Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Virginia City 100 - 50 Years of Memories… and Rocks
September 20 2017
by Merri Melde-Endurance.net
Rock, rocks and more rock! You couldn't see the trees for the rocks. - Kipling the horse, 7th with rider Ronda Eden
I think it [the first loop] was rockier than cr@p, but it was so dark, I couldn't see. - Matt Scribner, 10th on MM Cody
If you see enough rocks on the trail over all daylight hours then it is quite possible you will see rocks at night when there are no rocks! - Max Merlich, 11th on TCF Miles High
The rocks - you guys got that nailed! - Darlene Anderson, 12th on Xtreme Surprise
I love the trail. And the rocks - I don't care, I still love 'em. - Kaitlyn Cummins, 13th on VA Anastahzi
Nevada does have the record for most rocks in the US. We rode over most of them yesterday! - Janet Worts, 14th on MG Sedona
Thanks for letting me ride through your rock garden! - Troy Eckard, 15th on OT Rymoni GLY
You don't have to squint too hard, as you drive up the narrow canyon and incline from Dayton, Nevada, past Silver City and Gold Hill and on up into Virginia City at 6200 feet, to imagine how it was in the old days: loaded wagons pulled by horse and mule teams up the rough steep canyon roads, wild horses, unforgiving rocky mountains, a multitude of gold and silver mines, shafts and tailings, and rocky trails.
The first gold discovered in Nevada was in 1849 in Dayton, and with the discovery of the Comstock Lode strike in 1859 (the first major silver strike in America), Virginia City sprang up more or less overnight. Much of the old time panache is still alive, with people strolling boardwalks and visiting saloons lining a narrow main street, and much of the city is perched on the terraced multitudes of old mine tailings.
It's not too hard to imagine the horses and riders of yesteryear, gathering in a group in front of Virginia City's Delta Saloon (est. 1865), forming a posse or gearing up for a cattle drive, striking out early on the trails out of town. Those old trails in the rugged desert mountains are still there, and for 50 years, on an early morning in September, endurance riders have congregated in front of the Delta Saloon, and ridden 100 miles in this rocky, mountainous terrain for the bragging rights of earning a Virginia City 100 buckle upon finishing with their amazing equine equine partner within 24 hours.
The 100-mile Virginia City trail is itself one of the stars of the show - a demanding, unforgiving trail. It's always been rocky, but after last winter's heavy snowfall (after years of drought) and spring rains, much of the topsoil washed away to - you guessed it - expose more rocks. One rider said, "My mare remembered every rock from last year… there were just more of them!" If you think about it, it's very possible that riders probably trampled over some of the very same rocks the miners and their burros stumbled over 157 years ago! (People new to southwest Idaho endurance rides often ask me, "Are the Owyhee rides rocky?" I say, "I don't know, have you ever ridden in Nevada?" Because it all depends on your perspective.)
And Bailey Canyon, on the first loop, is extra famous for its extra rocks. It'll take you about an hour to get through there if you take it steadily and carefully. If you try to rush through it, you might shave a whole 5 minutes off your time.
And there's not just rocks, but 12,064 feet of elevation gain and loss to shoulder through. The SOB's are famous - 3 short but very steep Sons o' Bitches hills (which you will agree is a wholly appropriate name, once you have ridden or walked or tailed them, particularly in the high desert heat of an afternoon) that test your horse's mettle. There's the climb up Jumbo Grade to 7629 feet not that far from the top of Mt Davidson (and don't discount the climb down), plus myriad little mountains between the start and finish lines.
With the spirits of endurance riding history and tradition behind it, 70 riders showed up at the starting line for the 50th anniversary of the Virginia City 100 at 5 AM on September 16, 2017. The ride hadn't seen that many participants in 17 years.
Horses and riders were obviously stars of the 50th Anniversary show, as well. "Magnificent horses," said Jerry Gillespie, who, with his wife Martha and daughter Cheryl and son-in-law, plus a whole group of volunteers, were on site with 2 giant horse scales to conduct a dehydration/weight loss study with willing participants. The Virginia City 100 competitors were indeed a fabulous looking group of horseflesh - sleek, fit, athletic, none too heavy, none too skinny, but just right for the rigors of the trail ahead.
The biggest star on Saturday was the 10-year-old mustang named MM Woodrow (Woody), who carried his rider, Mark Montgomery to the win in a ride time of 15:13.
Mark and Woody were in third place leaving the out vet check at 24 miles, 11 minutes behind the leader Leah Cain and OT Dyamonte Santo, and 6 minutes behind Ann Marie Barnett aboard Ravens Allure. Coming up in the next 15 mile section was Bailey Canyon. "Bailey Canyon is not the place you're going to make up time," ride manager Crysta Turnage said Friday night at the ride meeting. "Be smart, take your time through there."
But Bailey Canyon is exactly where Mark and Woody made up time, and possibly even where they won the ride. They passed both Leah and Ann Marie in that canyon, arriving at the Washoe Lake vet check and 20 minute hold at 39 miles with the lead. Ann Marie was hot on Mark's tail, (both had the same out time of 10:31 AM), with Leah 25 minutes back. "That's his kind of trail," Mark said. "I wish the whole ride was like that! He just skipped through there."
Mark and Woody retained the lead throughout the ride, getting a little breathing room twice, when his nearest competitors were eliminated, first Ann Marie and Ravens Allure at 51 miles, then Leah Cain and OT Dyamonte Santo at 92 miles. The mustang finished at 11:33 PM, 36 minutes ahead of Lois Wifall and Morroccan Spice (ride time of 15:49).
Mark, from Penn Valley, California, first started in endurance in 2010 and has over 4000 miles. He's well known for the mustangs he trains and rides.
MM Woodrow has been somewhat of a phenomenon since Mark started him in endurance. He got Woody from a woman in Wyoming who couldn't train him, and who gave him to Mark as a 5-year-old. The now 10-year-old gelding has a record of 1905 miles with 33 completions in 35 starts, all but one of those in the Top Ten, and 17 first place finishes. His 4 100-mile completions include a first place in the 2016 Twenty Mule Team and a 34th place finish in this year's Tevis Cup (with rider Simone Krahnen), his last ride before Virginia City.
10th place Matt Scribner (who rode another of Mark's mustangs, MM Cody) said, "Mark made that horse. He was amazing."
Second place went to Lois Wifall and her 15-year-old gelding Morroccan Spice in 15:49. She was followed by the mother-son team of Peg Murphy-Hackley aboard HE Khem Chee and Bryce Hackley riding Sericko, in 16:14.
The biggest star on Sunday was HE Khem Chee. All the 4 horses (2nd place Morroccan Spice, 3rd place HE Khem Chee, 4th place Sericko, and 6th place Lynn Rigney and Predictable) that showed for Best Condition Sunday morning looked good - certainly not looking any worse for 100-mile wear - but Khemi looked absolutely fabulous in her trot outs.
Peg Murphy-Hackley bred her 11-year-old mare, by Khemistreetu x RT Johanna, by Wazirs Karahty. The mare has a record of 935 miles over 7 seasons, with 22 completions in 25 starts, and 4 100-mile completions, including Tevis (2013 and 2016), and last year's Virginia City (10th place). This year Peg, from Foresthill, California, earned her 1000-mile Tevis buckle, (she has also finished Australia's Tom Quilty twice) and with her second Virginia City buckle, she's hooked. "I'm a Tevis person, and now I'm chipping away at Virginia City. We'll be back!"
The ultimate star of the Virginia City 100 event is NASTR. Organized in 1968, the Nevada All-State Trail Riders came together for the purpose of preserving historical trails in Nevada by sponsoring and promoting horse back riding on these trails. It's made up of a grand group of dedicated individuals who diligently maintain the legacy of these Nevada rides with old photos and stories (did all of you get to page through the photo albums on the tables in the Ice House?), and who sink their heart and teeth into putting on several Nevada rides throughout the years, including the crown jewel, the Virginia City 100.
This year's ride manager, Crysta Turnage, declined credit. "It's all of you [NASTR members]. I'm just the face of it. This wouldn't happen without everybody's help." Consensus was that this year's was the best marked trail ever. Extra effort was put into not only the awards for the finishers (and each sponsor/award was recognized at the Sunday awards presentation), but each rider received a special 50th anniversary program, "Virginia City 100, 1968-2017 - 50 Years of Memories," containing stats of past VC rides and riders and horses, and special stories from some of the early ride pioneers.
And NASTR knows how to put on an awards ceremony. Special speakers Cliff Lewis (first VC 100 winner, and a founding member of NASTR), Phil Gardner (first 2000-mile VC buckle recipient), Connie Creech (2000-mile VC rider), and Gina Hall (owner of Fire Mt Destiny, who holds the record of 12 VC finishes and a 100% completion rate) gave a short talk, some of which had the audience either laughing or wiping away tears. Each finisher got a chance to speak if they wished.
A few more milestones were reached during this year's 50th anniversary. Shawn Bowling got his 1000-mile buckle award. Dave Rabe finished his 16th VC 100. Pat Chappell completed her 18th VC 100. And Connie Creech not only completed her 26th Virginia City ride, but her mare LS Steele Breeze finished her 4000th AERC mile, her 15th 100 mile ride, and her 5th Virginia City ride. That makes five horses that Connie has ridden to 5 Virginia City completions. (And for those of you who did not complete your first attempt at the VC ride, just keep in mind that Connie didn't finish her first one. :)
I'll conclude with a few more memorable quotes from this iconic 50th anniversary ride, which don't refer to rocks:
There's nowhere else I'd rather be then riding a horse here today. I don't have to be anywhere else. I don't have to do anything else but ride the VC 100! - Matt Scribner, 10th on MM Cody, at the 5 AM start
Last year I had "Virginia Shitty" engraved on my buckle. I like punishment. - Shawn Bowling, 37th on Rushcreek Spur, after receiving his 10th buckle
I swore off Virginia City after my second finish, but, oh well. Fergus just gets better and better. Now I have to come back. - Lucy Trumbull, 32nd on Fergus, her 5th buckle
Thanks for making me skip class and show up! - Bryce Hackley, 4th on Sericko, to his mom
You know you've *been somewhere* when you finish this ride! - Darlene Anderson, 12th on Xtreme Surprise
Folks in the know have said this ride is tougher than Tevis. It is possible they are right. - Max Merlich, 11th on TCF Miles High
Best ride EVER! - Tracy John (an Aussie), 31st on Al Marah Land Robin
Real Men Wear Jeans - Junior rider Jack Bowling 34th aboard Rushcreek Caribou, his second VC finish
To the little guy [Jack Bowling] who said real men wear jeans, Real Men Wear Shorts. - Dave Rabe, 20th on Cocamoe Joe
Well, ultimately the stars weren't quite in alignment for us yesterday and we were pulled at the 76-mile point...a combo of being both overtime and Beeba was off on the right hind at the trot.
Still, can't complain...that red mare poured her heart out for me all day long over some incredible and challenging trail. This was the longest either of us have gone before, and she headed out of camp for that second loop after 50 miles without any fuss or question. She was an energizer bunny all day, steadily eating up the miles, and eating and drinking amazingly well.
And me? More 75s and 100s, please! There's something special about these longer distances and I can't wait to do more of them.
Much more later...this was an incredible ride and I'm glad to have had the chance to start it this year. The VC magic got its hooks in me and you can be sure I'll return for another go at it! - Ashley Wingert, OT pull on The Habibah RA
Success. So grateful for all the support. I feel like one must feel when standing atop Mt Everest. To take on the huge challenge and achieve that goal. Knowing you still have work ahead to complete the journey. But treasuring the moment and the intense feelings. - Crysta Turnage, Ride Manager
More from the ride at: