Friday, September 17, 2010

I'm teaching Alison Gannet's Rippin Chix Steeps Camp this year!!!

Holy YES! This is going to be TOOO fun! Here's a little about Alison:

The camp is basically a whole group of feral women tearing around the mountain together, getting better at skiing steeps and drops, making great friends, learning to reduce their carbon footprint, getting amazing goodie bags, and excellent instruction (hem, hem). Its an awesome two days!

I'll be teaching steeps at Highlands March 5 and 6, sign up now, space is limited and camp sells out EVERY YEAR!

Sign up HERE!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Packing out base camp, and a Doc update

A few days ago four of us rode up East Maroon to pack out the base camp which the Maroon Bells Outfitters has set up out there all summer. The aspen leaves are turning yellow, all at once it seems. Only a few days ago the whole valley was still green!

The art of packing is quite interesting, in fact, this whole Outfitting thing is quite interesting, I knew that packing on horseback was a neat idea, but I never had any idea what an art it is.

Base camp is big. Brian, our owner, likes to say that everything else can go wrong, the horses, the weather, you name it, but if the food is excellent, no one cares.

Last night, we had halibut, shrimp, potatoes, corn, grilled vegis, cesar salad, a full cheese plate, gauac and salsa and chips, we drank white russians and fine wine. After a sunset ride through the turning leaves, it was a real treat. We sat around the campfire till late, then tucked in to warm sleeping bags.

The next morning, we got up early to break down as much of camp as we could with three pack horses, who can all carry about 250 lbs of gear each. Its not even the weight so much as the large, awkward shapes of the items that get carried in and out. The packs tend to shift as the horses move under them, and barefoot horses tend to walk on the side of the trail, scraping their packs against all manner of bushes and trees.

Its fun, and scenic, and at the same time, you have to keep your head on, because the horses tend to want to shy if they are new to packing, so sometimes a saddle horse that's leading a pack horse will freak out because the two horses are attached by their lead ropes, and the scary giant wobbly noisy pack on the horse that's being ponied is just too much for the saddle horse to handle.

That's what happened today, we had a plastic tarp on Patch, who I was ponying behind a very cool horse, Arthur. The pack caught on a tree and off Arthur went, bucking down the trail. But after a little while, Arthur realized that the scary pack saddle probably wasn't going to eat him, and he settled down nicely, and looked over his shoulder at me kind of sheepishly.

We gathered up Patch and we were off again. We had to rebalance loads here and there, but Melissa is becoming an expert at packing, after working years of hunting camps in Meeker for Brian, and so we were in good hands.

When we got back, we unloaded all the gear and stowed it for next time, un-tacked our saddle horses, grained them, and then I got a lovely surprise phone call from Michael in Africa. He's been on the coast in Bata for a week, where there is no internet, so we haven't talked in days. We sat down and caught up on life in the jungle, body surfing and doctoring the local population, and my week at the stables. We made plans for him to come out to Man Camp with me, and bring his guitar, so thats VERY exciting!

After catching up with Michael, I went in an got Doc, who had been hanging his head over the corral during the entire conversation, and took him for a walk.

Doc is doing really well, he's a lead guide horse now, he can pony another horse behind him without freaking out, wear saddle bags, the whole shebang. And he's really good at his job! We also use him as a pony horse for little kids, and they love it. Its like riding an elephant. He's picking up his feet, but he doesn't like it, and I can't hold them for more than a few seconds. Its going to be a long time before I get shoes on him.

He has a stone bruise from walking barefoot, so he's been resting aside from pony rides for the last two weeks. I hope he'll be better to come out to Meeker for hunting season, but it doesn't look likely.  The best news yet, Brian is going to let me keep Doc up here for the winter! So he'll be staying in a friend's pasture, and I'll be able to visit and keep working on his feet.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What exactly am I doing?

There hasn't been a whole lot of writing going on around here lately, although I think about it quite a bit, when I'm out on the trail on horseback, I have a lot of time to write all kinds of things in my head. Today, I gave a massage and am now laying on a heating pad in bed after putting my first horse shoe on a horse start to finish by myself yesterday.

I've been feeling a bit insular for the last two months, perhaps protective of my heart, not sure what to share, and by default not sharing much at all. I've also been working quite hard at a new job that I can't really write about.

I've been hired as the manager of the Maroon Bells Outfitters, up here at the T Lazy 7 Ranch, in Aspen, Colorado, where I live. We do trail rides, and its been really great to get back to work with horses, and to make some good friends here on the ranch.

I only had to stand in this position for 45 minutes while not letting him take his foot back!
Its been wonderful for the kids, who get off the school bus and come over to the stables, do their homework with Candice in the office, and help put up tack, grain the horses and then go for a bareback ride. Now that my mom is home from her epic road trip, they are down at the stables less, and we all miss them. But now that she is home, home feels like home again and there is a sense of order and calm.

I have to say that while the hours at the barn can be tough, and it can be hard physical work, it is incredibly nice to have a job outside thats a one minute walk from my house. I love to be able to run home, I love that the crew can stop by if they need to talk or want to hang out, I love that the kids can be home and loose on the ranch while I'm at work. Its a good, consistent paycheck, and that is helping a LOT. I also love working hard. I like to feel my body moving and lifting and to see the change in front of me.

I spent a day sewing saddle bags back together while Mike and Cyrus played guitar, and the rain came down in sheets. I spent a day shoveling manure out of the trailer, and I spend some time of every day trying to build some bridges between the tiny, hard working crew in this physical environment where worth seems to be measured literally in how many pounds you can carry.

This summer has been tricky financially, lean, and unexpected to say the least. I went to massage school in order to have an income in the off season, and while that helps, working for the Aspen Club and Spa and the St. Regis is terrific, the work is lean this season, and I only get paid if I get booked. So there were days that I was down there for six hours and only worked for one. The other issue with massage is that I have Fibromyalgia, and it often flares up when I do more than three hours of massage at a time, which is ideally what I'd want to do, at least three, no more than six.

Michael came back from Africa and came to visit with his kids for a month, and we had a really magical end of summer together. He is moving here when he gets back from the stretch he's currently on, October 25, and his kids are moving here, too, in December over Christmas break. So there will be eight of us living in the Ponds at the ranch! When Michael is in Africa every other month for his job, my mom and I will  have all five kids, which is going to be wonderful.

This job at the Maroon Bells Outfitters ends Oct. 1, and I have some days for the St. Regis, and I managed to pick up some days working hunting season. I'll be going out to Meeker for 7 days in October, and going back out for second season in November. Apparently its like 4:30 in the morning to 11:30 at night, cooking and prepping for the hunters, making less than I'm making now.

I wondered, as I was pounding my first horse shoe in to TD's foot yesterday, what the heck I am doing. This isn't skiing. In fact, my dreams for training this summer did not materialize the way I'd hoped, and so I ended up scrambling for odd jobs and trying to get in better shape for this season. What in the world am I doing? The answer came back pretty quick. I'm swimming.

This summer, I've cleaned a trailer, scrubbed urine off the floor, taken people on hikes, trained horses, given lots of masssage, washed dishes, taken trail rides out, shoveled manure, and worked with a team of people who needed to come back together in order to succeed. I find myself in this funny position where I get to do the job I love as often as possible, but the inbetween times are all about surviving so I can buy groceries and put gas in my car.

My car is another interesting and amazing story, it was a gift from a client. I needed a way to get to Academy, my truck had finally died. I wrote RIP, Bronco, and I was truly sad to see it go, this truck and I have been through a lot together. I get, as if by magic, a text saying "need a car?" from a client. And so we shopped for a used Subaru Forrester, with no bells or whistles, and found one with super low mileage. I have a car that has a door that opens and closes, it has all its windows, a heater, and a radio! It no longer snows in my car. This will be my first winter driving to work in a vehicle with all its windows, I can't wait!

I am humbled by this timely gift, "we can't have you taking public transportation to training, Kate." was what he said. Suddenly, my kids are in a safe vehicle, and I drive a car that gets 28 miles to the gallon. I can afford to get to training, if I can afford to pay for training. And here we are back at the odd jobs.

Hopefully, I will learn a lot about why people do this and help them be happy while they do it.
I'm not sure how hunting season is going to go, I'm not sure how I feel about the whole thing. On the one hand, I'm not afraid of hard work, and this is a decent paycheck when there is not a lot of work to be found. I feel that if I am there, its my job to extend some grace and try to understand these people's points of view, not to come to camp with preconcieved notions and prejudices. Just because I don't eat meat doesn't mean they shouldn't ether. I'm not interested in imposing my ideals on someone else, and maybe this is an opportunity to understand people who feel very differently from me in a better, more compassionate, less judgemental way. I feel like I'm stepping right into the fire.

I've asked if I'm going to learn to field dress and quarter an elk, and the answer is, probably, if the hunters actually get one. This feels like an opportunity to learn what it is like to be a completely and totally different person than I am. To understand life from a different perspective.

And I feel like, if I wasn't so broke, I wouldn't need to take this job, and I wouldn't have this opportunity to see life like this. So maybe things are still lean because I still have a lot of lessons to learn from the world on the poorer side of life. I'm okay with that, shoeing a horse yesterday was an extremely satisfying, physical task. It was hard, hot, dirty work, and I'm sore today for sure. So I'm grateful for these opportunities, grateful for the job that they gave me at the barn, glad to be helpful untangling the dificult situation that existed there, and curious about where life will go over the next two months.

There has been snow on Pyriamid Peak four days last week, while I'm glad to be learning the lessons that are coming my way, Im eager for ski season to start so that I feel focused again. This year is a tryout year. Its almost time!