Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Rattlesnakes, Quicksand, and a Lame Horse

Chance and I on the internet in Julian

This next part is a little vague for me because I did not faithfully keep up with my writing and now the memories already fade.  I just realized that I have already written about Warner, so let's stop back a bit and add the stories and photos from the trail to get there.  It's a real challenge to keep up the blog and keep it coherent.  I am going to try to be more committed to writing every night in the future, because I am surprised how much has happened since the last entry at Warner....  Hard to find internet access and there seems so little time!  We are kept so busy gearing up, riding, setting up camp, dealing with injuries, finding graze and water for the horses, cooking for ourselves.  We love every minute of it...

So here is my best memory of what has transpired before and since my last writing:
Stopping for feed in Julian
This friendly gal is a worker!
I just love strong women.
Seemed appropriate for us...
This also seemed appropriate, and good to remember.

Getting supplies in Julian

My new friend Janine, postal service in Laguna Mountain.
She let us use her truck, gave us hay and helped us locate the
fire service corrals where we kept the horses during the bad weather.
What a wonderful gal!  Thanks for everything Janine!
Janine with her beloved horse and dog.  She showed me a beautiful scenic trail above
Mount Laguna
Cooking dinner in the Mount Laguna Motel room.
Thanks for the Jet Boil Stove, my sons.

We saddled up at Laguna Mountain, after first watering the horses and riding several miles from the corrals.  By noon, we were still working on loading gear when the fellows that operate the motel started giving Chance a hard time about the posts on the front of the building.  Clover had chewed a slight amount on the post he was tied to, but I caught him right away and moved him, so I know that first of all, the post was already peeling paint, and second, he did very minimal damage.  These were the kind of guys who like to have something to complain about, and were just looking for something to be irritable for.  Chance offered them money, and he said “It’s not enough”.  Chance came back, in a rush to get out before things got ugly, and I said “I refuse to be intimidated by assholes!  Let him come and talk to me!”  Those guys were so cranky and unfriendly the whole time we were there – it was just such a contrast to Dave and Janine, who couldn’t be nicer. 

Critical gear:  Gloves, Buck Knife, Belt, Chaps, Camera, and Spot.
Don't mess with me!

Anyhow, we were able to finish loading the horses without further ado, and had a beautiful ride to Sunrise Campground, where there was a pea green trough for the horses to drink from.
Yummy!  Clover is our best drinker.

Chance somehow found a spigot that gave water to filter, and we had a pretty good camp a ways up the little valley from the road where we were able to graze the horses well and tie to a sturdy oak tree for the night.  We set up the new Mountain Hardware tent for the first time and found it to be easy to do, and wonderful to sleep in.  Big enough to cook in, stand up in, dress in, and easy to take down and pack up the next day.  Love Mountain Hardware gear!

Midnight gets his grain on.  Sunrise camp.

Next morning, we packed up again and headed out on the trail.  We really enjoyed the incredible vista views looking over the Anza Borrego Desert Park.  So beautiful!  We were thankful we didn’t miss this part, as we had considered trailering beyond it due to high winds.  The weather was beautiful however, and the scenery beyond compare.  Somewhat technical for the horses, but nothing my three can’t handle, and Clover was doing just fine.

The herd is getting along well now.  Clover and Maggie have a special bond.

Somewhere along the line however, he dropped his first shoe, and we spent an hour pulling both fronts and giving him new Eponashoes.  He does not stand well for this, and I lost my temper a couple of times, as he would abruptly pull away from me in the middle of nailing, ripping the sharp ends through my finger and tearing my jeans.
So many beautiful blooms along the trail.
I'm trying to get a photo of each specimen, but I can't keep up, there are so many.
Barrel Cactus Bloom

Horseshoing is a difficult task at best, but I do really enjoy the finished product.  It felt good to get him into new shoes, and I noticed when the right front was removed that his hooves were in bad shape.  Flaky and shale like, with several areas where the hoof wall was no longer attached to the sole.  My regret now, days later, is that I didn’t shoe his hind feet right then and there.  He still had steel shoes on, but when they eventually came off, chunks of his hoof fell off in my hand.  It’s a moot point anyway, because as it turns out, he WILL NOT stand for farrier work on his hind feet, so I can’t shoe him anyway.  Eventually this led to us pulling him from the trail and putting him on pasture.
Along the PCT, somewhere between Mexico and Canada....
But for now, he is ok, and we have a good day on the trail, eventually making it to Scissors Crossing, where there was a cache of water placed by trail angels.  The horses drank and drank from the bottles of water – almost 4 gallons a piece!  We then camped in cottonwoods on the other side of the dry river bed.  It was a miserable camp, with poor grazing, rats nests everywhere in downed brush, and huge thorn bushes.  It was nasty and windy, and we struggled to keep the horses out of the feed, vowing to place the feed out of range in the future.  Duh.
Beautiful views of Anza Borrego Desert Park

Storm camping

oh the misery!

bathroom addition to the storm tent.  Nice.  Notice the rat turds?
We were so happy to have electricity and light....

Magic isn't sure about the flavor....

Shoes for Clover on the trail.

Notice the flaking?

The view between my horse's ears is all I want to see.
Next morning, we geared up again for a long day to Barrel Springs, the next water 24 miles away.  We weren’t sure we could make it, so we hauled 10 gallons of water with us.  Two for each of the horses and one for each of us. 
Getting some sun along the way.

Marks the spot for a water cache at Scissors Crossing
Signing the trail register at Scissors Crossing

Drinking from water jugs at Scissors Crossing
A short rest before a long climb.
Don't Mess With Me!
Meeting up with Brian again at the empty water cache between Scissors Crossing and Barrel Springs.
Our Friend Brian, a hiker on the PCT
Empty water bottles - at the "third gate" along the trail.  Luckily, we hauled water that day, and
didn't need it because we made it to Barrel Springs.
Clover is such a sweetie.  We are so sorry he won't be joining us on this trip.
We will be so happy to see him again on our return.

As it turns out, we did make it all the way to Barrel Springs, but it was a long haul, and we pulled in at dark.  The horses drank and drank from a cement holding tank filled with frogs.  We of course had more than enough water now, and left most of it for others hiking the PCT behind us.  Later, we would run in to Malto, an extreme ultralight hiker who thanked us for providing it there which allowed him to avoid filtering from the dirty spring.
Meeting with Trail Angels Charlie and Lawrence the Spring Guy
at Barrel Springs.  They haul that water for us and save our skins.
Thanks guys!
Lawrence also hooked us up with maps and trail info.

The next day it was an easy 8.5 miles to Warner Springs, where we were able to stall the horses each in a corral and rest Clover, who was now limping and sore.  We spent three nights soaking in the beautiful Olympic size pool there.  Our dear friends Paul and Donna joined us, bringing resupply boxes and horse feed, taking back extra weight including a second guitar.  What a wonderful rest!  What we didn’t realize was that we arrived there on a Monday, and they drain the pool on Tuesday.  We spent the day shopping in Temecula, buying a new felt saddle pad for Clover, as he gets sore easily.  He’s so thin skinned, he has three saddle sores along his spine, several on his sides, and a big open sore where the breast collar rubs him.  Of note is that my horses wear the same gear and none of them have these issues.  We have taken to calling him “City White Boy”, because he seems so delicate.  He also got a minor rope burn to his hocks, and now those sores are needing bandaging and help.  We bought more bandaging and first aid supplies at the Wal Mart in Temecula.

What a great town that is…and where Chance has lived for the past five years until he recently rented out his ranch and moved in with his friend Tom.  So Chance knows the place well, and directed us to the awesome burger joint – where we all indulged (Chance had fish and chips) in burgers.  Yeah, I’d say I won’t argue that they might be the best burger in California!  Very good…

Just down the street a few stores, we found the candy store.  An old fashioned penny candy store with all kinds of delights.  Chick – o – Sticks are Chance’s favorite.  I liked the peanut butter malted milk balls, and Paul bought home made nut Toffee (which we all agreed was the best thing).  Donna bought those nickel candies that taste like chalk to me.  I bought a little bag of assorted things like candy coated licorice, pepper mints, ginger candy, and anise bears.  The worst thing was the salt water licorice, which changed flavor and gave off a terrible taste of ammonia.  Eventually I threw the rest away on the trail.  I mean bad.

That bag of candy lasted me several days though, and later I found that candy coated licorice is really great in morning oatmeal.  Chance paid for everyone’s candy and the bill was almost $40.00.  We all felt like kids from the old west on the drive home, eating sweets on the way back from town.  Good times.
Lots of homemade treats.  Love the candy store!
The Candy Man
I really considered the wax lips and moustache, but didn't go for it...

We also stopped off in Temecula to see Chance’s cousin Blythe and her husband and children.  She had just had a new baby only three weeks old.  It was an enjoyable time, but a short one filled with the snapping of photos, and we were quickly on our way back to the resort.

Back at the Warner Springs resort, we totally enjoyed our soak in the newly clean tub, visiting with others hiking the trail and enjoying the friendship of our trail angels.

Finally, it was time to leave again, and we learned that the horses had been taken care of at no charge.  We were also given the PCT rate on the wonderful adobe cabins and were taken care of by the staff at the resort so well!  What a wonderful healing stop for all of us. 

It took a while to gear up to leave.  Even with our downloading of extra gear, we now had a heavy load of 200 pounds of horse feed and new groceries for us, so we were heavy, and it took time to figure out our new system. 

Finally we pulled out onto the PCT and rode all day, finally ending at Mike’s cabin, a trail angel who lives .25 miles off the PCT.  Mike welcomes hikers and even had a hiker’s shack on his property, good graze for the horses, and water for all of us.  We really appreciated that lodging because the trail had been rough and there was little shelter from the crazy wind that was blowing all night.  We highlined the four horses after grazing and graining them and slept well in the hikers shack after cooking up some vegetable stew with quinoa.   We also met “Grasshopper”, a friendly fellow from NYC who is hiking the trail for the second time.  He was helping out Mike’s buddy Mario, who had recently fallen off a roof and was having a tough time getting around.  Mike was not around, but we were still so thankful for his hospitality.

Next morning, we geared up again, and rode north about 10 miles, when I noticed that Clover had lost his new saddle pad, and that I had also lost my cantle pack containing my new barefoot running shoes and rain gear.  I decided to backtrack and Chance went on ahead on Clover leading Magic and Midnight.

Maggie and I rode at a trot and gallop and had to go back about four miles to find all the dropped gear.  She is such a bomber though – she didn’t hesitate and kept a good pace all the way.  It was a fun time, and a good workout for both of us.  Two hours later, I returned and found Chance setting up camp beside a small stream, with a sandy beach, in a nice little canyon.  He already had the horses highlined and was starting to set up the tent.  I joined him and we quickly were able to get everything set for dinner and rest.

It was then that we realized Clover had lost a shoe a few miles back – a metal one on his left rear.  In that short time, the hoof wall had completely fallen apart in chunks, leaving him walking on the tender sole and frog of his foot.  There was no choice in the matter – he had to be shod.  Thankfully, I had Eponashoes along in his size, but he would not stand for me and pulled his foot away kicking over and over.  I finally gave up.  Chance and I discussed our options, as we could not ride further without protection on his foot.  We decided I would try again in the morning, and if we couldn’t get the shoe on, then Chance would trail run to Anza  (12 miles round trip) to try to obtain a couple of easy boots.

Next morning, Clover still would not allow me to work on his back feet, and there was not enough hoof wall to nail to anyway, so Chance prepared a pack and soon departed.  We had no idea if he would have to hitch all the way to Temecula, or if he would get lucky and find something in Anza.  We agreed that I would stay put with the horses, and have a quiet day in camp.  We hugged goodbye, not certain at all when we would see each other again.

It was a peaceful little camp, and I enjoyed allowing the horses to take turns off the highline.  Maggie even laid down while tied on the highline – sleeping a couple of hours in the warm sunshine.  All the horses took turns – Midnight and Magic together, and Clover on hobbles for the first time.  He was a little wild and lunged around at first, but eventually got used to having his front feet tied together, and relaxed by the rest of the herd, grazing well for a couple of hours.

While the horses ate and relaxed, I did the same.  I also practiced my guitar lesson, and was pleased with my progress.  I read for awhile – an account by a couple who had accomplished the entire PCT a few years ago.  I also had a nice nap, and awoke to voices on the trail outside.  Two hikers, retired military men named TBD and R&R were making their way north.  They said they had seen our horseshoe about 2 miles back the trail.  We chatted a few minutes and they headed on.  I thought I might see Grasshopper, but he didn’t pass.  I decided to meditate for a while on a rock, and suddenly I heard “What’s for lunch?” and here came Chance, running down the trail.

He had run all the way to Anza and back and happened to meet up with a couple of mounted riders who had two easy boots in the right size for Clover back in their trailer.  They gave them to Chance along with a couple of tips on who to contact for help in Anza. 

While Chance stretched after his long run, I put the easy boots on Clover.  We had a quick snack and saddled everyone again.  We headed north, but within a mile, encountered a difficult technical spot in the trail.  Soft sand and loose rock below large boulders made a difficult route up the mountain.  Maggie was able to jump and scramble up the obstacle, but Magic fell backwards down the mountain, but landed on his feet, and Midnight followed on the line.  They didn’t go far, and I had Chance come up quickly to tie Maggie while I scrambled 10 feet down the mountain to untie the two geldings from each other.  I secured Magic to a scrub bush and then tried to get Midnight up  the obstacle again, but he couldn’t make it and almost fell off an even steeper edge which would have been a disaster.  Finally, he gave a terrific effort, lunged, and got back on the trail again.   At this point we decided it would be best to backtrack, and I brought Magic up with some effort to the trail, and Chance, riding Clover with his easy boots, led them away, while I went above the obstacle to bring Maggie back down. 

That wasn’t easy either.  It’s easier for a horse to climb up a steep than to come down it.  Maggie wasn’t too willing, but eventually, she managed just fine, and like a dancer, she found her footing and negotiated carefully down the boulder slick without any problem.  She likes to give it some thought and make a plan, and I let her figure it out and take her time.  What a wonderful horse she is: Calm and centered, confident, cooperative, and athletic.  Perfect for this journey.

We figured out the trail back to Anza by backtracking past our camp and making our way to a jeep trail that eventually led to Coyote Canyon road and into Anza.

Monday, May 30, 2011, 8:49  PM

I started writing this a couple of hours ago, on the porch of “the Playboy Mansion”, a shack attached to a mobile home behind our new friends Butch and Deann’s place.  They have lived here in Anza for about 6 years and know a lot of people in town.  Butch works at the True Value in Anza and has a reputation as “the nicest guy in town” and we have been lucky enough to enjoy his hospitality here for two days now, as we try to deal with our latest Clover emergency.

We rode into Butch’s yard on the advice of the folks that Chance had met on his earlier trip to pick up the easy boots.  He immediately came out and asked if he could help us in any way – “Do you need water?  How can I help you?”.  Right away, Chance got on the back of his little dirt bike and they drove off, looking for help from neighbors with horses who might be able to offer help. 
Butch jumped to help us.

Deann bonds with Maggie
While they were gone, Deann told me that she loved horses and always had wanted one, but had never had the opportunity.  I let her get up on Maggie and she rode around the yard with the biggest smile you can imagine. 
Eric, Deann's son, drove us around in his cool truck.

Butch ended up offering to help us by giving us a place to sleep and allowing the horses to graze his five acres under the apple trees.  We filled a clean garbage can with water, unsaddled the horses, stowed and tarped all our gear, and moved in to the “Playboy Mansion” behind the house.  We tapped into our groceries and I made our typical vegetable curry while Butch grilled a nice chicken.  The horses rolled and relaxed in the orchard while we got to know our new friends.
Denita, Eric's partner, feeds the boys off the porch of Butch's house.
The Playboy Mansion at Butch's place.
Shelter from the storm.
Butch and DeAnn made us feel so welcome!

That night, the weather rolled in.  We were so thankful to be in a building instead of a tent.  The wind blew and the rains came, and the next morning the weather was still bad.
Clover strolls around the apple orchard.
He's feeling better already.
Magic and Midnight hanging out around the "Playboy Mansion"
Chance on the porch of "the mansion" at Butch's place.
These wonderful folks just let us move in as soon as we showed up.
The amazing kindness of strangers just overwhelms me sometimes.

We have spent two days here now, trying to find a replacement horse.  On our first trip into town, we found a card on a bulletin board for Kathleen and John, who happened to have a horse for sale.  We looked at the horse, a nice Andalusion/Arabian cross, but not quite in the condition the PCT requires.

The amazing part of our visit with John and Kathleen was our tour of their amazing bird rescue facility.
I am in love with Blizzard.  A rescued cockatoo, up for adoption.
Chance, can't I have him pleeeeeeease?
My new buddy Kathleen with her rescued birds.
Love the Blizzard!
One of the many beautiful birds that John and Kathleen Breed.
Chance dropped this poor baby.  He's ok though...
More babies.  Notice that one of the rescue bit Chance until he bled...then said "Ouch!"
Ouch!  Not in the eye!!!!!!
Lots and lots of baby birdies.  John and Kathleen have so much work,
they can only leave their place for 3 hours at a time.
What a contribution to the world...
Chance and John shooting the bull.  What a 360 view from their place.
This will be Clover's home while we continue on the trail.
Wonderful animal lovers and our newest good friends....
John saddles up CeCe - his Andalusion/Arabian mare.
She was lovely, but not quite in the shape we need.

More good friends in Anza:  Kathy and Bill.
They raise Peruvian horses and exotic birds.
I met them in Anza Borrego Desert Park a couple of months ago...
Loved our short visit at their breeding facility in Anza.
They raise some beautiful horses on their ranch.
The great thing about Kathleen and John is that they are wonderful people and have offered to keep Clover for us for the summer.  Hopefully when we get back, his hooves will be strong and he’ll be ready to go forward with new strength.

Tuesday, May 30, 2011

We are up and ready to hitchhike into Temecula and rent a car to embark on our search for our next mount.  The day is warm and clear and we are excited to see what the day brings.  All four horses are grazing in the apple orchard and settled in fine.  Butch is off to work at the hardware store, and DeAnn will be here to watch over the horses and wait for the new kittens to be born.

10:40 AM

Amazing.  We got a ride immediately.  It was Joanna, a nice gal who Chance had met when he did his run into Anza for Easy Boots.  She took us all the way to Hemet, where she was heading to see her horse.  We were able to rent a car from Hertz, and we are now on our way to Norco, hoping to find a horse.

We can see the snow covered peaks we will cross in a few days.  It’s slightly intimidating and exciting at the same time.  We haven’t had anything to eat, and plan to get something when we get to Norco.  

3:50 PM

We stopped at the Silverado CafĂ© in Norco for lunch and I enjoyed my cheese enchiladas, beans and rice.  Chance ordered the fish tacos and was disappointed that they seemed to be fried fish sticks.  Our waitress Alex, was beyond wonderful however and hooked us up with a few horse leads and made us feel incredibly welcome.  What a nice gal – she remembered me from my previous visit to Norco, and gave me a big hug when she saw me.  She also mentioned how slim I looked since our last meeting.  Yeah, I love her.

After lunch, we started making the rounds of bulletin boards and chatting with folks.  We found a horse to look at, but his hooves were full of thrush, and he has a history of shy and bolting, so we decided against him even though the price was right.

We are now at Starbucks, recharging our phones and using the internet.  I’m waiting for a call back from a fellow who has a 4 year old Mustang for sale.  I also got a call back from John and Kathleen who have a lead on a free appaloosa in Anza.  We are in the thick of our search right now and are hopeful that our day will end with a trailride back to Anza with our new companion.

8:12 PM
We are finishing up our online tasks now in Norco.  We made a lot of progress and contacts, saw a beautiful Mustang owned by a cool horsetrainer who we really enjoyed meeting, got offered two free horses we are going to see tomorrow, and are now packing up our computers to head to the Triple D Arabian ranch in Temecula and meet Tom, who has a Chestnut Arabian mare for sale.  What a great day.  I love horse shopping!

But I really want to get back on the trail.  I miss sleeping with the horses and our life "out there".

Why the title?  Well, we did see a huge rattler on the trail.  Biggest I've ever seen.  Chance threw rocks at him and he FINALLY moved off down the mountain.  Maggie just stared at him, unafraid.

The quicksand was at our campsite.  Clover got into it up to his knees, but Chance got him out ok.  The Lame Horse?  Well, that's Clover, although he's not limping anymore and should do fine in John and Kathleen's good care over the next few months.

I'll update again when I can.  I do enjoy sharing our story.  It seems like such a dream to be able to do this and I love the fun adventures we're having.  Thanks for reading, and as always, I love your comments and support!

Hoping to be back on the trail no later than Thursday....