal during our trip.
The ban of horses was a great loss for her — she had not seen her pony Baby for four weeks, and now this. We figured out in the end that I would lead her, bare-back riding behind me without putting her feet in the stirrups, avoiding stress to her broken toe. Ponies are like little children. Baby had been upset with us after our return, and Lisa was afraid he would never like her again if we did not keep coming to see him for another month.

It was easier with the goats; they rejoiced, receiving more attention and cuddling, and kept us in their favor. They even behaved quite nicely during the visitors' day, which we had organized at the stables, and our goat club had grown by several new members, and I no longer need to worry that we would not be able to cope, financially or logistically.

Tom and Sid on Walker River trying to fish.
An attempt to fish on Walker River was a pure dry exercise (not one fish).
Our first September weekend gets extended by Labor Day Monday holiday. Since spring we had been planning to camp and ride at Leavitt Meadows. Naturally, the forecast got suddenly crazy and threatened with night freeze, discouraging Dulina's family from staying with us the first night. Even so, a good party came together, and the night was not as cold after all. We had planned fishing attempts for the morning, actually Hippo was supposed to get trained by somebody at the pack station, so he could take our walk-challenged Lisa fishing in the afternoon. Having gotten trained, we made a small trip to a half-empty Walker River, where Hippo and Tom cast into a pool, while Lisa splashed in it, ignoring her broken little toe.

Coming back to our campsite, we had lunch, witnessed the arrival of Dulinas, and finally could leave for Virginia Lakes. There, however, the children had brought up a resistance to HIKING to the higher lakes, and they all stayed with Hippo and Luba at the Virginia Lake right next to the parking lot. The rest of the adults demonstrated a more athletic spirit and set out with me onto the mountain path. Honestly — I consider staying anywhere with six kids, much more heroic than huffing and puffing up to ten thousand feet.

Blue Lake and smoky Sierra Nevada.
Blue Lake was shrouded in a smoky veil from wildfires this year.
While we, unburdened by whimpering, wet little shoes and demands for a snack, ascended briskly up to Frog Lakes (for the first time in life in my case, as our kids would usually refuse to go past Coony Lake), Hippo looked ready for a drink when we returned. However, the children were merry, and fortunately no-one caught anything (Hippo claims that in the racket and throwing rocks into the lake, there had been no risk of a catch), and thus we did not need to cope with killing and gutting the fish, much less cooking.
We let them cook our dinner at Nellie's Deli. We also met with Břehovský's there — Deli is the only decent place in a large vicinity.

A little creek above Coony Lake.
The absence of children allowed us to ascend above Coony Lake.
We had spent the evening around an artificial, propane campfire, on a loan from pack station. As much it seemed funny to us, we were quite glad of it — during a critical drought, real fires are forbidden, and we would not dare to make one. Still the nights are quite chilly.

In the morning, warmly dressed like crazy, we lined up in front of the pack station for our long-planned ride. We had originally reserved the horses for a trip to the waterfalls, but given the drought we reckoned that waterfalls would not impress — and that the kids would enjoy splashing in the lake better. We were nine tourists and three cowboys, a mad expedition. I got Matt's Razmine, the cowboys had spread the children between — and I chose to sweep the rear.

Propane campfire.
A romantic evening in the wilderness around a propane campfire.
In the end it turned out to the be the most interesting ride I have ever been on. Razmine is a work mare, and was noticeably enjoying having a function again. We had been on a ride together before a few times, and thus things are sorted out between us (such as, who is in charge), and so it all worked well somehow. What surprised me was our mutual alignment — now I understand where all the stories come from about telepathic horses. When we had reached the river, horses drank and loitered around, but Atticus with Luba and Racer with Honza began to surreptitiously drift away from the bank; they did not seem to like the idea of entering the waters. The front our our train stood in part in the river, in part beyond it, and I was watching the two fugitives, thinking how to solve the situation without much spooking the riders or the horses. I urged Raz to go after them, and she solved the problem very simply and elegantly — by circling around the laggards and turning them back to the correct path, while always blocking a potential escape path to the ranch bodily. The horses got the idea very quickly, and so did I: I let Raz do her job. It's fascinating how the whole affair, from the moment I noticed a potential problem, to the point when Atticus entered the river, lasted merely a few seconds.

A considerable part of our expedition on a ride to Roosevelt Lake.
A favorite stop at the ford.
Razmine kept a very responsible attitude throughout the whole ride — she kept some five yards behind the last horse, thus we could see well what was happening, and we did not have to eat so much dust. Raz paid attention and pointed out various horse-eaters to me. It was usually enough that I registered each specific problem — and when I assured her that I knew and did not mind, we moved on. Actually, we held a conversation for the whole duration — Raz would tell me that there were two people and a dog behind that bush, and I assured her that I sensed the dog, but as long as it was laying down and simply watched us, it was OK. We had agreed that besides the dog it was good to keep track of the other horses, for it was not clear they knew about the dog, and it could spook them — Raz made it clear to me that she could handle spooked horses as well, and the she could deal with the dog, too. I think that even the dog understood the situation — letting us pass in peace gave us a chance to leave it alone.

Finally at Lane Lake.
Kids did not enter Lane Lake willingly, but fell in over time.
When Garry showed me a few years ago that he can sit on a horse with folded arms and legs freely dangling, and his mare would turn just in the direction he looked, I took if for a sci-fi, searching a trick in it. Now I experienced it with Razmine, and it was all clear and natural — the only real surprise being that I found it with a horse that's not really mine, one that I see only sometimes. And don't you think it's all just flowers and sunshine — the moment I began to chat with Luba on our way back to the ranch, I stopped paying attention to Raz for a moment, and she immediately took advantage of the situation and went to grab a mouthful of grass.

Carol and Luba swimming in Lane Lake.
Here a photographic evidence: Carol and Luba in Lane Lake.
But I'm getting ahead of myself — the highpoint of this ride was our stop at Lane Lake. The children played on the lake shore and when three out of five fell in, they finally succumbed to the wishes of their parents to take off some clothes and wade in barefoot. We adults discussed for a long time the swim-worthiness of the lake, until Honza showed to be a man and went in. This was a strong example, and in the end even Luba and I dipped in the lake — yet we failed to convince any one of the kids. The lake was cold, but not icy, one could stay in it and swim without risking losing one's breath.

After returning to our camp site, we got to packing and driving home, with a stop for dinner in Strawberry — there were crazy many cars on the roads, and thus we did not rush our meal; after all, it allowed us to avoid jams. Consequently, we made it back home around ten, but in relative peace.

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