A quick update from Silverton, CO, 7 miles from the Colorado Trail at Moas Pass. I've stopped here to shower and resupply, and let the horses rest a couple of days.
I spent 7 days in the wilderness with the horses and Wiley, and had rather a rough start. Pouring rain and hailstorms on Kennebec Pass prevented my departure from that camp for 2 days. I finally was able to scale to the top of Indian Trail Ridge, and the 360 views were spectacular!
Wiley and I have found some truly amazing camp spots, and the horses are adjusting to the routine of the ride.
The first night out, I had let the 2 geldings out to graze and had Maggie tied. This system has worked well for me in the past, as the geldings will not stray far from her side. During the thunderstorms in night however, she got loose from her halter and they all disappeared for about 12 hours. I was frantic of course, and thought it was the end of everything. Just when I gave up looking for them all over the mountain side, I found them on a forest service road below the Kennebec Pass, walking back to camp, looking very surprised to see me. I've never been so thankful to see anyone!!!
I vowed to never let that happen again but just that afternoon, was letting Maggie graze while the boys were tied. Magic got loose and took off after Maggie like a mad thing. Of course that left Midnight tied alone, who was snorting and stamping! I untied him, with the intent to saddle him and go get the others. He took off with me dangling from the lead rope like a puppet on a string. I fell and hung on - doing a texas roll in the grass as he went faster and faster. I finally let go and watched him disappear over the ridge after the others, bucking with glee! I got up, and found my pants were full of dirt and grass. Huffing and puffing, I chased them down - back down that forest service road again.
Everytime I'd get close, Magic would snort and gallop off, the others in swift pursuit. Finally, I outsmarted them, and cut them off by crossing in front of them around a bend. I bent down and picked some grass, held it out and caught Maggie easily. Good grief! I believe that is when I lost my iphone, as a couple of hours later I realized it was no longer in my pocket. Grrrrr. There go 1300 photos and my only portable communication tool. Oh well, the battery was dead and I seldom had reception anyway.
Since then, Maggie NEVER is at liberty. I keep a close eye on all of them, and my biggest fear is that I would be left alone in the wild, miles from help. I WILL NOT LET THAT HAPPEN AGAIN!
The next day, we loaded up (it was taking me hours to load - I had too much stuff!) and headed for the pass. Wiley missed the turn as he was way ahead, and went another way. I started switchbacking up a steep mountain, and couldn't see him anywhere for about an hour. Finally, I was near the top and had written him off, when I saw him far below, making his way up the mountain. I was glad to see him again.
Once we got to the top, the weather was bad again, and it was too dangerous to approach the Indian Peak Trail - exposed on a high ridge for 4 miles. In fact, I had just enough time to strip the loads from the horses, tarp the saddles, and duck under low pine boughs before the hail storm raged for 2 hours.
Later the weather cleared a bit and I was debating giving it a try, studying the storm clouds, when a couple of brothers came down from the trail. They were shell shocked, and said they thought they were going to die up there. They told me not to go that way - they said the trail was too steep and too rocky to manage with horses - that they had to crawl on hands and knees to get up the trail. They told me their father was coming to pick them up and take them home to Farmington. I begged them to take gear off my hands to lighten my load. In the end they took about half my weight with them THANK YOU!
After lightening my load, I was encouraged to try again, but one of the brothers helped me find another route down the mountain and sold me a map that was more detailed than my Colorado Trail book.
I was getting ready to load up the horses again, visiting with a nice man and his son from Missouri. While we were talking, Wiley disappeared again! This time he was really gone - for hours. I rode with the horses over to a pretty little lake for water, and still no Wiley. I figured that was the end of him when he didn't show up at dark. I called and called, but still no Wiley. I was irritated with that dang dog and disappointed at the same time, and finally just went to bed in my tent, planning to leave in the morning without him, pending better weather.
Just as I was drifting off to sleep, I heard a vehicle pull into the parking lot at the top of the pass, and honk a horn. Next I heard a man's voice calling "Trish?". I called out, "are you looking for me?" He replied, "If you're Trish and you're looking for Wiley, I have him here!"
Wow. It was Ben, from a Outlaw Tours in Durango. His driver had picked Wiley up that afternoon and taken him to Durango. By some strange coincidence, the nice man from Missouri and his family were at the tour headquarters that afternoon when Wiley came in. He told them that Wiley belonged to me, and that I was camped at the pass, and s Ben drove the 50 miles round trip to bring him back to me.
It was good to have him back in my sleeping bag again. I guess I couldn't blame him for his escapade, and I realized how much his company means to me once I had him back again.
The next day dawned with pouring rain and storms again. I was beginning to think I'd never get off that high pass, but finally the weather cleared and I loaded up again (much easier with much less weight), planning to head down on my new route through the forest. Luckily, a very nice guide from Durango, Chris, came over to visit and encouraged me to stick to the Colorado Trail, reassuring me that horses did the Indian Trail often, and that my horses certainly looked competant. I decided to go for it, and I'm so glad that I did, because it was spectacular. The weather was beautiful and the 360 view was a memory I'll never forget. The horses negotiated the trail without difficulty, Maggie leading the way with confidence- jumping up three foot high rocky ledges without batting an eye. They are such athletes!
We made good distance that day, traveling from 330 pm till 10 pm, setting up camp under a starry sky in a beautiful location overlooking a valley. Sunrise the next morning was spectacular!
I geared up and departed about 930 on day 5 of my adventure, making it about 15 miles that day. The variety of terrain is amazing. I see waterfalls, lakes, mountain passes, vista views, fields of wildflowers, and I wish I knew more about mushrooms, because I see tons of different kinds...Morels? Puffballs? little ones, big ones, wish I knew which were edible...
We had a beautiful camp spot that night by a river that night, and left early the next morning. I feel my strength getting better each day, and I get faster loading the horses every time I do it. I am so thankful to David Batzer, an outfitter friend from Fort Collins who showed me how to tie the top pack with the Arizona Hitch. It's working so well, and is so easy to tie and untie! It has eliminated the problems I used to have tying on the packs. I go all day now without having to retie.
Regarding the horses feet - an important topic! They are doing great in their EponaShoes. Thanks from the bottom of my heart to Monique and John from Pasa Robles, CA, my excellent (and only) sponsors who have provided me with shoes for all the horses, and taught me the skills I needed to maintain my horses feet. All horses were reshod just before leaving, and everyone is holding well, with great traction on all surfaces. Mostly, I travel on a lot of rock and I am so thrilled with the performance of these shoes! They have given the horses great confidence, and I have had zero lameness issues. Eponashoes rock!!! I am carrying spares and all my (very heavy) farrier tools just in case, but so far I have had NO ISSUES with hooves or stones. Happy feet means happy horses!
I crossed the "Rolling Pass" on my intended destination to Molas Pass, but made a wrong turn, or rather, missed the turn and headed south - WAY OUT OF THE WAY. Oops. I guess I didn't look at the map all day. The trail seemed so clear and I totally missed the sign to turn left. I came down a lot of switchbacks into a valley where a lot of mountain bikers were parked. I asked "where's the store?" thinking I was at Molas Pass, but alas I was 45 miles south of where I should have been. I was planning to head into Silverton for resupply, which is 7 miles from Molas Pass. I borrowed a cell phone and started making many calls. Finally, a nice lady at the Chamber of Commerce, gave me a phone number for Patty, "who has some horses". Patty didn't hesitate, and said "I have a horse trailer and I'll come and get you - but you might have to wait until I get off work." She was so wonderful - she got her husband Tommy and a friend Craig to drive the 45 miles each way to pick us up and shuttle us to the delightful town of Silverton. I was greeted with a big hug and a welcoming smile by these two friendly gents. They helped me load all my gear and Wiley got to ride up front in the cab to town. He of course takes all this in stride.
On my arrival here in Silverton, the helpful owners of the Red Mountain Motel and RV park quickly set up a panel round pen for the horses and filled a tank with fresh water. Tommy went and brought me back 3 bales of beautiful hay, and then refused to take any compensation for either the shuttle or the hay. Wow.
I love Silverton. I had a nice room with the best shower of my life, and then strolled downtown to "Handlebars" as in moustache. They served me up the best martini ever and a juicy delicious NY strip steak that I think may be the best steak of my life!
The craziest thing of all is that while I was enjoying my salad, in walks the nice fellow from Missouri and his whole family that I had met at the Kennebec Pass the fateful day when Wiley was taken to Durango by mistake. He explained to me that he had been the one to identify Wiley in Durango and encouraged Ben to bring him back to me! It was great to visit again with that lovely family and we enjoyed a meal together - updated each other on our Colorado Adventures. I'll enjoy having them following my blog - really great kids!
So today I found myself a very accomodating little place in Silverton called "the Avalanche". They served me a nice coffee and a breakfast pizza (yummy), and let me use their computer - no charge! Every so often, a stagecoach drawn by horses trots by, and I can hear the steam engine blow down the tracks as the train heads back to Durango. I wonder what the horses thought of that! I was loaned a nice cruiser bike to go the two blocks "downtown", and Wiley is laying in the shade outside, waiting for me to finish. Craig, one of the fellows who picked me up yesterday, just stopped in to get a coffee, and I'm going to head across the street to see the art gallery he runs with his partner. Then it will be time to gather my supplies, and get to bed early tonight because tomorrow, I'm back on the trail!
I figure I will be able to update my blog about weekly, depending on my progress on the trail. I'm hoping to up my mileage from here out and see if I can make better time.
Thanks for staying in touch, and please email me your phone numbers and contact info, as I lost it all with my iphone. Know that I'm doing well, getting strong and slim, and loving every minute of this adventure of a lifetime.
Love to all! Trish