Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Death Valley Escape

This ride has been on my "must ride" list for years and I finally got to go!! The locals call it the Death Valley Encounter, but for me it was a brief escape from cold and snow, and as I write this, it's 18 degrees so I'm ready to return!!

The day after Christmas when most people are shopping, I was trying to make my way through Boise. It was like being on a suicide mission with two big wrecks in the West bound lanes and more piling up as drivers ignored all the flashing lights warning them of what lay ahead. On my side, heading East, all the Einsteins were rubbernecking at the wrecks and then slamming on their brakes, only to slide off and land in the median. I was scared spitless, or something like that, the spelling varies. You don't get pictures of that since I was still doing my own driving. Once the other side of Boise I had to stop at the rest area and relax my shaking hands. Then onward to Gooding, meet the Cobbley's and stow my rig at Huber's.

The remainder of our trip was uneventful. We marveled at the sun and the rising temps, we were so excited to meet 60 degrees!!! We made it to Ely, NV and stayed at the fair grounds there. Brrrr in the morning. We piled in the truck and Mike says "where to today Miss Daisy?" "Oh anywhere warm will do nicely", I replied.  We made it to Trona, CA. and camp around 3'ish. I don't recall exactly we were all way too excited.

Camp was the Trona Golf Course and Country Club. It was a full campground but we found a spot half a mile from the vetting area and such necessities.

Then there is all the "get ready to go" stuff to be done. It was dark by 5 so you better hustle hauling water, feeding, organizing and putting goo in Brass's hooves. Dinner, ride meeting, set the alarm and get ready in the morning.

Now I won't lie. I "love" a good Duck ride.  The Duck and Annie Nicholson put on good rides, and Duck always promises you a cave with a bear to wrestle. I think our bear was rocks but you can find your own bear. :)  I have always counted the Duck as one of my endurance heroes. I love it when he says these are "endurance rides, not races". I fully appreciate that he points out we are here to ride in harmony with our horses and enjoy what the mountains and desert have to offer.


It was cold starting in the morning. "I can't feel my legs" Jessica said, as we marveled at the unstoppable Dave Rabe, in his signature shorts! The man has over 69,000 AERC miles now I might add. Somewhere along the "burro trail" we got into the sun, shed a layer, and then rode across the vast Panamint Valley to lunch. We had multi-million dollar entertainment as we watched the jet pilots fly maneuvers.

After lunch we again climbed over the Slate Range and had an easy descent back into the valley to arrive in camp after the sun had set but wasn't quite yet dark. Oh what a marvelous day it had been, the stunning views and vistas were unmatched! We had so much fun, Thunder and Brass did so well, that we signed up for Day 2.

Day 2 gave us two loops. A 30 mile loop where we backtracked up to the Slate Range crossing, then across more mountains on a very good old motorcycle trail, then up to the radio towers. Endomondo said we were at 3757 elevation at the top of something Peak via the Tower Trail. Then through Manly Pass, down Goff Canyon and into camp for lunch.

Our hope that morning had been to have a bit of a faster day but the slog over the Tower Trail and all had us 6 hours into the ride at this point. Ugh! Leaving at 2 for 20 miles we knew it'd be dark when we would finish. The horses were doing great, even though Thunder had been pretty warm and panted a lot during the heat of the day. However the trail turned away from camp about a mile from camp. Thunder was convinced I was the biggest idiot and horse could be stuck with. How could I possibly be going this way? They were happier when we turned back towards camp. And camp was a welcome sight!!
We vetted through just fine and because Thunder had gotten so warm earlier in the day, I had already decided I was sitting out day 3. Turned out Day 3 trail wasn't a lot different from Day 2 so no big loss.

Mike was happy as he had ridden two short rides on Khalid who is just beginning, I had my two days, but Jessica was going to try for 3. But when trotting Brass out he just didn't look quite comfortable, so she opted to not start. They went to town for propane etc., I went down to the vetting area to help Annie for a bit. Then I gave the horses a massage. It was a lazy relaxing day. I was completely happy with my two mid-winter rides on my wooly horse. All of us decided we'd gotten our money's worth, if we skipped day 4 and headed home we wouldn't miss any work. So as we spent the night at another fairgrounds, all the DVE riders were having a New Years Eve Party and steak dinner.

About noon I was back on the road in my own truck heading home. What a fabulous way to spend Christmas break and see 2017 out the door. Thank you again Mike and Jessica Cobbley for letting me travel with you. It was so much fun!!! Thanks Andi Sorrell for taking good care of the home ponies. What a great experience, I am so grateful! I want to do it again someday!