I have always been enamored by riding skirts of the past, so when I saw that someone was bringing them back for modern women riders, I just knew I had to have one!
Arctic Horse is a small, women-owned business based in Alaska. They make a variety of skirts for a variety of trail conditions. Prior to my 2016 ride, I ordered a Backcountry Trail Skirt so I could put it to the ultimate test in some of Nevada's harshest terrain. I absolutely fell in love with it on the trail. This is no cheap quality product thrown together. It is made from high quality and durable materials and incredibly well-made. It features snaps that keep the skirt up and open for mounting. The waxed canvas outer layer protected my legs from tall sagebrush and other brush. The lined inner layer kept my legs warm when the temperature dropped. When the rain came, it kept me dry. When I fell on barbed wire the skirt saved my butt - literally. But most of all, you just feel cool wearing it! This skirt is a must-have for the serious trail rider. Forget chaps - bring back skirts!
The Backcountry Trail Skirt retails for $299. Arctic Horse donates a portion of each sale to a non-profit of the buyer's choice. Keep your eye on their Facebook page for occasional sales. It's worth adding that these skirts are not adjustable and cannot be taken in, so be very sure about your sizing.
Something nagged me throughout our recent ride around northern Nevada. In 74 days, through eight counties, over 1,100 miles, the only people we met on the trail were hunters. Don't get me wrong -they were always incredibly friendly and extremely interested in my ride. Time and time again we bonded over a shared love of Nevada, its beauty and wildness, and yes, even the animals. I can't count how many times I heard hunters say, "We're so lucky to have this," as they gestured to the land around us. But it really began to bother me that I never encountered a hiker, a cyclist, a camper, or even another equestrian. This became a regular topic of conversation between Ryan and I. Why aren't people out here using this incredible resource? we'd ask each other.
It takes a long time to plan a long ride. There are so many logistics to work out -- feed, water, gear, etc. But, even when I was planning my first ride, the one thing that didn't take long for me to decide was where to ride. I could have gone to any state, to any number of designated trails. But, it was obvious to me from the very beginning that I should take advantage of what was right outside my door.
This is one of my favorite maps. The areas in red are public lands. Ponder it for a second if you will...
Every state has some public land, though the vast majority of it is in the West. Nevada has more than any other in the contiguous 48 states (>80%). By comparison, look at Texas, which has <5% federal land. Essentially what that means is that if you were trying to do a long ride in Texas, you would be restricted to public roads because most of the state is private property.
But all those areas in red -- with a few exceptions -- are free and open for use by anyone. For me, this means I can create my own long ride routes, choose my own trails and roads from millions of acres of land, and never have to worry about getting permission from a landowner for access. I couldn't do what I do without public lands. Likewise, that opportunity is available for every other American who is interested in hiking, biking, hunting, camping, or any other recreational activity.
Unfortunately, that freedom is under threat from people who think they have more of a right to the land than others. There is a movement underway to transfer federally-managed public lands to state ownership. Proponents readily admit that under their plan, millions of acres of public land would then be sold off to help states pay for the management of their remaining lands. Make no mistake, the privatization of public lands would be the end of open access for the rest of us. I saw very real evidence of this on my recent ride.
Incidents such as these will only increase with the transfer of public lands. You may not like the federal agencies managing public lands, but do not be fooled into thinking the land would be better off under state control or on the auction block. It most certainly would not be better off for wild horses and other wildlife. This issue is only going to grow more contentious over time, especially following the recent court ruling regarding the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. Public lands belong to all of us, not just those who make the most noise. I encourage you to get to know the public land in your state (every state has some!) and discover why it is worth preserving if not for you, then for others. And please make your voice heard. There are a number of organizations who are working hard to keep public lands in public hands.
If you are an equestrian, please check out Backcountry Horsemen of America here: https://www.bcha.org/
If you are a hiker, skiier, cyclist, etc., please check out Outdoor Alliance here: http://www.outdooralliance.org/.
If you are a hunter or angler, please check out Backcountry Hunters & Anglers here: http://www.backcountryhunters.org/
Also check out:
The Wilderness Society
The Public Lands Foundation
High Country News
My experiences with The Nevada Discovery Ride have very much reinforced the value of public lands for me. That's why I love long riding in Nevada so much and will do all my future long rides on public lands. I wish I had seen more people out enjoying public lands during my previous rides, particularly equestrians who have a stake in keeping trails open. But no matter your interest: If you don't use it, you could lose it.
Well, after 74 days on the trail and 1,100+ miles we made it safely back home to Reno! We arrived to an amazing homecoming. Dozens of people (some on horseback!) greeted us with cheers as we rode into town. It was a wonderful way to end the ride. The Bureau of Land Management folks presented us with an absolutely beautiful belt buckle and Sage received lots of congratulatory carrots. It's honestly a little overwhelming to be back. So many mixed emotions. It feels strange not to sleep just feet away from Sage and hit the trail with him every day. Our whole routine has instantly changed! I was so mentally exhausted that first day back, but we are slowly adjusting the new reality.
I don't want to lose the wonderful momentum that we have so I've already begun to dive into post-ride stuff. I have several public presentations already booked and have posted them on the homepage. More will be added soon. I have thousands of photographs to sort through and organize and will begin to share them once that's complete. I also plan to start writing some gear reviews to share what worked and did not work for us on the trail for anyone interested in that. So many amazing things happened during our travels; I can't wait to share the stories with everyone!
But rest assured, our adventures aren't over. In fact, while we were still on the trail Ryan and I talked a lot about future rides! We have some great ideas for other places to explore and look forward to beginning to plan those adventures. We also want to do more to get other people out into our incredible public lands and have some plans for that as well. Stay tuned!
There are so many wonderful people and organizations who helped make this ride happen. Thank you to Carol Schley and Paul Boone for keeping our house and other animal companions well cared for in our absence. Thanks to the strangers who agreed to cache hay for us during the ride. Thank you as well to all our sponsors for their support and enthusiasm. Thank you to the Long Riders' Guild for their invaluable guidance.
Sorry it's been so long without an update! We haven't had cell service in FOREVER!!! That's part of the fun of riding in the backcountry though :)
Suffice it to say it would take a long time to tell you about all our adventures since the last update so here are some of the highlights:
- In the Owyhee Range we saw a stunning diversity of wild horses! Every coat color and pattern you can think of! One night during dinner we watched 50+ make their way down a hill to a water source. Sage made the mistake of whinnying at them and a magnificent red roan stallion took umbrage. Suddenly all 50+ came charging toward us! We threw down our food and took positions to protect Sage. My handy plastic bag came to the rescue as always and we managed to scare them all off. During the chaos Bella ate my dinner :(
- The weather really turned wild on us. We got snowed on in the Pine Forest Range and have endured freezing nighttime temperatures. But the hardest by far has been the rain. We have gotten poured on, which is not fun to ride in. I tried the other day, but after riding for 5 hours in constant rain I was soaked completely through and had to stop. Also gale force winds are not fun to ride into.
- We climbed our last great peaks awhile ago. Very tough acesents and descents, but stunning views. From high atop the Pine Forest Range I could even see the Sierra Nevada, which was very exciting for morale!
- Sage continues to see lots of "firsts", including wild burros! In the area around the Smoke Creek Desert we were delighted to see hundreds of burros. Sage was a little nervous about them and confused by their constant braying! They are just too cute and Ryan and I agreed we'll definitely be adopting a burro into our herd.
We're now just days away from home. It's hard to believe we're almost done. In some ways it feels as though the ride has flown by. We're excited for showers and decadent food (I'm skin and bones!!), but there's also a feeling of sadness to leave the trail. Part of us just wants to keep going! Bit sadly the end of the trail must come. So, everyone who can is invited to come see us make or official ride-in to Reno. We plan to arrive on Sunday, October 23 at 1pm at the Lemmon Valley Horse Arena (Deodar Way, Reno). Hope to see you there!
The latest updates from Samantha on the Nevada Discovery Ride.