Sunday, June 13, 2010

Aidol's Story.........The Elbe Hills

Part 1

We did a lot more trail riding with Aidol before he left us here. Sometimes Dave would be the one riding his horse and other times not. With the goofy schedule Dave had at work, the horse got way more time on the trails than Dave ever did. Then there was Dave's belief he really didn't need to pay attention to his riding because Aidol would take care of him that got in the way sometimes. Dave's last ride on Aidol was such a story.

It was Dave's first ride up in the Elbe Hills. That particular park is one I don't ride in much. I only go if someone who knows their way very well is going. Being geographically challenged (and before GPS I might add) I just don't take risks of getting lost let alone up in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains.

At the time I had a friend who was conditioning a young horse for endurance. She was ponying that mare up in the Elbe Hills so I'd gone with her a couple of times that week already. Dave just happened to have the day off on our next scheduled day to ride so he was invited along.

We all met up in the late morning at the Elbe horse camp. I took Dandy and, of course, Dave had Aidol. My friend had her regular mount and then the mare she was ponying. We took our time getting ready making sure that Dave had Aidol tacked up properly for a long ride.

The Elbe Hills are deep in the Cascades. They are not far from the entrance to the Mt Rainier. The Nicholson Horse Trail System there is maintained by the Back Country Horsemen and is a beautiful way to explore the Cascade Mountains.

There are 70 miles of trails in that park and unfortunately I've never seem most of them. From above the Beaver Creek Camp you can look right up at Mt Rainier towering over you. You can also see the mountain looming from the Sahara Horse Camp which is the base camp for this horse park. There's no closer way to see Mt Rainier other than to be standing in Mt Rainier National Park, standing right at the base of it. From the back of a horse, the Elbe Hills State Forest is the way to go.

This is typical forest lands for this side of the mountains in Washington State. There's a little bit of everything, challenging hills or gradual climbs and descents you can make this ride what you want if you know your way. All along the way there are wild flowers, creeks and streams, lots of beautiful ferns and Oregon grape, Douglas firs even a bit of old growth timber. The Elbe Hills are a cool relaxing way to met Mother Nature up close and personal from the back of a horse.

It was a dry summer that year and there were parts of the trail that were very powdery and loose. Most of these places seemed to be on some pretty steep switchbacks. Hugging the hill was important to assure the path stayed beneath the horse where it belonged instead of breaking away and running down the hill.

We hadn't been doing anything particularly challenging in our previous rides. We worked the hills but nothing that would make a beginner nervous, no sheer cliffs or bald faces to make one feel vulnerable about falling off the side of a mountain. This was just going to be a nice trail ride in the foothills not tryouts for some reality TV how risky can you live mega thriller.

My friend took the lead with her grey Arabian gelding ponying the chestnut Arab mare right behind. Dave took the middle position with Aidol so I could keep an eye on him. I didn't want to see him searching out any logs to jump or holding back so he could gallop. The man's been known to get himself into trouble if left to his own devices.

It's not that I didn't want him to have some fun, it's that he doesn't always look before he leaps. His choice of location to do such things can cause a wreck and wrecks are not high on my list of adventures to have when trail riding. I prefer relaxing time in the saddle, none of that high stress, what's going to happen next kind of drama for me.

Bringing up the rear meant I could see what Dave was up to even before he got himself into the thick of it. I could let him know where a better place on the trail was for him to experiment with his horse. That way I hoped to bring both home safe and sound instead of spending most my day in an emergency room somewhere, or even worse getting to know the local vets. The Elbe Hills location is a place where trouble could find you if you weren't paying attention.

I hadn't really thought about this dry condition of the trail. Dave has ridden on similar switchbacks before and managed quite capably. Still on this particular ride it was really important to be paying attention and keeping the horse pressed up tight against the hill. I admonished Dave several times to push his horse over. Most of those times Dave just laughed at me, "Aidol will take care of me."

I hate it when I hear those words coming out of Dave's mouth. It means he has no intentions of paying attention to any of my help. I'm a firm believer that consequences are a great teacher but I didn't want the horse to have to deal with them, only Dave. In this particular situation I was worried about the horse having to pay the price as well.

To be continued....................

The Elbe Hills Wreck

Visit Blog Village and vote daily for this blog Here They are now measuring the rankings by the number of votes out, so if you find my blog on the site, please click that link too to improve my rankings. TY


  1. I can only imagine the raw beauty! If I could live any
    where in the lower 48 it would be Oregon. Spent a week there in 02 and did not want to return to tx.
    I got lost a couple of months ago in the Grasslands, a 23000 acre national park only 30 or so minutes from my house. Weekday and never saw another living soul.Spent almost 7 hours in the saddle that day and learned a valuable lesson.
    Pray Dave doesn't fall off of a mountain! You have me a bit concerned.

  2. I miss Elbe!!!! It was one of the places I took my husband in 2006, when we first met. He thought it was funny cuz of the German name of the town, and the little German church there too.

    Elbe's trails are so comfortable to me - so familiar, but I haven't seen them all, even after several rides there. You desribed it well - it is rugged and remote and I know a lot of horses and riders have been hurt up there.

    Anyway, we said hello to the CMO people at Sahara and continued up to Paradise on Mt Rainier.

    Then we came back to Elbe to find a hotel, it was odd to not be sleeping in the horse camp! We found this old train that had been converted into a hotel - each car one room. It was funny but it worked. Then we found the only restaurant in town and my man had chicken strips with Ranch the first time in his life.

    I have a picture of us in that restaurant taken by the waitress (who kept flirting with him) on our piano. The place was a hick bar and real cowboys were playing pool. I am certain my man had only seen places like that in movies!

    It was a special trip for us.


  3. Hmmm...your Dave sounds a bit like my hubby. I don't think he completely believes that the horse will take care of him but he often chooses not to listen to any advice I might have. Maybe it's my delivery...

  4. WilsonC,
    I think it is simply that he is a man and you are a woman. Maybe men don't listen to each other either, but I know for a fact that there is a HUGE resistance to listening to a woman. There is also a weird thing about the further away someone lives the more we give them "expert" status. The closer to home, the less credibility.