It happens every July, and I'm still in awe.
It's time to turn all eyes toward California. And up to the clouds. This weekend is the world-famous Tevis Cup, also known as the "100 Mile One Day Trail Ride". This challenging ride starts near Lake Tahoe, passes through the mountains, and ends up at a fairground in Auburn, California. Horses and riders climb 18,000 feet and descend 23,000 over the 100 miles.
According to the Auburn Journal, last year's winner, Virginia farrier John Crandall, ran the race on his Arabian, Heraldic, in 15 hours and 8 minutes. Crandall also won the Haggin Cup for the best conditioned horse. And he's coming back this year to try to do it again!
750: that's how many volunteers it takes to make this ride happen.
The Tevis has a fantastic, info-filled web site, with an interactive map so you can follow your favorite rider's progress up and down the trail.
Here's a tidbit of advice I saw on the web site, in the log of the trailkeepers:
"While marking trail from Foresthill to Francisco's on Saturday 7/21, myself and another rider encountered two mountain lions 3.9 mi South of Mosquito Ridge Road. They were about 60 ft from us walking up the single track trail, went around the bend and disappeared silently. We respected their space and they did not startle the horses. We are fortunate to have these majestic animals around and people should be mindful that we are crossing their territory."
How many horse events would consider meeting a mountain lion to be such a matter-of-fact occurrence?
Interesting fact: The Tevis rules require horses to be shod or else wear protective boots.
There will be 17 veterinarians at 10 locations on the trail.
Something you may not know about this ride of all rides: there's no prize money. Not a dime. The winner gets a belt buckle. And the thrill of a lifetime.
The way this event is organized and the horsemanship needed to condition a horse for it are remarkable and under-publicized in the mainstream horse world. I'll be looking to the West this weekend and riding along, on the web. It may be as close as I ever come.
Still not convinced? Here's a link to a good article from the San Francisco Chronicle about the race. It's a few years old, but it really captures some of the unique aspects of the event.