Archives for June 2014

Monday, June 30, 2014 – Tough Day with Two Flat Tires, Travel to Transfer Camp

Neither Hubby nor I had a great night sleep, which is always the way when we are waiting for an extra early alarm to go off. Why is that? When you need the most sleep in the shortest hours, it seems you always wake up throughout the night, not getting the rest you really need. Anyway, we were up as soon as the alarm went off, and it didn't take long to finish putting everything away. Just after 7:00 we were ready to pull out when Hubby noticed one of the tires on the horse trailer was flat. So we put in a Fix-a-flat can and got out the compressor and generator and blew it up, and it seemed to be doing just fine. Said our final good-byes and slid out of camp around 7:40, just a little behind schedule, with a particularly long drive today. We decided to take US 84, which was slightly longer time-wise, but short mileage-wise, though it meant going through Santa Fe and hitting all the lights (which we did, naturally). Once we got out of there, it was pretty straight forward. Just before getting to Pagosa Springs, Hubby called me on the walkie talkie to tell me the tire had blown. Unfortunately there was no shoulder, so I pulled into a barn yard through a pretty narrow gate, but just enough room so I could turn around. Unfortunately when I did, I scraped my wheel well a bit on a big tree, not enough to crack the body, thank goodness, and I think I'll probably be able to compound out the scratches, but I suddenly hear a hissing sound, and found a hole in one of MY tires! The property owner showed up, a nice gentleman who was very helpful and let us use his yard. As Hubby started to work on getting the trailer tire off, I got out our plug kit and started in my tire, and with the owner's help, managed to get that fixed in no time. Then I helped Hubby get out the spare and got him up and running. All told, we lost just over an hour, back on the road just after 1:00, just about 14 miles from Pagosa Springs. When we got there, we stopped for fuel (Hubby was on fumes, thank goodness it was all downhill!), and grabbed a sandwich at Subway to sustain us for the rest of the drive. Headed west on 160 into Durango, we decided that since we had to come into town for a new tire this week anyway, and we were running so late, that we would forgo all the shopping we were going to do except fuel for the vehicles and head straight for Transfer Camp north of Mancos. Fortunately, that was only about 45 minutes more, and we rolled into the main campground around 4:00. Contrary to what I thought I heard about the place, there weren't spigots on every campsite, and in fact, the only spigot was one of those ridiculous ones with a spring handle (which was bad enough) and the kind of outlet you can't put a hose on, which made it much worse! Without some pressure, our long collapsible hose doesn't work at all, and even with a regular hose, we need some pressure to open the automatic valves inside the tank, so we were very frustrated. Fortunately, the camp host, a nice, simple man from California, allowed us to fill up from his faucet, which had a regular spigot on it, thank goodness. It was a slow pump, though, and it took quite a while to get filled up, until finally, we had a full tank. We headed around the corner to the horse camp, and found a nice little spot right next to one of the four very large corrals, with some small aspen trees, which I didn't expect. From the Google Earth shot it looked little more than a parking lot, but on the ground it was actually rather nice. Five rather small campsites, but with fire rings and picnic tables. We soon settled in, and even managed to get the satellite up, though we missed recording one of our shows, but believe it will be broadcast again next week. Hubby was a bit tired and testy by now, but some food and a brandy with his coffee made him an (almost) new man. This place is much quieter than the last, for which we are grateful, but it has a couple of other challenges. There is only one large water trough in the middle of the 4 corrals, with no faucet or spigot or water of any kind. Evidently there is a dude ranch that occasionally brings in a bunch of horses for weekend rides, and they bring a tank of water with them and pump it into the trough, but otherwise, there is no water available. Fortunately, we had enough in the tank in the horse trailer for the evening, but we'll definitely need to get more tomorrow. By the time we finished setting up, however, we noticed that there were cattle free-ranging the area, and we were wondering how they were going to affect our stay. Didn't know if this was typical, or if they broke out someplace and would be retrieved later. Anyway, we were too tired to worry about it, and went to bed early.

Sunday, June 29, 2014 – Best Ride Yet at Jack’s Creek!

Mountain Time has been good for us, we've been getting up earlier than usual, and having some pretty good night's sleeps as well! Managed to get out on the trail again by 11:00, this time heading to a place called Cave Creek. Where to get to the trail head was a mystery to me, despite having gotten several opinions from our neighbors, but we managed to just finish saddling up when another group from the campground left, so we tagged behind them, just close enough to keep an eye on which way they were going. Almost lost them once, but managed to figure it out. Down the hill to the northwest, across the road, parallel the road for a while, then down to the road again, make a right and stay on the road for about 80 yards, then the trail appears on the left. Take that to the campground, cross the creek and up the bank on the left to the road, make a right, take the left fork up the road (there's a small sign indicating a horse trail, up around the bend to the left, and the trail is on the right. Up the bank, and there's an intersection with several choices, one of which was, thankfully, Cave Creek. In about a quarter mile there was a fork with no sign, one going up to the left, the other down to the right. As we pondered which way to go, Hubby caught a glimpse of our lead party across in a field to the right, so we headed down to the right, crossed a creek, and were able to easily follow the well-marked trail from that point. What a busy trail! Granted, it was Sunday and there was a lot of day traffic, but joggers and hikers galore! No other horses than ours and the lead group. We haven't seen this much foot traffic since the Grand Canyon! Though we don't usually ride on Sundays, that's true. In any event, it was a great trail! Much less rocky than the previous two trails, though there were still a few spots that had some problems. Really nice, though. Apollo has settled down nicely, he was perfect today, no anxiety, no muss, no fuss, a very enjoyable day. We thought we found where the caves were, near a sign that said "No camping within 50 ft. Of stream", and we had been told it wasn't easy to find, but that turned out not to be the case. Just a bit further along, however, we found our other horse party, and they were hanging out there. The first one was essentially a hole in the wall of rock where the stream diverted into, leaving a dry river bed until it came back out of the wall downstream. About 50 or 75 yards further along was the more interesting feature, though, with three large cave entrances, large enough to easily walk into (and a lot of people were, as it was much cooler inside), with one of the holes being where the creek, once again, dropped into a hole in the ground. A great destination, and stayed there for a while and kept cool. Eventually the other horse party left, as did the several groups of hikers that came and went, until we were ready to head back. With two creek crossings, the horses were well watered along the way, the first time on the trail since we've been here. It was a beautiful and enjoyable day, perfectly blue sky, light breeze to keep it from getting too hot, the babbling brook that paralleled the trail, the forest with well-marked trails, what else could anyone ask for? A perfect day, the best day yet, and we've only been on the road a week! Speaking of, when we got back, we spent some time packing up and getting ready to leave bright and early. Since we filled our tank and yet only stayed four nights, we both got to luxuriate in a nice long shower after the work was done, the perfect ending to a glorious day!

Saturday, June 28, 2014 – Second Ride Day at Pecos Wilderness

Another early morning for us, our time clocks are really working well in this Rocky Mountain Time. I was up by 7:00, having gone to bed about 9:30, and reading till a little after 10:00. Best night sleep so far, fell right back to sleep after I woke up a couple of times, fewer times than most nights. Getting back to normal! Rasped Apollo's feet again, just to make sure the boots would go easily, though I still had to do a bit more on one, but finally they slid right on. Clio was another matter, got them on but had to force the back of them up over her heels. Out on the trail before 11:00, though, this time going to check out Round Mountain, which is a long, supposedly gradual climb. Well, I guess relatively speaking it was gradual, but it went on and on and on! More than 2.5 miles before we finally hit our high point at 10, 157 feet where we found ourselves in a beautiful field with at 360 degree absolutely gorgeous panoramic view! Stunning! We rested the horses and lay down on the grass for a while, luxuriating in the simple pleasures. The feel of the ground, the sound of the wind whistling through the nearby pines, the munching of the horses on the tufts of grass where we lay, the crystal blue sky, white fluffs of some kind of pollen racing past us on the wind by the millions. Heaven on earth! We lay there for quite a while, then a riding party of some of our camp neighbors went by, breaking the spell of being the only two people on earth. We waited a few more minutes before re-mounting and heading back down the mountain. We passed several hikers, caught up to the riding party that had stopped for some reason, and we continued past them, with Apollo straining to go faster and faster down the hill. It was all I could do to hold him back, I thought he'd be worn out after all that climbing, but he was still raring to go when we reached the campground, even cantering along the road to the campsite! He continued pawing all the way through his unsaddling and unbooting, I figured he must be thirsty so I got him into the corral right away, but he bypassed the water to flop down on the ground and roll! Then he stood up, shook himself, dropped himself down on his other side and rolled again! Then he got up and did the same thing again, over and over and over, at least half a dozen times on both sides. I've never seen him do that before, and I hope it isn't something symptomatic of colic. We've been trying to gradually move them over to a mix of their old coastal hay to this new mix of alfalfa, and I've been so afraid that too much alfalfa will cause it, but we've been really careful. Nevertheless, I'm thinking of dropping back to just one flake a day of the alfalfa mix, just in case. He's been acting so hyper, and I'm not sure if it was because of the month-long layoff, or if he's just really excited about being back on challenging trails every day, or if the alfalfa is just going to his head. Sure wish horses could talk! Anyway, once he was finished, he finally settled down, got a drink and took a nap, along with Mama, who was already sound asleep. In any event, it was a beautiful day, a fabulous ride, particularly grand because I know the folks down in the valley are sweltering and we're up here in perfect 80 degree weather, with the occasional cool wind coming down off the mountains. And yes, that's SNOW at the top of the mountains in a few of the pictures! Can't say enough about how gorgeous it is here. Only con is that there are a lot of stones and rocks on the trails, chipping their hooves in the back pretty badly, but it doesn't seem to have affected their performance. Tomorrow, we head west to someplace called Caves Creek or something like that. Again, we have to make it linear to keep it under 7 or 8 miles, but for those that like really LONG rides, and who are acclimated to the high altitude, most of the loops here (of which there are MANY) are at least 12-15 miles long, and all cover lots of terrain, mostly pretty steep up and down, so pretty challenging. Better have fit animals when you come here!

Friday, June 27, 2014 – First Ride Day At Jack’s Creek

Had a pretty good night's sleep, pretty quiet here, though there were a few early risers we heard talking a bit before we got up. Kind of surprising that it wasn't the mules in the corral next door, actually, I expected them to be our rooster while we were here, but they were quiet, too. Morning temps in the upper 40's so heat was certainly not a factor in the night! Had a good breakfast, then got the horses ready to go. Even though I had rasped Apollo's feet a little yesterday, I still had a little trouble putting his boots on, so I had to rasp him and Clio again. We didn't need boots at the last place, but this one apparently has rocky trails (typical in the mountains), so we saddled and booted and were on our way by about 10:30. We decided to take a trail that would lead us to the Iron Gate campground, which I had figured on Google Earth to be about 2.75 miles away, then return on the same trail. Tammy asked us to check in on a camper that was along the way as well. Headed out on a trail to the south, thinking there was only one trail out, but no sooner did we get out of the campground than it split in about 5 different directions, so we took a chance on the one that seemed to head downhill, which, according to my Google Earth-made map was the right one. The idea was to have an easy day in order to acclimatize everyone to the altitude, so down was better at first. The trail was rather rocky in some places, but a lot of just dirt, too. We did go gradually downhill, then uphill a bit, until we finally reached the bridge. At other intersections there had been signs to keep us on track for Iron Creek, but at the bride, the trail went straight up the creek or across the bridge with no indication which way to go. We went over the bridge, then carried on for just a few hundred yards before my GPS compass was saying we were going south, which wasn't right, and off the track as well, so we turned around (though later I was told it was the right way to Iron Creek, I'm still not convinced!) Anyway, we backtracked, then continued on the other trail just to find the campers, which we did, checked in on them, then headed back. We had already gone two miles, and we didn't want to make it a long day, so that was enough. The only challenge was that Apollo was incredibly frisky this morning. He was so excited to be back on engaging trails that Clio was having to trot just to keep up with his walk, so I was having to slow him down. Once we left the bridge and headed back he started to get so antsy I had to get down and run him around in circles for a few minutes, just to calm him down a bit. Once he settled down we continue on our way, and at the first opportunity on an uphill slope, I gave him permission to run, and run he did! He galloped for a dozen strides before the terrain forced him to slow down, but he went like a maniac up that hill! I was hanging on tight, and Clio and Hubby were the same, riding like we stole 'em! Apollo was a little better after that, and by the time we got back to camp, having taken an alternate route back up the hill, he was actually willing to stand still for a couple of minutes while we chatted with Tammy, the first time he had stood still all day. Well, as Hubby said, "Wouldn't you rather have a frisky horse than a dull one?" Yes, as long as he doesn't go crazy on me : -). I told Apollo I was looking forward to seeing how he behaves on Day Three. Anyway, we spent the rest of the day relaxing, reading, watching TV, while our bodies continued to acclimatize. Looking forward to another ride tomorrow!

Thursday, June 26, 2014 – Travel Day to Jack’s Creek in Santa Fe National Forest

Up at the crack of dawn again, out by just after 7:00, first stop Walmart in Clovis to do our shopping, as there wasn't another one on the way for the rest of the trip. Grabbed a bit at McDonalds (AWFUL compared to the great breakfast sandwich we had the on Tuesday!) And headed northwest on 84. I had arranged to pick up some hay/alfalfa mix in a little town called Ribera, which was on the way, though it turned out he was south of town, making it a bit more out of the way, and once we got close by my cell phone ran out of signal, so I lost track of his directions. I turned on to the county road he mentioned, but before going a hundreds yards, the road became WAY to narrow, and I wasn't about to try to get my big rig back there. A helpful biker came by and confirmed it was the right road, and he was kind enough to lead Hubby there, who confirmed that NO WAY could I have gotten down that road, and that he, in fact, almost didn't make it! I had even told Joe, the hay guy, that I had a big rig, and asked if there was room to turn around, and he said yes, but he never mentioned the rest of the road was impassable! Anyway, they loaded a small pickup with the 13 bales I needed to top off, and we got it loaded up. It took us about twice as long as I had allotted for the diversion, but we finally got on the highway again just after 2:00. Turning north at Pecos, we followed a long and windy road, though fortunately paved, nearly 28 miles until it ended at the campground, with the equestrian campground veering off to the right. It was packed! The wide open, hilly field, with one loop driveway, was crammed with day riders and campers. Miraculously, there was one open side (well, actually it was a double site, but since we had two vehicles we didn't mind paying for both), and we quickly filled the RV with water and moved in. Hubby had already gotten the horses moved into their corrals (4 in all at that site) and then proceeded to fill up one of the portable rain barrels in the back of the horse trailer. It wasn't too long before we got settled in, satellite dish up and running. Water here is at two different spigots, both of which had a spring loaded handle, and, of course, the consummate stone laying near the bottom of the pipe for propping it open. The camp host, Tammy, was very nice, and lent us a map I could copy so we at least had some idea of what the trails were like, and I spent a little time talking to our neighbors, one from Georgia and another from Texas, who had met the night before at a popular stopover in Tuscarosa (?) and who both happen to be coming here. As we're at about 8800 feet altitude, it was a bit of a challenge getting all our chores done without getting out of breath, but we managed pretty well. Had to chock the tires with big stones and disconnect the truck in order to get even moderately level because of the slope of the site, and didn't quite make it even then, but at least we're not so steep we're stumbling around (hey, that happens!) Of course, no cell phone signal, so we'll be incommunicado while we're here. Nice and quiet! Unfortunately, someone had come into the camp the night before and stolen a saddle and some other tack, so we were advised to lock everything up, which is such a shame, since that's atypical of horse camps. I guess there's a feud going on between the locals and the Federal authorities, hope it doesn't escalate into anything while we're here. Anyway, there's supposedly a 30 minute every 3 hour limit on generator use, so we cranked ours up and charged the batteries in a hurry. Had a little trouble getting them to stay on, they kept cutting from charging rpm to idling rpm, so we had to use both for the job, which is unusual. Will look at it again tomorrow. To bed early, in preparation for our ride tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 25, 3014 – Our First and Only Ride at Oasis State Park

Such a great night sleep! Other than waking up once and having a hard time getting back to sleep, we both slept very well, and it cooled down so much, at one point I was tempted to reach for another blanket! Perfect! Let ourselves sleep in to help with adjusting to the time change, had breakfast, and were out saddling the horses by 10:30, though it seemed later. It had been very cloudy earlier, and we actually had some rain overnight (I had to get up and close the vents and a couple of side windows), but by the time we got on the trail, it was just starting to clear up. We headed out west of the ranger station and around the workshop area, quickly coming to the park boundary, and headed cross country to the "sand dunes" promised on the map. We had been warned twice about the snakes out here (diamondbacks and sidewinders), and sure enough, just after climbing the first ridge, I heard a small squeal, and saw a snake had just wrapped itself around some kind of small mammal. Not sure what it was, it was wrapped so tight, but I guess I'll say it was lunch for the snake. In any event, as it was obviously occupied, we bypassed it and continued on. Very shortly afterward, we came across another dune, though an actual trail was a bit more challenging. We finally found something that looked like it would pass as a trail and followed it up over another ridge. From there we saw the campground just on the other side! Already? I checked my map again, and sure enough, we had already crossed "the dunes!" I knew this place was small, but I didn't realize it was a postage stamp! We followed the road around, passing several work areas, including an out of order dump, and a crew that was putting up cement block walls to create a small pavilion at every site along that loop, as well as putting cement pads in on top of perfectly useful gravel pads. What a waste of taxpayer money! This tiny little park, and they're spending tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars to upgrade it beyond what it needed. Crazy! We kept following the road until we came to the "lake." More like a fishing pond, it had been stocked and several families were dipping poles around the perimeter. It was also surrounded by a cement break wall, and was smaller than some holding ponds I've seen in developments in Florida. Managed to find the trail that circled the pond, stopping by a bench for a pic, then headed back around, trying to find any additional trails to follow. Tried one that actually had a sign at the trailhead, but all the trees were very low, requiring us to duck under limbs, and only served as a "sidewalk" of sorts between the bathhouse and the regular campground loop. Not exactly inspiring trail riding. In all, we managed to clock up nearly 2.2 whole miles! Well, at least it got us back in the saddle again, after nearly a month, and the horses got to stretch their legs a little bit. Apollo was a bit antsy with all the rest and the activity going on in the park, but he behaved himself. I took a rasp to his feet when we got back, just to keep his feet in shape. Last month I had a guy come out and do them professionally, he did a real nice job and explained a few things to me (always something new to learn!), so I want to keep them in as good a shape as I can, by rasping early and often. Spend the afternoon catching up on my blog and confirming a hay pickup, ready for a relaxing evening and another early morning tomorrow! A bit lengthier drive, plus with a couple of stops, plus another climb of 4000+ feet in altitude, it promises to be a long and tiring day!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014 – Travel to Oasis State Park, Portales, NM

Once again up at the crack of dawn, got out even earlier as we had less to pack and the horses were in pipe corrals, so no high line or portable corral to put away. Hubby had a great night sleep and was feeling much better today, thank goodness. The radar showed two huge patches of rain, one north and one south, but we timed it just right to get out between the two. We didn’t stop until we go just about past them, when we went into a cute little cafe on the corner in a small town, where they made us about the best breakfast sandwich we’d ever had! Fried egg, bacon, cheese and some hash browns between a couple of pieces of thick bread, almost Texas Toast. Delicious! Filling, too, it held us for most of the day. Arrived at Oasis State Park around 1:00, with just one stop to top off fuel in Lubbock, found the cheap stuff thanks to my Gas Buddy app! A good 15 cents a gallon cheaper than every station nearby. Love it! No trouble finding the park, but it was kind of disappointing. The “horse camp” was just a small loop right across from the ranger station and work shop area, so naturally it was the busiest and noisiest place in the park. There were no corrals, and all the trees in the campground were pretty dead. The ground was really uneven, so even it I had been able to put up a highline, they would have been standing on a slant. Eventually, we decided to put up the portable corral across the driveway from us, there was one tree that still had a few leaves on it (the only shade around), and the ground wasn’t too bad. At least we could see them right outside the window. Got them settled, and us settled in shortly thereafter, only about 2:30 when we finished, then realized we had entered Mountain Time, so we gained an hour. Spent the afternoon once again looking for hay (New Mexico still has little grass hay, almost all alfalfa) and found two places on the way to our next stop, one with pure alfalfa @ $10 a bale, and another with a grass/alfalfa mix for $9.50. Think we’ll go for the mix, straight alfalfa just isn’t what I want my horses on. Anyway, once the rangers left for the day, it was nice and quiet, just one tent on the far side of the horse camp (sans horses, of course), and we as it had been cloudy all day, the temps had never gotten quite as high as predicted. Once the sun went down, it cooled off nicely, and we’re looking forward to mid-60’s sleeping weather tonight! Hope so, as we have no electricity, so no AC unless we want to gang up both generators, but honestly don’t think that will be necessary. Looking forward to a good night sleep!

Monday, June 23, 2014 – Finally on the Road Again!!

Set the alarm for the crack of dawn, did our final packing within an hour, and were on the road at 7:18 am, raring to go! Unfortunately, Hubby had a terrible night sleep, but we were determined to get out today, no excuses, so off we went. Stopped at H.E.B. to top off our fuel tanks and at Whataburger to do the same for our stomachs, and headed west by northwest! It was already warm by the time we go going, not surprising since it didn’t get below 75 degrees overnight, with high humidity, but we passed through a couple of light rain storms and it cooled down just a bit. Arrived in San Angelo by noon, stopping at H.E.B. for fuel again, then followed the GPS to the State Park. Of course, I had forgotten that the GPS actually takes me to a utility building rather than an office, so we were re-directed to the south park entrance, paid our crazy fees there, then headed another 8 miles to the horse camp. One other camper was there, looked like the host from the appearance of the big corral and bikes laying around. We used the dump first, doing a good flush, then got the horses and everyone else squared away, all settled in by about 2:00, satellite and all. Hubby fell asleep in his recliner, which was a good thing because he was so tired, while I got a few other things done on my computer, including trying to find some hay. More scarce than I thought it would be, this is going to be a challenge! Only spending the night here, as the heat is forecast to be just as scorching as ever, and we want to get north asap! To be VERY early, with the alarm still set for an early morning, as our next leg is an hour longer than today’s.