Another Tevis has come and gone, and this year was as amazing as years passed, but not in the way I was ever expecting.
I don't think in my wildest dreams I would have thought I'd have the opportunity to help photograph Tevis horses going over Cougar Rock. Maybe in someone else's mind it's crossed....but never mine. Not even a month ago. There might be a very short list also, of who is asked or maybe a long list, but I've never been even CLOSE to being on some "Can you help me photograph Cougar Rock" list. Seems it helped that I know the Head Photographer for Tevis......and have helped photograph 5 prior endurance rides in the last several months. And that I haven't tripped with his camera........ffffffffffffff!!!!!!
This year's Tevis was going to be different because I wasn't going to any vet checks to follow riders, or crew, or worry too much what was happening on the trail. My big job was to photograph one side (the famous side, I might so humbly add) while Bill photographed the other side & (as much as the By-Pass trail as he could).
And to not fall off.
Apparently the last CR photographer had to be airlifted out from falling off the shooting rock. I thought wtf....could it really be that dangerous? 3 friends at the Foreign Riders Dinner told me to make sure I wore my helmet. Despite the seemingly dangerous job and dire warnings, I was ready to go.
My week leading up to Tevis was somewhat uneventful until Wednesday night after coming home late from being out with Bill. Kai was panting very hard and holding his head cranked down to his chest like a horse with a tie-down. I looked at him for a while, had a bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream with milk and decided we were going to Loomis Basin. It was 11:30 pm. My favorite time to go to the vet. Somehow I remember this same drama happened with SeaB last year right before my vet secretary job with Dr. Carter Hounsel. Both visits to the emergency had vets asking ME what I thought was wrong with my dog(s). And here I thought when I was paying the big bucks it was their job to do the diagnostics.
Long story short I took Kai to my regular vet the next day and x-rays & blood work was taken. Thursday I spent a lot of time crying, thinking if there was something seriously wrong with my big baby boy, I was done with breeding. I love my vet, but she is a repro specialist and this is where I think things get hazy. She (& the emergency vet) weren't sure what was wrong with him and it ranged from a subluxation in his spine, to possible menigitis to a congential problem. Ugggg.....
Turns out the next morning, the day Bill & I were leaving for Robie Park, Kai's x-rays (read by a neurologist) & blood work were normal and it was determined he had a soft tissue injury. Sunday, as I blog, Kai seems normal. It was a huge relieft, but I was emotionally exhausted. The blessing was that I knew before we left town so I wasn't a drag to be around. A big emotional Cougar Rock photographer that should wear a helmet. Funna Funna.
Bill had the bright idea that we should bring a stuffed raven and get photos of it going over Cougar Rock for our friend & his fellow photograher Merri Melde (http://theequestrianvagabond.blogspot.com/). She was NOT at Tevis, much to our disappointment as she had a multi-day ride in Idaho to deal with. To me, there should be a law against that kind of stuff. Who has a ride the same day as Tevis in a nearly neighboring state?????? Or even in any state????? Or any part of the world????? It was mind boggling.
Since I loved the raven idea, I found and ordered a black stuffed bird from Amazon for $10.94 and it arrived in time to make its trek to Robie. Bill & I might have laughed more than once about this.
The trot out.....this makes me laugh more than it should.
After the raven vetted out sound, I found Ed Spitzer and introduced him to Bill. We walked around, watched horses trot out, I sat with Rene, Bill's partner and we enjoyed a very leisurely afternoon. I didn't regret my decision to give up my scribe position, but I did remember how much fun it was. I just was in a new adventure and I was beaming with excitement.
Ed, my original "link" to Tevis.....awwwww....I love him......He still comes up every year and was here the two years I finished. We had a great time visiting, as always and I look forward to the day I watch him come across the finish line. Our relationship would come full circle with his buckle ~ some 20 years later since I first had him shoe my horses and our wonderful talks about Tevis.
After about 3 pm, we left with Rene following in his truck to make our trek to camp, near Cougar Rock. We stopped in Truckee to get pizza and were on our way. Even though the pizza was incredible it was not gluten-free. Just sayin'...
The road to CR is long, rocky and overgrown in spots. It's not a few miles. It's a LOT of miles. I'm thinking after we got out of Robie (also a long dirt road in and out), we got on I80 to go West, then exited thru a small town and ended up on the dirt road. The road goes way down a mountain, winds around and comes back up on the ridge where the WST (Western States Trail) goes. We drove on the road/trail for a short while, then got to our camp. Frickin' fun. Frickin' fun on a super rocky, dirt road with the windows open and the radio on with my favorite photographer. God I love my life!!
Bill suggests a spot for Rene to shoot the next morning, which is about 3 miles before CR. They both had radios, so we would know when the first horses were coming and the last. Helpful in case you fall off the mountain and gotta scramble back up in time for pictures.
After setting up our tent, Bill & I took a short hike towards CR, came back, then sat and watched the sun go down. It was similiar to a campfire. We were getting up at 6 am to make sure we were set up at CR by 7:30. The weather was beautiful and the setting next to the Tevis trail was spectacular. I was not complaining about a single thing. Wilderness. Camping. Fun. Tevis. Stuff. Omg.
Billy's Photo ♥
The next morning we were off for our hike. 2 other couples had shown up to help riders manuever the rock (or the by-pass trail) so they hiked up behind us. It was a 1 1/2 mile hike and somewhat difficult as it seemed mostly uphill and we were at about 7200'. Bill was carrying his two big cameras, and I had the tripod, an apple, water & the raven. The sun was just coming up as we left camp.
At CR I reminisced about my ride over with baby boy Ali'i. In some ways, this rock isn't as hard as it looks, but that's if everything goes right. If you handle your horse to stay on the trail intended to get over safely it's good. Having watched enough YouTube videos and now, being there first hand, there is plenty of room for error.
This image is about 2/3 of the way up but normally once you get this far, the rest of the way is easier. I suppose. Horses often times balk and want to go another route and this is where training and some degree of horsmanship will keep you in the right direction. Also, momentum. A horse walking the rock seems to have a harder time, though not always. Then there are others that gallop up and over. Exciting and scary at the same time. And then shit just happens and it doesn't matter who you are, or who your horse is. There were many teams that went over where I stopped breathing. Exciting Tevis Cougar Rock stuff.
Bill setting up my camera. I was able to use a remote to click, though we think holding the camera may have worked better in some cases. I took two shots of the horses as to me it was insurance to get a good photo. Some shots, the first one was better, some the second. And, then some, no matter what I did, the photos sucked and oftentimes it was nothing I could do because of horse and/or rider issues.
Behind the camera was about 2' of rock and then it dropped sharply and severely into the canyon. And it was a long way down. My Squishy iPhone almost went down there but I could of handled that better than the camera........the camera may have been a red flag for Bill......ha ha......or not. But it would have been ugly.
Riders started to come sometime around 8 am, as I recall and they would come in groups usually. A lot of riders took the By-Pass trail, others wanted to do CR, but for some reason or another, didn't. Either their horses were distracted by the horses below and to the right taking the By-Pass, or the rider just wasn't confident in directing the horse. I remember I was committed when I got to the rock and there was only one way ~ to keep Ali'i's momentum up and his head and cute Arabian brain focused. It was hard sometimes to watch riders seem confused, or worse, take a wrong path and sometimes still make it over or turn around and trot back down. I couldn't have had a better spot to see all of this.
I was so excited to see my Brokeback Mountain friend Jeremy attempt the rock but Cali had other ideas. He's the only one who crashed (I think he jumped off) and I got one crappy photo of him on the ground under her, but you can't see detail as he was in the shadows. Bill got some nice shots from the other side, so all was not lost. It looks like she made it!
Rene Baylor Photo
Jeremy & Cali before Cougar Rock. Pretty Cali!
Another rider JayaMae, who didn't finish last year (and mentioned on my 2013 Tevis blog post) had a bit of a time getting up and over, but her photos turned out really nice. It looks like they just sailed over it, so I was happy about that. She now has her 1st buckle AND a Cougar Rock photo. So sweet!
JayaMae Gregory & Asali. So proud of you girls!!! You can read her blog at: http://www.enduranceriding.me/
What it looked like from where I shot. The Tevis volunteers were in pink. Between the rock & I is the very big steep canyon.
Where I was ~ keeping sun out of my eyes. I didn't pee for 2+ hours. Amazing but true story.
After the last riders came and went, we packed up and made our way back down the trail to our camp. Our day was just starting and late tonight (Sunday) as I blog, I still have not slept but 3 or so hours. Adrenaline is a good thing for Tevis weekend!
Our long trip off the moutain, and down to Grass Valley to drop off two sets of camera disks. We met Rene for a very late breakfast/lunch and his photos were dropped off. He had some 1200 and between Bill & I, I think around 700.
Having done several rides now with the boys, I am getting a hang of their routine. And luckily they make fun of me a lot so I laugh, (or they laugh with me and we eat a zebra).....
There is a lot of wait time between the actual photographing and then getting the 1 Hour photos back. Sometimes (like Rene's Tevis photos) it can be hours. His photos were not done til after 7 pm. After the photos are picked up, they all need to be gone thru to match horse/rider teams, so when riders come to the booth, they have a stack that has all of their photos even if it's from 3 different locations. Photos taken in the morning often times don't seem to match up because people have shed clothes. And then there is a lab issue, where some of these places will shuffle photos, almost like a deck of cards. That is a nightmare.
I came home with the CR photos and organized them easily, as the riders were photographed at the same time wearing the same clothes, just different angles. There was the extra issue of "By Pass" photos, as those were going to match up with Rene's photos but obviously not with the CR photos. If you are confused I am too. It's just a lot of work. But fun work. Having always thought Bill & Rene gave us an incredible deal on photos is even more impressive seeing how hard they work.
After feeding animals, showering and sorting the CR photos, I was off to the Fairgrounds to see the first riders come in. Bill & Rene were already there with Bill expecting to stay up all night shooting. He finally slept for about 40 minutes after 3 am. He looked PRETTY tired. But so did everyone. It's just part of Tevis. Bill joked with me in one of my very tired moments and said "Livin' the Dream babayy!!!" I did laugh but in a pathetically exhausted way. But I seriously love this Dream.
We had sorted thru the 1200 Rene photos to put with our 700 and after hours of that (and the use of 4 huge tables for the BC judging later in the am) I was starting to loose energy. Donna showed up after work (1 am) and it was good to see her. She was all aglow. My bestest riding buddy ♥♥♥ She didn't offer to help sort though. What was up with that??? I think most of the photos were done sometime around 2 am. 3 hours & 15 minutes left to watch riders finish.
A finishing horse & rider. Probably pretty late as the stands are nearly empty. I betcha she doesn't care.
While Bill took a nap, I sat on a straw bale with Rene while he took over photographing for a short time. Several horse & rider teams that were BC/Top 10 winners in recent years still finished, but they seemed to be more relaxed about not trying for a big win. Others, riders with 20+ buckles were not going to finish. Several more friends were pulled for various reasons. The ride is hard. I saw a friend finish but pulled for lameness. That hurts. Even the vets are in pain having to do that. But the horses need to vet out sound at the end.
I saw Barbara White get her 33rd buckle and Bill said she raced across the finish line like she was on a race track. She has the Tevis disease. Or maybe her horse does.Here she is flying off her saddle. I don't even do that after a 5 mile ride. At this point I think she needs to go for 40. She's only 7 finishes away.
Pat Chappel on her 20th finish (69 years old). She rode the Quarter horse mare Thunder Lighting Bar to a record for completions of 13 times set in 1998. Wowzie. (Interesting Tevis statistics you can find at Teviscup.org.)
At one point while I was sitting with Rene two riders came in holding hands. They were flying at a fast pace and both horses got off of the track and one looked like he was going to run into me and take a flying leap over my head & the straw bale I sat on. I may have been extremely tired and it may have been a dream, but I know I ran pretty fast to get out of the way. The most dangerous part of my Tevis.
Janine Esler got her 9th buckle on Kumait. Her friend & client Pat Petersen did not, again finish, being overtime at Francisco's. I am sad for Pat. What a determined woman. I will not wonder if she'll try it again because I'm sure the last 2 years (3 tries) she probably didn't think she'd be back. But somehow I think she has the Tevis disease too. I hope I am at the end when she finishes. I'll probably cry. She also is amazing and really a Tevis rider. Many ride and never finish.
After the last rider came under the banner, I was off to home & doggies. Bill & Rene slept in their vehicles at the Fairgrounds because they had more photos to get developed. Bill called me at 7:20 am and I never heard my phone. I may have been dead. I woke up an hour & a half later.
People were already at the booth early so he was ready to sell. There were 3 or 4 other photographers there as there are so many beautiful places to shoot, so it was fun to see the other photos. Lynn Glazer showed me her photos on her camera from the Granite Chief Wilderness and they were spectacular. She is more traditional in her approach to selling photos, as she goes home to edit before she shows them to anyone. Bill & Rene's photos are there, at rides, at a reasonable price and people can leave with something in their hands. If someone wants a digital file or an enlargement, that can be done as an order, like my Cougar Rock photo (and several other ride photos), but they can let go of their photos every ride and be ready for another ride and not get emotionally tied into their art. Their work is highly appreciated and I know first hand the appreciation that is felt and shown ride after ride.
Another Tevis is done. 11 more full moons to the Tevis Moon. I don't know what next year will bring but I know that this ride is firmly entrenched in my soul and I have no doubt I will have another Tevis I will always remember. Living in this town has been bigger than I thought. Meeting and getting to know the people in endurance & this ride has been the highlight of my life and I will forever feel blessed to be a part of it. And, to my Favorite Photographer Bill ~ Thank you for everything. My Cup Truly Runneth Over.