Thursday, January 01, 1998

Lost Wagon Train Multiday - Karen Chaton

Most endurance rides are certainly an adventure, and this one was no exception. We (myself & Pat) left for Burns, Oregon last Saturday morning from Nevada. We had no idea where we were going, other than to some fairgrounds in Burns. So off we went...crewless, driverless...but we did remember to each bring a horse, plenty of food, and about a bazillion other things that you might need to ride a horse 250 miles in 5 days. One other rider from Nevada was at the fairgrounds when we arrived, so we knew we were in the right place. The fairgrounds guy came around and said "it`s gonna get cold, probably 16 tonight". If only we knew that this was going to be the WARM night of the ride!! haha As it turned out, I think it only got to 20 that night (like you could tell the difference?). The horses got a day to rest before vetting in on Sunday evening. We got to meet Heidi the vet, and Tracy who came from Idaho after my plea to come drive our rig (and I bribed her too). As it turned out, lots of riders came without drivers so anybody there driving was kept really busy. On day one we trailered out about 7 miles to the start. 8 a.m. You might think that is late, but it`s not when it`s COLD!! Weaver was such a dork this day, that Pat called me Dr. Frankenstein for creating such a monster!! Ugh!! The first time all year (ever, in fact) that I rubbed hair off of his chin from the vosal holding him back. We finally got him settled down, and maintained a nice average 7-8 mph trot thru the day. Nothing too eventful happened on this day. Tho it was the first time I saw a vet check both sides of my horse (and every horse) for hydration. We had to vet our horse, then before leaving from our hour hold go trot by the vet again before we could leave. They did a great job of getting our crew bags to the checks and back to camp each day (yeah). The trail thru the majority of the ride was flat, with only slight rolling hills. There was some good footing, with lots of jeep roads, and also gravel roads and power line roads with crushed lava rock. We were going over some of the same route the Meek`s Lost Wagon train went over 150 years prior. I don`t remember much of the second day. We finished in the late afternoon, and Tracy had found a nice spot for our rig right near the water :). Or was that the third day? hmmmm (hey, don`t laugh, we were having to explain what parts/days of the trail we went over to Trilby at the awards!) Our awards were coffee cups with the name of each days ride on them. I do remember the third day most vividly. It HURT. We froze our butts off that night. I think somebody said it was 13 degrees. There was several inches of ice on the horses water. My soaked beet pulp was so solid I couldn`t get it out of the bucket. The propane canister we used for our heater INSIDE THE CAMPER had frost on it!! My sponge (dah) that I left sitting on my trailer fender (while wet, double dah) was not only frozen, but stuck to the trailer. Even better, my cinch was also cold wet, and frozen (good thing I have two!). I think we walked the first two hours this day, Pat and I...neither of us felt the urge to do anything else. We finally got going, and I believe this was our slowest day. Some lady had brought her ten month old infant with her to the ride (and no driver or babysitter) and expected ride management to take care of the kid while she rode. Well, this morning she left the kid a few feet from my horses corral sitting in his stroller from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m.!!!!! I was out there with a down jacket on, gloves, ear muffs, etc., and still froze to the core - I can`t believe anybody would just leave a baby sitting out like that. brrrrrr I think that was the day Tracy was driving and looked in the back seat and found out she was the babysitter for the day! (and not just one, but for two!). I didn`t exactly tell her the full job description when I convinced her to come and move rigs. ;^) This night we were camped in a field of wheat, right behind a restaurant. (but you gotta watch the gas station attendants in Oregon - they are required by law to pump gas for you and don`t always look to see if your rig is diesel or gas) On the day we went thru the G.I. Ranch there was a little incident involving an Angus range bull. This should go on the `top ten list of stupidist all time things endurance riders have done`. Apparently there was a large pasture of bulls (something like 17 of them were in it). We were supposed to trot down the road, and thru a gate. Well, all fine and good, `cept one of the bulls thought otherwise. One of the riders got off his horse and picked up a rock (can you tell where this is going?). The bull stomped the ground and threatened to charge. The rider threw the rock at the bull. Pissed said bull off. Bull charged. The rock throwing riders wives horse spun around and took off. She fell on the ground, and in the commotion the bull stopped (luckily!). She was able to finish riding that day, and everybody else got thru there safely with slight detours thru a swampy marsh. I did take a picture of the bull for a souvenir. ;=0 Lesson learned: Stay on your horse, hang on tight, and never, ever throw a rock at a range bull! On the fourth day Pat took the day off. Turns out this was one of the nicest days. I started out the morning riding with Dave Rabe until the vet check. There was more water this day. A long gravel road leading into the vet check, which seemed to come awfully fast :)). After lunch I started out on my own, and within a few miles I had caught another rider who was slowing down since his horse had scratches. I stayed with him for awhile, which was a good thing. Did I mention the gates on this ride? LOTS of gates. Many, many, many....some were very difficult to close. And if they were locked, they were very difficult to open as well . Weaver just kept cruising along, in his 7-8 mph trot. He takes good care of himself and is really easy to manage. All I have to do is make sure his easy boots are on, and we`re off! I took them off each night to check his feet, and then in the morning would re-wrap the vetwrap and put them back on. We never lost a boot the entire 250 miles!! The last day seemed to come all too fast. All the aches and pains had seemed to subside. The horse never seemed to get stiff at all. I allowed him to eat whatever he wanted. I even brought some alfalfa for him, which I am sure, is what caused him to be such a geek the first day (he isn`t used to it). On the 3rd, 4th, and 5th days I gave him a tube of Pro-Burst each day at lunch as well. We were finally out of the high desert (Oregon desert is very much like Nevada desert), and riding thru trees and even some sand. In true Lost Wagon Train form, I think Heidi had a moment where she just couldn`t resist marking the entire 250 miles she marked one (just ONE!) arrow that looked like it could go either way. Well, almost everybody went the wrong way. We got there and followed the footprints, assuming that was the correct way. It wasn`t. I noticed right away that there were as many prints going backwards, so something must be wrong. We traced our steps back and found the wrong turn. I picked up some stuff from the trail and made a new arrow so that Trilby and others behind us would not also make the same mistake. I suppose we couldn`t do "The Lost Wagon Train" without getting lost at least once! Though we weren`t really lost, just temporarily misplaced. Whenever she had a chance, Heidi would fill us in on some of the history of the trail and tell us about the Lost Wagon Train. Those that completed all five days received a book "Terrible Trail: The Meek Cutoff, 1845". Had a chance to browse thru it a bit on the way home from Oregon today. This is one of the passages in the book that I thought interesting: "Sometimes for the distance of many miles the entire surface of the country was covered with a medium sized stone or boulder, just large enough to make it difficult to travel over them; the only way the teams behind could distinguish the route was by the bruised and broken boulders, occasioned by the wheels of the front wagons passing over them and the blood from the feet of our poor animals that suffered almost beyond endurance". August 27, 1845 Bad Road went 12 (miles) August 29, 1845 Very bad Road. broak 3 wagens this day 5 (miles) August 30, 1845 Rock all day pore grass more swaring then you ever heard 11 (miles) I also found it interesting that the wagon trains had to each pay a guide. So endurance riders aren`t the first group to pay money for such torture. I think endurance riders were all reincarnated from these early immigrants. Only eight horses completed all five days. Each day anywhere from 20-30-something horses started. It was tougher than it looked. Happy Trails, Karen in Gardnerville & Weaver, 2255 miles 5th place overall/5 days :)

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