April 5, 2010
Left the house at 9 and got as far as Shawnee when the truck started to display a wrench sign on the dash. It meant that there was something wrong with the throttle and I guess it was because I went from 75 to 30 in about a second. Pretty dangerous on Interstate 40 with 18 wheelers roaring by. Found a Ford dealer who told me to turn the engine off then restart it and the wrench should go off. It did but came right back on when the truck was under any kind of strain. Pretty bad way to start a long trip alone! I limped to Floss Lake with the truck having the problem on and off. I thought I might try to get to California and have it fixed there but with it having so much trouble I felt I would never make it. Issy would be really crazy being left in the trailer for so long….I called Burton and he said he would bring the little truck and take the ford back. Thank goodness for Burton!
Arrived at Foss Lake again and this time I had time to ride Issy while Burton brought me the 3/4 ton truck. The lake has a trail around it and they must really like horses since you can camp right off the lake with tremendous views. Issy was a handful for a few miles and then settled in so we both enjoyed the scenery.
Drove all day and spent the night on the Continental Divide. I parked at a truck stop and by 3 was freezing but too cold to get out from under the covers. Finally at 4AM I got up and threw on a jacket to turn on the truck to see how cold it was…17degrees! No wonder I was cold. I quickly huddled back to the trailer and fired up the heater.
Arrived at Blake Ranch RV where Issy had a stall and I was able to have full hookups. Issy knew this place as he had been here twice last year. He played in the round pen while I did wash and took a shower. It was still light when I was caught up on my chores so I took Issy for a ride. We rode out to a wash and up a round hill through cactus and rocks. Issy really needed to be ridden and he was full of it. When I finally turned to the park Issy was still a hand full. I had to dismount to open a gate and I looked down and saw hundreds of cactus barbs poking out form Issy’s legs. The cactus never slowed him down so I didn't realize he was getting pricked as we went. What a mess to get those out. They stuck in my fingers and were persistent to hold on to anything.
Arrived at Terry Kenny's around 3 and found he had a herding dog event going on all weekend. He never mentioned it to me, just said to come on and he had plenty of room. Nice people, his gal Coleen is a real treat, loves horses and is every bit as friendly as Terry. Got Issy settled in a big corral next to mules and horses with ducks, sheep and cattle close by. Lots of interesting things for Issy to check out. I parked with the trailer back to the wind which was blowing pretty hard but not shaking the trailer too badly. Watched some of the dogs work sheep and it was hard to believe the dogs were able to move the sheep through obstacles and around gates with no more than a whistle from their owners. Pretty interesting! Check out his web site - www.taskfarms.org - those dogs are awesome!
Terry and Bandit
Got invited to dinner and met the judge for the dog trials…Lou Jones who just happened to have worked for Charlie Graham, of Southwest Stallion Station. We reminisced and laughed about Charlie who has a lasting effect on any lucky enough to have met him. Lou is a very knowledgeable fellow in many areas and it was great fun to visit with him. His only fault is that he likes Appaloosas!
At Terry Kenny's, high winds, dog trial still on, last night great supper at a restaurant hidden in the mountains on Bouquet Canyon Road. Got up early and put Issy's boots on in anticipation of riding with the area BCHA of Calif by Hughes Lake. Loaded Issy up and did my usual walk around the trailer only to find that I had a flat tire on the trailer. No tools to change the tire, got the spare down and was helped to put it on only to find it was flat also. Issy back to the corral and I disconnected the truck and took both tires to town, one had a big nail and I had broken the valve stem on the other…Bought new tools, fix a flat and manual pump (foot) for emergencies. Got invited to chili lunch, so windy that I ate my salad with my fingers because each time I raised my fork to my mouth the lettuce blew off like a leaf floating in the wind.
Got up hoping to ride but the wind was strong and there was lots of moisture in the air.
Coleen invited me to ride at Vasquez Rocks but I wasn't sure she still would like to be out in the weather. I heard about Vasquez Rocks
and that it was the site to the television shows Bonanza, Star Trek and Austin Powers. Luckily Coleen was brave enough to still want to ride and we got to the park to find that the temperature was 20 degrees warmer! We rode with 23 other local riders who gathered almost every weekend to ride. One fellow Bert Bonnett was born on Feb. 24, 1910, yes, that makes him 100 years old and still riding. He rode a horse like a true western rider and one would never believe his age! That's Bert with his back to us wearing the white hat.
Riding the park was as scenic as any area I've seen. The yellowish outcropped rocks tower 150 feet high slanted on an angle and the area is named after Tiburcio Vasquez a 1800 bandit who stole horses and cattle along with robbing stagecoaches and used the rocks as his hideout. Issy was a bit of a handful since he was in love with Coleen's mare (who was in heat) and wanted to claim an area of about 30 feet in all directions of her. He was just plain angry when any other horse came near, but considering that I thought he was going to be problematic this was only a minor infraction for him and I truly enjoyed the ride.
I got up and hurried to feed Issy so I could have breakfast with Terry. He was to help me locate the best spots to access the PCT. Not only did he locate them on a map he took me to all the ones to the west so I just had to find the few east of our base camp. My next worry was to go to Agua Dulce to find out where the post office was and was told that I had to go to Santa Clarita towards Los Angeles. Burton had mailed me the extra key for the truck and I wanted to have it in case I locked the other one inside. After much searching I finally found it and then had to convince the clerk that the package was there. Finally, she went to look and indeed found it. I proceeded on to scout out the other locations to park the rigs so we could get to those trail heads. I was fortunate to have met a retired fireman who lives in Ramona and he and a friend wanted to ride for the month along with me. This was great considering that Burton had to stay at the farm and moving the trailer is always a hit and miss ordeal without help. Two of the places I had decided to use were closed and they didn’t’ look like they would be open for the summer season either. This preliminary work saved us from dragging the horses and trailers to a closed camp. I finally got home to hay Issy and get out of the blasting wind at 3.
I spent the day waiting for Dick and Gil the fellows who were to ride section E with me. I met Dick last year at Agnew Meadows and was quickly impressed with his knowledge of the trail. Dick and Gil showed up with two mules Jed and Jim both big and strong mules. I wondered how Issy would be riding with them as Issy is quite opinionated about other equids! Terry and Colleen invited us to ride and asked if we wanted to ride the ridge or the valley….My immediate response was the ridge and am so glad we had a choice. The ride up was a real workout for Issy and I think Jim (the mule) but Terry and Colleen’s mounts didn’t even get winded as we puffed up the mountain to the ridge. The views were wonderful and the ridge was wide enough to allow us to ride safely for a few miles until we had to pull off and head down. I wish I had remembered my camera! As we were descending Dick called out “Hold up!” and since I had dismounted because of the rapid fall and poor tread I halted Issy only to find out he had become entangled in barbed wire and was pulling part of an old fence down the mountain. This had the makings of a real disaster and visions of Issy being all cut up flashed through my head. There was almost no way to get to his hind feet as the tread was a very steep and washed out ravine so I eased him forward hoping to see how badly he was ensnared, somehow the wire just fell off his boots leaving absolutely no injury at all. Downward we went with me barely able to stay on my feet and hoping Issy was his usual sure footed self so he wouldn’t stumble into me. Everyone else rode down so maybe I had become too conservative about the mountains but I believe that the stress on the front of Issy’s legs was similar to stressing shins and had the potential to cause shin splints or at least sore shins so I had become accustomed to dismounting on almost all descents where the fall was of any consequence. Finally, the grade started to level off and Terry pulled into a driveway and asked the resident for a beer! There wasn’t any hesitation or surprise and the gal hospitably presented all of us with a nice cool brew! I guess this is just part of Leona Valley living and we all enjoyed our drinks and visit. Refreshed we headed back to Terry’s and all settled in for the evening. Terry came by to tell us to use his red stock trailer to haul to the trail heads that way we didn’t have to break camp each night. This unexpected privilege was great and so much appreciated.
Today’s ride began at Indian Canyon Trailhead at Soledad Canyon Road. This was the first access on section D that was opened because of last year’s fires. Dick had explained how the Santa Anna winds caused these fires to grow rapidly, devouring hundreds of acres and follow the canyons for miles.
By 10:30 we unloaded and got ready to ride out with Gill taking our picture.
From the trailhead we dropped down into the Santa Clara River where there was a little bit of confusion about the trail location but there was excellent graze and several places to camp where the horses could have grazed all night. We found that the trail was moved slightly to the east since the original river ford was steep and washed out. Climbing out we crossed railroad tracks and ascended out of the canyon. After miles of riding along the canyon wall we headed towards the Antelope Valley Freeway (Hwy 14) and at 1:30 we got a peak of a tunnel which took us under the freeway.
Issy had seen many tunnels and didn’t even look up but Jim was a bit apprehensive and along with his metal shoes he had trouble with the tunnel. Dick finally dismounted and Jim followed trusting Dick.
The end of the tunnel was a reprieve from the desert prior with water and graze which the stock appreciated. Dick is an excellent rider and his style of riding complimented mine so we often found each other dismounting about the same time.
I would walk for hours or until the grade elevated and Dick seemed to do the same. In the past I would feel guilty when the other rider would never dismount, but my legs would often get stiff so I would walk. Many times I would walk when the tread was narrow, undermined or challenging thus giving Issy a rest and adding a bit more safety to the trail.
We quickly came to Vasquez Rocks and were able to enjoy the 745 acre park with a short 2 mile trip along the tilted rocks to Gil and our truck.
We loaded up with Gil dropping us off at Mint Canyon Road which is on the far end of the town of Agua Dulce. We choose not to ride through town but rather go to the trailhead and head northwest from there.
The elevation went from 2,500’ to 3,000’ in no time and we watched as the ranchettes grew smaller and pulled away from us but one stood out as possibly a motion picture setting, they had part of a airliner all set up making one envision a plane episode as seen in so many movies. The tread winds along the hillside of several canyons and across a few fire breaks with switch backs teasing one to look over their shoulders at the views of Mt Baden Powell and even Vasquez Rocks.
We continued to climb to over 4500’then dropped off towards Bouquet Canyon Road passing through chaparral which included my favorite Manzanita trees.
Covering almost 10 miles in about 4 hours, we arrived ahead of schedule and when we got onto the road a kind fellow allowed us to put our animals in his round pen to wait for Gil who arrived 30 minutes later.
Back to Bouquet Canyon Road, Gill dropped us off for our 13 mile ride to San Francisquito Canyon Road at Green Valley. We climbed up and down on sand type tread with not much but craggy brush except a view of a grand farm with sprawling fields in the valley below.
We arrived at a trail register where a trail angel had set up real chairs, resting areas and water under the bows of what looked like dwarfed live oak trees. It was funny how comfortable the chairs felt after only 8 or 9 miles in the saddle! We fed the horses some lunch and rested for about 30 minutes in the shade. There wasn’t any graze for the horses but they had water just before our rest stop so they ate peacefully and dozed off. With just 6 or 7 miles to go we mounted up and rode down from 4,300’ to 3,000’ along a lovely live oak shaded section arriving at San Francisquito Canyon Road.
There we crossed over to the ranger station where Gil had parked the trailer to haul us back to Terry’s.
Day off. Poor weather. But the day was rescued by a wonderful dinner with a ranch owner who was a L.A. judge. She was a live wire with lots of energy, visiting and spending time with all of us.
We had barbeque smoked in Miss Piggy (a pit built by Rick and Jennifer, a lovely couple I met last year at Horseshoe Meadows) and cobbler homemade by Jennifer who also made home made Root Beer!
With a short 8 miler, we worked around camp with Jed who seemed to me to be a kind and good natured mule. Jed stands an impressive 15+ hands with lots of bone for carrying his panniers.
We pulled out of camp around 10 to head back to San Francisquito Canyon Road and in just a little over a mile we had to climb 700’ with me in the lead as usual.
While was watching the tread in front of us I caught some movement and focused on a rattler who was stretched out across the trail. With my camera already out I was able to catch a picture as he moved off the trail into the brush.
Soon the views were spectacular presenting the Antelope valley in full color from the desert poppies beyond Lake Hughes.
We enjoyed this for a few miles traipsing downward to Elizabeth Lake Canyon Road. We pulled up to the road and found Gil walking towards us to ferry us back to Terry’s.
Bad weather and Snow! Another no ride day!
I was about to go stir crazy from waiting out the weather so I decided to walk a few miles of the next section. If the snow piled up I would only have to worry about myself and not Issy. I left camp around 9 with my Wal-Mart walking sticks and my waist pack hoping to get out and back before the predicted noon storm hit. I climbed the first finger of Sawmill Mountain again gaining elevation quickly but the climb was interrupted by spotting the mouth of a tunnel,
one of three I was to pass and later found out they were graphite mines. The first one really pulled me to enter but as I shot a photo I felt like someone just might be home and since I was alone and on foot I thought better of spelunking in case I couldn’t outrun the resident cougar or bear.
Two more tunnels tempted me before the rain turned to sleet then snow and I had to retrace my path and head back to the safety of camp. I was able to get a few photos of the grand valley and mountains before the weather closed in on me but feeling satisfied that I had covered enough of the 7 miles not to have to redo it tomorrow or whenever the weather was obliging enough to allow us to continue.
Another cold day with more snow predicted is lost.
We left camp around 6:30 knowing that we had a long 27 mile ride today. Gil dropped us off at the base of the Upper Shake Trail and we followed a small dirt road and climbed for 5 miles with the elevation going from 3,900’ to 5,000’ but the vistas were incredible.
The Tehachapi Mountains know as the precursor for the Sierra were easily recognizable with their snow and canyons shadowing the Antelope Valley below.
We had to stop several times for the animals to get their breath so photo taking was optimal. Jim seemed to have less trouble then Issy who started to gulp and swallow indicating to me that he was using up his reserves so I jumped off and held up for several minutes until Issy started to think more about grass than air. We finally got to the ridge of Sawmill Mountain and the trail leveled out at about 5,600’.
Stopping at Sawmill Campground we found plenty of graze and since water had been available for the entire way we relaxed for a good bit letting the animals eat and rest. Camping anywhere along this area would have been great this time of year but it was only 10 AM and we had promised to meet Gill 20 miles down the trail.
We rode the crest passing the way to Atmore Meadows know to be another good camping spot for horses and continued along the trail until we got to a big tree which Dick had to cut. Dick had been clearing several trees and large limbs along the way but this one required that we both drag it off the trail. I had been holding Jim and Issy who were happily munching so I lightly tied them with enough lead to reach the grass and went to help Dick. We tugged and heaved the fire burned oak with Dick putting so much effort into it that his momentum caused him to slip when he stepped over the edge of the trail. I was horrified when he fell and the realization of our precarious hold to safety was out of balance. Even though I had my Spot (a personal locator and beacon for emergencies) and my satellite phone I still got slapped in the face with the realization that everyday was serious and dangerous. We were miles from help and I sobered up from my dream of just sight seeing. Luckily, Dick being fit and athletic jumped right up and never missed a beat, but I was warned as has often happened on this endeavor. The entire PCT trail is one that cannot be taken with complacency. While this realization set in Jim decided to head home, back the way we came; I had tied the lead too loose and he pulled himself free. Issy started to paw with envy at Jim’s escape and I ran to be sure we didn’t have two running back down the trail. I secured him and went after Jim who found an especially desirable patch of grass just 500 yards away. Another warning sinks in, knowing that when Issy gets loose he just waves adios! We mounted up with Dick throwing a cracker in his mouth and continued on passing several snow patches but nothing worth dismounting for.
At almost 5,800’ elevation we left the ridge of Liebre Mountain and started the descent to Pine Canyon Road going through washes and leaving the Black Oaks and fairly level terrain behind. Spruce and pine fenced us in with most scarred from a forest fire a couple of years prior. The dead fall is horrendous and now tinder for yet another fire.
We both walked since the erosion is very severe and the tread switchbacks through thick chaparral and brush.
I got stopped on a very narrow portion of the trail by a small tree blocking our way lying diagonally across the track. It was shoulder high on the up hill side and then dropped off over the cliff downward. The tread was far too narrow to turn Issy and let Dick come up and cut it so I pulled out my saw and began the arduous task of sawing. I dreaded this type of work since I broke my collar bones and every pull was a reminder of Port’s fall 400 miles and a year behind us. But, mercifully, the tree succumbed to my Fiskar in short order. Passing several more impediments we got to 3,900’ and a very good flat area for camping and where the trailers could have accessed through Pine Canyon Road. It was 3:30 so we continued on looking for Cow Spring and were rewarded with a wonderful, fresh flowing creek. Both Issy and Jim pulled us to the cold pool with Jim almost taking Dick for a swim. We crossed Pine Canyon Road to the trailhead and decided to rest and allowing the animals to graze for 30 minutes. I was confused by the trail location since it appeared to go up the road but actually it took off northwest (which Dick located with the help of a cyclist who came along.) From this point we had what I thought was an easy 6 miles but it turned out that I had misjudged the elevation gain and fall and we worked our way up and down several sand trails until we finally shot straight to Gil who had Dick’s trailer waiting at Barnes Ranch Road, by now it was 7 PM and Dick and Gil still had to go get Jed and my trailer. A long day, ending safely but with all of us tired at 11 PM.
We rested until around 9 with the two mules very happy to be tied to an old hay van and Issy in the portable pen Burton had built for me.
Looking through the camera lens I realized we looked like a band of Gypsies but we were all comfortable and the weather was great with no cold wind since we were on the Mojave Desert floor.
By noon, I saddle up Issy to ride out towards Cottonwood Creek Bridge and crossed into the Los Angeles & California Aqueducts right of way which are massive concrete ditches which allow the PCT goers access along it’s berms for 9 miles or they can take the dusty roads through residential homes.
The aqueduct is closed for the most part ferrying water to the millions of consumers in L.A. but not allowing the few hundred hikers or equestrians’ access. At every road crossing there were 4 sided pipe gates which Issy hated. These fixed in place almost knee high pipe guards were just small enough for a small horse to step through but a bigger horse couldn’t stride through. Issy opted to jump the whole thing and consistently did that very well, but it only took 4 of these for me to know that the potential of injury was too great to risk so I turned back for camp and decide to ride into Cottonwood Creek from 170th St. later in the afternoon. When I got back Dick and Gill decided not to go the last 40 miles with me since so much of it was desert. They were to head home in the morning.
We took a few pictures and said our good byes with me almost in tears.
I hated loosing my trail brothers and had gotten accustomed to relying on them but I had them on borrowed time and appreciated the fact that they both had families home who had their own agendas. I felt an immense loss when they packed up and drove off. I called Burton and told him how I felt and he suggested that I get right out on the trail and I did just that!
Issy and I drove to Tehachapi Willow Springs Road and saddled up to ride south towards Tylerhorse Canyon. While we were at the trailer a gal pulled up in the next parking lot so I went over to see if they were also heading south but Deb said they wanted to ride on towards Hwy 58 (the section I did last year) so we just chatted for a few minutes with Deb telling me not to miss the wild horses.
I quickly mounted once I was safe from the road and came upon a camp of several tents set up right off the trail.
I had to ride very close to them to cross Oak Creek, but was rewarded with good graze and the shade of huge white oaks.
It was too nice to pass up so Issy grazed for 15 minutes and then we moved up along the canyon wall following it for about 3 miles. We passed wind turbines and switchbacked our way upward as I looked for the wild horses. All at once Issy’s head bolted up and I knew he saw them, but they were on the far canyon wall at least a mile from us. The dark brown horses are reportedly descendents of the survivors of the horses lost by the Spanish explorers and are the last of the wild herds to roam the Antelope Valley. I tried to get a picture but they were too far away for a good shot.
I was able to catch a photo of a horned toad
and some California Poppies (the official state flower.)
I loaded up and took Issy to the Broken Arrow Ranch Rd, parked and rode in not knowing if there was room for the rig. We trudged through the desert sand and really were not enjoying ourselves because of it. The sun wasn’t all that hot so I could only imagine how bad it would be in another month or so. At least there were desert flowers and signs of wildlife and no wind to speak of. Within a few miles we got to Cottonwood Creek Bridge and were rewarded with fresh water gushing from a pipe hidden in some scrubs. It was odd to see so much water flowing but not a drop was running past where it fell to the ground. It was immediately soaked up and disappeared into the sand. The bridge had graffiti on it and as always when I saw that I became concerned about who might join me in this secluded place. I decided to ride right out and get back to the safety of Barnes Ranch where the Barnes had been so hospitable and were still allowing me to camp right outside their home.
Today I hauled right to Cottonwood Creek Bridge,
unloaded and tacked Issy,
locked my trailer as tight as I could and rode out towards Tylerhorse Canyon a mere 7 miles away.
The trail was difficult to follow but I knew from the maps which was the general direction and visibility was as far as the eye could see so I headed towards the Tehachapi Mountains staying close to Cottonwood Creek.
Soon the trail became evident with gun shot PCT markers interspersed with the dirt bike and ATV tracks. It became more evident as we followed along a barbed wire fence and headed north.
We did some modest climbing, crossed a saddle to Tylerhorse Canyon.
The trail dropped off rapidly into the canyon and we hugged the wall for a short distance when I realized I really didn’t care to drop all the way down to the floor only to have to climb right back out and head back.
I snapped a few shots of the canyon and precariously turned Issy around and headed back the way we came. The flowers were great and the scenery was atypical desert although it would soon be just scrub sparsely dotting the landscape.
The distant views were stunning with the mountains rising from the floor so I enjoyed both directions arriving at the trailer by 2.
I really wanted to spend some time with a friend Ed in Agua Dulce – he was so instrumental in helping me with my trek both last year as well as this year. I called and we agreed to meet at Vasquez Rocks, ride for a few hours so he could show me the area not seen by most who ride there including some pictographs hidden there.
Getting to Vasquez Rocks was easy since I had been there 3 times before and knew the area, Ed arrived within a few minutes and we saddle up and rode out. Shortly we were over the ridge and dropped into a ravine which crawled along under the overhanging rocks following the creek on a trail which was not well used. We pulled up at some heavy steel beams, tied our horses, walked through a tunnel and before long I was looking at pictographs drawn quite possible by the ancient inhabitants thousands of years ago.
We got a few pictures and headed to Ed’s where I was invited to stay with Issy in his own pen. I had the chance to see Primo the horse Ed rode the PCT on and I have to say that he may be the finest looking Arabian I have ever seen. His conformation was perfect and he looked me right in the eyes seeming to ask who I was. He tracked clean and straight and I can see why he has been so successful with him. After unloading Issy, we settled in very comfortably and I enjoyed the views right out my trailer window.
Ed suggested a ride today which would take us over the ridge close to his home and then on into Vasquez Rocks and back. The temperature was perfect and Issy needed a good workout. We tacked up and headed out around 9 with Ed leading the way on Neekalos a strong and fit endurance horse Ed was getting ready for an event in a few weeks. The elevation change was a challenge for Issy and he was breathing hard in short order. Neekalos on the other hand was just barreling up the mountain and this made me realize that although Issy was fit from our rides, he wasn’t any where near as fit as Neekalos. I decide then that both Issy and I were going back on a diet and on a harder fitness regimen! When we arrive at Vasquez Rocks the park manager was putting an owl back in it’s cage.
We were lucky enough to be able to grab a few shots and chat about the female owl who could never be released back into the wild because she lost sight in her eye. Riding with Ed was great fun and as was getting to spend some time with Jereen his wife - it was altogether too short a time, maybe we can enjoy each others company again.