Finally 2012 may be the year to complete California! I tried to get through this next 68 miles for 3 years and because of snow, trees or whatever I was turned back. I hope this is my year!
July 10, 2012 - I left Arkansas on July 10th and went to Kanoplis State Park in Kansas to spend a few days with my granddaughter.
I took a quick ride and found the wildlife was active and a beaver had been cutting a tree to dam up a small stream. The next few days I spent enjoying family.
July 13, 2012 We found a overnight stable where Issy could be in a paddock in the town of Gotenburg, Nebraska which is also the home of one of the Pony Express Stops and I was able to grab a photo of the actual station.
Enroute to Calfornia with plans to stay in Kingvale for several days trying to locate a way to get from the High Sierra Camp to the PCT so we will not have to have a trailer parked at Donner Pass Issy and I spent the night in a Nebraska town called Gothenburg at the Pony Express Stables where Issy had a large paddock and a run in stall for the night. The town of Gotenburg, Nebraska is also the home of one of the Pony Express Stops and I was able to grab a photo of the actual station.
I went out to feed him at 5:30 and he was sound asleep all stretched out so of course I didn't wake him just so we could get an early start...I checked him when the sun first broke and he was up and calling for chow!.
STAY TUNED - As I travel to the PCT.
July 14th - Issy and I tried to sleep at a truck stop just at the Utah border, air brakes, diesel engines throttled all night! I used ear plugs...Issy?
July 15th - Don't EVEN bother with cheap Walmart earplugs! I had to move from the truck stop at 10:30 because both of us couldn't relax with all the noise! We arrived in Kingvale by 7 and were delighted to meet some very nice folks. The reception from the owners and the assisting couple was wonderful. Issy has a huge pen and I can see for miles. The elevation is around 6,000' and the temperature is 52 degrees!
Journal July 15, 2012
Arrived in Kingvale, CA and had dinner with the camp owners and host and his wife. The High Sierra Horse Camp is a camp in the making and when I got there no marked trails existed. I agreed to mark several in the next few days. The mountain falls down in bowl like fashion allowing me to follow along the elevation lines to start to identify some trail locations. Over the next few days Ron, the camp host, and I walked miles marking and moving rocks, brush and small trees. The end result was very satisfying because the camp now has 4 very scenic trails and my promise to come back and mark a few more when I get back.
Issy and I arrived at Carter Meadows – Hidden Horse Camp around 4 after 8 long hours of travel. I set up the trailer in a site that we used several times over the past few years and I know Issy felt comfortable since he settled right in eating and relaxing.
We started out at 8:30 and rode to Long Gulch. The trail was well used but rocky with the elevation gain of 1,500’ in short order. Issy seemed fit but slightly out of breath so I walked and lead him for a few miles (all up) but the reward of Long Lake was well worth it. The lake is a pristine mountain lake and the only others enjoying the grass and water was a group of fat cows dangling cow bells. Issy was on red alert but soon decided the ding, ding, ding was not a threat. We left the wonderful seclusion of the lake and continued up the mountain to the saddle where we crossed over to head to Trail Gulch.
I became confused about the trail on top since there was a sign that said 10 miles to Colleyville. I had no idea where that was, but knew it was not where we wanted to go. It was then I realized I didn’t have my maps nor did I update my GPS to this new area. Not a very good example for someone with all the trail miles I have, but luck was on my side and the trail became familiar after a short distance and we continued down the back of the mountain, crossing over to Trail Gulch. Issy seemed to realize where he was and started his usual pulling when he felt we were heading home but he did let me stop him for a 20 minute graze at a lovely mountain meadow.
We then stopped at the next creek and Issy filled up until he went into “Red Alert” again. I couldn’t see anything but soon heard the ding, ding, ding of the cow bells. I guess there must have been two separate herds or the first herd must have come over the face of the mountain. That would have been quite a feat! Wish I knew. I might head back up and see if I can tell which.
Trimmed Issy today and only went out for 3 miles. It was an easy day for both of us.
I met two nice gals and they were going to Syphon Lake which was a good workout for Issy as it was 7 miles all up.
I relaxed and enjoyed the ride being last and not having to worry about anything except staying out of the dust. When we arrived at Syphon Lake the girls wanted to ride on to another lake and then come back to have lunch. I decided to let Issy rest and graze while they went up and back. Issy was as calm as can be, not giving the other horses absence a notice. He just ate lunch, drank and grazed. That is his idea of a great time, I’m sure.
After about an hour the gals got back, had lunch and let their horses graze although one of their horses wasn’t interested in the lush mountain grass….? Cathy went up to the lake to grab a bucket of water for him and came back telling us she had seen a bobcat....Lucky her! But, her horse wasn't right so Cathy wanted to give him some Banimine and as I had it with me we gave him a shot and I couldn’t really tell if it helped but Cathy said it helped her! We headed back down the mountain walking for the first half mile to give her horse a chance to let the shot work and mounted up with no further distress signs from her horse. We traveled about 2 miles and a hiker came up the trail. The two horses in front didn’t give the hiker a thought but Issy went crazy. I spent months last year trying to desensitize him to whatever fear he had about the hikers and thought I had the problem solved. But, no, Issy hadn’t improved and seemed worse than even. Several more hikers left me exhausted and just plain scared. Issy would do almost anything not to have to go by the hikers: throw his rear up the cliff wall, scoot out sideways or whatever it took to get distance between him and the hikers. I had learned last year the safest thing was to dismount and if Issy decided to try to “fly” to escape I would at least be around to talk about it. My trip again this year was in jeopardy…if I couldn’t count on Issy to pass the hikers safely, I had no business on this “Crest” trail. I felt defeated and knew it wasn’t fair to Burton to risk this situation. We finally got down with Issy reacting the same with every hiker even when one hiker was way off the trail and absolutely no threat to him. I do have to say that the one hiker I thought was going to cause Issy to absolutely lose it didn’t…the hiker had a dog, tall backpack with what looked like fishing poles and a bird. Yes, a bird sitting on his shoulder. It was one of those big white birds with a long feathered crest and I just knew it was going to stretch it’s wings just as we tried to pass. The hiker pulled off the trail to the down side and casually hiked on. Issy hardly gave them a thought although the horse in front stopped dead in his tracks. Tough day!
I got up this morning thinking that I would have to get Issy right or head home after this section. He was much too dangerous. After discussing this with several other horse people and a camper and his wife who were also on the BCHAC and helped clear the section we were to ride I decided to try one last thing. Get bigger and more troublesome than any hikers. So off I went with spurs, whip and (heaven forbid) a bit in Issy’s mouth. This was a last ditch effort because failure meant a long disappointing trip home. I talked myself into being a mean “b” (although some may say that comes natural) and rode off to meet Cathryn wearing my backpack….
We met on the mountain side and Issy’s first reaction was to look for the escape door but he already was aware that I had spurs, bit and whip so he only modestly tested me. We repeated this scenario several times with Issy getting slightly better each time. I just couldn’t believe I was the cause of the trouble. I knew that Issy took his security from me and by my dismounting when every hiker came by I only made it worse because he had to basically stand alone on the end of the lead. Why I didn’t think of this….I guess it was that he always had problems at the worst and most dangerous places. After an hour or so we decided to stop and try again with someone else and the pack built higher.
Cathy and Karen were the “hikers” and they had already seen Issy in action so they had a good idea about the problem. Again we walked up to each other and Issy was all up and ready to spring but I kept my leg and a touch of spur on him and got safely by. How could I have been so stupid? I spent months trying to get him used to the backpacks and it only was confidence he needed. I learn everyday with horses!
We decided to ride for just a short ride and took off towards Long Gulch and found the short cut back to Trail Gulch where the gals decided to go back. I took Issy out to the Trail Gulch meadow again and let him enjoy an hour of graze. He felt more relaxed but I was worried about my brother who was admitted into the hospital in North Carolina and this just after Burton was in the hospital for a few days. No one has been sick in my family for years and now both Burton and my brother....really puts a strain on enjoying the wilderness when loved ones might need me at home. It turned out that my brother had eaten raw oysters that had some sort of bacteria well known to coastal residents. The doctors said it was pretty common....no raw oysters for me...although he had eaten over 50 of them?
July 28, 29, 30
I rode out again to the meadow to allow Issy to graze and not put too many miles on him knowing that I would soon be asking him for 15 to 20 each day.
Emily and Judy arrived at Carter and luckily the campground had cleared out. The last few days every camp site was filled and some even had double campers and trailers. What a wild week!
I suggested a light ride out to the meadow since the horses weren't acculimated to the 6,500' elevation. Trail Gulch is a very rocky trail but no more than regular riding in Arkansas so I was concerned about the new horses Chaco, Shea and Reese. However, they did fine and the gals had the horses well fitted with boots. Chaco is the pack horse so we will be able to go longer miles with him and he has many miles packing for Emily and the Back Country Horsemen of Oregon. He is a stout Morgan Draft cross who could carry a large man and still more gear! Shea is a lovely mare who has a smooth way of going and Reese is a steady Morgan who just does his own thing. A great group for the long miles ahead in the next few days.
Emily's husband Billy is going to stay a few days to ride as well as help. He is a very nice fellow who sees where we need help and just fills in the gaps!
Judy's husband came to support us and he is a wonderful guy who is tolerant and kind considering there are 3 gals all with their own opinions! John proved to be the link in the chain to hold us on track and make it possible to fullfill the logistic nightmare of the trip!
We rode up to the PCT on the long climb in a few short miles from 6,100' to over 7,000' and the horses proved to be fit and ready for the long journey to Grider Creek. I was thrilled to know that both Emily and Judy had conditioned their horses and that wasn't going to be an issue. That was no easy task since I believe Emily said the elevation was only 900' at her house.
Our journey to Grider Creek began and we rode up to Siphon Lake, took a break, allowing the horses to graze a few minutes but didn’t waste any time as we wanted to get to Payne’s Lake. I was apprehensive all the way, knowing that for the past 3 years I was unsuccessful and really didn’t want to be turned back for any reason this year. (I even purchased a 4’ two man “er” woman saw to cut that darn tree which stopped me last year!) The horses seemed fine and we covered miles with no real issue except for the narrow tread which made passage nervous and somewhat fretful. The view down to Jackson Lake was inspiring but the ledge so narrow we couldn’t really enjoy it. This was where I was turned back 2 years ago because of an impassible snow chute (snow free this time!) We then passed into the Russian Wilderness going on the west side of Russian Peak at 8196’ and continuing on a narrow rocky ledge with the gals never complaining about the tread.
Emily was inspired by the rugged, jagged and robust terrain. I kept watching for the infamous tree which sent me home last year and finally came upon it only to see someone had cleared it much to my relief. The tree was indeed a big overhanging one and would have been a real challenge for us gals to cut and move.
I thought that maybe the tree “grew” over time but realized my fears were indeed founded. We traveled on to Payne’s Lake covering 18 miles from Hidden Horse Camp.
Payne’s Lake had a great camping spot at the north east upper corner where there was great graze and several trees to high line off of.
There was a creek running into the lake and the horses could just graze and get water all within a few 100 yards. The lake had several campers but none were as far around the lake so we enjoyed privacy and seclusion. The day had been long, dangerous day but we finally settled in and Judy brought comfort to us with a great dinner which we all barely had the energy to eat.
We fell into our tents worried about the horses.
Issy seemed okay, Chaco and Shea were settled but Reese wouldn’t drink and it greatly concerned me as lack of water along the trail was a real issue and our reason for traveling so many miles to camp where it was plentiful. All the horses were on some kind of pellets and without water the chances of colic were greatly increased. I went to sleep worrying about Reese’s condition and what the alternatives might be for him. The responsibility for horses and riders alike weighed on me and I had a very fretful night. It’s hard to guess the endurance and substance of someone else’s horses while Issy and I had many miles to iron out the idiosyncrasies and I knew his limits.
Morning came and after a great breakfast which Emily made we tacked up and headed out to meet John with our resupply at Etna Summit. I knew about a possible detour and was concerned that we may have to add several miles to the trip in order to bypass a snow cornice but luckily we came across a hiker who had taken the regular trail and said there was no snow anywhere. We decided to take the PCT and not the detour but only after losing some elevation to the detour then backtracking after speaking with the hiker. We travelled over some lovely tread and then we peaked out at 7,500’ where John had walked all the way up from the summit. It was certainly a surprise to see his smiling face and somewhat of a relief to know that we were that close to his rig, we did decide to pull off trail and rest a day at Fred’s and then go back into the mountains at Lover’s Camp a few miles up the PCT. I knew of a slide between Etna’s Summit and our next camp so I was very concerned about the capabilities of the other horses to handle a slide of scree. Issy learned to run like the devil but it was extremely dangerous and life threatening. I was relieved that the other gals didn’t have a preference. At Fred’s we were able to hook up to electricity and enjoy camping right in his driveway. Judy and John camped in his pasture just beyond the horses’ paddock. It was so very relaxing and stress free.
We drove to Lover’s Camp with me leaving my rig at Fred’s since the road to Lover’s Camp was very narrow with tight switchbacks. Once at Lover’s Camp we had large pens with water piped to each corral. The horses were fine and then a mule came into camp late in the day with whom Reese immediately bonded with. The mule was ridden by a fellow named Larry who had stayed at High Sierra Horse Camp in Kingvale so we got to exchange a few ideas about the possibilities of that camp. We spent the remainder of the day setting up our tents and planning the next leg of the trip.
We started the day with a bit of trauma, Issy was spooked by something and pulled back, reared up and I was afraid he was going to get hurt. John came by, talked to him and basically helped him settle. Reese was panicked that his mule friend was leaving and gave Judy a fit tacking up. The day continued to get worse. We headed out of Lover’s Camp on some great tread although it was a climb but with old growth trees and creeks. Shortly after we set out Shea felt off and Emily felt she needed to return to camp so I decided to get my trailer and hitch a ride to Fred’s place. We would need resupply from my trailer and I could take Shea back to Fred’s. The ride down the mountain was very enlightening with the family who were heading right by Fred’s. I told the driver that I was concerned that my rig was too big for the road but he assured me that wasn’t the case. In fact he said he would drive a 60’ rig up it anytime….I was incredulous and asked how that was possible. He proceeded to show me how to drive the narrow one lane switch backed road. This was a much needed lesson and I will think of him whenever I get on similar roads. When I returned to Lover’s Camp a local packer was loading up and heading home and agreed to take Shea to their place until Emily finished the trip to Grider. The unexpected kindnesses of trail people both hikers and horse people is always such a delight to experience.
Our goal was Paradise Lake and we were able to talk with several people who had seen only a bit of snow, which was quite contrary to what Larry the mule guy told us. He worried me by saying he had to turn around at a huge snow slide that he wouldn’t take his mule over. Everyone else felt the small amount of snow would be inconsequential. We would just have to see when we arrived at the slide. After many miles the land fall became more dramatic and I was more concerned about the snow that Larry had described but it turned out that the slide was small and with just a little thought we cautiously crossed but knew we could have gone below if necessary. Larry must have been here many days ago for this to have been an issue. We climbed on to 7100’ and then on to the PCT at an old cabin where a few PCT hikers were resting.
We passed two sets of Boy Scouts with their packs and because of the hard work of Cathy and Karen from Carter Meadows Issy never gave them more than a once over. We followed up along a ridge and then by early afternoon we arrived at Paradise Lake.
Paradise Lake is a small, shallow lake but that didn’t stop Emily from striping to her undies and going for a swim! Our planned camp site was to be a packer’s camp up the mountain from the lake but there was a horseless family having a reunion and subsequently we moved to the side of the mountain and set up camping in some trees on the incline.
While Judy and Emily went for water and a swim I watched the horses free range. Chaco and Reese had on hobbles and Issy was dragging his lead. Suddenly a mule from a resupply packer ran into our group of horses and then all of the horses took off up the mountain. I screamed for Judy and Emily and ran after them. The packer had arrived and just let his stock loose to graze giving no thought to our horses already in the meadow. After relocating our stock, Judy made a great dinner and we sat and enjoyed the rock formations and views. Reese seemed better and the horses rested after having a long graze period.
We were up and on the trail by 8:45 with both Judy and I deciding that we didn’t really need to hurry every morning. The horses were very sedate since they had great graze and felt secure sleeping in the tree line. Tacking up had been easy.
We climbed to Big Ridge and it seemed the rest of the trail that day was downhill.
Our plan was to find a good camping spot about 10 or 12 miles out but according to my maps we probably would not and had to be prepared to cover the full 20 miles into Grider Creek Campground.
I had traveled the last 10 miles 2 years ago and knew that the trail hung on a canyon wall and I didn’t remember any possible camp sites. We pulled off the ridge to find a message left by a friend of mine: Peggy and Bill who packed for the forest service. I contacted them to see if we could use their corral in the town of Seiad in case we needed a safe spot to leave our horses. They were on the trail and let us know they were just a ¼ mile off the PCT. We followed their note and met them as they were heading out.
We crossed 4 bridgesand the horses expertly went over them as if they didn't exist.
I walked for miles and rode a few then walked for miles again.
We constantly looked for spots to camp but were able to find only a dry, hard, old road turn around which wasn’t very inviting. Judy was hopeful but we pushed on arriving at Grider Creek and John at about 6 where he had some trout and dinner ready in case we did come straight through. He had repaired the corral which had passed it’s prime years ago by roping and lashing. We covered 20.8 miles and with dinner waiting it really didn’t seem that far!
Today we had to get back to Shea and my trailer. Emily trailered to the farm where Shea was and Judy took me to get my trailer at Lover’s camp. We gathered at Fred’s with the intention of having a day off but decided to move on. to Joy and Falk - Emily’s niece and grandniece in Nevada City. Judy and John left for home with Shea and we went on to Joy and Falk’s - Emily’s niece, husband and grandniece Audry in Nevada City. We arrived late and instead of looking at the road/lane before driving I decided to just go in…big mistake at first but it turned out okay when I pulled into their neighbor’s “Fred” and he graciously allowed me to park next to his barn and even let me hook up to his electricity!
I was up and out early to do our wash at Joy’s while Emily had a chance to visit with her family. Chaco and Issy spent the night in their back yard in a portable electric corral Emily set up. With the chores done we loaded up and went to Kingvale to spend a day at High Sierra Horse Camp. We arrived in time to ride their trails and get Emily’s opinion on how they rode. The camp hosts Ron and Janice joined us and later Bob – the owner came to visit.
It looked like we would be spending another day since I wasn’t prepared for wilderness travel. We repacked the trailers, rode and let the horses graze.
I got the truck oil changed in Reno and then we went to dinner with Bob and Patty who owned the camp. It was great fun, having a couple of Margarita’s along with our Mexican food and telling about our childhood horse experiences.
We drove to Boulder Creek Campground in Lone Pine which is located at the base of the road to Horseshoe Meadows. Boulder Creek has a couple of corrals and all the hookups, along with showers and laundry. We settled the horses and drove our resupply to Kennedy Meadows General Store where we met Scot the son of the owner. He was very helpful and told us we could camp right there with the horses in the field out from the store. It was a long day adding the trip up to Kennedy Meadows made us totally exhausted and we barely ate before we went to bed. Emily slept on couch which we pulled down and I relaxed on my queen size bed up in the nose of my trailer.