The sun peaked up over the eastern edge of Oregon's high desert lighting up the scattered morning clouds. It was 5:15 am and I was certain my iPhone clock was dead wrong. The bright gold and pink tinged clouds drifted past the little mesh window at the peak of my tent. The horses were snorting, snuffling, pawing and fussing. I was certain of whispered voices and muffled footsteps and, being the only city girl and horseless at that, I dressed in a jiffy, made my bed and stepped out into the cool mountain morning. Gorgeous, and no one else was about. Nothing for it but to check out the camp and make myself useful. The palomino gelding was interested in my coat zipper but I'd learned that lesson when the Arab gelding made off with my last zipper. Is it geldings or is it zippers? It must be the zipper because it seemed way too interesting to the horses on both occasions; their lips flipped the zipper around and around and around. In any case a little poke with the butt end of the rake and a flip of my hand and he left me to the business at hand of cleaning up his business.
Stepping out of the pen and walking over to the juniper tree there were the three mourning doves in their nest with both parents alert in the branches nearby. Beautiful and just about ready to fledge there were more birds than there was nest but they kept still and close together.
Soon the other campers made their way to the campfire, Gordon had the coffee on, Karen brought out the scones and raspberry muffins, Sharon had a big bag of edible pod peas from her garden, laughter soon flowed freely among this gathering of friends. 7;30 came and went but we soon saddled up and lined out up into the foothills of the Three Sisters Wilderness area. Along the way there was a spectacular old juniper, stripped of every last vestige of bark and leaf, it's long and twisted branches silver and gleaming in the morning sun. It seemed evident that it was soon to be scorcher of a day but no matter, the vulture that sat atop the juniper was obviously enjoying the warmth on his outspread wings.
We made our way through miles of dry pine and juniper forest, along hillsides and across hilltops with views of the mountains in the distance. The dust billowed up so we spread out some and took to the sides or going cross-country and intersecting the lead horses at a forward position. Nonetheless our nostrils will filled with dust by the time we made it back to camp. The horse I rode was a big, beautiful dappled blonde mare with an easy trot sustainable for miles by both horse and rider. Back to camp, the saddles off, the horses were washed down. The salty sweat on their backs in the fierce summer sunshine will bleach out their coat just as sure as putting lemon or some other product will bleach out a beach bunny's hair. We walked the horses to their paddock and turned them out to roll around in the dust then trot off with their little herd, tossing their heads and acting fresh and sassy. Native Americans have a saying for when people have a close interaction with any of the earth's creatures: we have walked in the shadow of a rainbow. It was now a 96 degree day but the rainbow was casting a long shadow.