October 19: Day 7
It’s a beautiful Sunday morning, maybe around 70 degrees at 7:00 am, no clouds in the sky. We have just finished breakfast (huevos rancheros) and decide to go for a longer ride while it is cool enough for the horses. We get saddled up and decide on a route. We will leave the equine camping area on Ford Canyon trail and connect to a couple others to make about 10 miles, hopefully. Three hours seemed long enough in the desert heat and no prospect of water for the horses. It’s warm but we still opt for full riding gear: long sleeved shirts, gloves, chaps and hats. There are lots of pokey things in the desert!
The trail is rocky, dry and wandering through the different cacti. We could identify most but found a couple we didn’t know. Bill was talking about “jumping cholla” maybe being the fuzzy looking one similar to the walking stick cholla. A little later that question was answered. Jesse and I were leading, Bill and Ranger had Washoe in tow when Bill looked down and saw a hitchhiker on his chaps. He laughed and said, “I just barely touched that bush on the way by,” but he had two furry balls of very prickly cactus attached to the bottom of his leather chaps. Knowing better than to touch it, he also wisely chose not to knock it off with the end of his lead rope. The night before our son had warned us about touching these, so Bill tried slapping it off with the end of his leather rein. Bad idea. One of them promptly jumped from the rein to the back of his glove, a spine actually going through the Velcro strap and into his skin. After a couple of words of power the real tool came out: the Leatherman! Fortunately, all horses stood quietly while Bill painstakingly detached the furry ball, spine by spine, from his wrist, then the other one from his chap. Boy, were we careful the rest of the ride when we crossed fields of those things.
Two miles into the ride we passed a sign that warned of treacherous and steep terrain ahead; not recommended for bicyclists or horses. Since we were riding experienced and agile trail horses, we decided to see how far we could go. Shortly after, the trail indeed did get much steeper and narrower, but not anything our horses couldn’t easily handle. We passed mile marker 3 and then it did get pretty tough. We continued on; the horses were so good. They took everything in stride. Don’t let anyone tell you it is a waste of your time to spend the necessary training time with your horses. The proof is in the pudding, as they say. We were in a steep, tight spot in the trail. Jesse had stepped over a boulder in the trail, but Ranger, being shorter, was having difficulty, so Bill stepped off, but Washoe went around him and got in front, so I stepped off Jesse and left her ground tied to a large rock, walked back and got Washoe, so Ranger had space to move. Got everybody re-mounted and moving again, but when we looked at our watches, we had been gone 1 ½ hrs. We decided it would be better to turn around and take one of the shorter trails than to chance longer time and no water. Our horses were sweating pretty heavily from their warm Colo. weather coats; it’s probably hitting 90 degrees by now. The next slightly wider spot in the trail, we pivoted and headed back. Really nice having horses that can turn on their own radius so you don’t have to leave the trail.
The horses very neatly traversed all the steep, tough stuff we had come up and we picked up the Waddell trail back at mile marker 3, then switched over to the Willow Creek trail to take us back to the equine area. We passed several hikers, and let several hikers pass us on these trails. Took a lot of razzing about the third horse, wondering if he was in training. Bill told them he was the spare tire. That got some laughs. We got back to camp without incident and met a bicyclist from Spokane, WA, who wanted to take a picture of us while still mounted. Ranger would rather have had water, but he stood pretty good in front of the water tank. We did about 9 miles on this ride by combining three trails.
The horses were very hot and sweaty so we decided to cool them with water from the horse tank. At first, they didn’t want buckets of water dumped on them, then they decided it felt pretty good. They certainly looked better without the black sweat marks all over them. They decided a good roll would finish the job, but found that the pea gravel in the parking area was not much fun, so they only rolled over once or twice instead of their customary 4-6 times. We decided everybody deserved a good rest in the shade, so spent the rest of the afternoon napping and reading, waiting on Daniel and crew to show up later. Part way through the afternoon, the horses said something was out and about in the bushes, so we watched and got to see a javalina cross the driveway into the area. They had spotted several deer for us already; apparently we parked pretty close to the game trail they used to get to the water tank. This is what vacation is all about, right?
About 5:00 pm Daniel, Dalena, Taylor and Austin showed up and we heated some chili beans and cooked hot dogs on skewers over the propane stove. Bill found a couple of scorpions at the base of the water tank and showed the kids. Fortunately, they were already dead; probably drowned at the water outlet. Daniel walked a little way into the desert with me to show me some trees I didn’t know. Then we sat around visiting and watching a pretty sunset until time for the park to close at 8:00 pm.