Meandering Thoughts

Meandering Thoughts

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Soldiers Meadows (Nevada)

Back in 1989 we took a trip to California.  (To become acquainted with that trip, check blog posts, California or Bust.)  You will note that we traveled in a big old motor-home with a sixteen foot horse trailer behind.  You will  learn we made this journey with a friend who a pulled a two horse trailer behind his much newer motor-home.  On this trip to California there were three horses going and four coming home.  Three adults and five children under the age of seventeen were sharing this adventure.

Soldiers Meadows, Nevada, why would anyone want to travel this Black Rock Desert land? Soldiers Meadows is a very historical area and if you want to know more it can be Googled.  As for us, the adults, children and horses, we were there to do an endurance ride that was being held in the middle of nowhere.  After driving the dusty road from Gerlack to Soldiers Meadows, we were shocked to see the little crowd of horse rigs parked on either side of the road we were traveling.  We made camp and found that we were pretty much the center of attention.  Our Ohio licence plates gave others a heads up about the easterners in camp!

The folks in the west have a different way of running rides than we do in the east.  It became obvious when there seemed to be no set time for the "ride meeting".  These valuable meetings in the east are held the evening before the event.  The eastern ride manager goes over trail conditions, in Ohio and Indiana that usually means were to find the most knee deep, mud sucking trail hazards.  They would advise you about following the ribbons of surveyors tape, one flag means you on on the correct trail, two flags would alert you to a turn coming.  If two flags hang on the right, it means a right turn.  This can be vital if the main trail continues straight, but a side trail may turn right, you don't want to miss that turn!  I don't recall seeing many ribbons at the Soldiers Meadows ride.   The eastern trail manager would also tell you what time the start of the ride would be and information about the half way point.   In the east, the half way point is a vet check for the horses and a 30 minute hold after your horse has his pulse checked.  At this hold their is usually hay and water for the horses, food and drink for the riders and usually your "pit crew" is there to meet you with these things.  They will also help holding the horse and be at your beck and call for that 30 minutes.  In the west, we knew there was a half way point, somewhere out there in the desert!  The western ride manager did hold a ride meeting, about a half hour before departure time.  Oh, yes, she mentioned a few flags were out there, but mostly told the historical accounts of the area!  I remember one of her comments about a point we would reach......."When you get to the spot there are several choices of trail to take, stick to the ones on the left."   Now, talk about vague directions!  Panic was setting in, deep inside my stomach!

We went back to finish tacking horses and used our grease markers to mark the ride number on our horses
butt.  Big red number marked my horse, it matched his red bridle and blanket.  My friend also used my markers to number his horse.  In the east there are checkers on trail to mark when a horse passed through, the numbers told them when all the horses had passed.  If someone was lagging behind or lost, the checkers knew it happened somewhere on the trail before their checkpoint.  It was soon after we mounted that we realized, no one else had numbers on their horses.  I don't have any idea how they keep track of lost riders in the west.    Oh dear, this was worse than driving in with our Ohio license plates, they knew we weren't from the west!  The western ride manager was probably grateful for our numbers, she would know exactly who the strangers were!

Doc and I were the only ones from our two campers riding this 25 mile endurance ride.  Since we had the motor homes and no pick up trucks to head to half way point, we threw our hay and drinks in the back of another truck going to the half way point.  At the last minute I decided that Trisha and cousin Carrie could ride to half way and be our pit crew.  They were off while I finished tacking up my horse. The girls were thirteen years old and had done this before, I thought nothing more about that decision.

When the shotgun start happened, my horse was ready, he wanted to go with the front of the pack.  I could not let him do that, he doesn't handle the adrenaline rush of a fast start.  I also knew that I didn't want to be left behind, never having ridden this trail before.  I didn't think my horse or myself could afford to be lost in the desert!  So I ended up riding with about 5 other women who were some of the last riders out of camp. 

Two comments stick out in my mind, even after all these years.  One woman ask what the number was for, did I just buy this horse at an auction?   The other was when one of them commented that she found this so restful.  I was not sure I heard her correctly, I was finding the entire thing very stressful, where were the trees!!!!!   It wasn't long, maybe five miles out that I began to notice the tell tale signs that my horse wasn't handling the speed well.  He was beginning to "tye up".  This just means my horses muscles were cramping.  It is something he is prone to when he doesn't have time (a few miles) to warm up his muscles slowly.  I was trying to baby him along and two things happened.  I considered them "signs"!   The women I was riding with didn't want to go slower while he worked out his cramps.  I wasn't going to be alone and lost in this desert by riding last.  The second sign was the dead mustang along the side of the trail.  That was enough for me to get off my horse and lead him back to camp.   By the time we had returned, he was fine, he'd walked out of the cramp and I was just plain tired. 

The day passed, I wondered if the girls were doing okay.  They would be there helping Doc and I am not sure what they might be wondering since I never made an appearance.  The afternoon wore on and pretty soon the riders were returning.   Doc was back and said he'd seen the girls.  Carrie and Trisha still weren't back!  I couldn't understand, they only went to the half way point and now all the riders had returned, still no pick up truck with my girls.  In the east at an endurance ride, if you choose to go to the half way point, it's just a matter of miles, the crew is always back to camp and taking naps long before you finish your ride!

I have no idea what time they returned but when they returned I hardly recognized them!  The pickup truck had the adults inside and my two girls in the truck bed.  The dust in the desert is awful, they looked like ghosts!  Their hair was white from the dust!  I found out later, that by truck it was a 25 mile drive to the half way point.  So that is 50 miles in the back of a truck in the desert!  Oh, did I forget to mention, the girls went with no food or water.  They managed to get water at the half way point and they stole a candy bar from another riders goodies.  The girls have never forgiven me for this adventure!  Pretty bad when they no longer trust their Mother or Aunt.

The moral of this story.............  they don't do rides in the west like they do in the east.

Picture upper left:  The riders leaving Soldiers Meadow horse camp, last horse and rider is me.
Picture lower right:  daughter Trisha and neice Carrie

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