Friday, December 29, 2006

Death Valley Day 2

Friday December 29 2006


Something woke me in the middle of the night: the wind quit!

It was cold in the morning, but still, and the stars were beaming. You can usually judge the temperature by what Dave Rabe is wearing. Yesterday he wore a jacket over his long-sleeved Tshirt and tank top (with shorts, of course), so it was pretty darn cold with that awful wind. That translated to about 5 layers on me. This morning, Dave wore a long-sleeved Tshirt and tank top, so I had 4 layers on.

As Nick Warhol said, “This is just about the perfect day in the desert.” It was indeed perfect, a complete reversal of yesterday. Karen Chaton said this may have been the best Death Valley day she’s ever ridden.

Gretchen and Nancy and I had already decided last night that we were riding no matter what, and we saddled our horses with glee in the wind-less morning.

As the golden sun rose, the trail took us up Goler Wash, through rocky, scenic canyons, up and over the El Paso Mountains that provided us so much of those gale force winds yesterday. Down the other side of the El Pasos, we had a little vet check, no hold, then we continued eastward toward the highway, where our lunch vet check would be.

We came to the power line, where, Gretchen read in the instructions, “go under the power line.” We saw a few horse tracks going under the power line, but many more going along the power line, and no ribbons either way. Horses up ahead of us were heading down the power line. Maybe we cross the power line a little further on. Or not? Nance and I were undecided; Ralph LePera caught up with us and pulled out his map. Hard to tell with all those lines – roads, trails, jeep roads, railroads, on the map – exactly where we were, and we saw horses ahead of us, so we continued on. Then we noticed horse tracks going both ways under our feet.

We eventually saw horses to our north, on what was obviously the right track; we backtracked and turned where we should have turned (definitely no ribbons), got back on track, and made our way toward the lunch stop. Turns out just about everybody missed that turn. Somebody must have pulled the ribbons. Thanks, whoever did that! But it wasn’t so terrible – we didn’t go too far out of our way, and if you’re going to be temporarily lost, do so on a perfect day in the desert!

Gene Nance was one of the vets who arrived after some bad directions and a misadventure on jeep and bike trails in his luxury car rental. (Don’t tell the rental company!) He was able to laugh about it by the time we got there. Michele Roush, who won yesterday’s ride, was also vetting today.

It was so balmy, Nancy and I had a terrible time deciding what to wear on the way home (this was a point to point). When Dave Rabe came arrived for the vet check in his shorts and no shirt, that was it, I peeled down to 2 layers.

Our route out of the vet check took us up into the Rademacher Hills that Raffiq and Spice train in, and the hills that Raffiq has ridden now for 4 or 5 winters. Gretchen had a heck of a time slowing Raffiq down because he thought he was headed home. She finally had to tuck him behind us to keep him from running off. When we finally came to a wonderfully welcomed water trough, we turned east, away from home, and the horses slowed down. Spice kind of hit the Tired Wall, and we did a lot of walking all the way in. As did a lot of riders in the mid-back of the pack.

We could see our horse trailers from about 10 miles away… which took a long time to get to.

Everybody’s trailers were there to pick us up – it was too far to ride all the way from Goler Wash to the other side of Trona, which not a single rider complained about, seeing as Trona is not the favorite haunt of most people. You can smell it from miles away with all its gypsum mining.

The horses got picked up in their limos and hauled into our night’s camp at Valley Wells. A beautiful sunset lit up the mountains to our south and north, and the town of Trona.
About 59 horses started today, and Jeremy Reynolds won the ride.

Tomorrow: another point to point, from Valley Wells to Indian Ranch in the Panamint Valley. And another perfect day, for sure!

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