Sage, Bella, and I headed into the Sierra today to beat the heat and do a little riding on the Pacific Crest Trail. We rode the section between Tamarack Lake and Sunset Lake, between State Highway 88 and State Highway 4 in El Dorado County, California. What a great place to ride! The PCT is only for hikers and equestrian use - no mountain bikes. We crossed paths with quite a few hikers, but no other horseback riders. The trail was amazingly varied - big rocky tables to cross, rapidly flowing streams, grassy prairies, sand, lakes, and thick forests. It's really a very visual trail - great views and lots of colorful wildflowers. It was a perfect day! Sage was great on the trail, of course. It was a pretty long day - 2 hours just to get there from my house, and then we rode for several hours before turning around to ride back, then we had to drive all the way home! Whew! But it was totally worth it and I definitely want to make a trip back out there to ride again. Ride the whole Pacific Crest Trail in 2014 anyone? Just kidding! ...or am I?! haha
We're 40 days out from the ride now. Really getting close. My plans from here on out are just to ride as much as possible, buy the last bit of gear, and send out all the press releases as possible. Speaking of press -- we got our first real bit of press today in the Reno Gazette Journal. We're honored to have a write-up on the ride published, along with our horse in a bar photo from Virginia City! (Click HERE to read the article) There's more press to come in the weeks ahead... I'll let you know when I find out more on publication dates!
We have one more test ride planned for August. This one will be a full test ride - all the gear and all the trail support volunteers. We're going to do two 20 mile days, location TBD. This will be the last full test run, and our last chance to work out the kinks before we hit the trail for real!
Finally! Today I bought a little 2-horse straight load trailer. It's not the fanciest trailer, but it'll get us through the next couple months!
When I got it home I had Sage go in and out of it a few times. (He's never been in a straight load before) He did alright, but we'll keep practicing until he's super comfortable. I'm excited that this last major piece of the ride puzzle is taken care of. There's not much more to buy... and now we can trailer out and do a better variety of training rides around the region :)
Speaking of training rides...
We've been getting in as many as we can. We rode the Jones Creek Trail in Galena recently, along with my neighbor Mike and his horse Dancer.
We're also planning another big test ride in the weeks ahead. Once again it will give us a chance to get the whole trail crew together to practice everything before September.
We're really getting down to the wire now. 41 days and counting. It feels like there's still a lot to do, but I'm not stressing out (yet). I'm actually feeling pretty confident that all the pieces are falling into place.
Getting excited to get on the trail finally!
Courtesy Jan Liverance
This Thursday we headed out to Washoe Lake south of Reno. We snagged a great campsite complete with a horse corral for Sage. We were joined by Ted and Trevor Oxborrow, ride coordinators extraordinaire, and Jan Liverance, a filmmaker from NYU who has graciously decided to include our ride in her upcoming documentary about wild horses.
We were on the trail by 10:30 am. Ted and Trevor marked a 10 mile route up the mountain from the lake. The fun part was that I had only a general idea of the route. We really wanted to test out their trail marking skills and my ability to follow it! Sage carried almost a full load, and Bella carried a small load in her backpack. The ride went great and we had no problems! It was a beautiful route up the mountain and around with a nice view of Carson City below. We got to the 10 mile point and found our water drops, took a short break, and headed back down the mountain!
Back at camp we cooked dinner, sat around and talked, and then got some sleep. We were up at dawn to get saddled up for another short ride along the beach.
Courtesy Jan Liverance
Sage was great through all of it and so was Bella. But it was definitely hot and we all felt it. It really drives home the importance of having water along the way come September. After such a dry winter, we have precious few water sources to rely on out on the trail. The road crew will be critical in keeping us alive!
After our morning ride Friday, we headed home. Friday night we had a great strategy meeting with all the key members of the ride team. It was a lot of fun and we came up with some great ideas. It's too premature to share them, but know that there are some exciting things in the works!
Meanwhile, I'm still whittling down my gear list. There's only a handful of things we still need at this point. I feel really comfortable with my rig, packing, and gear at this point. I think we're just about ready... We're planning another big test ride in the near future. This one will be very remote back country, so we can really test all the elements. Very exciting! Dates are
Approaching Virginia City (note the V on the hill)
On June 28th I rode from Reno to Virginia City. (For our non-Nevada fans - Virginia City is a famous mining town in the mountains south of Reno. It's heyday was the 1860s and many historic buildings still survive, giving it a distinctly Old West vibe.) I went with a friend who rode his mule. Our 15 mile ride included more than 2,000 feet in elevation gain, traffic, lots of wild horses, and rocky terrain in some areas. Sage carried pretty close to the full load that I plan to take on the big ride. Unfortunately, Bella could not accompany us on this ride because the hotel we booked was not pet friendly.
We started out around 10 am. It took about 6 hours at a slow pace with several grazing stops. Sage seems to get into a head down - keep walking zone, which is nice. He's not the fastest horse, but he's steady and will go for miles and miles... which is what you want when you're trying to cross the state! I tried to alternate riding and walking (especially in really rocky areas) to give Sage some respite from weight.
We did have to ride through one neighborhood, with narrow shoulders and lots of traffic. I realized quickly that most people don't know how to drive past a horse. Lots of people zoomed by us at high rates of speed and not much distance. It made me nervous, but luckily Sage is okay around cars. Otherwise, we followed a good off-road trail the whole way. We passed several herds of wild horses, including one where some of the young stallions tried to approach us. Not wanting to risk a fight, I waved my arms and made loud noises to keep them at a distance until we could get past. Sage was interested in the wild herds, but not overly so.
At one point we stopped to graze and when I was not paying attention Sage stepped on his reins. Luckily I had breakaways so the leather just snapped. I tied a knot where they broke to get us through the rest of the ride and it worked just fine. Lesson learned on why it's so important to carry a spare bridle/reins on the trail!
Riding into Virginia City was a bit surreal. It felt as if we were transported back in time. The tourists loved it! We made a stop inside the bar at Piper's Opera House. And I mean inside...
The bar owners got a kick out of having us inside. Sage was a little nervous (it was his first time in a bar after all!) but he handled it with his usual calm acceptance. After that, we rode to the other end of town where I put Sage up for the night at a private home with an empty stall. With Sage bedded down I headed to the Tahoe House Hotel in the heart of Virginia City. Riding during the afternoon with the sun beating down on us took a toll and I definitely felt it. But, after a quick rinse in the shower and a big dinner I felt right as rain. After a good night's sleep, I headed back to Sage the next morning. We saddled up and began the decent back down the mountain.
Again, it took about 6 hours for the return trip. Sage definitely knew we were headed home and he had some pep in his step. We saw several more herds of wild horses, but again the passings were smooth.
All in all I'd say it was a nice ride! Next up, we're doing another test ride next week. Starting at Washoe Lake, we'll ride up to Virginia City again (solo this time and with Bella, and no hotel!) and then return to the lake to camp. The goal is to do these test rides as often as possible from here on out until the big ride. I should also mention that we'll be accompanied by a filmmaker from NYU who is making a documentary about wild horses. We're honored that she has taken an interest in the Nevada Discovery Ride and decided to include it in her film! She'll be back in Nevada in September, to join us for the ride out from Baker, and then she'll pop in throughout the ride to film.
Well, we're now just about 60 days out from the ride. Two months left to get trail ready!
Here's some more photos from the test ride...
The latest updates from Samantha on the Nevada Discovery Ride.