Monday morning I awoke to a beautiful day. I was enjoying my Mocha and had decided to check e-mail before packing up. Both ponies were grazing contentedly – Mr. James on his long tether and Finehorn loose for the morning as she’s disinclined to let him out of her sight. Suddenly I looked up and saw one Jesse James and Two! Finehorns. Something was seriously awry and I was hoping it wasn’t my eyes/brain. I jumped up and ran over to where a beautiful buckskin was trying to steal Finehorn away and convince her to join him. He was showing off, flirty more than aggressive. Jesse was doing an amazing job of staying between the intruder and his mare (even tethered as he was) but wasn’t exactly in a position to drive him away. I made myself as big as scary as loud as I could and was within 12′ of the buckskin before he took the hint and backed off. I watched him go, and he returned to his herd, which I hadn’t noticed until that moment. Several mares and younger horses including a baby who probably wasn’t two weeks old yet. I caught Finehorn and tied her to a tree. It was time to break camp and vacate, but every time I turned my back and got distracted by packing up here came the buckskin, intent on stealing Finehorn. Fascinating, if a bit intense.
I had planned to stop at Black Canyon Lake to water the ponies and purify some water for myself, but when we approached the lake, there was the herd, grazing in the meadow between us and the water. The buckskin was obviously watching for us and trotted over, high wide and handsome when he saw us. He was just about floating across the meadow in glorious passage – and I decided we could probably wait on the water. I quickly chose another route and kept watch over my shoulder as we rode away.
Not many miles along I saw a sign “Baca Meadow”, a small cemetery and a beautiful valley with fragments of a creek still lingering in puddles full of mosquito larvae. I hadn’t planned to stop so soon, but the place just called to me. A forest service sign filled in a few details about the Baca Family who had arrived in 1889, built a house, had a bumper crop that first summer, dug a root cellar and called the valley home for half a century. Seven daughters and a son, so you can imagine this was a popular stop in a country with more eligable bachelors than unattached frontierswomen! Damasia Baca (the mom) stayed on after her husband died in 1903, befriended the Apache (communicating with them in Spanish) and hosting all night dances and celebrations. There are tales of her running out to greet a passing traveler and begging them to stop and have a bite to eat before going on. There are also stories of 150″ of snow in the valley! That welcoming spirit lingers on in Baca Meadow. Even though the water situation was a little sketchy, I decided to trust my Steripen Adventurer and linger on an extra day. The air smelled of sugared vanilla, the hummingbirds visited, I watched a small bird chase a chipmunk Up a tree, the breezes blew through the pines and the skunk who visited my camp the first night passed on leaving no trace of the aroma that woke me out of a sound and peaceful sleep. I have a new appreciation for the diverse beauty of Arizona’s high country.
After 9 weeks of lay-up (10 including the time along the Gila on the Rez) I was feeling dis-membered. I had lost the sense of who I was and what I was doing out here. I’d lost confidence in myself and the ponies. I was living with people who only knew me in my time of trouble and incompetence and imagining myself through their eyes fed my doubts. The six previous months of learning and riding and successfully making our way vanished into a haze of never-was and I felt like people were assuming that I’m an idiot who has no business being out here and I should just quit this nonsense and go home, if I had one. Well meaning advice felt like judgement and my focus was on my failures. Even with all the rest and comfort I felt drained. No longer the Bold Adventuress on an Epic Journey, I couldn’t imagine anybody wanting to invite me in and hear my stories of the trail. I couldn’t imagine anybody wanting me around! What if I never left! I felt like a burden to myself, a loser, and was so relieved to finally be able to slink off into the woods with my tail between my legs.
Blessings on the Wilderness! I feel like I was able to spend my time in Baca Meadow re-membering myself and this Journey. It is a great boon to have this time and freedom to meander slowly through such beautiful country. I am still adjusting to the altitude and the ponies need some time to get back into condition before we start doing 20 mile days again and we have that grace. It is a great boon to have friends who know me in my strength as well as in my weakness. I am so grateful for the wisdom of another lady long rider who understands the ups and downs of such a life and is encouraging in realistic ways! Yesterday I was given water (with Ice!) by a nice man when I stopped at his house and he took the time to look at my maps and send me to this lovely spot. I feel back on track again – and blissing on my Journey.
Hurrah! I wish I was there to celebrate with you. Amazing!