Archives for August 2010

Monday, August 30, 2010 – Drive Day to Dru Barner Horse Camp, Georgetown, CA

Had a much less eventful drive day today (thankfully!), at least once we got off the mountain. I was naturally concerned about getting down the last descent without losing brakes, but fortunately, since it was still cool when we left, the brakes stayed cool as well. Easy freeway driving most of the way. Stopped at a Wal-Mart Supercenter and did some shopping, and was solicited by a rather nice fellow in the parking lot to take some of the dents out of the pickup, something that had been offered before but we refused. This time, we accepted, him having made an offer we could hardly refuse. It was finished and looked quite nice, even had a layer of wax on it to polish it off, a great improvement. Then we headed off to the Georgetown Ranger Station where I finally got to meet Cindy, who had graciously answered numerous questions during several phones calls previously. We spent about half an hour looking at all the trail maps (they even have a bandanna with the trail maps on it! What a great idea!), finding a place nearby where we could dump (expensive, but worth not having to go farther), and getting us out to the campground. With 48 campsites, and so many trails, we were sure the place would be quite busy, but other than one family tenting, no one was here! We were surprised. We were told that ORV’s do use some of the multi-use trails, but some trails here are equestrian only (though we were also told sometimes the dirt-bikers ignored that sign), so now we’re curious why this place is so underutilized. Guess we’ll find out better when we go riding. Anyway, Cindy sent another ranger, who is their local horse expert, out to visit with us, and she chatted with Hubby while I was off dumping a few miles up the road. Despite the fact it is almost completely forested, clever and resourceful Hubby managed to find the ONE site that might be able to get a satellite signal, and it was plenty big enough for both vehicles, with room to spare. No corrals, but plenty of trees to highline the horses comfortably. Got set up, grateful we were in early, relatively speaking, even got the satellite dish up before we settled in. AND I’m getting 3 bars on my cell phone… Yeah!

Sunday, August 29, 2010 – Rest Day

Only did a few things in preparation for our departure tomorrow, otherwise watched movies and relaxed all day, taking a much needed day off!

Saturday, August 28, 2010 – Ride Day at Mendocino

Much of the National Forest is dedicated to ORV’s, in fact, from the look of the place, this would be the place to train if dirt bikes were an Olympic sport, but the wilderness is off-limits to them, so that’s where we headed. The ranger station had a fabulous, expensive, water-resistant map of the ORV trails, but nothing on the equestrian trails. I had managed to persuade one of the workers down at the ranger station to photocopy a map of the wilderness they had hanging on the door, just enough so we could plan our trail day, but it wasn’t terribly revealing. At least it would (hopefully) keep us from getting lost. We headed out around 11:00. The first mile or so was pretty good, not too stony, fairly wide trails with just ordinary hill and dale kind of riding. Once we crossed the creek, it was another story! First there were two adolescents shooting off a gun or fireworks or something within 20 yards of the trail (in spite of a very visible sign at the trail head about having to be 150 yards off the trail), but some hikers we met earlier had warned u they were there, and we heard them as we approached. They didn’t hear us, though, and there was a couple of exchanged with them getting them to quit while we passed, which they did for about 10 seconds. Fortunately our guys are getting so used to hearing gunshots in the forest they hardly pay it any mind anymore. Then, we started climbing… and climbing… and climbing. No pesky switchbacks here, most of the trail went practically straight up! The further we went, the narrower the trail got, and in some places, we were literally hugging the side of the mountain, with the trail only about a foot wide, and in some cases, sloping DOWNHILL, with a precipitous dropoff an inch away. The trail had gotten rocky, so we had stopped to put boots on, and parts of the trail was loose rocks and dirt, making the liklihood of a slip much greater. Five miles of uphill climb! Not fun unless your horse likes to pretend he’s a mountain goat! We finally reached a point where we could stop for lunch, where I climbed up to a peak for a better view. It was an okay view, nothing as spectacular as many others I’ve seen, and certainly not worth all the work to get there. We hadn’t quite reached the crossroads where several other loops joined this trail, and appeared to be more level on the top of the mountain, but frankly by this time, we had had enough. We headed back down, down, down, slipping and sliding a lot of the way. Going straight down isn’t fun for anyone, but our guys were troopers the whole way. Thank goodness they’re so good! If there had been even a little bit of a fuss, someone would have been down the slope at the bottom of the mountain, bleeding or dead. By the time we got home we were exhausted again. We gave the horses an extra ration of grain as a reward, then flung ourselves into our recliners. It was then that we made the decision to leave on Monday, although originally we were going to stay until Tuesday. Neither of us wanted to ride these trails again, and not being able to have a cell phone signal nearby was problematic, as we had so many irons in the fire work-wise right now. Freedom is wonderful, it certainly allows for last minute changes without any fuss!

Friday, August 27, 2010 – In Search of a Cell Phone Signal

Spent the day trying to find a cell phone signal. I actually found just up the hill from the campground, but for some reason I couldn’t call out on it. Maybe it was roaming, or a competitor or something, but I just couldn’t get through. One of the rangers had told me that sometimes you can get a signal down by the lake, which was another 5 or 6 miles further up the road, so off I went. The road quickly turned to gravel, in some places very rough, mostly narrow. Again, it took a long time to get there. Once there, I couldn’t even get a signal, much less a usable one. Rather than let the trip go to waste, I took the time to refill the horses’ barrel, as we had already used up a third of it, and I didn’t want to make that trip again! I headed back to the campsite, filled all the buckets and tubs again, then headed down the mountain, still searching. I finally received a signal… about the time I got to the ranger station! I’ve never seen such a dead zone! Well, I filled up the barrel again, then went down to the local general store (one of about 3 buildings in town), bought some tomatoes, then found a shady spot to get online, which, at last, I could do. Did some work, even got a phone call from a potential new client, would you believe! After about an hour or so, I headed back up the mountain, which only took 45 minutes in the pickup truck. I only hope the trails are worth it!

Thursday, August 26, 2010 – Another Long and Windy Drive Day

Got out by 8:30, after putting the 5-gallons of gas into the van, which was in the red and dinging at me, drove through the Redwood Forest, which, of course, is gorgeous, but it was a narrow road, and although it was paved, it was rough, like there was no foundation, which seems to be typical in the area for some reason. This area of California has the worst roads we’ve ever seen, and it’s not just a recent phenomenon, they show signs of long-term neglect. Things improved somewhat once we got onto 101, but even that was only freeway part of the way, some of it was windy, twisty back roads. Stopped for gas and a sub at the first place we could before pressing on. We arrived at our crossroads before noon, trying to decide whether to go to Jackson State Forest, 17 west, or Mendocino National Forest, which was east, then north, then west. A lot farther, but at least it would be at a higher elevation, so probably cooler. It didn’t make sense to stop that early, so we decided on the latter, also knowing it would be hotter in the valley. So off we went. Route 20 across the south end of the forest was a good road, and it didn’t take us long to get to I-5. Though Gracie was telling me to take a shortcut, I had already spoken to the woman at the ranger’s office, and she said that shortcut was twisty and gravel and hilly, so we took the longer way. We arrived at the ranger station just after they had closed, but had been told we could help ourselves to the hose outside the office, so we filled up the RV, the big horse tank, and everything else we could get our hands on, as there was no water at the campground, not even for the horses. Then things REALLY started getting interesting. The road into the forest was by far one of the scariest, twistiest, and more heartstopping we had ever been on. The first climb was very twisty and steep and narrow, but fortunately, not too long. The subsequent descent was not as steep, but still narrow and twisty, so we took our time. The next climb wasn’t quite as steep as the first, but it was LONG and twisty, very narrow, and had dropoffs that put the fear of God into us. You remember “the bus to Cartegena” that Joan Wilder climbed onto in the movie Romancing the Stone? When she looked out her window and it went straight down? It was like that, only without the comfort of a jungle to land on, only rock. Just when we didn’t think it could get any worse, the last mile or so had potholes big enough to swallow a VW bug, absolutely impossible to get around. So needless to say, it was slow, slow, slow going. Although it was only 12 miles from the ranger station to the campground, it took us over an hour to get there. A white-knuckle drive like this one wasn’t exactly what we had in mind for this late in the day, but we didn’t have any choice. In for a penny, in for a pound! The entrance to the campground was down about 20 yards, then a sharp switchback for another 20 before entering. None of the campsites were really big enough for us, (or anything in the form of a camper, really), except one site that was fortunately next to the corrals, which was really a two-sided group corral. We managed to fit in well enough to not block any traffic, got set up and tried to relax. What a couple of tough days!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010 – Bad GPS, Bad Day

Got up by 7:30, had a quick breakfast, then ran up to my cell phone spot to try to confirm our plans for the day. Turns out there is a new horse camp in Mendocino National Forest, despite the convictions of the woman I spoke to yesterday. I found it on, but wanted to get it confirmed, which I did this morning. I also called the Jackson State Forest, which is on the way, and learned much more about their horse camp as well. Both seemed suitable, so now we had choices. I looked up a few others, and called to get enough information to be confident if something changed our plans. Boy, was I in for a surprise today! Our plans changed big time. We followed the directions to the Mendocino Horse Camp provided by both Gracie (my Verizon GPS) and Google maps. There was only one road into the Mattole Beach, and at the crossroads, only two ways out, north and south. We came in from the north, which was really hairy, and now were had to go south. After many miles of windy, twisty, mostly paved roads we arrived in the tiny town of Honeydew, where we had a choice to go northeast through the Humboldt Redwood Forest to 101, or southeast, which was a direct route to Mendocino. All maps pointed southeast, so away we went. Within a few miles, we started climbing, and before long, the road turned from pavement to gravel, then suddenly went steeply uphill, then into a very sharp switchback with very soft ground. It was so bad, Hubby couldn’t even make it up with the pickup truck hauling our little two-horse trailer. We knew we were in trouble. The road was very curvy before we got to that point, and the gravel made it quite slippery, so we knew we couldn’t just back down the hill. The only saving grace was that there was another, rougher gravel road going straight out of the switchback, but was so steep I didn’t have a chance. So Hubby managed, struggling, to turn around and go down the hill to a narrow pullout just below me. We unloaded the horses, unhooked the trailer, then attempted to use the pickup to help me up the hill like we did in Wyoming that time. No go. Part of the problem was that I had so overheated the engine that it didn’t have any power, making me fear I had blown the engine, plus I had been low on gas, and with the nose pointed upward, the gas had fallen out of reach of the pump. So we used our container of generator gas to shore up my gas supply, and popped the hood hoping to help the engine cool. Hubby then drove the pickup back to Honeydew to see if he could find help. The nearest tow service was two hours away, but we figured if we could get a good four-wheel drive truck up there it might do the trick. Hubby returned relatively quickly with just the truck, Bob, who owned the little grocery/hardware store and gas station (the only center of commerce) in town. He hooked up, and was soon pulling me up the gravel road off to the side. After several attempts, I managed to back up the RV without falling into a ditch or off the side of the mountain sufficiently up the hill to turn around. Whew! Another close call! Filled our 5-gallon gas can with regular gas (all Bob had besides diesel), and went on our way. We tried to give him some money before we left, but being a true good semaritan, he refused all offers. All said and done, though, it took several hours, and as it was already going to be a long day, we had to skip Plan A (Mendocino) and Plan B (Jackson State Forest), and go to Plan C, Cuneo Horse Camp in the Humboldt Redwood Forest. We were avoiding that one because it was $35 a night, plus $8 for a second vehicle, and worse, less than 30 miles as the crow flies from where we started in the morning, but under the circumstances, we were just too tired and stressed out to carry on, particularly as there wasn’t any place else we could find. Fortunately, it was right on the road we were on, and the camp host, Sharon, met us at the end of the driveway (she’d been alerted we were coming when I called for directions), and after some dickering, she agreed to give us the senior discount (a whopping $3 off), and not charge us for the extra vehicle. Apparently, it used to be $20/night, but the state raised it to $35 last year. We discovered later that that had caused a precipitous drop in attendance, so whatever revenue the state had hoped to gain actually resulted in a drop of income. Typical tax and spend thinking, I’m afraid. Anyway, Sharon helped us get settled in, we put the horses in corrals, wrote a check, was told dogs must be on a leash at all time because of baby deer and bears and other various wildlife they covet at this park. Then we were told our generator would have to be off by 8:00 pm and we couldn’t put it on again until 10 am, a moot point as we would be long gone by then. Unfortunately, we had forgotten to turn the inverter off this morning, so the batteries didn’t charge very much (we have an energy drain on the system somewhere, we haven’t been able to find it yet), so by 8:30, in the middle of a movie, the batteries died. Hubby read for a while, I worked on my computer, but we were asleep by 9:30, exhausted from the stresses of the day.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010 – Birthday and a Tough Ride

Today was my birthday, rec’d lots of unexpected greetings on my Facebook page when I checked my email. Then I started making calls, trying to confirm where we were going next. Turned out the “camp” I thought we were going to wasn’t really a horse camp, and couldn’t be reached with a rig our size anyway. That left me scrambling to find an alternative. Everywhere I called seemed to say no, no, no. I left a message at Jackson State Forest (there office was only open from 9-12 Tuesday-Thursday, with Fridays off, so I missed them. I left a message, then continued to keep calling other possibilities. Several hours later, I was no further ahead and feeling very frustrated. I didn’t really want to spend my birthday hearing nothing but negatives. I finally gave up, leaving it until tomorrow, because I still wanted to get a ride in today. Got back around 3:00, managed to saddle up quickly and move out, but both horses were not in the mood. We struggled with them for several miles on the southbound trail before finally giving up and heading back up the beach northbound again. My gelding was a bit more cooperative, but Hubby’s mare was entirely not interested in those thundering waves. Passed a couple of intriguing clam beds, though, almost considered grabbing some, but didn’t want the horses to get any more anxious than they already were. Got back to camp, and decided to give them a quick wash, as the sticky stuff from the local weeds had really been destructive on their faces and below their chins. Had a decent lamb meal after that, then decided to again ride the horses up to see the sun set. Hubby has never gone bareback before, but decided to try it out for that short ride up the berm. He hopped up from the picnic table, and after just a few moments, his horse made a tight circle and, not being used to it, he came tumbling down. I helped him up, and he insisted on getting back up, so we tried it again. This time I stayed with him longer until both he and his mare had gotten used to the idea. Then I fixed up my gelding and jumped on him and off we went. It was another beautiful, clear sunset, and the horses did a great job, behaving themselves despite their earlier obstinance. Headed back afterward and relaxed for the rest of the evening, not sure what tomorrow will bring!

Monday, August 23, 2010 – Cleaning Day

As we had a source of water, we decided it was high time to do a good cleaning of the vehicles. They all had a cover of dirt months old, so we scrubbed and scrubbed, getting everything looking sharp. How long it will last is anybody’s guess, but it was worth doing. It took most of the day, added to a short trip to check email and phone messages, so we were exhausted by the day’s end. We had just enough energy after dinner to go watch the sun set, although this time, I decided to ride my gelding bareback without a halter, while Hubby walked his mare up. My gelding did a wonderful job of standing still while we watched the sun set, again on a beautiful evening, then, as we turned to head back toward camp, we discovered a nearly full moon rising above the opposite landscape, atop the hills behind us. It was spectacular! A quick walk back, a movie, and then to bed.

Sunday, August 22, 2010 – Short Ride North

Only took a short ride today, heading north along the edge of the Mattole River, which was quite wide, but with low tide there was a sandbar across along the beach side. We didn’t go too far, only to a large rock in the water, to see if it was birds or seals sitting on it. Turned out to be birds, seagulls. The horses don’t really like the hard slog in the sand, and the crashing waves weren’t the most calming thing for them either. Plus the beach on that side was littered with driftwood the size of redwoods, so we had to keep them close to the shore, and they fussed a bit about that. Only stayed out about an hour, but it was pleasant enough, being another crisp, gorgeous day, all sunny and temps in the low 70’s. At sunset, we once again sojourned up the berm to watch the sun set on another beautiful day.

Saturday, August 21, 2010 – Ride to the Lighthouse Day

Woke up again to cloudy and misty skies, a bit of a cool wind coming off the water. While the rest of the country is suffering heat waves, we’re wearing sweatshirts here! Thoroughly enjoying the temps, though, they’re perfect for riding. Saddled up and out before noon, headed up the trail at the base of the hills the track along the beach. The trail was pretty sandy, but slightly firmer than the sand at the last beach. While Wild Mare had a light-colored sand, this beach is dark gray, turning black when it gets wet. There was also enough vegetation to walk on, making it a lot more comfortable for the horses, although is some spots we had no choice but to walk on the beach to get around atolls that pushed out toward the sea. A very dramatic coastline, with big rocks along parts of the beach, and cliffs that go almost straight up from the beach. We headed south toward the Punta Gorda lighthouse, which turned out to be a rather short stubby lighthouse that hadn’t been in use since 1951, but it had a placard that explained how difficult it was to have been built, how the materials had to be highlined from a ship, and how it was being built after a tragic shipwreck that took 80+ lives. Interesting. I climbed a very narrow circular staircase with a very small opening at the top (they were definitely small in those days!) to view the sea from above. Took a few pix, then headed back down and back down the beach. Just before reaching the lighthouse, we came across a small homestead, all wood and few amenities, with two or three out buildings, tucked up in a small cove next to the largest stream we had passed since we left camp. At first we thought it must just be someone’s vacation cabin, but we both saw someone moving around inside. Obviously someone who truly likes isolation! We didn’t see any vehicles or animals, though I guess there might have been one in one of the outbuildings. No signs of electricity, no TV antenna or satellite dish, and I can imagine it gets mighty cold in the winter! Maybe it is just a summer place. Also, just south of the campground, there was an area fenced off with a couple of placards describing the archeological significance of the place, the remains of an Indian encampment. Apparently, the local Mattole tribe came here every summer dating back several thousand years, and evidence shows the shoreline has been receding over that time due to the movement of the tectonic plates, because the older remains are farther inland. We love these places that provide a bit of history! It was a lovely ride, we passed several hikers and the goat guy along the way. Got back in fine shape after about three hours, just right. Relaxed the rest of the day, ran out once to check email and phone messages, and walked up to the beach to watch the sun set (a ritual shared by virtually everyone in the campground) before settling in for the night.