Pine Canyon Rd to Landers Meadow, mile 500-600

Day 21, Pine Canyon Rd to Cottonwood Bridge

Mile: 0510 to 0535, Distance; 24.3 miles, Time; 4:34, 5.3 mph average, minimum elevation 2874, maximum elevation 3870, total ascent 1783, total descent 2419. Total miles traveled 503

Morning Trail
The Mojave ahead

Today we said goodbye to the San Andreas Fault, almost crossed the Mojave and are but five miles or so from climbing into the Tehachapi Mountains.  The first few miles went across private property, owned by a Hunt Club.  There were warning signs entering and exiting the property warning users to stay on the trail as there could be hunting and shooting going on.  We were a week past the shooting season so I wasn’t too concerned, though the sign looked old and season dates can change.  There was some up and down, mostly trending down as we exited the fault and entered the Mojave. 

The Hunt Club Trail

Once in the Mojave all resemblance to a trail disappeared as we followed dirt roads the rest of the day.  I thought for a minute I was still in Kansas, except Joshua trees for scenery instead of corn fields.  Straight roads laid out on section lines, go one mile turn left, go one mile turn right, go three miles turn left.  The only variation was riding along the Second Los Angeles Aqueduct which more or less follows the contours of the terrain, making a two lane road, one lane concrete, the cover to the aqueduct, and the other lane dirt.  The First Los Angeles Aqueduct is uncovered and built between two massive dikes that allow it to stay on grade and be straight, running down a section line.

This portion of the trail is relatively flat dirt road, there is absolutely no shade and temperatures frequent the 100° range.  Most hikers lay up at Hiker Town and tackle the next 25 miles or so at night.  BG and I started early to beat the heat and did pretty well.  This is the kind of footing that BG will really get her march on, gaiting, at a slow rack, steadily at 6 to 7 miles per hour.    I intended to stop at Hiker Town to give BG a chance to drink, but I misunderstood the directions and missed that rest stop.  After nine miles I was able to dip a bucket of water for her out of the First LA aqueduct. Getting a bucket full is not an easy task as the water runs 10 steep, concrete feet below the dike level.  I found a spot near a bridge that wasn’t quite as steep and had rocks to stand on. Using my lead rope was able to pitch the bucket down to the water. 

First Los Angeles Aqueduct
The road into the Mojave

For such an infamous desert where I passed though appeared surprisingly populated.  Scattered about the landscape were what I assume were recreational properties, old travel trailers, RVs and mobile homes parked within a fenced lot.  Many had small weathered out buildings, some had several, occasionally one would have a building that could pass for a house.  All gave off the feeling of someone pursuing an alternative lifestyle.  Most appeared abandoned, while the presence of livestock at others indicated they were occupied.  At one point I passed a large flock of sheep being herded by a single man on foot aided by several dogs.  There were a couple of men tending to a water trough and cattle at another place, the only humans I had seen up until then. 

Sheep in the desert
Second Los Angeles Aqueduct
Still a lot of desert to cross

Shortly after I passed the cattle, a pickup with an old bumper pull stock trailer rattled past me, coming from the other direction.  The truck slowed considerably as it passed me, to reduce the dust cloud I supposed, the driver, watching me closely, gave a friendly nod.  Moments later they came by again, this time in the pickup I’d seen at the cattle trough with a couple more men in the bed of the truck.  Slowing again as they passed one of the men in the back of the truck shouted something at me in Spanish.  I didn’t understand what he said but since all of them were smiling at me I smiled and waved back.  I saw them turn around and come back down the road a quarter mile ahead of me.  Again the slowing down, again the smiles, although this time I realized it wasn’t me they were focused on, it was BG who throughout the drive bys had not slackened her stride.  It gave my ego a bit of a boost realizing that these men recognized BG and her way of traveling as something to appreciate.

Lunch for me, water and shade for BG
Desert Beauty

Another eight miles of riding brought us to where Janis was waiting with water and hay for BG and iced tea and chips for me.  Now that is what I call trail riding.  After our break we continued the rest of our ride to where we are spending the night in the middle a wind farm.  These are the big windmills like up on the Columbia.  The closest one is a couple hundred feet away.  Each of the three blades makes a whooshing sound as they rotate past, a little bit like a jet fly-by if you could concentrate the fly-by to a couple of seconds, howwwwhoosh, howwwwhoosh.  Occasionally one of the towers will decide to squeak for 10 or 15 seconds.  Janis says it is a “G” note.  Geeeeeeeeeeeeee.  I wasn’t sure if it was the windmills or my tinnitus, Janis assures me it is the windmill.

Squeaky windmills

Tomorrow we head for the hills.  I am hoping it is cooler at the higher elevations but the weather reports don’t look promising.  There is rain in the forecast for a few days later in the week.  I’m not totally sure I’m onboard with riding in the rain.  We were going to take a day off anyway before we start up into the big hills, maybe a motel would be in order too.

Night Camp
Knee Knockers

I’ve been crossing these funny gates, I think they are supposed to keep livestock in or vehicles out, though both of the horses have learned to walk over them without breaking stride or bumping their legs.

Day 22, Cottonwood Bridge to Gamble Creek Canyon

Mile; 0535 to 0545, Distance; 20 miles, Time; 3:45, 5.3 mph average, minimum elevation 3107, maximum elevation 5124, total ascent 3355, total descent 3241. Total miles traveled 523

Morning Trail

Twenty-two started of routinely enough, got up, had coffee & oatmeal.  I looked at Halfmile’s maps and notes, had an internet connection so I checked the PCT water reports.  Janis and I talked about the afternoon’s meeting places. There was supposed to be trail water after seven miles and again at ten miles then nothing for 21 miles.  The trail crossed a local highway seven miles before our end point so Janis was going to meet me there with water for Mercedes. 

Then I saddled up Mercedes and off down the trail we went.  Or I should say down the road we went, for about three miles before we picked up a single track trail again.  The first five miles was through the windmills and there was ample wind to keep them turning.  It was without question a two hoody morning and I was wishing I had a third.  I could see clouds spilling over the mountains towards us, worrying me that the rain that was supposed to come the next day would be early.  As we started climbing up into the mountains the ravines and ridges gave us some welcome respite from the wind. 

Views of the windmills and desert to the south of us opened up.  There were a couple of ominous trail conditions reports for the segment of trail I was approaching.  Multiple washouts and landslides had made the trail difficult for hikers and “probably impassable for horses”.   Having crossed the first big ridge of the day, dropping down into Tyler Horse Canyon, where the slides were supposed to begin, Mercedes got her first drink of the day.  The next ridge wasn’t as much of a climb as we were already quite high.  We passed several of the reported slides, which so far weren’t any more hazardous than the dozens we had already passed, and dropped down into Gamble Springs Canyon.

As we got to the bottom of the canyon several motorcycles approached riding up the canyon.  We stopped and waved them past, each rider in turn indicating there were more bikes coming.  After half a dozen or more passed I didn’t see any more coming so we proceeded to the creek to see if Mercedes would drink.  The creek, maybe six inches wide and one half to two inches deep in places and flowing fast, wasn’t deep enough for Mercedes to drink easily unless I took her bridle off.  So I got off and did so.  She drank and nibbled at some bunch grass growing alongside the water while I fiddled with the gps and took some pictures of the motorcycles which by now had been joined by several more bikes that were attempting to climb straight up the canyon walls one at a time. 

Motorcycles on the far hill from our vantage by the creek.

Some bikes made it; others ran out of steam part way up and would have to go back to the bottom for another attempt.  I was just offering Mercedes one more chance to drink before I tacked her back up when a late comer to the climbers came around the corner to join his friends.  My bad luck was he came from Mercedes left side where she doesn’t see well, springing close up into her vision.  She panicked jerked the lead rope from my hands and took off at a dead run.  The motorcycles, having moved on up the canyon, were without doubt unaware of my situation.

 At first Mercedes ran up the PCT, but at the first switchback she left trail and started across country, within seconds she was out of sight.  I got to the switchback, still no sight of the horse, but she was easily tracked across a sandy draw to where she turned down hill towards the little creek.  Along the way I picked up her bridle where it had fallen off the saddle.  Every corner I turned I expected to see her standing, every corner I was disappointed.  As I followed her tracks downstream the creek cut a deeper and deeper into the flatter canyon floor. The stream bed became rocky and the tracks disappeared but I knew she had gone this way as first I found one of my water bottles and a little further on a my little package of sunflower seeds.  On the left of the creek a steep hillside rose hundreds of feet to the ridge line, on the right a sheer bank fifteen to twenty feet high.  Eventually both banks became sheer walls.  I followed from above on the canyon floor hoping to get ahead of her but when the creek came to a ten foot drop off and still no sign of her or track below.

I circled back reasoning that she had to have come out of the stream bed before it got too steep but had no luck picking up her track.  Then I thought perhaps I had missed her down in the creek bottom because of the steepness of the walls and inaccessibility of the edge in places I couldn’t always see the bottom so I rechecked those places, still nothing.  I checked every little draw, behind every boulder, nothing.

By now the morning chill was long gone, I had taken off my sweatshirts and tied them behind the saddle just before Mercedes ran off.  I was running out of options, not knowing how far I would have to walk to find help I figured I wouldn’t die of dehydration or starve since I had a water bottle and seeds.  Unfortunately the gps, cell phone, snacks and the rest of my water was in my snug-paks.  Fortunately my InReach was as well.  My plan was to get a hold of Janis, locate Mercedes on https://share.garmin.com/GaryPegg , saddle up BG and go get her.  But first to walk out, down the canyon I went, hoping someone lived not too far away and would have a telephone, or at least wouldn’t be too crazy from living so remotely.  By and by I passed a homestead that had been burnt out in the fires, and then another that had been flooded out by the same rains that took out the road.  Then I passed an abandoned camper/RV community, then a deserted singlewide.  After about 3½ miles I came to a place that had fairly new vehicles that looked like they ran parked around it.  I had to climb across the wash to get to it, with some trepidation I knocked on the door.  No answer, so I walked around the house and knocked on another door.

It was my lucky day when Allan opened the door.  Understandably, he was a little hesitant at first, after all I showed up on foot and he was a long ways from anywhere.  Allan couldn’t have been more helpful.  After explaining my predicament he offered up his phone, but there was no answer from Janis.  Allan then drove me to where Janis was parked waiting.  This was no small thing as the drive involved 11 miles of dirt back roads, some of those unmaintained, before we got to the blacktop and another 10 miles beyond that.  Allan then led us back to his property, stopping periodically to explain land marks so we would be able to negotiate the turns on our own.

The website showed Mercedes on top of a ridgeline a half mile from where we parted ways.  The last update was at 10:00 and it was now around noon.  I did not voice my concern about the lack of updates and the lack of movement on Mercedes part as all the scenarios I could imagine did not bode well.  Getting back to Allan’s, BG was saddled and headed back up the trail in record time.  A mile or so back up the trail I could see a black dot on a distant ridge.  The dot became a slender post shape which never moved so I dismissed it as a Joshua tree.  Periodically I would give my dinner time whistle, BG would chime in with a whinny.  As we got closer the Joshua tree became Mercedes standing on a rocky promontory far above the trail.  If I’d looked behind me and at the right time on my walk out I’d have seen her.  As so often happens here in Southern California the height advantage from being on horse back is just enough that a rider can see over the wall of brush that is the view a person on foot gets.

Joshua Tree, I think.

There was no way to safely get to where she was from where we saw her.  We circled around the point to the draw before I lost Mercedes tracks and climbed the ridge on one of the motorcycle trails.  The going was too steep for BG to carry me so we both ended up scrambling up the sandy hill.  As we neared the top of the hill I saw that Mercedes had left her post and was now jogging up the ridgeline out of sight.  Cresting the hill I could see her again, muttering some choice words, BG and I took a moment to catch our breath.  One more nicker from BG and Mercedes decided to turn around and come join us.  Mercedes and BG had a joyful reunion while I called Janis to say that all was well.

A Joshua Tree named Mercedes

According to the gps Mercedes had scrambled up that ridge within three minutes of the time she got loose.  About the same amount of time it took me to get to the first switchback.  Once she reached the rocks and there was no way for her to go forward, and not having enough sense to turn around, she stood there for three and a half hours until I got back with BG.  The reason the inReach hadn’t updated was the computer, which relies on a cell signal did update giving Mercedes location while Janis was driving to our meeting spot, but that parking spot did not have cell reception so no further updates were possible until  we got into a reception area while driving to Allan’s.

Thinking we had had enough excitement for one day we trailered from Allan’s to Tehachapi where Janis had made reservations at Wolfe Haven Boarding Stables that included nice big runs and shelters for the horses, as well as a studio apartment and a delicious home cooked meal for us, provided by our hostess, Lynn Wolfe, = livin’ large.

Day 23,  Gamble Creek Canyon to Hwy 58, mile 0545 to 0566

Distance; 24.3 miles, Time; 5:07, 4.8 mph average, minimum elevation 3463, maximum elevation 6291, total ascent 4746, total descent 4361. Total miles traveled 543

morning trail

On Day 23 we returned to Allan’s and picked up where we left off the day before.  We climbed nearly 3000 feet to the top of a ridge, all high desert kind of landscape.  I did pass two hikers, the first in three days. 

Lonely cabin on top of the ridge miles from anywhere, but oh what a view!

On the top of the ridge trail angels have built an elaborate trail magic oasis.  They have cleared about a 20 foot square space of all vegetation and built a stick, branches and brush wind break about four feet tall all around.  They have patio chairs set up and offer a variety of drinks, fruit and other snacks. These angels provided garbage cans too, something I’ve not seen at other trail magic sites, some of which were quite trashy. The trash problem is the main reason some land managers have taken a negative view of caches left unattended, going so far as to remove them when found.  It had been cold up to that point, two hoodies and a Carhardt jacket so it was very pleasant to sit in the sun out of the wind enjoying the panoramic view for a few minutes.  Mercedes enjoyed the apple. 

From the oasis we dropped about 3000 feet, into the heat of the valley, to where we were to meet Janis the day before on Tehachapi Willow Springs Hwy.  The last eight miles went through an extensive wind farm before reaching Hwy 58 where Janis awaited us.  We opted for another night of luxury at Wolfe’s Haven. 

Afternoon Trail

We did pass all the worrisome slide areas which turned out to be much ado about nothing.  The Tehachapi’s are a popular OHV area, mostly motorcycles.  They have trails everywhere, hundreds of miles of them, trails that scare me just to look at them and trails sedate enough for the whole family.  It is too bad that a few inconsiderate riders choose to use the PCT as well creating a maintenance nightmare on a trail that was not designed for motorized use.

A solitary cow, probably an escape from a nearby ranch, checks Mercedes and I out.
The trail ahead

Chapter 3 – Notes from the sidelines.   By Janis Pegg

Friday morning I left the day’s camping spot amongst the mountain lilacs and drove toward I-5, looking for an opportunity to fill my water tanks in preparation for a few days in the desert.  I drove to a little town named Gorman right on I-5 and pulled in to a gas station.  After filling up with diesel I asked about water and the clerk said they didn’t have a spigot.  I drove under the freeway and asked at an auto repair shop where I could see a hose laying out in front.  The man told me no, they were on water restrictions but said there was an RV dump station with water at the Rest Area a few miles north on I-5.   As I drove to the rest area, it occurred to be that my daughter Tracy might be in the area, driving home from LA.  I called her and amazingly, she was 10 miles from me so I told her where the rest area was and drove to meet us.  She and her dog Jack were as happy to see us as we were to see them.  Rose was especially happy to see someone she knew!  It was fun to see them and give Tracy a big hug before we went our separate ways. 

After spending Friday night in the desert where daytime temps had touched the 90’s, we awoke to cool breezes and partly cloudy skies.  I swapped the clothes I had laid out the night before, cutoffs and sandals, for a pair of jeans, a long sleeve shirt and hoodie.  Once Gary and Mercedes rode down the trail, BG, Rose and I headed to Tehachapi.  I wanted to get to the local veterinary office as they opened to see about an appointment for Rose who seemed to have something in her ear.  We arrived to find them very helpful.  They took her back to take a quick look, advising me that if she needed to be sedated I could pick her up later in the day.  Ten minutes later the vet came out with a piece of gauze with 2 foxtails taped to it that had been extracted from deep in Rose’s ear canal.  They washed her ear out, applied antibiotics, gave us some ear medicine and sent us on our way.  The vet also showed me a new device some a few of the local ranchers are using.  Made from the same mesh as a horse’s fly mask, it attaches to the dogs collar and covers their head, like a bee keeper’s mask.  It keeps the working dogs from getting foxtails in their ears.  The rancher’s gave the masks a trial run, and so far, thumbs up.  It took the dogs a while to get accustomed to them but now they love them; it not only keeps the foxtails out of their ears but also provides protection from the dust and sunlight.

As I sat writing this chapter, I watched the In-Reach Satellite tracking and wondered why the signal hadn’t updated in a while.  I could see Gary had ridden down into a canyon to get water, and knew that was the plan.  I was a little concerned because while it often takes 10-30 minutes to update the new location, it had been over an hour with no change.  Just then, a car pulled in to my quiet little oak treed waiting area, and I saw a man get out of the passenger seat with a bridle in his hand.  Initially I though either he lost his horse or was going to say he lost the horse tied to my trailer because he got out and came toward the truck with real purpose.   

Have you ever seen someone you know in a place they would not normally be so you don’t immediately recognize them?  That was the situation here when it suddenly dawned on me that was Gary!  I hit the internal panic button.  “What happened?  Where is Mercedes?”   After a hasty explanation I loaded BG and Rose we took off following the driver, Allen, to where Gary had intercepted him, a few miles from where he’d lost Mercedes.   After navigating miles of dirt road, we unloaded BG; saddled her up and away Gary rode.  He figured if he rode BG up there and whistled she would hear him, maybe BG would – whinny and draw her in.  I could see with the In-Reach that she hadn’t run far.  After less than an hour, Gary sent me an In-Reach message that all was well, meaning he found Mercedes and the tracking device that was in her saddle pack.  Whew!  The forecast was rain and snow in the mountains and I was really concerned that Gary would be searching in that weather.  Thank goodness for the In-Reach… it let us see where she was every 10 minutes or so.

Once that emergency was put to rest, I began to think about dinner, graciously being prepared by our hostess Lynn Wolfe of Wolfe Haven Boarding Stables, which will be our home for the next 2 nights.  I was looking forward to a night in a real bed and a real shower.  I was not disappointed.  It is a wonderful place to take a rest day.  Lynn has built a great boarding facility she shares with her sister Marianne.  It includes an apartment available for us to rent with a special bonus…a washer and dryer.  Her two dogs Thor and Loki were very friendly; Rose played and ran with Loki while Thor looked on.  Thor is a very large old Great Dane mix who greeted us with hound dog howls – quite funny.  He reminded me very much of Randy Rinehart’s old dog Herbie.  Our dinner was delicious as was the almond coconut cake for dessert.  Tonight’s menu will feature pork chops, gravy and mashed potatoes.  At this rate it will be hard to leave.

With all the excitement of the day, I almost forgot to mention the initial theme of this chapter.  This trip has included a few firsts for me:  I saw my first road runner, finally saw a snake though I don’t think it was a rattle snake, too long and thin.  I saw a few white geckos running across the road with head high as they ran, really looked comical.  Also saw a family of quail and a family of bunnies cross the road in front of me at the same time which was odd.  And last, I put the first dent in my new truck on the front bumper L  – a sad moment.  The sensors I depended on to warn me I was too close let me down this time.  Gary said he was glad it was me and not him that did it.    More Later

Day 24, Hwy 58 to Landers Meadow, mile 0566 to 0608

Distance; 42.3 miles, Time; 11:25, 3.7 mph average, minimum elevation 3706, maximum elevation 6722, total ascent 9222, total descent 6722. Total miles traveled 586 – I changed the time and average speed to total time instead of moving time.  Earlier I was turning the GPS on while getting ready in the morning skewing the total ride time and speed so I was using moving time and speed.  Lately I’ve been remembering to reset the trip info so total time and overall speed is a more accurate representation of what is going on.

Morning Trail
Long day in dry country

I’ve not been looking forward to today’s ride.  Despite our best efforts and spending full two days of our scouting trip in the effort, Janis and I were unable to locate a meeting point less than 40 miles from our morning camp.  Knowing it was going to be a long day in the saddle we tried to get an early start.  Despite Janis’s best efforts it was 7:30 before I could get myself going.  BG climbed 2500 feet in the first six miles, never steep for very long, but steady climbing.  Through the middle of the ride it was all up and down, losing as much as a thousand feet only to be forced to gain it back again.  We ended the day with a 3000 foot climb, confirming the long day prediction.  On the bright side it was cooler than it has been, the clouds were threatening enough that I carried rain gear.

It was also a dry day for BG.  First water was 17 miles into the day, the next water 20 miles after that.  I packed two gallons of water for BG.  It isn’t nearly enough to meet her needs or satisfy her thirst but it is enough to give her a little relief.  I don’t like packing water; I am heavy enough of a load without adding another 16 pounds of water.  We stopped about half way to Golden Oak Springs and let BG drink what she had carried.  When we reached the springs I refilled the bottles and repeated the procedure in the afternoon. 

Golden Oaks Springs turned out to be a really lovely spot.  Nestled in the shade of a copse of oak trees there is a concrete trough fed by pipe from the spring located further up the hill.  There is a thick layer of green stuff growing in the tank, which I like to see.  When the tanks are clear hikers are more prone to filling their water bottles directly from the tank rather than filling them from the trickle that comes from the pipe.  Then when I come riding up and the horse drinks, especially a horse like BG; who likes to bury her nose to the eyeballs, blow huge bubbles, has lots of backwash and cleans her sinuses to boot, I get the horrified, I can’t believe you just did that looks.  But hey, they are called “stock” tanks after all, and I’m pretty sure when you aren’t looking there is all kinds of wild life using that water, and that board you see hinged to the side of the tank, that’s a swimming platform for rodents.  Lots of green stuff neutralizes that whole scenario.

Trail conditions were on both ends of the scale.  Most of the trail from mile 558 to 608 is maintained by the different windmill power companies.  An adopt a trail kind of thing with plaques noting their contributions at the beginning of their sections.  I suppose it is considered a PR effort on their part, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that this was the best maintained trail so far on this trip.  The volunteers that do the bulk of the maintenance on the PCT do the best they can, but they aren’t any substitute for employees or contractors being paid to make the trail comply with standards.  Fifty miles of not having to duck under branches, not getting scratched up by brush or having to scramble up banks to get around wash outs.  Now that is a little bit of heaven.

Kelso Valley and Walker Pass in the distance.

The only obstacles encountered were down trees.  This early in the year the maintenance crews haven’t been through yet to clean up last winter’s wind falls.  There were large sections of the trail that went through fire zones.  Some of the burns are old enough almost every tree has fallen, in some the trees are starting to fall now and in others they haven’t started falling yet.  BG and I found our way over, under and around  dozens of trees.  There is job security for maintenance crews for years to come.

On the other end of the scale there was a several mile section of the trail that was multi-purpose.  Jeeps, atvs, quads and motorcycles shared this stretch of trail with the hikers and horses.  It was awful.  Much of the track went straight up and down the fall line of the hills.  Rains and snow melts turn the trail into a small river that washes away what little dirt that had been there exposing rock, rock and more rock; ankle twisting for hikers and very slow going on horseback.  Happily there was just the one section along a ridge top where there wasn’t room for a parallel trail.

An old wigwam burner, a monument to when lumber was king.
One of the few signs that didn’t say “No Trespassing”.

The last ten miles was through a heavily forested area, with abundant natural water, springs and streams.  After the dryness of the high desert it was a pleasure to feel the cool moisture of a forest trail.  Both BG and I were glad to see the truck and trailer parked at Lander’s Meadow.

Chapter 4 – Notes from the sidelines.   by Janis Pegg

Monday was taken as a half rest day.  We bid our adieu’s to Lynn Wolfe of Wolfe Haven Boarding Stables, Marianne, Loki and Thor and drove to Tehachapi to get a bale of hay, grab lunch at the local BBQ and drive to the oak tree parking place so Gary could ride the last 7 miles of his interrupted ride the prior day.  I drove to exit 159 and waited for him.  As I waited, a car pulled in behind me, then a few more. I wondered what was going on and then a school bus pulled off the freeway and a group of school kids hopped off the bus and into the waiting cars.  I have never seen a bus stop at a freeway off ramp; another first for me.  I watched Gary coming along the railroad tracks toward me and cross the overpass over Hwy 58, a major freeway.  Not the best of riding situations but they made it.  Returning to the oak tree parking area, we set up camp for the night and were in bed by 8pm in preparation for an early start to Tuesday’s anticipated long day.

Tuesday morning Gary and BG rode up the trail, starting at the exit 159 off ramp while Rose, Mercedes and I drove to the next day’s camp.   It was going to be a long, challenging drive for me to get to the next camp.  I had to negotiate Piute Mountain Rd which was the better of the two poor choices.  Piute Mountain Rd was undergoing repairs after flood damage and let me tell you it was a drive where I had to remind myself to breathe.  We came up and up and up a twisty, very steep sandy road, partially road graded with a deep sand mound near the middle of the road where my tires needed to be.  I had the truck in 4WD Low Range the entire time, straddling the sand mound as best I could.  I cannot tell you how many times the truck fish-tailed and struggled to make the turns. At one place the sand mound hid a large rock which I never saw but I heard it as we drove over it.  Ugh.  Near the top I passed the road crew who likely had bets placed on whether I could make it as they were all watching the entire time I was in view.  Finally reaching the top, the road leveled out and was not as difficult.  I decided to stop and park the trailer at Landers Meadow, our designated camp for the night, disconnect and drive the next 6 miles to where Gary hoped I would be able to meet him.  It would shorten his day from 42 to 36 miles.  A few miles into that drive I encountered a massive mud hole that I was not willing to go through with the truck and knew the trailer would not do well there so I turned around and came back to the trailer, texting Gary to come to mile 608.

I pulled in where the trailer was parked with the doors all locked and unloaded Mercedes, tied her to the fence, turned the truck around and started to back the truck under the trailer when out of the corner of my eye, I saw Mercedes walk past me with no rope attached.  I have no idea how she managed to get the rope unsnapped.  I jumped out of the truck and said “Mercedes, whoa, whoa, whoa” at which point that old BATTLEAXE broke into a run and down the dirt road she went, whinnying for BG.   Seriously?  I feed her, water her, brush her, bathe her, give her carrots, apples, blanket her when it’s cold and this is the thanks I get.  I ran back to the trailer to grab a rope and grain – doors locked – for you Seinfeld fans, this was a “Serenity Now” moment.  I quickly unlocked the door, grabbed a rope and a can of grain and tore off after her in the truck.  Now, as I pulled away, I noticed a truck appear behind me that turned around; uh oh, I believed they saw I was leaving and were going back to ransack the trailer.  Thank goodness the doors were still locked except the rear tack door.  I stayed on Mercedes’ trail, following the hoof tracks down the road, almost catching up then she took a side road.  I turned the truck sideways in the road as she came back down.  I got out, shook the can of grain and was able to get hold of her and attach the rope.  I turned the truck around while holding her lead rope then we headed back to camp.  She gaited alongside me the mile or so back to the truck where as I suspected, the other truck was parked and a woman dressed in army fatigues was indeed going through the tack room.  I pulled in behind her, blocking their escape and heard her start swearing.  I got out still hanging on to Mercedes and asked very sternly “what do you think you are doing in my trailer”?    She was not able to get a complete sentence out, stammered and appeared to be either drunk or drugged out.  Her companion got out of the truck, a big fella, 6’4” and 250 lbs.  I didn’t let on but they scared me a little.  I was very aware of how isolated it is here, and I caught them going through our stuff.  She claimed her 4wd went out and she was going to take a rope for their drive home.  She claimed she was leaving me a note.  I asked where the note was and she said she hadn’t written it yet.  She was lying, kept changing her story.    Why the rope was necessary was unclear but, the ropes were in plain view while the bridles, extra breast collars, saddle blankets, and everything but our highline ropes, were out on the ground.  Total ransack job.  I closed the tack room door, tied Mercedes up and moved my truck, hoping they’d be on their way.   She followed me the entire time, making me nervous.  They lingered, asking me the same questions again and again.  Did I know so and so, am I from around here, am I going back down now, how far to the highway, what is the horse’s name.  I said I was busy and made sure they knew our visit was over.  They finally left, heading out the way they’d come, then turned around, spun their wheels throwing sand everywhere, and headed out toward Jawbone Canyon Rd, the worst choice they could have made.  I watched them go and waited for hours for them to reappear, but the only visitors I saw after that were a couple friendly old guys taking a drive and the road crew.  I hope I get out of here in the morning before the road crew starts again!

So, today was one of those “I have had enough” days; I am looking forward to tomorrow being better – I still have to make the drive back down Piute Mtn Rd and I didn’t save enough finger nails for the drive.    Tomorrow, the road should be a little better, at least that I recall.  Not great but certainly not like today’s road.  Just think, 5 more days and we’re on our way home!  More later.

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