23 October – Pitched camp in darkness – lost again – horses drank from puddles today. Left BS camp just after 11 – found Flynn Ridge Road today – a beautiful ridge-top ride – horses dripping sweat exhausted by the time we hit the top. The breeze soon cooled them and they stepped out well on the gentle dirt road. Across the Masonite Road to Bailey Ridge we were making good time – no worries – but somehow at Low Gap we made a serious error. Finally found the way, and out around a gate that read “Flynn Ridge” – so at least we have a touchpoint. Wrong turn – NW is not part of Masonite that we should be on – back to gate – other direction – but somehow in the dark we must have missed something – once again found ourselves heading NW (!?!) – too dark to continue and we’re in a truck pull-off behind a huge tree stump – ponies tied to trees in edge of forest on flat ground – extra ration of oats to make up for lack of evening graze. Gryph and i have one Nalgene of water between us which we are saving for morning – both thirsty. Cold tortilla w/ cheese and sausage for dinner – tomorrow it’s back to the gate. GPS is not functioning (no signal?) and MRC map doesn’t match DeLorme for this section anyway. Bearbags – best we could do – wouldn’t fool anyone – but at least they’re hung out of camp and there’s nowhere else to put them. Seen plenty bear scat today…
24. Oct. – Hot last night – slept with sleeping bag unzipped and still very warm! Started the day lost. 1 litre water b/w Gryph and i for hot morning beverages with cold sausage and cheese tortillas – nothing else but a bit of gorp that doesn’t need to be cooked with water. In retrospect the DeLorme map was correct and the MRC topo was wrong – followed compass and intuition to the bridge K had mentioned – Low Gap over and Masonite below — went down to Masonite and headed East – did close to 15 miles today and now are 8 miles from Ukiah – where we hopefully have a place to stay – need a resupply of horse and human food and some oddments of gear, time on-line and cleanliness would be beneficial as well. J, the head forester who had issued our permits, found us a mile from a bridge – checked how we were doing. We asked about water – he said up a mile or so and then another 2-3 miles to where the road parallels creek – pulled away – w/in a few minutes he returned – .7 miles on the right, 50′ before a metal bridge, he’d opened a gate for us to a place where we could camp – water and graze and a flat tent stop – really cool – he also twigged that we’d had no water and gave us bottled water from his truck – really a boon at that moment and it held us together just enough to get to camp, take care of the ponies, set up camp and deal with purifying water and making dinner.
Lots of bird and animal activity and noise tonight. Bear bags are up high and not too close to camp. Jesse is on high alert tonight – herd stallion mode – tense and gorgeous. It was a long day on hard footing today and Finehorn was grumpy a bunch – can’t blame her – but still she was good as gold and friendly tonight. They all grazed like fiends for 3+ hours when we arrived here – will leave a tad later tomorrow to let them enjoy this pasture. MRC has been frustrating in terms of lostness – but so incredibly beautiful to ride through. I realized yesterday that these are the roads i fantasize about riding across the country on when i daydream about the trip. i don’t think we’ll be so spoiled/privileged often – but all in all this has been glorious. Saw a buck and a doe today (and two dead rabbits in the road — which put the lie to me reassuring Jesse that those trucks are vegetarians and only eat trees… ) I think we were hearing wild pigs earlier tonight, coyotes and wild turkeys for sure. Bear scat right by where we originally started to put up the tent (and within sight of last night’s camp on the road).
25. October – Made it to Ukiah just after 5pm – welcomed by A&M – ponies stripped and put out to pasture – Gryph and i in a bachelor pad above the barn. Sorting and ‘phone calls – Jesse’s right eye a bit weepy and swollen this morning – Vaca’s back sore – Finehorn her usual stoic self even with sore feet and weary. 8 miles of road today after a late (2p) start. Gryph’s fiddle and my travel guitar were waiting for us, delivered by M – right now they seem like another thing to carry when we’re trying to pare down.
Chilly and damp last night and this morning – wild pigs were about last night – we saw where they were rooting – Jesse vigilant. Gryph stirred up some hornets at the water hole this morning – Jesse, still half-way down the hill and waiting his turn, was the first to notice and vacate. The mares followed him pronto – i chased after thinking they were staging an escape – but they stopped and waited for me on the road back to camp – Gryph got one sting (bite?) on her neck but we are otherwise unscathed. I went back for buckets and a nalgene after they’d had time to settle a bit. Vaca Suerte is losing weight even though we are feeding her more than the other two combined – worrisome.
27 Oct. – day off today and another tomorrow waiting for a pair of Renegade hoof boots for Finehorn (general delivery to Redwood Valley). Yesterday was a really rough day – up the RR tracks – awful footing and overgrown with brambles and weeds. We walked and led the horses over 8 miles of that and no-shoulder road. At one point it was bad enough that we had to lead the ponies through one at a time – even then Finehorn’s pack took some maneuvering. I led Jesse through and tied him on the other side and went back for Finehorn – when I returned, with Gryph and Vaca close behind, there were two boys (13? 14?) with guns standing by Jesse. I acted confident and reclaimed my horse while joking “please don’t shoot my pony” – but the vibe was creepy and they kept looking at one another like they were trying to decide what they were going to do – or maybe they were just trying to make us nervous about what they might be planning. Gryph tried to chat them up a bit as she went past, but we were glad to leave them behind and come out into a more open area. When we got to JJF’s nobody was home but Gryph tended to the ponies (Rainbow Ag had delivered a bag of grain) and i walked a mile to the Redwood Valley Market for food (we had none!) and made it back by 6pm. Finehorn seems to have forgiven us again by this evening.
I keep having flashes of: “Oh my Goddess, we’re really doing this!” “We’re actually getting away with this!” “We’re figuring out how to ride horses across this continent in 2011!”
The instruments are not an easy addition – can’t imagine having time/energy to play – Gryph’s fiddle case bag strap broke 1st time out – she re-rigged it today – see how it goes. I need to figure out elsewhere for the tarp-wrapped sheepskin that rides behind Jesse’s saddle – it’s not working for the saddle and does not fit with the guitar. Paring away the excess – gear, body, encumberments – Need to get more efficient in terms of packing up camp and packing Finehorn. We are trying to be as close to mustang/natural with the ponies as possible – barefoot and graze – but up against genetics – like Vaca’s metabolism – and lack of conditioning (both mares, and Jesse’s bare hooves).
A little electricity is a dangerous thing – we’re staying up entirely too late.
28. Oct. – Walked to town this aft. No boots @ USPO – no WiFi anywhere – no headlamp batteries. Got back and T was here – she has a posssible WiFi connect on the way out of here – and knew of a (free) hot spring en route in Mendo Nat’l Forest – and organic farming community in Capay – And 2nd week of Feb is Primitive Skills gathering in AZ – goal! It is hard to believe that Monday is Halloween and Tuesday is November! Tomorrow I’ll go to PO and check for boots at 10am – then we’ll pack up and ride 5 miles to another small farm – goats and a hot tub, WiFi and a pasture, on the edge of Black Bart Trail. It’s been a good two days here, restful and helpful, living in the yurt, getting on-line and dealing with pragma, enjoying healthy tasty food and good conversation.
I am dreading Sunday’s Hwy 20 ride (or walk!) of 10 miles (+ Black Bart Trail and around Blue Lake. We’ll know if the horses are up for it after tomorrow’s trail ride. It’s almost 10pm somehow – Time for Sleep.