Big Basin. Aptly named. The last mile of road before you get to the trail head is a skinny twisty road, one lane only, with a steep high drop off on the right. It's a little intimidating because heaven forbid you should run into a horse trailer coming the other way. Turning around to park is another challenge, with a four horse trailer loaded with four horses, so we unloaded the horses, and in four wheel drive bumped up and around and got ourselves set for the drive out.
Today was Commotion's first true trail ride. What we'd done before was sort of like little practice sessions. This time we were without Roy, (his fearless leader), and were with three women (LB, Carol and Renee) and their good solid sensible mounts. Today would be a full day. Right off the bat there was a tough water crossing. The water was rushing very fast, with big boulders and a deep water hole right in the middle. We tucked in behind LB and her horse Mac, and without hesitation, followed right on through. Carol and Renee followed behind. I stroked his neck, "good boy."
The wildflowers were in full spring bloom. All around us in meadow size swaths were Mountain Paint Brush, Sticky Geraniums, Forget me Nots, Daisies, Larkspurs, on and on. It was spectacular. Breathtaking and we'd barely got started.
The trail climbed and climbed, crossing Hyndeman creek a number of times. We crossed a few fallen trees on the trail, maybe knee high. No problem. Two of the horses are very slow walkers, so pretty soon we found ourselves out in front. Commotion's ears were busy and he looked at everything, but he seemed confident and his body was relaxed. The bigger creek crossings were pretty easy for him and he crossed them first, but the smaller ones with mud and tight crossings were a little harder. We'd have whoever was behind us go first and he was happy to follow. Such a trooper. We passed a pretty impressive water fall on our left as we neared the top of the trail. Well, actually, the trail had sort of petered out and we were just meandering along cross country, but we were nearing the top of the BIG basin. Wide open space. Clear blue skies, wispy little clouds.
We found ourselves at a rough spot. Dropping down a very steep dirt hill behind LB, and crossing half of the rocky creek onto a small island, I knew this was a pretty big deal for Commotion. He'd never been down anything that steep and soft, but he kept himself together and braved up to get to the little island, mid-stream, but that was it. All bravery went right out his head at that point and he was terrified. Frozen. I asked Carol to go by, which she did, little Badger delicately maneuvering the rocky crossing. Commotion wanted to follow, but hesitated again. I asked Renee to go by so she and Smoke squeezed passed us and through the creek. Commotion decided to go for it. I knew it was not going to be pretty, but he was willing to go, and we did.
When I was young, I studied ballet for a while. This jump across the water, was similar to what is known in ballet as a "Grand Jete." It was a grand moment and at the top of the leap, I did let out a "WHOOP!" and we landed just fine. We all laughed and my friends remarked at how they all could see his belly button as we flew over the creek. The bad place was behind him then, he relaxed and we went on just a short distance further.
I loosened his cinch after taking off his bridle and tying him to a tree. He deserved a good little rest after this morning's ride. The four of us sat by a large waterfall and had our lunch, then went off on foot to explore the tallest of granite peaks. On our way back down I looked for a better crossing for our return trip.
After bridling him up, I walked him over to a spot for him to get a drink of water. He'd not drunk at any of the crossings and it was a warm day. We found a happy spot but he was not to sure about it. I petted his neck and waited, holding the end of his reins. Suddenly his knees buckled, kneeling on both front knees he stretched his neck out as far it would go and was slurping up the cool water. Not very comfortable, but it seemed to work for him. He stood up and did the same thing again twice more, both times getting a little bit closer to the creek. When he'd had his fill, I got on and asked him to cross. He hopped over just fine and on we went.
The two and a half hours back down the trail we were in front most of the time. He made most of the crossings just fine. Not perfect, but fine. The further we went, the more confident he became. We had to do a number of circling and stops for the others to catch up with us. Not because he was jiggy or nervous, but only because he has a nice long stride. To me it felt like we were just mozeying along but we'd just move on out way ahead in no time. The first honest to goodness water crossing (meaning a pretty challenging one), I could feel him brave up and commit to getting through it. He was tense, his head was arched up, feet stepping high across the water. I was so proud of him. The girls all applauded.
At the bottom of the trail, back at the very first water crossing with the boulders and big pool, he stopped. I asked him one time to go for it, but he didn't want to do it. Renee was behind me, so I asked her to go ahead. He followed her right on through. I wanted him to get a drink of water, so we went back in again and in the middle we stopped. I pushed on his poll to put his head down and he dropped his head and drank and drank. The others came in and there we all sat, bellied up to the bar, getting our fill.
Back home, I gave him a good scrubby bath to get rid of the sweat and let him out in the pasture. Instantly he dropped and rolled, scratching his back and snorting his accomplishments to the world.