Archives for October 2010

Tuesday, October 12, 2010 – Drive Day to Walsenburg, CO

Today was the ultimate test for the new truck, the day we had to cross over the Rocky Mountains. Route 160 isn’t quite as steep as I-70 through Denver, but rather is a longer climb with more switchback-type roads. The new truck was fabulous! Never even cracked 200 degrees on either the engine or transmission temperature gauges, despite the long, long uphill grade. I even had to pass a couple of semis, just for fun. Downhill, which is often even more harrowing than going uphill (with the van I was always having to downshift the transmission and be very careful about managing the brakes on both the RV with the hand brake controller and the van, to make sure they didn’t overheat to the point of losing them or burning them out), the truck was a dream! The engine did it’s own down-shifting! All I had to do was touch the brakes, and it would figure out what speed I wanted to go and would shift down until we stayed at the speed, despite whatever the grade was like. I hardly ever had to even touch the brakes at all! Hubby thought there was something wrong with my brake lights, because he had never seen me go down a hill without them coming on every few seconds. No matter how steep it was, the truck just figured it out and did all the work for me. Genius! That was when I decided on the name of this new truck: Einstein. It was such fun! I hadn’t realized how much stress I had been under with the van, I had just done what needed doing, though there were times where it was a bit white-knuckle, but I just coped. Now, I’m suddenly spoiled, and it feels so wonderful! Obviously, buying this truck was one of the best decisions we’ve made in a long time, especially as we plan on horse camping across America for a long time to come! Hubby’s enjoying the van, and it pulls the horse trailer with no trouble at all, though he did think it got a little hot coming up the mountains, but he had had a mechanic tell him last year that the radiator fan was getting weak and was likely to cause problems later, so he’s going to check it out at the ranch and likely replace it, and that should solve the problem. Meanwhile, even though we had run into some rain coming through LaVeta pass, we arrived comfortably and relaxed at our client’s ranch just around 4:00, (we had breakfast at a Denny’s, so we didn’t need to stop for lunch) giving us plenty of time to get settled in before dark. The horses had to go into a different pasture than last time, as the neighbor’s who looked after the place had put theirs in the one we had used previously, so they had more exploring to do. The dogs ran all over, re-establishing their dominance and wondering where the dog who usually lives here was (at the kennel while the owner was on the campaign trail), and we got the RV and the satellite dish up and running in no time. To bed early after our two days of driving!

Monday, October 11, 2010 – Travel Day to Cortez, CO

Four Corners Monument

 Got out about 8:30 or so, starting the day with coffee and plans to stop for breakfast along the way. We drove east on 64, then picked up Route 160, stopping at a travel center in Tuba City to pick up fuel and have a quick sit-down breakfast at the cafe there. I tried a local variation of pancakes with my eggs, they were made of blue corn flour. Who says there’s no such thing as blue food? They were lovely, had just enough of a difference in flavor to make it quite interesting. We headed off again into the desert, into one of the most remote areas in the country. Towns were few and far between, and the only radio station was a 100K watt station broadcasting Native American public radio, where we heard a combination of English and Indian languages, and a very eclectic selection of music, from country to jazz to Indian drums and melodies, all very fascinating, which made the boredom of the terrain tolerable.  Made a quick stop at Four Corners Monument, where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada all come together. We had made arrangements to stop for the night at a Morgan horse breeding facility in Cortez that I had found on the internet, and we arrived there at about 4:00, just as we had planned. We met the folks there, got the horses put away in a good-sized corral, settled in the RV and spent a pleasant evening watching the sun set over the mountains and the stars come out. Cortez is a cute little town in a valley with stunning mountains emerging all around them, so the views were quite remarkable. Didn’t bother with the satellite dish for a one night stop, so we watched some recordings and went to be early, knowing that tomorrow will be a longer drive, though at least it’s one where we know what’s in store for us when we get there.

Sunday, October 10, 2010 – Easy Ride Day

After yesterday’s day of rest, Hubby convinced himself he was ready to take a ride today, so with my help, we got the horses saddled up, though we thought we might not need boots, so we just took them along. Headed up the road about a quarter mile to the trailhead. Originally we were going to take the trail to the west toward the Tuscayan ranger district, but then we saw something called the Coconino Rim Trail, so we decided to take that one east, in case it actually went to a “rim” of the Grand Canyon with some more views. The trail turned out to be a bit rockier than we had hoped, so we stopped to put on the horses’ boots. It was a pleasant trail, with a wide variety of flora and fauna, and with a number of placards with information about the growth and maintenance of the forest. Apparently in this area, they cordoned off four different areas in order to try four different types of foresting techniques, from prescription burns to clear-cutting to minor maintenance, or something like that. It was a pleasant ride, but after about an hour, Hubby started feeling too much pain in his ribs, so we headed back, glad we were able to get another ride in, knowing it would probably be out last for quite a while. Rested the rest of the day, other than making preparations for our departure tomorrow.

Saturday, October 9, 2010 – Recovery Day

Not surprisingly, Hubby was in pain all day today, so we alternated between ice and Icy Hot Patches and spent the day relaxing, hoping he’ll be recovered enough for a ride in the forest tomorrow. We did take a drive over the the Grand Canyon Overlook nearby to get another perspective of this incredible geological feature, and took a bunch of great pix to show for it!


Friday, October 8, 2010 – FABULOUS RIDE in the Grand Canyon! except…

Woke up in great anticipation of our ride today, loaded the horses up and headed back to the mule barn. We were a bit later than we had anticipated, but that actually ended up working out very well. Mules have the right-of-way on the trail, so they always try to time it so that folks with their own stock don’t cross paths on the trail whenever possible, because there isn’t much room on many parts of the trail. As it turned out, the last mule train was just coming back up “momentarily,” so just as we finished saddling the horses, a mule train passed us coming back to the barn. We headed across the railroad tracks and the road to the trailhead of Bright Angel Trail, the busiest and only trail open to us today. As we reached the trailhead, another mule train had just arrived in the corral at the top, so this seemed to be the last group out. Perfect! After weaving our way through many people coming and going, we headed down the trail. It was a good 10 foot wide, had a low stone wall on the canyon side, and was like a superhighway compared to some of the trails we have been on this year! We had heard stories of how white-knuckle the ride was, and granted, the drop-off was quite imposing, but if you don’t obsess on the empty space and concentrate on the trail, this was nothing. Our biggest concern was how the horses would react to so much foot traffic, hikers coming and going all along the way, with hardly a stretch by ourselves. Happily, they took it all in stride, soon becoming used to the rows of people standing off to the side. Fortunately, most people were very cooperative, graciously moving to the bluff side of the trail (as I mentioned to several, if something goes wrong, you don’t want to be on the canyon side!), and the horses were brilliant the whole way! Well, except for one brief moment when Apollo decided to make a pile of manure while standing in front of an Oriental family. A little girl, about 4 or 5, started screaming her head off when he lifted his tail, which startled Apollo for just a moment, but he just stepped forward, then finished, then moved on. He just doesn’t like to walk and excrete at the same time! He calmed down again right away, fortunately, so it didn’t turn into a mishap. (Not a good place for a mishap!) The trail wasn’t really all that steep, as the switchbacks had been cut into the rock very deliberately to keep it as low-grade as possible, and the footing was supported by steps and railroad ties all along the way. After about a mile, a man on the trail told us there was a mule train coming up the hill, which surprised us after what we had been told, so we kept our eyes open for them, and when we spotted them below us, we found a spot where we could move off the trail and make room for them. I got down and had Hubby follow suit, just to be on the safe side, and the mule wrangler soon caught up to us, walking a string of empty, saddled mules. We told him we had been told all the mules were in, but he said he’d been sent down to meet a group down the hill somewhere, and they never showed up, so he was just leading them back to the barn. It was an easy passage, and we were soon back up and on our way. We went down to the first Rest House, which was a mile and a half, and stopped there for lunch. We contemplated going to the next Rest House, which was at the 3-mile mark, but decided that the farther you go down into the canyon, the less you actually see, plus we didn’t want to tire our the horses too much, since they hadn’t been ridden regularly for the last couple of weeks, so we decided to head back up after lunch. Again, the horses were brilliant. They seemed even more eager to go up than they did coming down (the fresh, cool air might have had something to do with it, or all the attention they were getting from the hikers), and even trotted up a few steps till we pulled them back. They got their picture taken so many times they were like movie stars. Several people recognized that they weren’t mules, and asked us where we got the horses from, and were, of course, entranced to learn we had brought our own. Many people (including one staffer we met later) didn’t even realize you could ride your own horses into the canyon. By the time we got back to the top, we were thrilled that the ride had been everything we had hoped it would be. Stunning views, a cacophony of voices in languages from dozens of different countries, truly a wonderful time. When we reached the top, we crossed back over to the mule barn, and since we had only been out a few hours, asked about the top trails we had heard about. We were directed toward the trailhead, and headed out. We rode along the edge of the road, which thus far we hadn’t seen any traffic on at all, but naturally, as we went along a car came by, which was fine, then another, which was also fine, then a great big bus, which was fine until the driver gunned the engine just as the back end was going past Clio. She was so startled at the belch blasting unexpectedly from the bus she went sideways, then took off, into the ditch next to the road, and out the other side. Her abrupt moves were just too much for Hubby, who come off in a crash. I didn’t see it, and wasn’t even aware of it until I heard someone standing on the other side of the road yelling “He’s fallen off!” I turned around and looked behind me, and didn’t see anything (I had expected to see Hubby), then I looked around and saw him lying in the grass up the embankment (thank goodness it WAS grass, considering how much rock and stone was around). I wheeled Apollo around, who already knew something was wrong, and headed quickly back over to where Hubby lay. I knew he couldn’t be hurt too badly, as he wasn’t screaming in pain, it seemed he had just had the wind knocked out of him. I jumped down and grabbed Clio’s reins (she had stopped just a yard away), then questioned Hubby about his condition. His breath was slowing coming back, and it seemed my initial judgment was correct. A young man, a GCV employee (and the one I mentioned earlier who didn’t know you could bring your own horses into the Grand Canyon), came over to ask how Hubby was, and to see if we wanted him to call the EMS folks. We said no thank you, he just needs to get his wind back. He stayed with us a few minutes, until Hubby got up and climbed back onto Clio, then went on his way, rather stunned, I think, that he would get back into the saddle so quickly. Well, that’s Hubby, he just has to prove nothing can stop him. He even got up without a step, which he usually looks for, just to be completely ornery. Anyway, I grilled him again, and he insisted he was fine, so we headed on down the trail a bit. A rather ordinary trail, really, especially after what we had just experienced. It wasn’t long before the shock wore off and the real pain started, so after about half a mile, I asked if he wanted to turn back, and he agreed. We got back to the mule barn, loaded up the horses, thanked our hosts again, and headed back to camp. Once the horses were put up, I had Hubby put an ice pack on the painful area for the rest of the evening.


Thursday, October 7, 2010 – Drive to Grand Canyon

Well, the sunny, dry day has finally arrived, as we got up early and were on the road by 9:30 (a bit later than usual because I had to muck out two corrals, as we had moved the horses yesterday, because after all the rain the one they were in had turned into a mudbath), and this campground wanted you to bag up the manure in plastic garbage bags, which they provided, and leave them by the side of the road for them to pick up (that’s a new one on us, we hadn’t seen it go quite that far before, but it did make for a very clean campground). It was a pretty straight drive up to the south rim of the Grand Canyon, and we stopped first at the Kaibab National Forest Office to confirm where we could camp with the horses, then we drove into Grand Canyon Village to the Visitor’s Center for any additional maps and information, where we discovered that one of the two trails we were allowed on at the south rim (South Kaibab) was closed for renovations for two years (starting last spring), then was referred to the Backcountry office for permits, where they told us we didn’t need permits for day riding, and that parking lot where they usually allowed horse trailers didn’t exist anymore, so they suggested we go talk to the mule wranglers at the mule barn we had just passed to see if they would let us park there while we go on our day ride. Obviously, people bringing their own horses wasn’t typical, because everyone had a different idea about it, whether it was allowed and where. Anyway, we went down to the mule barn and talked to the mule boss, who was more than happy to let us park our trailer next to his barn. In fact, he even mentioned they would like to encourage more folks coming with their own stock. Be warned, though, your animals had better be in good shape if you intend to take them into the canyon, however we discovered there were trails up top as well, though there isn’t a trail map available. I got the impression it was mostly for the mule rides, but he seemed happy enough to have us share the trail. Having finished making those arrangements, we made one last stop at the campground area to stock up on water, both in the RV and in the horses’ 55-gallon drum. Then we headed east out of GCV, passed the Grand View turnoff on the left, went another two miles to a Forest Road turnoff on the right. In less than a mile on that gravel road (not too bad, we’ve been on worse), we came to a cattle guard that was the forest boundary. Within another 100 yards we found the perfect campsite on the right, a very nice stone fire ring, a great long driveway where we could park the RV and the horse trailer, and plenty of trees to hi-line the horses. Hubby even managed to get a satellite signal, and we were all moved in by our usual 5:00, when we celebrated with cocktail hour and a nice evening of rest. Can’t wait to get going for a ride in the Grand Canyon!

Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2010 – Shopping Day

For a national forest area, town was pretty close, less than 10 miles away, and I managed to get everything I needed, stopping at Safeway for groceries, Olson Grain for horse treats, and True Value for glue and a kind of shelf liner that was somewhat padded, and (would you believe!) brandy snifters to replace one Hubby had broken a few days before. I’ve never seen a True Value with so much cool household stuff, lots of stemware and kitchen items. I was also able to buy a fan, which we needed last week but all the big chain stores like Wal-mart and Home Depot had “de-stocked” because the seasons changed. Nevermind that there was a heat wave going on, with temps in Phoenix over 100 degrees! Why they don’t let managers have a little discretion is beyond me. Anyway, I picked one up anyway, figuring as we head south again we might need it, and I’d rather have it than try to find one even later on in the year. Got back late in the afternoon, spent some time getting ready for our departure tomorrow, then settled down for the night.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010 – Rain Day

Spent the day dodging raindrops and working on the computer. There’s a good cell phone signal here, so my internet connection is a good one. Having recently upgraded from using my phone as a modem to actually having a Verizon aircard, life has been a lot easier! Anyway, got caught up on a lot of work, and again, we were hoping to leave tomorrow, but the forecast is still for more rain, so we’ll probably hold off until Thursday, something I didn’t really want to do, but common sense prevails. Meanwhile, Hubby worked on the horse trailer, trying to cover up an open knot in the plywood that my horse keeps rubbing up against, which is scraping his leg until it bleeds. We need a few more supplies to finish the job, so we decided that tomorrow I would run into town and get everything we need so that we wouldn’t have to stop on our drive to the Grand Canyon on Thursday, as the forecast is still for more rain tomorrow.

Monday, October 4, 2010 – A Pleasant Ride

 Slept late, though Hubby felt better when we did get up, so after breakfast we saddled up and headed out the trailhead from the campground, through a gate behind the dumpster just a short ways from our campsite. The trail alternated between soft dirt and stony, so we were glad we had put the horses’ boots on before we left. Despite assurances from the very helpful campground host that the trails were well-marked and easy to follow, we managed to get turned around pretty quick, trying to get around a fallen tree, then heading off in the right direction. We corrected ourselves pretty quickly, backtracked and got back on the right path. After a short while, it became cloudy (as it had done for the past few days, with scattered thunderstorms, a much needed respite from the constant sunshine and heat we’ve been experiencing for months now!), and the temps dropped a bit. Then we got caught in a brief storm, with pea-sized hail, which the horses responded to by putting their tails into the wind. We figured that was just as good as anything else, so we put on our ponchos and waited it out, which was only a few minutes. Then we proceeded ahead, and the trails were pretty moderate, fortunately, no big ups and downs, at least not on the correct trail. At one point we lost our way again, and followed a path down a fairly steep incline to a dried stream bed, and when we couldn’t find a trail going out the other side, we realized we had gotten turned around again, and headed back up the incline to the “real” trail. That went up some more, then leveled off for a while. Meanwhile, the weather cleared up considerably, with spots of sun out before the afternoon was out. Not a bad ride, not really outstanding, but I have to say, Groom Creek Horse Camp is really a lovely spot, and worth the trip if you’re passing through. The trail we took was a 5 mile loop (plus our diversions :-), so we were back in about 3 hours, which was just about what we were in the mood for, though there are several other trails available as well. The weather had improved throughout the afternoon, at least until the end of the ride. When we got back, we had just finished putting the horses up and feeding and watering them when we felt a little sprinkle of rain. Moments after we got back into the RV, the sky opened up, the thunder cracked, the lightning flashed, and we had a real gully-washer of a rainstorm that lasted the next several hours. We found out later that a town nearby had several tornados, a rarity in northern Arizona, and there had been some flash flood warnings. We were thankful we got back in the nick of time! Though we had planned on leaving tomorrow, the weather forecast is for more rain, so we’ve decided to stay on another day or two until it clears up, no sense leaving if the weather’s bad both here and at our next stop, the Grand Canyon.

Sunday, October 3, 2010 – A Rest Day

Slept later than we’ve been able to, had a good night sleep, but Hubby had a bit of a sore throat, so he took a Tylenol and went back to bed. I got up and took care of the horses, then we had breakfast and watched a few morning shows. I worked on my blog for a good part of the afternoon, (which has been getting more and more behind. I haven’t sorted through my pix in so long I’m likely to not recognize them when I download them!), while Hubby watched TV. We’re both hoping to be fully recovered and to get a ride in tomorrow. We’ve more or less planned to stay here until Wednesday, then move up to the Grand Canyon, which is now only a few hours away. We’ve found out where to camp in the Kaibab National Forest, and pretty much where the trails are, so we’ll probably stay there until next Monday, when we’ll head out to Colorado. At least, that’s the plan for now!