We rested with Issy in a safe corral so he didn’t have to be tied for the evening. Carter Meadows has graze and is very horse friendly with several corrals.
With vault toilets and potable water we felt spoiled! The tree cover sheltered us from the morning dew,
but we needed jackets to roam about in a lingering damp chill. I cleaned the trailer and repacked my saddle bags. Burton tried to nurse his very sore back.
That afternoon I saddled up to ride north 10 miles toward the Marble Mountain Wilderness. The going was rough and even though we crossed several roads we were always climbing. We climbed to over 7,000’ on the Salmon Mountains with views of burned forest. The trail passed off the ridge so we weren’t able to view the glaciated lakes on the north side.
What we did find was the mother of all cows. A surely prehistoric throwback stretched out on the ridge above us just watching as we came closer. Issy was on high alert even though he grew up with cattle…this cow was surely the biggest I have ever seen. The area is open range and we encountered a few cattle along the way, some were large but she was at the apex. I felt like she was ready to defend her territory if we came any closer, perhaps she had a calf. We were lucky that she just held her ground. Issy nervously hurried past below.
Our goal was Payne’s Lake but we decided to turn back as the clouds darkened. The goliath cow was no where to be seen and we traversed back along the ridge and back down to Carter Meadows. By noon a couple arrived with their horses and mule to ride and fish at some of the great lakes just north of the meadows. The couple was a great source of information about Oregon and horse places to overnight close to the PCT. We visited and exchanged addresses.
The afternoon got chillier and damper and before nightfall the skies turned dark and ominous. The couple heard a weather report stating that the next few days would be cold and wet; As lightening started to brighten the sky, Burton wanted to trailer off the mountain in case of fire. We packed and the other couple decided to leave as well.
Since the beginning of my trip I faithfully contacted the Back Country Horsemen of each section to inquire about route and horse safety. When we arrived at the section under the supervision of John Lyons I wanted to talk with him and thank him for his free flowing information and help.
I gave him a call and his wife Gail promptly invited us to stay the night at their place. This was perfect since both Burton and I needed a safe harbor from the predicted storm. Issy had a huge paddock with shelter and we pulled up right next to him.
That evening we went to the Back Country Horsemen’s meeting and I won the door prize: a lovely hand made bowl complete with chips! Gail is the president so I think something was rigged, but the unique pottery was even blue my favorite color so I wasn’t about to inquire.
Aug 7, 8
We trailered to Grider Creek Campground where I could ride south into the Marble Mountain Wilderness. Grider was the usual primitive campground except it had a corral and a wonderful swimming hole. Grider Creek ran clear as it passed through the canyon and it echoed off the walls with waterfall like rigor. The serenity was lulling but I think we had become accustomed to it. Only a few day users came to swim and then a PCT couple we knew set up camp. I pulled out my blue bowl and offered them some chips and avocados and found that the trail south was pretty much open with only a few downed trees that they felt Issy could maneuver. While Issy was safe and enjoying the large corral I reviewed the maps and terrain hoping I could ride south 15 miles and then back the same day. This was not to be since we had to climb out of the canyon at 1700’ to 6500’ and with that much pull Issy would be exhausted in short order. I opted for a shorter day of only 10 miles out and then back 10. The trail hung to the canyon wall, was narrow but firm and we made our way up and across several footbridges.
Large trees leaned worrisomely along the way and if any of them fell I would be hours sawing our path free. My Fiskar saw had seen many downer trees but each became more of an effort since Port’s accident (the doctor told me I had broken both collar bones) and using it required a back pull which really taxed my resolve. I prayed that the tread angel was in contact with the downer tree angel and they would keep my path clear.
Issy was so fit that, within a couple of hours, we hit the 13 mile mark. Regretfully, I turned him around. The terrain was leveling off and I always hated to go back over the same trail but with no camping gear I had no other choice. The ride back to camp was fast and furious. Issy knew very well that he had a big corral, dinner and a place to rest back there. He pulled through the bitless bridle so much that I had to reach down and grab the halter a few times to get his mind on the job at hand. Issy is a very vocal horse and every time I grabbed the halter he huffed and made me laugh.
What a delight he has become: I no longer have to have a big discussion about my requests, he just seems to know.
From Grider Creek Campground the PCT travels along a dirt road for almost 5 miles. It passes along side the Klamath River over to Hwy 96 and then back to Seiad Valley. I read a few stories about some horsemen that crossed the river with their stock and ended up swimming. I opted to let Burton trailer us over the road and across the bridge.
Before we left Grider a forest ranger came by to inform us that there was a restriction on camp fires.
During his visit he detailed the next PCT section and recommended that I speak with a well informed packer. He dialed her number and I was speaking with Peggy in a second. She suggested the two of us spend a little time going over the potential areas. She offered to meet us in Seiad Valley, so we hauled to her pasture just off Hwy 96 behind the forest service maintenance building where she had a paddock all ready for Issy. Peggy was a wealth of information. Not only does she pack in this area for a living; she has ridden the PCT from here to Canada. I couldn’t have been happier. We camped at a full service campground with a mere 10 spots, and I caught up on the wash, visited with Peggy and Bill Roberts and gleamed as much insight about the trail as I could. Peggy helped me mark my map with camping spots friendly to horses,
water sources along the way and even locations of swarming bees to avoid.
We had scheduled a 7 AM breakfast with Peggy and Bill but the only restaurant was closed on Monday so we visited for a short time and then headed to the trailhead.
At the recommendation of both Peggy and Bill I took the alternate route over the Seiad Valley Road and headed “up” and I mean up! From 1350’ to 5900’ Issy just packed me upward.
Once an old truck lumbered up along side and a rotund gal hollered out the window that I had a beautiful horse, but she had to continue because her truck would stall if she stopped! The road was very narrow so I had Issy sidestep into the ditch and by then he was looking for any excuse to stop and did. Right on the inside corner of the road there was a grand water fall with a place to water a horse formed naturally over time by the fall of the water onto the rocks. The rock bowl was large enough to take a bath in and Issy tried to climb right in. He just doesn’t perceive obstacles as an impediment to his line of travel! The trip I planned was to be a long one of 37 miles but Issy had covered that many times before and since I would be packing light with no camping gear I felt we could make it before night fall. We continued up towards Cook and Green Pass at 4750’ and Issy searched for graze but none was to be had. I gave him a snack of pellets and rested him for a few minutes but couldn’t dally because we had so far to go and there were too many unknowns (like water sources, downed trees, etc.)
The exposed ridgetop afforded vast views in both directions and all at once I realized I was looking at California on my right
and Oregon on my left.
Issy was following the path and giving me the pleasure of sightseeing and not having to worry. The Siskiyou Mountain river valleys were deeply etched with erosion and falling off towards
the Klamath River while the views towards Oregon included Hell’s Peak and Yellowjacket Ridge.
We somehow missed the next reliable source of water and my concern grew that this was to be our next priority. I started down a dirt road to try to locate Reaves Ranch Spring but after following for a half mile I turned around hoping to find something closer to the trail. Alex’s Hole was marked as having water in either direction of the trail and only off tread by two-tenths of a mile so we pushed on to there. I chose the north spring and Issy must have known we were close because he pulled off the ridge and we looped down the mountain to an open spring. The spring was not protected and Issy stepped right into the marsh promptly tearing one of his boots beyond repair. It was as if the spring grabbed the boot in revenge and tried to rip it off his foot. It was just dangling there held only to his pastern. Luckily, I had a spare. Issy sipped for ten minutes as the spring filled his foot print slowly, but at least he had water. When he picked up his head I gave him more pellets and grabbed a snack myself. We rested for thirty minutes and then I stepped into the saddle dreading the trip back up to the ridge. Issy must have felt my trepidation and seemed to want me to just hang on. He took the reins and plunged upward, pulling and forging over trees and gullies.
What a ride! I felt like a little girl on a merry go round! “Just hang on” Issy seemed to say and we covered the 600 feet in elevation in seconds. On the ridge with still 9 more miles to go, we passed a few other springs located on my map but Issy was strong and I knew it was only a few miles to Donomore Creek where he could take a long drink. At Donomore Creek a hiker left a note not miss the bear track under the bridge. I tried to photograph it but couldn’t get the contrast right. Issy turned up his nose at the creek water so maybe the bear spoiled it and I tried to get him to drink up stream to no avail. We crossed the creek towards Donomore Meadows
and Issy grazed for a good while watching the cattle as he munched. Donomore Meadows is a big bowl of many acres but all hill side. There was an old cabin off to the west but the sun was waning leaving us no chance to explore. We pushed on towards Donomore Peak and my GPS said 37 miles so I was starting to get concerned that I miscalculated the distance but just when I started to pull my maps out I heard a whistle...the one Burton and I use to call Shanty our Australian Shepherd and suddenly Shanty was racing down the trail towards us.
Relieved that I was within whistle distance of the camp, I jumped off and walked Issy to the trail register at the Oregon/California border.