August 11, 12
With a day of rest behind us (Aug 11), Issy was full of himself. He wanted to move forward and we did just that. At Keene Creek Reservoir and Hwy 66 we tacked up and headed towards Little Hyatt Reservoir.
The grade was fairly even and Issy floated over the ground with exuberance. He was now in his element and seemed to thrive.
The trail took on a different feel. Many horses had walked this trail before and their signs gave Issy even more confidence.
The views were grand with peeks of serene lakes
and old burn forest that time was already healing.
I enjoyed a few moments of photo taking of Hyatt Reservoir where I found a young sapling growing right out of the center of a massive pine stump and was reminded of the persistence of the life continuum.
We found water at a fenced spring with a cove of pine trees that shielded Issy from the sun as I filled his bucket twice and then filtered water for my canteen. This water was so fresh and different! It may have been the minerals, but I enjoyed drinking it almost as much as a Diet Dr. Pepper.
This was great riding on mostly sandy footing and I felt we could linger for an hour or so. There were meadows for graze, many camping areas and a lovely wooden bridge in excellent shape which echoed Issy’s foot fall.
This relaxed trail with the elevations hugging 4500’ and only varying a few hundred feet made viewing the lakes most enjoyable. We passed through to Klum Landing and on to Keno Access Road where Burton was to meet us after a relatively “short” day of only 16 miles. Oregon’s PCT started out to be the best horse trail we have been on. Burton trailered us around to Howard Prairie Lake, and we rested with Issy in a safe corral,
cows grazing the open range between us, the lake flecked with birds and aromatic cedars filling the air with their clean bouquet.
Burton trailered us back to Keno Access Road for a 20 mile day. We quickly climbed from 4700’ to 5600’ at Griffin Pass
paralleling the Rogue River National Forest boundary and leaving behind a clear cut forest and logging roads.
We climbed to a ridge close to Old Baldy where the PCT is visible for miles. I noticed trees with shrouds of lacy moss almost completely covering them.
I expected water to be my biggest issue since the guide books described little on this portion of trail. Another unexpected stress “came up” however. I was riding in jeans which somehow became like balloon trousers, rubbing and gathering in very uncomfortable places. I dreaded the rest of the 20 miles, knowing that I would have blisters everywhere.
I had mentioned to Burton that the PCT crossed Dead Indian Road but didn’t give it another thought until we arrived at that crossing.
Burton was standing there with a bucket of water for Issy, and I had a chance to get into a pair of jeans which fit better. Thank goodness, both problems solved!
This unexpected stop gave us a chance to reevaluate my route and consider an alternate route to Lake of the Woods Resort that would bypass 7 miles of lava rocks.
With both Issy and I refreshed, I opted to take the original trail, knowing I had a full set of very heavy Old Mac’s boots for Issy
if the abrasive lava was too much for his everyday boots.
We climbed away from the trailhead, leaving Burton to find his way around Brown Mountain. The temperature was dropping and Issy seemed to enjoy the briskness, moving at a fast clip until the up and down of the terrain used up his excess energy. I was awestruck by the lava. Rocks completely covered the ground leaving not one inch of ground visible.
The trail maintenance people had used crushed lava stone for the tread, but the entire landscape was rugged rocks pouring down the mountain.
There was no escape from them and a tree across this spot would definitely require sawing or a turnaround. There was no way a horse could traverse over those rocks.
Those 7 miles seemed like many more as we looped back and forth across lava. When I was sure we had finally gotten through we turned a corner only to encounter more as far as we could see.
This 20 miler could have been 40 because of the rough going, but we finally heard 18 wheelers on Hwy 140. We pulled up away from the lava beds to the trailhead passing over the raging Cascade Canal. Luckily there was a wooden bridge so we didn’t have to ford it.
Burton was already there.
Last night when I arrived at Highway 144 Summit where Burton was waiting, he looked tired and depressed. I didn’t inquire about what was troubling him until this morning since I was so very tired myself.
I started the conversation by asking how he felt. He promptly said “It’s not how I feel, but how “you” feel.” He said I looked like the devil, worn out and frazzled with my eyes sunken in and face all drawn! Yes, a gray-haired old lady loves to hear those words….hum…
Much relieved that the problem wasn’t with Burton but was with me, I just let it pass. I had to finish the PCT - that was my only interest. I knew that I probably looked haggard and drawn since I had lost over 30 pounds in a few months but I also knew that once I got home the weight would pile back on. Hikers described the exact same problem, so I wasn’t worried. But, Burton kept going on about how much the trail was taking out of me, and I worried that he was trying to tell me something else.
Finally, after hours of just talking he told me he had enough of this PCT and really wanted to go home. I had told him two days earlier that I was worried about the farm. We were not getting the kind of reports we needed to have confidence that the eyes watching over our farm were as regular and attentive as they needed to be. He must have felt the same way, and it worried him more than me. I didn’t have any mares foaling, no yearlings to get ready for a trainer or sales, no mares to tease for presentation to stallions, just some residual ex-race horses that were pretty easy to feed and watch. Burton on the other hand had many heifers that would be calving, bull calves that needed to be weaned and cows that needed to be moved to the bulls. The worry table had flipped, Burton now had livestock that demanded attention and I was now able to rest. For over 25 years I worried every day about one owner’s horse or another, but that was over and I felt the horses at the farm could manage. After all, they had survived the race track and were home in a 75 acre pasture. But, Burton had given me many weeks of just following me around mountains, over mountains and through mountains. I decided I needed to go home for him, so we packed up and started home. I thought that this would be the end for this year.