18. October – Another crazy day. Last night’s camp was only 1/2 mile or so before Dimmick. Less than 6 months ago Gryph and i took a canoe down the Navarro River from Dimmick to the Ocean. Today, less than a mile past Dimmick there were big trees down across and in the river – rendering it impassible. We tried. There was no discernable road south of the river, 128 was close and scary with traffic to the north – back and forth through the river trying to sort a way through. Jesse lost a boot and i went all the way back to camp trying to find it to no avail. I put a rear boot on his front hoof, grateful that he’s the same size front and back. Long stretches of belly-deep river were hard on Finehorn – deeper on her and the packs ride low enough that they were displacing water and dragging on her. She was brave, but is really tired tonight! Finally we returned to Dimmick, summoned all our courage, and rode along 128 until we found an MRC road heading back towards the river – rode around the gate, back across the river and finally found our trail. Gryph and Vaca Suerte did much better today, after a bad morning – Vaca refusing to stand tied, breaking a D-ring off the saddle in her fidgeting and crashing about – she finally settled down and by the end of the day she and Gryph were ponying a flagging Finehorn.
We’d set 5pm as the “camp-by” time. Half-joking, we’d put it out there: at 5pm we’ll find the perfect campspot, with water and graze for the ponies and a good place to camp. We passed a few possibilities, none of them ideal, and at 5pm were just about to turn around when, at exactly 5pm, we saw a baby rabbit in the trail ahead. Laughing, we followed it down the rabbit hole into a strange place – trailers and a porta-loo – odd old shacks – gorgeous green grass in a stand of mature poplar – funky little houses – gardens and a retired Clover Dairy truck “outstanding in her field” – a dome – cars and trucks and a hoop house and tidy vacation cottages – all this and not a soul to be found! We found a smallish pasture with sheep fence and some sheds and decided, with a certain amount of trepidation, to make ourselves at home. i went up the road to a cottage i’d seen with a garden hose outside and carried 8 gallons of water back in the canvas buckets while Gryph got started on dinner (lentils, couscous, onion, curry, butter). At dusk a white truck pulled up to the electric-tape gate we’d strung. I walked over and asked the driver if he knew who owned the place. “I do.” I explained our situation and A agreed to let us stay, asked if we had everything we needed. I said yes, we try to be pretty self-sufficient, thanked him for allowing us to stay and for being cool about finding us there. We threw tarp and bedrolls down in the wee old goat shed and slept well. It took us 4 1/2 hours to get rolling again this morning, however, Finehorn’s pack stayed centered today even with all the drama. A mile from the ocean on night 4
19. Oct. – Paul Dimmick Campground. We made it to the Pacific today. There were signs up warning us to stop – the ocean was closed due to flooding – but we rode through to the shore regardless, wading through puddles to an empty beach, windblown past the abandoned Inn, gulls wheeling over log-strewn stretches of sand and water, a fishing boat and a lone pelican. We took photos and turned back Eastward – to the Atlantic.
A stopped by in the morning, sent me to his house where i was welcomed by A and 2 1/2 year old S. I called Dr. F who came by the pasture at 9am for health certificates and cogggins tests for the ponies – diagnosed Vaca Suerte’s rain rot, but otherwise we’re in good shape. A&S returned with me to the pasture bringing Red Gala apples for the ponies (and a few for Gryph and i as well) – the ponies at apples ’til they drooled green foamy slobber all over the stroller and S’s clean blond hair. Beautiful ride today, tho Finehorn’s pack slipped a lot at 1st, had to be reset 2x. Frustrating for all of us – she’s so patient and good. 4 hours pack-up time this morning, even with the vet check and visits.
20. Oct. – Gypsy Camp on Flynn Creek – too close to 128 – but 5:30pm found us here with graze and water and a semi-flat tent spot. Horses happy after a long day and a less-than-ideal camp (from their perspective) last night. Jesse was barely speaking to me last night, even after i fed him an extra ration of oats (holding the skillet as he ate) – he’s back on board this morning after a good graze by the river and sharing my apple. He lost a boot on the way up today, i hiked back down hill a fast 10 minutes to find it, then hiked back up again to where Gryph waited with the ponies. Still hard to take a deep breath around my ribs. We went up a road not on our DeLorme map – A. said it went up to Navarro Ridge road and we got there with compass, map, and the GPS on the camera. Camera battery now dead and it’s the one piece of tech we can’t charge en route. Beautiful high ridges today, up above the fog…
21. Oct. – Navarro Masonite Boy Scout Camp – another long day of backtrack. Late start this morning. Gryph hike/hitched to the Navarro Store this morning for a re-supply (bread,cheese,folgers,craisins,ham,snickers) while i packed up camp. Ponies did well on the mile of 128 and we stopped in at the Mendocino Redwood Company (MRC) office where K checked our permits and gave us better topo maps. We still took a wrong road – long and rugged – we were finally turned back by an avalanche, a deep ravine and two downed trees Xed across the trail – this after a tree we’d sawed through and a log that Finehorn, laden with the huge pack that she was struggling to carry safely through the narrow overgrown trail, had to jump! Jesse crawled over one leg at a time, brushing his belly. Steep ledges and tall glorious plume-topped grasses, thick brush and rocky footing – gorgeous and treacherous – and a wrong trail. At 4:45, mindful of distance and daylight, we turned back to known water for the ponies and stumbled into the boyscout at 6pm. Frustrating!
To a large extent our day’s ride is determined by the ponies – we are pushing them hard – our getting lost is not regainable ground. They can do a certain # of miles a day (or hours on this terrain – or hours under saddle – esp. Finehorn whose load never dismounts) and then they’re done. When we take a wrong turn or cast about back and forth looking for the trail we are wasting their energy, feet, enthusiasm – along with the cost in time. Blessedly the weather is holding. Cannot imagine these days while also constantly drenched.
Finehorn and Jesse both tethered long last night and did well. Tonight there’s a hitching rail – Finehorn and Vaca tied so their noses can reach the ground, Jesse on long tether. Hearing lots of Coyotes from our boyscout tent tonight – hung bearbags from camp gate proclaiming “YoKaYo” overhead – wouldn’t foil a bear (not high enough) or even a determined raccoon – but out of the tent and away from mice and most other varmints – and there’s plenty of other food for critters this time of year.
22. Oct. – Day of Rest @ the Boy Scout camp – hot showers and a dryer (for clothes we washed in the shower) – a break for the horses with grass that needed mowing and a chance to do some mending and recharge the camera (GPS) battery. It’s breaking down camp day and there are 30 people about – two ceremonies planned for the afternoon. We moved out of the tent into an Adirondack style shelter across the way – met the friendly caretaker and his puppy – enjoyed the luxury of an outhouse and a place to spread out our gear and take a look at what we were carrying that we could probably do without.
I saw a calm 6-point buck this morning as i left the loo – otherwise remarkably little mammalian wildlife thus far – saw bear scat yesterday, a few wild turkeys, water birds on the river, reptiles and amphibians (lots of tiny toads).