by Jas Shearer-McMahon
Originally printed in the Akhal-Teke Quarterly, issues 24-27, 2001
Part One, Getting There…….
On Friday, June 1st, 2001, my crew, Betsy See, and I left Livermore, Colorado at 8:30 AM heading for St Joseph, Missouri and the start of the XP 2001. Our first stop was in Ault, Colorado to meet with some reps from the John Ewing Company headquartered in La Salle, Colorado. They make excellent horse and human nutritional products and had signed on to provide my team with whatever we needed. For the horses, I chose MSM and Joint Essentials to provide some extra tendon, joint and ligament support, and Vitamin E and Ester C to boost their immune systems. We also took along Healex, for use on “scratches” and other skin problems and minor injuries. The next stop was in Sterling, Colorado where we met up with Lucy Kester who was driving the “feed truck”. She made it possible for us to keep the horses on their regular diet throughout the entire journey. After about four hours of highway driving along I-80, we pulled off in a rest stop to unload the horses to let them stretch and graze…BIG MISTAKE…the mosquitoes were big enough to carry off a young child and they immediately descended on Dancer and Khan. As much as they wanted to eat that lush green grass by the ditch, the trailer looked a lot better to them after only a few minutes, so we loaded up and drove on down the highway. We stopped overnight just north of Beatrice, Nebraska and tied the boys up to the side of the trailer for the night.
We hit our first weather outside of Marysville, Kansas, which is also the home of Valley Vet, a well-known cataloger of equine products and western wear. We just had to stop in and look for a few more needed items, like overshoes for all the mud, and more electric fence supplies.
We arrived in St Joseph’s at about 10 AM on Saturday and went to check in at the Pattee House Museum, but no one from the ride was there yet, so we continued on towards the Pruente’s in Lee’s Summit. That’s when our bad luck started! Just outside of Dearborn, Missouri we had a tire blow out on the horse trailer. I had run over a piece of a semi truck tire tread and a little while later Lucy called us on the radio and said she thought we had lost a tire. I said I thought it was from the semi, but then she said she saw smoke, so we pulled off the road to take a look. Apparently, running over the semi tread had pulled the tread right off of the horse trailer tire and we stopped just in time. We called Buster, April’s husband, and told him what had happened and that we would be arriving a little later than expected. After putting the spare on, we hit the highway again, but not for very far. We lost the tread on the spare tire in about thirty miles and had to pull off again and call Buster. This time, he came to our rescue with a horse trailer and the yellow pages. We put the horses in his trailer, called around to find an open tire shop and rushed to get there before they closed for the day. The manager at the tire shop was great, he put five of his guys on our project, and within a very short time, I had four brand new, heavy-duty trailer tires and we were on the road again. We reached the Pruente’s place and turned the horse’s out to roll and stretch for a while before putting them up in box stalls for the night.
On Sunday we lunged both boys and then watched all of April’s horses get turned out in the indoor for our admiration. Even with the gray day, their coats glowed! We were treated to dinner that night at the “Jumoing Catfish”, and the food was plentiful and excellent. When we got back to their house, April wanted to check on her very pregnant mare and we discovered a brand new filly in the stall with Mom.
We left for St. Joseph at 9AM Monday morning and got to Riverbend Park where there were about eight rigs parked. It was one of two places where we could camp and normally it wouldn’t have been first choice because it was all pavement, but due to all the rain they had received, it began to look pretty good. We knew it was the right choice when we went to the ride meeting at old MacDonald’s Farm and saw all the rigs mired in deep, sticky mud. They were using tractors to pull them out and onto drier ground. I missed the course on GPS navigation, but thought I could figure it out on my own eventually. GPS stands for Global Positioning Satellites and is a way of navigation that determines location by receiving signals from satellites above the earth. The entire XP route had been plotted as waypoints with longitude and latitude. The “Duck” (ride organizer Dave Nicholson) spent two years working on the course and getting the waypoints into his computer. Our first week’s route was downloaded into our GPS’s on Monday night and we were given written directions and maps as well. The actual starting line for Tuesday’s ride was across the river in Elwood, Kansas and we were instructed to load our saddled horses, drive across the river, unload quickly in a parking lot, trot out for the vet and head down the road for the day’s fifty miles.
It rained all night and between that, the highway noise and the trains going through, not much sleep was had and 3:30AM came very quickly.
I rode the first day on Astrachan and he started out relaxed and very forward down the side of the pavement for two miles with only a few spooks at the mailboxes along the way. We crossed the pavement and headed north into rural Kansas, which contrary to popular opinion, is not flat on the eastern side. It is full of rolling hills with corn and wheat fields, and densely wooded areas in the bottomlands. I rode the first half of the day with Sue Robinson who I knew from rides that she had managed in Colorado several years ago. Her gelding and Khan paced well together and all was fine until 10AM when the heavens opened up and it began to pour. The roads got very slick and slimy and it was still pouring when we got to the midway checkpoint. Khan passed his vet exam and after the one-hour rest and lots of food, we hit the trail for the second half. At least the rain was warm, but the footing never improved and we crossed the finish line at 4PM in Horton, tired but feeling good. It rained all night and the place we were all camped turned into soupy slime, and several rigs had to be pulled out again, mine included on this morning, but I didn’t know that until later as I had left camp at 6AM for the second day’s ride start. I rode Khan again, as he needed to get rid of excess energy. We followed section roads west and north along much of the actual Pony Express Trail, with frequent historical markers, past neat and tidy farmyards with lots of lush grazing for the horses on the roadsides. The footing was very gooey and going was slow to prevent injuries to tendons and ligaments. There were very friendly farmers along the route that offered buckets of water for the horses and humans. They wanted to know where all of us were from and why were we doing this? Camp this night was in the fairgrounds in Seneca across from Fort Markley, the site of an original Pony Express station. Skies had cleared and the fairgrounds had hot showers! After four days of rain, conditions might be improving.
I rode Dancer on the third day and he was ready to go! I had to slow him down so he didn’t wear himself out. The day’s ride was in two pieces with a trailer ride in between. There was no way for horses to cross the Big Blue and the Little Blue rivers except on the interstate with no shoulder, so at 39 miles out, we loaded into our trailers and picked up the trail on the other side and continued on to the Hollenburg Pony Express Station for the finish. From there we had to trailer to the fairgrounds in Washington for the night. (Hot showers again!)
Saturday, June 23rd
Astrakhan still has filling in his front legs, so we will get a three-day rest. We were the last ones out of camp at Muddy Springs and it was already hot before sunrise. Our layover will be at the fairgrounds in Scott’s Bluff, and we were fortunate to find a site under some shade trees. It was 103 degrees by mid afternoon and the temperature topped out at 108 degrees at six PM. There were trees between the road and the camping spot where we could highline Dancer, that allowed him the freedom to choose shade or sun and to keep moving.
Sunday, June 24th
I went into Scott’s Bluff to do laundry and some shopping and while I was gone Khan gave himself another rope burn. This one was worse than the last and on the other hind leg. I started cold-water therapy and kept it moist.
The weather began to really heat up again, but a front moved in and the intense heat was replaced by moderate heat and humidity (97 degrees, 90% humidity) These conditions make it very difficult to move, all you want to do is sit in the shade and doze.
Monday, June 25th
Jack Evers showed up to shoe Khan and shape another pair of shoes for Dancer. Then he helped me to straighten out the bent corral panel by driving over it with the truck. Crude method, but it worked. Ran into town again and bought four more water containers. I have learned that you can never have too much water!
The ride meeting was at 7PM and we will be trailer pooling in the morning back to the ride start in Melbeeta. I am going to ride out with Laura and Rob at 4:30AM.
Tuesday, June 26
The morning started off cooler than usual and Dancer had gotten some well-deserved rest and was ready to go. We trotted south through Gehring and across a long flat plain that sloped towards the bluffs. We climbed over Rifle Site Pass; one of two passes used before the US Army built the road over Mitchell Pass in 1850. We dropped back down into the valley of the North Platte and lunched just south of Mitchell. The afternoon stayed cool with a breeze and we rode along a very busy road through a train-switching yard for several miles. Camp was on a large private ranch owned by a man named Yeiks. We were parked on a gently sloping hill cut deeply by wagon ruts of the Oregon Trail. We are now in Wyoming, and the afternoon thunderheads were a welcome relief, though they held no rain for us.
Wednesday, June 27
Ride start at 5AM and Khan is feeling sound; he was very relaxed and forward at the start. We had some nice trail and two tracks, crossed a broad valley and climbed a ridge to a long plateau called “Top of the World”, where the lunch stop was. The view was spectacular, with Laramie Peak looming to the west and broad flat valleys in all directions. At the base of this ridge, the famous Horse Creek Treaty was signed in 1851. To the west lay the site of the massacre of Lt. Grattan and a squad of Calvary from Fort Laramie when they tried to arrest a Sioux brave who shot a cow that strayed into camp from a Mormon encampment nearby. A little more to the west and north lay the confluence of the Laramie and North Platte Rivers, and the site of Fort Laramie itself.
We only rode to the lunch stop today as Khan is a little sore from the rope burn and he seems a little stiff in his hip. Better to err on the side of caution. Camp tonight is at the base of Register Cliff, where westbound pioneers etched their names in the white sandstone for three decades. Here are buried some of the estimated 20% of the emigrants that didn’t make it. Across the road is the North Platte River, and the horses enjoyed a swim and a sponging off in the swirling waters.
Thursday, June 28th
Ride start at 5AM and Dancer is feeling good, we did a lot of walking due to the elevation changes and hills. We were making a small diversion from the Pony Trail because the original route is flat, hot, on pavement and goes through the town of Casper, where the civic authorities were going to require a parade permit for us to pass through. Instead, the Duck sent us into the mountains south of Casper to the town of Esterbrook. Camp this night was in some lovely meadows ringed by quaking aspen with mountains on the horizon. Even at 6200′, the temperature was 98 degrees, but when the sun went down the air was crisp and cool.
Friday, June 29th
Khan has sustained some sort of muscle pull and is lame on a circle. The vet thinks he looks better than last night and suggests that we keep him moving to keep him loose. So, we loaded both horses and drove on to the next night’s camp at the Robbins Ranch in Mitchell, Wyoming. The day’s route was over dusty, narrow county roads and there were several problems with some rigs, blown transmissions, overheated engines and trailers scraping the large boulders along the side of the road. Thank goodness, our rig is not as long or as wide as some of the others!
Camp was on a rise with a view to the south of a broad valley. We were entertained once more by huge thunderheads and flashes of lightening. Dale Robbins showed us an old horseman’s trick for determining a horses age using a piece of his tail, a key and a beer can. You tie the key to the tail hair, suspend it over the can and count the times that it strikes the side of the can! Try this with the hair from someone else’s horse and let me know if you think it works.
Saturday, June 30th
We have bypassed Casper by dropping south and are now heading north to rejoin the Pony Trail. Dancer is relaxed and glad to be out again. Today’s trail has a lot of pasture gates to open so the pace is slower. Turning west, we cross more Wyoming rangeland, a mix of sage and grass with occasional prickly pear. There are cottonwoods, willows, and lush grass in the draws. Part of the trail today follows the Bates Stock Trail, which has been used for generations to move cattle and sheep to different ranges. Today, there are about 500 sheep being eased over the top. Some of the Arabs did not think too much of that sight, but Dancer was only mildly curious about the different smell! The ride finished at Stinking Creek, about 40 miles from Casper, and we decided to find better accommodations for our two-day break.
Khan is looking much better and after consulting with a local horse owner at the fairgrounds, we drove up Casper Mountain to a forest service campground with large trees, shade and deep grass. (Also water hydrants and firepots) The ranger actually encouraged us to graze the horses as much as possible, so we set them both up on highlines and they thought they were in heaven.
Sunday, July 1st
Another day of rest (for the horses at least). I had to go into Casper and do the laundry, get the truck serviced and buy some groceries. In the evening, my farrier, Jack Evers, came up to reshoe Dancer’s hinds and have dinner with us. We were all enjoying the scent of pine and being at a higher elevation to escape the heat.
Monday, July 2nd
Betsy and I took the horses for a six-mile walk up a gorgeous mountain trail through the trees and in the shade. Both of the boys were very eager to be doing something, even the lush grass had gotten boring for them.
In the afternoon we packed up camp and headed back to Stinking Creek and the rest of the Pony Express group. Betsy fell stepping out of the trailer and injured her ankle, so we set her up in a lounge chair with ice and lots of Tylenol, and I finished setting up our camp and settling the horses in for the night.
Tuesday, July 3rd
Ride start at 5AM, Betsy was moving around better and helped get Khan saddled and groomed and we were off down the trail once more. We rode north out of camp to rejoin the Pony Trail, which we would follow all the way over the Continental Divide, and into western Wyoming. The morning half of the ride was on more of the Bates Stock Trail over hard road and not very scenic. We climbed steadily all day and at 10 miles out there was a long steady climb in the heat. This spot on the trail is notable because the ill-fated Mormon handcart party of 1856 began to unravel at this point. They had built or bought handcarts mostly of unseasoned wood and began their journey in August. In the wetter climes the carts were OK, but as the weather dried out, the wood shrunk and the carts and party came apart. Slowed down by the need for repairs and abandoning useless equipment, the party inched slowly towards South Pass and disaster. Snow caught them on September 6th, and the party had to stop.
At about 18 miles out, Khan was uneven at the trot. It was very subtle, but I could feel something was not right. After a walk break he would stiffen up, and then loosen up at the trot. I decided to stop at the lunch break and we trailered in to the night’s camp. Donna Haselow met us at the lunch stop and followed us into camp where she helped us with our chores and helped walk the horses in the evening. I trotted Khan out for the vet and he thought it was very minor, suggested keeping him moving and run him by again tomorrow night.
Monday, July 4th
Today is Betsy’s birthday, but there is no time to celebrate this morning! Dancer and I left camp at 5AM and we had a great day. We started from Horse Creek and headed west through the first Alkali flats we had encountered. Wet in winter, these dry lakebeds are caustic on horse’s skin and cause a horrible eczema-like rash on their heels called scratches. Almost every rider was carrying Desitin or zinc oxide and was slathering it on their horse’s heels to help prevent trouble. The surface of these alkali flats is irregular
and furrowed from the wagon ruts of the original pioneers. At 1/2-mile intervals along the trail here there were concrete or wood pillars marking the trail. On the four sides were written: Oregon Trail, California Trail, Pony Express Trail and Mormon Pioneer Trail. In the distance, a large flat rock could be seen. The rock is tan -yellow and looks like granite, this is Independence Rock and how fitting to be passing it on this day! This huge monolith in the plain ascending to South Pass was for five decades another milestone on the way west. There are various stories about how it first got its name, but if the emigrants did not reach here by July 4th, they would never make it to California or Oregon before winter set in.
The next landmark we passed today was Devil’s Gate, a narrow cleft in the cliffs by the side of the North Platte through which all wheeled vehicles had to pass. It was here that we began seeing many graves along the trail. Next, we passed the Ice Slough where the emigrants could cut ice from under the peat well into July. What a welcome relief that must have been during the heat of summer! Today’s ride was broken up by a section we had to trailer over, and then resumed riding along the trail. The afternoon was a gradual climb to 7400 feet at a place called Bison Basin. Camp was on a knoll just above the Sweetwater River, a tributary of the North Platte that we would follow to South Pass. The surrounding country is flat and desolate, to the south it is flat to the horizon, to the north is the Wind River Range. The day started cool at Horse Creek, but by late afternoon, in the full son, the temperature was 110 degrees. There is no shade in this country and the wind is constant. We did receive some evening showers that helped to cool things off a bit, but brought the mosquitoes out by the hundreds.
Thursday, July 5th
Khan’s legs were clean and cold this morning so we started off with the group. The ride would bypass the Pony Trail today because of hazardous crossings of the Sweetwater River. Instead, we headed up over a rocky steep grade on the Seminole Cut-off. This was not a good choice for Khan; he ended up stumbling on some rocks at about 25 miles out and was inconsistent on his left front again. I walked him into the lunch stop (which was at 35 miles out) and got a trailer ride into camp with Dennis Tribby from Oregon. We iced both of his fronts and the vet thought it would be a good idea to bute him and sweat him for a few days, as he was a little sore on both front legs. That meant no more rides for him until after the next two-day break.
This was the start of our bad luck. At the same time, both of Dancer’s hind legs had blown up to twice their normal size! The vet thought he had the worst case of scratches he had ever seen. He said to bute him as well and take a few more days off. In the sport of Endurance you cannot compete with traces of bute in your horse’s system, so this meant I had nothing to ride until either of their conditions improved. I was disappointed, but glad that neither of them were in any danger of not recovering.
The camp for the night was at Willow Springs with an elevation of 7400 feet and dry dusty winds making the whole camp uncomfortable.
Friday, July 6th
While the rest of the riders saddled up and left camp, Betsy and I tended to Khan and Dancer’s needs and packed up camp.
The trail today headed into Willow Springs, crossed the Sweetwater River for the last time and followed the Pony Express Trail towards the Continental Divide and South Pass. At the pass itself, a split rail fence, hauled thirty miles across this treeless wasteland, cordons off a half-mile square of deep ruts. Down the other side is the Pacific watershed. The state of Wyoming has preserved much of South Pass City as a living history museum and since I was not riding today, Betsy and I stopped there on our way to the next night’s destination. It is in a protected narrow valley and consists of several restored buildings complete with furniture and sundries. At the General Store, we bought some candies and souvenirs of the era. The shopkeepers were dressed in period costumes and played the part quite well! Tonight’s camp is in the town of Farson along the Big Sandy River, which was a favorite camping spot and rendezvous point for the emigrants. An East Indian family that had recently acquired several of the town’s businesses tonight provided the dinner. We dined in the Community Hall and enjoyed chutneys, curries, rice and pita breads, as much as you could eat, and finished off the meal with the town’s famous Ice Cream. Our campsite was close to the river and we took advantage of the cool flowing water to ease the horse’s weary legs. We rode them bareback into the water and let it massage them up to their bellies for an hour that night and again in the morning.
Saturday, July 7
While we loaded up camp, the riders left heading west on the trail to Simpson’s Hollow. In 1857, this place marked the spot where the Mormon’s, organized as the Navoo Legion, burned out the majority of the supply wagons accompanying a force of 2,500 US soldiers sent to occupy Utah and to depose Brigham Young as the Territorial governor. Winter was fast approaching and the Army, struggling to survive, was no threat to Zion and a compromise was made the following spring. There were many graves along this section of the trail, the causes included: cholera, bad water, cramped conditions, and “camp fever”.
Camp tonight is in Fort Bridger, another state historic site with restored buildings and a great museum. We found a great campsite in the willows with lush green grass and shade trees. (There are some advantages to not being able to ride!) The rangers came through camp at four in the afternoon warning us of severe weather approaching. By four thirty the sky was black, the wind was howling and the rain started coming down heavily. Fortunately, the hail stayed to the north and the front moved through quickly.
Sunday, July 8
A day off for everyone. We toured the museum and park grounds and some of the young riders got to do Pony Express reenactments with museum saddles and passing the mail pouches from galloping horses. Jim Bridger started Fort Bridger as a trading post in 1836. It served as a resupply point for the wagon trains, as a military post, was captured and burned by the Mormons in 1857, and was reoccupied by the Army and functioned as an active post until 1890.
Lucy Kester and Dr. Shideler arrived to restock our hay and grain supply. This would be the last time we would get supplies from home and we got the hay bales loaded in the front of the trailer just before another shower came through.
Monday, July 9
Betsy and I saddled up Dancer and Khan and took them out for a short “pleasure” ride. Both of them are moving freely and seem to be ready to go. We spent the rest of the day reorganizing gear and repacking for the next week.
Tuesday, July 10
Today we will enter Utah after a morning leaving Wyoming. I am riding Khan today and will see how he goes after his rest and relaxation. Ride start was at 5AM and we started off calmly in the dark down a county road. The weather was nice, not quite as hot as it has been and it only rained for a few minutes. The first half of the ride ended somewhere near the Kemmerer Exit on I-80 and then we had to load up the horses and trailer into Utah, stopping at the state line to show our health papers and brand inspections. I decided to call it a day at this point and we continued to the night’s stop in Heber City, Utah at the fairgrounds. We were able to turn the boys out in a large arena for a good roll and some free exercise. There were plenty of pens here for all the horses and we combined two to give Khan room to move.
Wednesday, July 11
Took the day off because today was to be the toughest ride of the whole trip, up and over the Wasatch Mountains. The ride manager had cautioned us not to even attempt today’s ride if your horse was a little “iffy”. Only twenty riders felt up to the challenge and all the horses looked tired in camp that night. Betsy and I enjoyed our day off by riding the Heber Valley railroad down the Heber Valley, the scenery was spectacular and you could see some of the sites that were going to be used for the 2002 Olympic Games. Got back to the fairgrounds and loaded up for the next stop which was the Springville Rodeo Grounds. No showers and no shade, but plenty of water for the horses.
Thursday, July 12
Decided to haul up to the South Valley Vet Clinic and get Khan ultra sounded for his recurring lameness. It was about a one-hour drive and we had to wait an hour for the appointment, so we let both boys graze in the vacant lot next to the clinic. We ultra sounded both front legs and the vet found a slight inflammation of the tendon 2″ above the sesamoid bone on the right front, but he looks good otherwise. The left front ultra sounded clean but he showed a slight sensitivity over the splint bone. He recommended 2 grams bute twice a day for three days, sweat both fronts and he should be ready to go again. Dancer, on the other hand, seems to be having an allergic reaction to something and it is manifesting in both hind legs. While not life threatening, he is out for the rest of the ride.
Friday, July 13
I went into Springville this morning to do laundry and the library had Internet access, so I checked my e-mail, there were 123 messages! After sorting through those and answering a few, I picked up my one hour photos at Wal-Mart, bought some more groceries and headed back to the rodeo grounds to pack up camp. We drove the scenic, Highway 50 route to Ely, Nevada (the loneliest road in America) and 40 miles north from there to Fort Shelbourne
Saturday, July 14
There is finally a little relief from the heat! This morning was cool with a nice breeze and both boys’ legs felt cool and tight. I took them up a forest service trail for exercise and then turned them out in some old sheep corrals to graze.
Sunday, July 15
Another day of rest and grazing.
Monday, July 16
I woke up to discover Dancer’s left eye swollen shut, so off we went to find the vet. He gave him Banamine and an antihistamine, and said to ice it every hour. I rigged an ice pack wrapped in a wash cloth to the inside of his fly mask and that worked very well.
Tuesday, July 17
The swelling is reduced in Dancer’s eye, but it is still bothering him. I rode up to the site of the original Fort Shellbourne on Khan with Penny Scribner from California. It was a nice day and Khan felt very solid and ready to go. The old fort was constructed of stone and had a very solid iron door. Right down the trail from it was a sign telling the history of the telegraph line, which caused the demise of the Pony Express.
Thursday, July 19
Packed up camp and left around 8:00 AM. The rider’s left at 5:00AM for Ruby Valley and rode up through Egan Canyon and enjoyed good footing and cooler temperatures all day. The ride finished at Garden Summit and camp was on a hill full of sage and cactus. Since we did not ride, we chose to camp at the Eureka Fairgrounds and were able to combine some existing pens and give Khan a large area to move around in.
Friday, July 20
The riders left Garden Summit on the trail towards Dry Creek Station and along the way passed Diamond Springs Pony Express Station. What is buried there (that is not a ?)
” In September of 1860 Pony express rider George “Boston” Scovell was attacked by concealed Indians after crossing Chockop’s Pass and riding down Telegraph Canyon. His ride was from Ruby Station when the attack occurred approximately three miles east of this site. He and his horse were both hit with arrows. The horse’s name was “What”. He got that name due to his question mark type blaze. “What” carried “Boston” safely to the station. This brave horse died due to his wounds from the arrows that day and was buried near the station.”
Sunday, July 22
I can finally ride again! Khan has finished his “treatment” period and he is good to go! I rode him very slowly today and the morning was very pretty and included a steep climb through trees and sage and along the old telegraph line. The trail was nice, single track and two track, winding up and over the pass and then down through another valley. I never realized that Nevada had so many mountain valleys. After dreading getting to this part of the ride, it really is some of the most pleasant because the weather is a little cooler and there always seems to be a breeze. We rode up through a canyon where a Pony Express Station was and there were a few graves of station attendants that had been killed by Indians. Today’s ride ended with a crossing of “Smith Dry Lake”, a very unusual lakebed that was very eerie to cross. The sand was hard, not soft, and quite concussive, it was like riding over drums. From the lake, we had to trailer back to the fairgrounds in Austin, Nevada for the final two-day break.
With only four ride days left, we are getting a little sad that it will be over soon. While we have not been able to ride every day along the way, it has been a wonderful, once in a lifetime experience and I have learned so much about my horses and myself.
Monday and Tuesday, July 23 and 24
We spent most of this break resting and sightseeing, we went to Stoke’s Castle, a hot springs which actually felt quite good in spite of the hot weather, and we tried to find a cave site, but were stopped by a flat tire on Laney’s truck. By the time we had that changed, we were out of time to keep exploring.
Wednesday, July 25
We had to trailer out to the ride start and re-rode part of the trail that we had ridden in on Sunday. We recrossed Smith Dry Lake, continued up a steep climb, and down through a beautiful valley to the lunch stop which was in the trees by a creek with plenty of grass for the horses. After lunch were more climbs and some interesting old structures made of stone and wood and the usual grave sites that we have seen all along the trail. The ride ended at the Cold Springs Station and I was really pleased with Khan’s performance. I will not ride the next two days because I want him to be able to do the last day into Virginia City.
Saturday, July 28
Day 40, THE FINISH
We left Fort Churchill at 5:30 this morning and rode into Virginia City. We did a loop out of camp in the morning so the mileage would be correct, and then headed across the highway and down to the river. Part of the ride went along Highway 50 and there was actually a construction crew out working on a Saturday, which created a lot of dust and that section of the trail wasn’t much fun. Soon we were heading up the Chinaman Trail, which is very long, steep and rocky and has views from both sides. From the top, you could look down into Virginia City and the finish line. Khan somehow knew that we were done and was quite anxious to come down off the mountain, he even galloped across the finish line!
What a great feeling to hear that one final OK from the veterinarian.
I feel I have lived a fairy tale the last couple of months. It was an incredible adventure… thank you, thank you, thank you to everybody who made it possible!