Two hours northeast of San Francisco and two hours southwest of Tahoe lies the once-small-but-rapidly-growing town of Auburn, California, and though it is currently known as “The Endurance Capital of the World,” it was formerly known as the state capital. Because the American River runs through Auburn and was the catalyst to a little thing called The Gold Rush, the town flourished in the mid-1800s. Since that time, California’s capital has moved about forty miles away to Sacramento, and Auburn has come to be known for many other things. Think outdoor activities, a historic downtown, wine tasting, and…
Every summer, several dozen well-conditioned endurance riders and their horses gather in Tahoe, from which they embark on a 100-mile trail ride that culminates in Auburn. It’s recognized as the foundation of endurance riding by the American Endurance Ride Conference, and the completion rate is only 54%, which means it’s probably pretty difficult. The horse and rider teams have 24 hours to complete the race, and are rigorously inspected multiple times throughout the course to ensure the safety of the horses. Last Saturday, the 64th iteration of The Tevis Cup kicked off per usual, with 184 hopefuls setting out on the famed Western States Trail. Just over sixteen hours later, eighteen-year-old Sanoma Blakeley and her ten-year-old Arabian gelding, RA Ares Bay (aka “Goober”), beat a three-time winner to secure the victory (Sanoma is the youngest human champion in history, FYI).
And – if we’re being honest – that’s the extent of what these two hunter/jumper/eventer princesses know about endurance riding. So rather than trying to fake it until we make it, we figured we’d ask an expert. Below, we get the DL on what it’s like to sit in a saddle for an entire day and night. Below that, we share our favorite places to ride, hike, eat, drink, and be merry in the uber-cute town of Auburn, should you decide to visit. It’s a real insider’s guide…almost like one of us grew up there (spoiler alert: one of us grew up there).
Ask the Expert: Jana Smith
When riding a Limited Distance Race (25 miles) you come in according to heart rate. The first to get down to 60 beats a minute wins. The Open Rides (50-100 miles) you place at a finish line, and yes they will race to that finish. I’ve always heard you race for first and tenth place… that’s where the points are…. no difference between second and tenth. But you don’t want the dreaded 11th place!
Any notable details about your first endurance ride?
My first ride was Big South Fork. I was going with a friend but she had an emergency and couldn’t go, so my Hubba aka Dennis went. I had the best time! I met so many people. I would ride with someone for awhile and then by myself for a while. It was and still is a pretty challenging trail. I remember one huge long climb, I got off and tried to walk my horse up. About ten feet in I told him I was sorry but he was going to have to carry me. It was so exciting. We finished our first ride… and I was hooked!
I have sad stories and happy ones. And every ride is a new story. The next story starts at 6AM at Big South Fork this September 6-7. I’m hoping to complete my first 100-mile ride in either October or May. We will see!
Jana lives in Primm Springs, TN on 48 acres with her husband, two dogs, two cats, and six horses.
An Insider’s Guide to Auburn
For expertly chosen California wines and a charming atmosphere, Carpe Vino is unbeatable. For a casual vibe (read: dive bar) with a jukebox, The California Club is our top choice.
Auburn is in the foothills, which is quickly becoming known for its interesting vino varietals. Check out any of the vineyards on the Placer Wine Trail, and if you stop by Dono Dal Cielo, tell them Outside Rein sent you.
For upscale dining (in addition to the wine bar), Carpe Vino is our go-to again. The Auburn Alehouse also has fantastic comfort food (try the street tacos and fried pickles) and house-made craft beer. Katrina’s Cafe is always a great spot for sober brunch, but for a mimosa or two with your eggs, try The Pour Choice or Monkey Cat.
We like Hidden Falls and Western States Pioneer Express Trail for river access.
All photos courtesy of Michael Kirby for goldcountrymedia.com, and Jana Smith.