We made it up the treacherous road to Cave Lake State Park and since then we've climbed our two highest peaks of the ride! Beautiful views, but tough work. Ryan's parents drove down from Washington to camp with us for a couple days. It's nice to have company. Plus, this evening they're our horse sitter - and Ryan and I are driving into Ely to have dinner at our favorite restaurant to celebrate my birthday (tomorrow) and our anniversary (yesterday). We've seen lots of deer, elk, sage grouse, and one rattle snake this week.
We've traveled 300 miles now, which is crazy to think about! Still have a ways to go though. We may be moving slowly, but we're certainly making progress. We're getting ready to head into a tougher couple weeks, out of the mountains crossing a lot of desert. But, we have a good routine going and I'm not too worried.
Everyone is doing well. Sage is getting fit and muscled up. He seems happy and it's obvious he's enjoying exploring the trails. Bella is doing miles with us again now that her paw is healed. In short, all is well and we are having fun! We'll continue chugging along and I'll update again when I'm able!
We were going to take today off so I could find a dentist in Ely but I lucked out and found one last evening! Not only did he squeeze me in at the last minute but he was able to do a filling! So now that the tooth situation is all cleared up we'll continue on as scheduled!
We're setting out this morning from Ward Charcoal Ovens State Park, one of my favorite state parks because of its 1870s beehive shaped charcoal kilns. Today we'll head for our next state park, Cave Lake. But to get there we'll have to navigate a particularly treacherous seven miles of road. I did not enjoy that stretch on my last ride across Nevada so I'm not looking forward to doing it again but there's no other way so onward we go!
On day 8 our journey we had a special and heartbreaking experience. We decided to wrap up the day with shorter mileage and found a nice camp spot tucked in a thick juniper grove deep in the White Pine Range. We set up camp and Ryan drove ahead to scout while Sage and I stayed behind to nap. While I was dozing I was awakened by Sage whinnying. I looked in the direction he was focused and caught a glimpse of horse legs moving through the trees. I immediately ran to get my handy plastic bag (100% effective wild horse deterrent) but when I went to investigate the horse was gone.
A few minutes later Ryan returned and told me he saw a horse just down the road. I figured it was the same one I had seen and we agreed to be vigilant in case he returned. Sure enough, that evening Sage began whinnying again. We scanned the trees and finally spotted a horse creeping trough the brush. He was not charging, but slowly making his way toward camp. When he finally got close enough Ryan and I both were shocked to see that it was a very young colt, barely a yearling. Judging by the extensive wounds to his neck and flanks, he had very recently been violently rejected from his herd.
We immediately took pity on the little guy as it was obvious he was looking for companionship, not a fight. We let him continue his slow creep toward camp. Finally he got close enough that Ryan and I agreed we should chase him off. It broke my heart to chase him away with the plastic bag but I knew it was best for him to maintain a healthy fear of people.
The evening passed uneventfully and we eventually went to sleep. Around midnight I was awoken by a noise. I sat up in the tent and squinted to see what was happening in camp. The nearly full moon illuminated everything brightly and as my eyes adjusted I could make out two silhouettes - Sage and the young colt were nuzzling over the fence line of the corral! I couldn't believe it! I woke Ryan to look and we both watched in disbelief. Sage wasn't acting aggressive, quite the opposite he seemed to enjoy the little colt's company! We decided to let them be and fell back asleep.
The next morning when we awoke, the little colt was gone. During breakfast Sage gave out a little whinny and Ryan said, "Sage is saying 'Where are you Oscar?'" "Oscar?," I laughed. "It seems like that would be his name," Ryan explained. I agreed and so the little colt got a name. We talked about Oscar a lot that morning. He was so little, maybe too little to be on his own? Or maybe not. Either way we felt bad for him - wandering alone and no doubt scared. It was clear he was just looking for a herd.
After breakfast I saddled up and Sage and I hit the trail. Just a few minutes outside of camp and Oscar came bounding out of the trees to join us!
Oscar tentatively approached Sage, making the gumming or champing gesture with his mouth that young horses do to signify submission. Sage seemed totally at ease with Oscar. I figured if I mounted up it might scare him off, but instead as Sage and I started to ride, Oscar just fell into place behind Sage as if it were the most natural place in the world!
Oscar happily followed us for the next few miles, flitting around excitedly behind us, bumping into Sage, and occasionally snaking his head at Bella when she got too close.
After a few miles we came to a spring where some cows were resting. Behind them was a fence line and on the other side was resting a small band of wild horses. They saw us and ran to the fence line inquisitively. Sage looked at them with casual indifference, but Oscar went into a full fledged panic! He practically threw himself into Sage to hide, and I think if he could have crawled underneath Sage he would have! The whole time he cowered beside Sage he kept making the submissive gesture with his mouth. I felt so bad for Oscar - clearly terrified of the big bad older horses and desperate for protection - which he found in Sage.
I realized Oscar would probably follow us forever and for a moment I allowed myself to think fantastical thoughts. Maybe I could just take him with me and tame him on the trail? But as quickly as the thoughts came I forced myself back to reality. Not only is our journey too arduous for him, but it would be illegal to remove a wild horse from public land. Sobered by reality, we continued down the trail with Oscar close behind.
Eventually we came to a fence line with a cattle guard and I knew our time with Oscar was at an end. I got off and opened the barbed wire gate to let Sage through. Oscar tried to follow but I quickly shooed him back. Oscar again panicked and began pacing the cattle guard trying to figure out a way across. It was absolutely heartbreaking to witness.
I told Oscar to be brave, mounted up, and began to ride away. Sage let out one final whinny for his new friend. I refused to let myself turn around and tried, unsuccessfully, to keep the tears from my eyes.
Disclaimer: You should always keep your distance from wild horses. Even young ones can cause injury with their teeth and hooves. Also remember it is illegal to feed, touch, or harass wild horses.
Well we've been on the trail for two weeks now and let me tell you, every single day has been an adventure! You may have noticed that the tracking map hadn't updated in a couple days; that's because we're taking some much needed rest days. In fact, we will never travel more than six days without taking 1-2 rest days. These are crucial for us all to rest and recuperate and reenergize for the next week's leg of travel!
I'm not counting miles but I think we've traveled about 150 miles or so. We have seen amazing and beautiful terrain, lots of wild animals, and few people. In particular, just about every day we've had to deal with aggressive wild stallions charging camp - they always wait until after midnight when we're fast asleep so we're all delirious! Haha The sight of Ryan chasing after two naughty stallions with a tarp in his underwear under a full moon is something I'll never forget!
We have also seen elk, deer, antelope, and of course lots of cows. For the last few days we've been skirting some major weather and it finally got us at our camp for the rest days. We've had nasty thunderstorms, rain, and hail - but at least we can hide in the tent and I'm not riding in it!
The heat continues to be a challenge, particulary when we're crossing valley floors. We've been taking lots of midday siestas and riding in the evening when it cools down.
Sage is in great health! He is looking fit and strong. Bella for a little wound on her paw so she's been with Ryan for the last week or so. I'm not doing so hot - I broke a tooth and my poor feet are still reeling with blisters! We're making our way to the city of Ely this week and once there I will try to get an emergency visit to the dentist scheduled.
Other er than that - all is well! We're having lots of fun, lots of stress, and everything in between... Exactly how a long ride should be!
We just arrived at our campsite ending our 5th day on the trail. Things are going well, despite a few challenges. The biggest issue is the heat, which I expected. Luckily we have electrolytes for Sage and myself so we're pushing through. One day was so hot we took a siesta midday and finished up our mileage after sunset! We're now in the White Pine Range, enjoying some elevation and respite from the heat. Everyone is doing well. Sage seems to have settled into the routine of getting up at 5am and riding out around 6:30. My feet were not ready for the amount of walking I've been doing and I'm suffering from some nasty blisters, but otherwise good. Bella has been keeping up with us in the morning but joining Ryan in the truck once it gets too hot. We've seen quite a few wild horses and were charged by stallions several time, but of course I always have my handy plastic bag in my saddle bag to scare them off! We just missed some storms yesterday and today; they stayed just to the north of us. Anyway, all is well - we're covering some ground and having fun! Ryan's taking good care of us. I'll update again next week!
We're officially on the road and headed to the geographic center of Nevada. I'll post updates and pics when I have service. The tracking device will go live tomorrow morning when we start riding so keep an eye on the website to see where we are! Happy trails :)
It's hard to believe our big adventure is right around the corner after so many years of planning and preparation! Tomorrow morning we will load Sage and drive about 4 1/2 hours out to our start point - the geographic center of Nevada. Don't worry if you don't know where that is... most people don't! We'll set up camp and relax for the rest of the day. I'll probably take Sage for a short ride in the evening just to leg up a little. Some folks from the Bureau of Land Management are planning to meet us out there too and camp with us tomorrow night. Thursday morning we will get up at dawn, eat breakfast, tack up, and hit the trail!
I'm still in shock that we managed to get all this together - the time, the expense, the route, the gear, etc. I feel pretty confident that we did all we could do to plan and prepare for the expected things. Nothing we can do about the unexpected. We'll just have to take each day at a time and go from there. I have to thank all my sponsors for their support getting us to this point. Two and a half months is a long time to be on the trail. I'm a little nervous, but overall excited!
Remember, I'll have my tracking device on each day we ride. You'll be able to see exactly where we are on the map on the homepage of this website. I'll also post updates and photos here when I have cell service. Wish us luck and send good thoughts to us out there!
Thanks to our sponsor ThisIsReno.com for this great pre-ride video! It's hard to believe but as of today we are 12 days out from the start of the ride. It's pretty exciting around here as we start our final packing and wrap up all the stuff at home and work before we take off. All the hay has been cached along the route, we have all the gear and supplies, the route is set, arrangements have been made for our house and pets, and Sage is in great shape. We're ready to hit the trail! It's been a long process of planning and preparing for this expedition, but it's going to be worth it. I'm nervous, but excited to see what comes. Stay tuned!
There comes a point before a long ride when it hits you - "this is really happening!" I've been feeling that for a few weeks now, and it brings with it a mixture of excitement and anxiety. I've experienced it now with both of my long rides. Maybe it's because everything still seems so theoretical until you've displaced all your living room furniture to fill the room with an assortment of riding and camping gear. Because I'm such am obsessive planner, the ride preparations have consumed all my thoughts. I even find myself drifting off to sleep at night musing aloud about whether I should buy one more pair of thermal underwear - and if so, mid-weight or heavy-weight? Poor Ryan!
But here we are 30 days out from the start of our adventure! If I'm being honest with myself, we are very ready and I should just relax. We have all the gear and supplies. We have a good route. We have a good timeline. Sage is in shape. We've got this. This weekend we'll head out to cache 15 bales of hay and 20 bags of hay cubes along the route. After that, all that will be left to do will be to just ride.
I am eternally grateful that my friend and occasional riding companion, Carol Schley, has offered to trailer us out to the start point next month. She will camp with us and see us off first thing in the morning. Back in Reno, she'll also take care of Sebastian, my sweet senior dog who is too frail to accompany us on this journey. Another friend, Paul Boone, will take care of our house during the ride, as well Tomas and Finnegan (our cats). I couldn't do this ride without the help of friends like Carol and Paul, and the myriad of other people who have offered advice, encouragement, and support. Every single person I have asked for help - even people I didn't know well - instantly agreed to assist when I asked. I am so humbled and grateful for that. I might be riding alone, but there's no such thing as a solo ride in the end.
I'm also excited to hit the trail knowing the tides of change are coming in. The Bureau of Land Management recently released their statistics report for 2015 and wild horse and burro adoptions increased 47% from the previous year! In 2014 only 1,788 horses and burros were adopted - a historically low number. In 2015, 2,631 horses and burros found new homes. This is the first increase in the adoption rate after years of steady decline. Very exciting news. There are so many wonderful programs, organizations, and people working to encourage wild horse adoption and it is working!
Things are getting pretty exciting as the start of the ride quickly approaches! I cannot believe it's almost here after all this time. We are doing really good at checking everything off the to-do list. Sage just got his new saddle so we're busy breaking that in. We're picking up the last of the gear we needed. We're finalizing the route (now for the trillionth time). I think the hardest part is getting everything else in our lives in order. Ryan and I both have a ton of work to do at our jobs, and then there's organizing the housesitter, multiple petsitters, bills, etc. It's a lot of work to take off to do a long ride! haha I will be very relieved when we start.
So, mark your calendar! We'll trailer out to the start point on August 10 and will start riding early in the morning on August 11. Remember, I'll be carrying a tracking device which will be linked to the homepage of this website so you'll be able to see where we are and follow along. I'll also try to post photos and updates when I have cell service. That won't be very often so you'll have to wait for the full story of our ride when we return home at the end of October!
I'll leave you with a peek at some of the AMAZING places Sage and I will be riding through this fall. A few weekends ago Ryan and I drove out to scout some of the sections. Holy smokes it's beautiful out there. Gotta love Nevada!
The latest updates from Samantha on the Nevada Discovery Ride.