As I sit in front of my computer I wonder if I have saddled myself with a task larger than my capabilities. I have planned this trip for three years including hundreds of hours of routing, mapping and confirming and still every day I find myself reassessing the challenge. It’s not the miles, terrain, or even the possible loneliness that seem daunting, but I wonder about the safety of my faithful companion, Port. Port didn't ask to walk 2650 miles, carrying me and our supplies most of the way. He didn't dream this crazy wanderlust dream. But, I know that he will go on, ears forward watching the trail for signs of hidden danger - from Mexico to Canada.
I’ve packed 3 months of food for both of us and mapped out resupply points along the trail. April 17th (give or take a day or two depending on weather) I'll hook up to my trailer and bring Port out of the barn. He'll look at me and both of us will know there is a big, new adventure brewing. He'll load like a gentleman and we will take I40 West all the way to California. Port will ride patiently in his aluminum box, occasionally sticking his head out to peer at the 18 wheelers that whiz by. He will turn up his upper lip and discern the different smells along our route. Never once will he have doubts - and his confidence will embolden mine - and we will make it all the way to Canada.
April 17 - AND SO IT BEGINS
As I pulled out off the farm Saturday, my mind was in a kind of whirlwind, Mena took a direct hit by an F 3 tornado. One-third of the lovely old town is gone…Just like that, really old buildings, trees which shaded the area for at least 100 years, flattened. I never saw first hand such destruction. Trails behind the farm are lined with old growth trees that survived man’s chain saws only to be disrespectfully uprooted and tossed on their sides. We were without electricity for several days (luckily Burton had installed a generator so we didn’t miss a beat, except emotionally.) So, with Port looking out his trailer window our trek began.
I may have a friend and her husband join me at the Mexican border around April 27th. That will be a big help as her husband is willing to pull the trailers north and that will solve a lot of problems for me at least until Burton gets out there for a month in July.
I still plan to rely on the good will of “Trail Angels” who will move my trailer for me and have it waiting at the next location. This has been all set up, so either way I’m in great shape. Trail Angels are prevalent on the PCT for the hikers. The Back Country Horsemen of America (www.backcountryhorse.com) in California (www.bchcalifornia.org) , Oregon (www.bchoregon.org) and Washington (www.bchwashington.org) provide similar assistance to horsemen riding the PCT in their respective states. They have been invaluable in my planning. They routinely pack equipment into the wilderness to keep the trails open. They know the trails and conditions for each section and provide information regarding possible trail detours
I am grateful to my Groom Elite friends for their willingness to take this on and use it as a means of raising money for two things I am so committed to, groom education and alternative careers for retired racehorses. With all the tough times right now, I was feeling a bit selfish as Port and I turned onto I-40 heading west. As I drove through Oklahoma I saw a road sign that said, “you’re on the right road” – it was a sign saying “GROOM next three exits”.
As a racehorse, Port's mile and a quarter speed might have been substandard, but his heart is big enough to take him (and me and our supplies) a mile and a quarter 2120 times. And, for that (and the money that he helps raise) he'll have earned his own garland of roses.
Sunday night we had put 1200+ miles behind us, and we were very tired. Port has not been drinking much water, so I pulled into the Blake Ranch RV Park and "HORSE MOTEL" in Kingman, Az.
Port was thrilled. He got to spend the rest of the daylight out in a round pen, rolling, pawing up dust and cantering around letting me know he was enjoying his freedom. We had planned to get to Needles, Calif. We were 60 miles short, but when I saw a sign that said "HORSE MOTEL", that was too good to pass up. Port really needed a rest out of the trailer.
The "view" from Port's round pen "motel room" was of desert with the usual cactus type plants.
An interesting bit of history. In 1857 Lt Edward Fitzgerald Beale and his experimental Camel Corps trudged across the present location surveying for a wagon road along the 35th parallel. Kingman later became a mining town and a stop on the main Atlantic-Pacific rail line from Albuquerque to Needles, CA. Kingman is still a major train town, reportedly train whistles blow 700 times within the city limits of Kingman EACH DAY. We think about that as we settle in for some rest before the last leg of our drive to California.
My computer went down because of the tremendous amount of sand in the air. I was trying to post this log entry for a few days but finally got this thing going again after Burton couldn’t stand another minute of me being anxious all night and worrying him, told me to use my hair dryer on it. You know it worked?
We drove to the border and looked at the Southern beginning of the PCT. Burton was due to go home but hurt his left ankle somehow. After a trip to an emergency room we were told he needed to be on crutches for two weeks, so he’ll be able to stay longer than expected. That is good for me because his accelerator foot is not damaged, so he can drive the trailer North.
My friend, Janice,
is joining me for this journey. I met Janice and her husband Ralph when they were traveling the “Great American Adventure” and stayed at our farm in Mena for about two weeks. She rides like I do – no complaining, just hits the trail for days on end. (Trailmaster comment – the no complaining part has not been confirmed by the male halves of these teams as yet!!). Janice is a good photographer so we will have some wonderful photos.
We are camped at Manzanita Horse Campgrounds, on the Manzanita Indian Reservation and tomorrow I have an interview with one of the tribe elders. We looked at the first few steps of the PCT yesterday and met Jack Driscoll who is from the same family for which Driscoll ND was named. Jack, a host many PCT thru wannabees each year, told me a story about some night travelers who dared to cross his farm (from the border fence) and met with his shot gun. Looking at the shotgun that rode alongside him on his John Deere I have no reason to doubt that story. Jack invited me to stay at his ranch the night before we start out next week. I think I might just go for a visit and not spend the night. I have a history of “night walking” and Jack seems to be quick on the draw.
We took a quick look at the type of trail footing. I rode yesterday and will ride again tonight. Port seems to know this is not going to be our ordinary trail ride.
He looks out at the sand dunes and varmints.
(Here is one that seems to want to follow us up the trail – no thanks) as though he is preparing himself for the journey. Maybe he’s just picking up on my constant thought waves as I prepare myself and think about our route.
I heard from (Trailmaster) Reid that he was in Louisiana working with a Vo-ag teacher and the State Education Department that is going to incorporate what Reid is calling “High School Groom Elite" into their Ag Curriculum. I am anxious to hear more about this exciting addition to the GE program. I’m going to have a lot of people “riding” with me it seems. I hope you will be one of those "riders".