We just returned from four long days of riding and camping. The days were great for training, but they also turned out to be a little dramatic!
Sage, Bella, and I headed out to Fort Churchill State Park on Friday with some other horsey friends, and spent three days riding around the park. The main trail that goes through the park is the famous Pony Express Trail! We're already seeing 80+ degree days so riding all day was pretty tiring. Sunscreen was a must, and of course, lots and lots of water. Luckily we got to do many water crossings which was great for the horses and the dogs. Sage and I also got to try out some new gear, including a fly mask that you can put over your bridle so you can ride with it. This turned out to be a much needed, since Fort Churchill is notorious for its bugs. On the third day we explored old overgrown trails along the Carson River, and even walked a short distance along some railroad tracks. Luckily, no train came by. I don't think I'm ready to try desensitizing Sage to them! We packed up Sunday night and headed back home for a night before heading out again the next day. It was a fantastic trip - with great trails and great riding partners. After three days Sage and Bella were pretty tired, but they both kept up the pace well so I'm feeling pretty good about their conditioning levels.
When we got home I found a massive fire ant nest right next to my trailer. I tried to straddle it so I could put away gear, but alas - I was attacked! I sustained several bites on my leg. Having never experienced the bite of the fire ant, I now understand why they have that name. Several minutes after the fire ant attack, a very large bull snake (gopher snake) slithered underneath my trailer. Have you ever tried to shoo a snake away? It's not easy! After a quick rest the snake moved on... but that wasn't the last of our snake encounters!
On Monday, Sage and I trailered out to Dayton State Park for a more formal test ride. I let Bella sit this one out since her paws were a little sore from the past few days of hard riding. Otherwise this was an "all hands on deck" ride, so we arrived at the park with all four road crew members, representatives from Nevada State Parks, and a film crew from KNPB, the local PBS station. Nevada State Parks generously presented us with four beautiful bales of Nevada-grown alfalfa for the ride! KNPB came to shoot for a special that will air after the ride. After interviews and tacking up, we rode out of the park and headed for the town of Dayton. When we turned the corner to pass the Dayton Historical Society we were met by quite a crowd! The Wild Horse Preservation League had whipped up several Dayton residents and ride supporters to come cheer us on. A videographer from the local CBS affiliate also came out to shoot interviews and scenes on the trail. I'm not sure when that airs, but I will post a link as soon as it does! After a short break for water, photos, and conversation we rode up the mountain to Gold Hill.
The first half of the trail was wide open desert with no trees so it was very hot. We also gained quite a bit of elevation -- 1,447 feet to be exact! Luckily, when we got up to Silver City we were able to cross over into a mountain canyon that offered a lot of trees and streams. About halfway up the canyon, I spotted a flipped over car on a trail above me. I stopped to assess, and could see where it had come over mountain further up. It looked like it had rolled before landing upside down. Being a pretty good distance from top to bottom the car was pretty smashed, but it looked recent. I thought about getting closer to inspect it, but decided to ride on and tell my road crew since I was only a couple miles from camp in Gold Hill. When I got there I told everyone about the car and we decided to report it to the Sheriff's Office. That brought out about six sheriff's cars with lights flashing to come out to talk to us! We spent almost two hours going over maps while I tried to explain to them where I had seen it. They tried to drive around the area to search, but ended up coming back to camp again for more directions! I finally convinced them that they would have to hike it, and by dusk they finally left to go look again. I was on the phone with them several times yesterday to give even more directions, because apparently they are having trouble finding it!
Needless to say it was a very unexpected end to to a long ride! Trail-wise, Sage did great. The ground was super rocky so now I know this is a section where boots are a must. I am positive that the few small streams we found along the way will be dried up when we come through in June. Again, we are reminded of the importance of carrying enough water. And I had to cross a very busy active mine road, which was not pleasant, so I am looking at a short alternate route for that section. (While we were riding through the mine area we almost stepped on another very large gopher snake sunning on the side of the trail. I just about jumped out of the saddle, but Sage walked on with just a quick glance at it!)
Now 23 days out from the ride, we've got a few busy weeks ahead of us. This weekend we are going to pick up the rest of our feed from our local sponsor Menezes Brothers, Inc. Then we will spend a couple days driving across Nevada and back to distribute the feed to several state parks who are helping us store supplies. Of course we'll also keep riding as much as possible, since that's all we can do at this point to stay in shape and get ready for the hard trail. We're also excited to have a new sponsor for boots -- Easy Care, Inc. makers of the famous Easy Boots!
Donations have been coming in steadily since we opened the link, and I want to sincerely thank every single person who has supported us so far. Don't forget, 100% of the proceeds from this ride will go to the Wild Horse Preservation League of Dayton, Nevada. Whether it's $5 or $50 - every bit will help wild horses. If you want a chance at something more for your money, we're grateful to have a beautiful print from famed wild horse photographer Mark Terrell up for raffle. Valued at $400, it will look great in any home. Get your tickets on our donation page!
The latest updates from Samantha on the Nevada Discovery Ride.