Saturday, December 30, 2006

Death Valley Day 3

Saturday December 30 2006


Another cold 4-layer morning, another absolutely beautiful day in the desert!

Our horses were much calmer today; yesterday Spice was bucking and wigging out so bad I got off and walked her a half mile before she calmed down. 50 miles of riding settled her down for this morning. Nance’s horse Jazzbo was a goof yesterday and he was much more composed today.

The first loop of the 50 was a 12-mile loop taking us up-close and personal along the outskirts of Trona, where we went by the Trona stables. Many of the mules and horses in their pens were running and bucking as 49 horses rode by.

After a half-hour vet check in camp, we headed out over the Slate Range to the Panamint Valley. After trotting to the foot of the range, we slowed to a walk. We walked the whole trail to the top – it was getting warm going up the canyon, (not complaining though!), taking our time because there was no rush on this long climb on this multi-day ride.

I got off Spice near the top of the range to lead her down. Still had some little hills to climb, though, so I put in a little work out. Spice even jogged me up the hill, maybe 50 yards, and I was out of breath when we topped the hill. I’m no runner (unless it’s downhill), so Spice was just giving me a little reminder of all the hard work our horses do for us.

This trail over the Slates is one of the most beautiful part of the Death Valley ride. The Searles Valley is behind you, and the brown and tan and golden striped Panamint Range rises in front of you, and the Panamint Valley spreads out below, way down below, must be at least a thousand feet below us.

Down and down we wound, a very rocky road, ravens soaring above us and – what was this? Two dogs down below us. Two dogs (later dubbed Jack and Jill) apparently followed riders all the way over the Slates from Valley Wells. Jack is reputed to have done the whole first loop, too. (Riders took Jack and Jill in; somebody will be returning them to Valley Wells in a day or two.)

At the bottom of the road, we entered Fish Canyon, the escape route Rogers and Manley took escaping out of Death Valley and returning the same way with supplies for the stranded Bennett-Arcane party back in the 1850’s. We stayed on foot for another couple of miles over a rocky rocky ‘road’, till we hit a very welcome water trough, waited on by Sparrow, whose mine we will be visiting on tomorrow’s trail.

We turned north and followed a dry lake bed (I could swear there was water out there, but it kept disappearing), trotting an almost non-stop 7 or so miles to the Ballarat Road. Where Spice seemed to run out of gas at about 35 miles yesterday, she felt strong all day today. Of course, part of that was probably that I walked on foot for at least 5 miles. We hopped off our horses on the paved Ballarat road and walked our horses another mile or two in to the vet check.

A couple of RV’ers passed us, giving us the thumbs up because we’d all obviously had ridden a long way across the desert to get where we were.

Our horses all looked good with 7 miles left to the finish, and it was a bit difficult getting our horses’ noses out of the grain and hay to cover that. Finally we had to carry little piles of hay along to bribe the horses out and back on the road.

We cruised the last stretch, and I think Spice was finally getting the hang of it: when she saw a big group of trailers ahead and off to our right, I am sure she actually realized that was our finish.

We all finished strong and are expecting yet another perfect day tomorrow!

Melissa Ribley won the today’s ride and, Les Carr’s horse Tulip today became the highest mileage horse in endurance history! 18,265 miles (or thereabouts). And that was after dumping Les on Day 1. Congratulations Les and Tulip!

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