Wednesday, September 29, 1999

Outlaw Trail Story - Karen Chaton

We started in the dark on day 1. As Crockett said, it was as dark as the inside of your eyelids. We began with a controlled start and as we began our long ascent to 11,100` I couldn`t help but grin from ear to ear. This was one ride that I had wanted to do for at least four or five years and this year I finally firmly decided that we were going to go and as Jean Luc would say `make it so`. Now here I was, about to begin one of the most exciting adventures on horseback anyone could hope to experience in their lifetime.....

The trail was rugged, and since it had been raining was quite muddy. The controlled start continued for several miles and then Crocket pulled back and let others pass him. Along the way he opened gaits for us and kept a watchful eye on us. The scenery was magnificent and not at all like what I expected the Outlaw Trail to be like. We were riding in a beautiful fall forest complete with an occasional lake, meadows and falling leaves in all the various shades of color. Even waterfalls. Because of the clouds and recent weather pattern there was a bit of a mist to the air which made it seem like we were in some sort of fairyland. We crossed plenty of water for the horses to drink and cool out of. We did a lot of walking because of the mud and the rocks and other obstacles on the trail. We went thru one gate and soon began a long three mile straight of going downhill. This section was very difficult on us as it was muddy, rocky and contained quite a lot of debris in addition to being very steep. I had gotten back on in one spot when Rocky started to slip in the mud....the only thing causing him to stop sliding was when we slipped into some large rocks which caused him to lunge forward over them, and we slipped off of the trail. By some miracle I managed to stay on him, and he stood his ground while I regained composure. Near the bottom of this it was very muddy and steep and this is where I learned that horses can moon walk with the best of `em! Our lunch check on this first day was a little over 40 miles into the 55 we were going to be doing. On the way down into the check another rider noticed that Rocky`s hind shoes looked like they had slid over a little bit. Probably from all the hillwork in the mud. We made it into the vet check and vetted thru just fine. Dave was there (hubby/crew) to meet me with a blanket for Rocky and my trailer along with my spare horse. After Rocky finished his trot out we noticed that he had just stepped out of both of his hind shoes. Arrrrrgggghhhhhh!!!! So over to the trailer we went to try and scrape as much mud off of his feet as we could so we could foam some easyboots on. The hour seemed to go by rather quickly trying to get everything done and taken care of. After all, the 45 miles that we had just come had been long and tough. We left the check and headed straight up a mountain out of the check. Up into the aspens and thru meadows. Made it into the finish with a couple of hours to spare (13 1/2 hours allowed for 55 miles). Dave met me with the spare horse so I used the spare horse as a saddle stand while I pulled Rocky`s tack and vetted. I wimpered something to Crocket about how my horse had lost both of his hind shoes, and he said to come back in an hour and he`d do something about that. (big smile>) Dave had the sun shower waiting for me so I got cleaned up in the meantime. Got the horse set up with new back shoes and re-glued the easyboots on the front feet since I was sure they wouldn`t stay on after all the mud we did that day. I kept Desitin on him (went thru two large tubes). Up on the mountain we spotted an entire herd of Elk. This was an incredible place. The only problem with this camp was the availability of fresh cow-pies, which forced one to watch where they were going .

On the second day we again began with a long controlled start. The terrain this day was equally as breathtaking while at the same time completely different than the first. We had never ridden on slick rock before. It`s really not as slippery as it sounds, though you need to know how to go over it or else your horse could slip and fall. The trail was anything but flat and it took an eagle eye to spot the next marker. Sometimes because of the steepness of the trail you couldn`t see the next marker so you had to just pick a direction of travel and head up and hope that you`d pop up in the right spot and see the next marker so you could continue. Sometimes you`d get to a marker and continue straight and other times you`d need to make a turn. There were no footprints to follow on this stuff. Having horses up ahead was an advantage, though several times the group of riders would be coming back so often it was to no advantage to be in the front. I was riding in the back and often found myself in the front or near the front due to the other riders spending time hunting for the trail, or missing a turn and having to backtrack. On part of the trail was an old telephone line, which was about neck height, and you had to be careful and watch for that less you hang yourself. Especially if you weren`t on the trail. The vet check was early this day, only about 20 miles into the ride. After we vetted we had to load our horses into our trailers and haul about 5 miles down the road where we got out and continued. We could spent our hold time either at the vet check or at the new place where we moved to. After the check is where we passed Andy, the runner. I can`t believe somebody was out there running this entire course. WOW!

I caught two other riders just before we headed down the trail from hell (can I say that?). It was a steep trail, on the side of a rock face and it was generally entirely rock. Not just small rock, or slick rock, but rocks of all sizes and shapes. We all got off to lead down. It was difficult for all of us on foot. One rider lost her didn`t get far. I gave my horse plenty of slack with the reins and let him pick his way thru the rocks. This was the most technical type of trail that I`ve ever seen on an endurance ride. It was doable, but you had to be careful, go slow and pray a lot (to the endurance gods). Sometimes I`d slip, or my horse would slip and we`d both topple down a few feet over the rock and usually we`d come to a stop without any mishap. Rocky got a couple of surface cuts and scrapes in this section, and of course even a little bit of blood on a grey horse looks horrid. I wasn`t so afraid of the cliffs or the rock ledges or some of the technical trail that had others turning pale because I`ve come to the conclusion that I`m either going to die or I`m not, and aside from being careful there isn`t much else I can do about it. So just try and enjoy the adrenalin and the highs associated with being scared @#$%less, keep a sense of humor and try not to worry about the horse :).

We had a second vet check only a dozen or so miles from the finish where we could refill our drinking water. I brought Rocky in a little hot so went down to a big mud puddle and sunk to my ankles in the mud so I could get my sponge into the water to cool him off. They didn`t have any horse water here so we all had to get a bit muddy here in order for the horse to drink and for me to cool him. I brought him back up to vet and have our hold, where Rocky really dug into the food. I continued after this down the trail and shortly caught up with another group of riders that included Sharon Dumas, Doyle Patrick and Jaime Kerr. Just as I caught them we all missed a turn (ohhhhh boy!!). Turned around and headed back. Sharon marked it with more ribbon so the rest of the riders wouldn`t have that problem, and off we went. We had some good sections of trotting thru here, then came to more slick rock and we all got off. More splendid scenery. We could see Escalante as we got further down the mountain. It seemed like a long ways off. Came to an intersection where Doyle said "it`s this way", and other riders said "no, it`s this way". They went their way, and I followed Doyle cuz I knew we were going the right way . So we got ahead of them, but not for long cuz soon after we popped up onto a street and didn`t know which way to go, so followed all the footprints. (dumb, dumb, dumb!!!) Somebody in a truck stopped us and told us to go back and turn at such and such street, and of course by the time we did the others had gone ahead of us. We trotted into the finish line and vetted. Just as I was finishing up the vet noticed that Rocky had a bunch of cactus barbs sticking all in his leg and ankle. Ohhhhh man!! I plucked them all out, one bled quite a lot which the vet said was good. I hoped that I had gotten them all completely out and worried and fretted about him and if he`d be alright. Later that night he was quite sore to the touch around that ankle.

The next morning I had Rocky warming up at 4 a.m. to make sure he was sound and okay to go. He was! He`s one tough horse. Still sore if you touched his ankle but I knew that leaving him tied to the trailer and having him hauled around all day wouldn`t do him any good, so I may as well ride him. This third morning was the day we started in silence, for an hour in order to honor those great people in our sport who have come and gone. The good long walk was good for Rocky. We heard Elk bugling off in the distance. Way kewl. Another beautiful day, we were in t-shirts in no time. This day we went back up to over 11,000` again and rode thru some absolutely wonderful forests, where we were completely engulfed in aspen and birch trees with their flittering yellow leaves all about. This was another very technical day which caused the horses to have to work quite a bit. I kept wondering if Rocky had it in him to keep going thru all of this. I was asking for more from him than I had ever asked before. I got off to lead him over a creaky old wooden bridge that had loose planks, and due to my DIMR at this point I didn`t pull his reins over his head (NOTE: *always* lead a horse over an obstacle with the reins!) and instead grabbed his halter and started walking him over the bridge. Well, the end result is that I have a nice round baseball sized bruise on the back of my calf, and had my foot squashed.....nothing broke though, and I got back on and continued riding in just a low pitched whine ;^0. A few of us got together into a group and just sort of meandered the rest of the afternoon together. We got a few sprinkles, but that was all. As we came into the finish we put the junior Bergen in front of us and the four adults (all on grey/white horses) rode four abreast and that`s how we finished. The Little Bear Gang. :+)

I vetted thru right away. I had Weaver brought over and vetted him in as well, as I was certain that Rocky wouldn`t be fit to continue the next morning. But doggone it, he looked like I had no choice but to ride him again :=). Happened to have found a junior named Sandy who was in need of a horse to ride so we made her an official Pinkerton (if you are a Pinkerton that means that you changed horses or missed a day and if you are an OUTLAW you have been on the same horse all 5 days) and off we went! This worked out perfectly for us, since it made Sandy happy, made Weaver (very) happy, and also made my husband happy who was at this point getting very tired of dealing with a very P.O.`d horse. Sandy was a good rider and had no problem handling Weaver, even though he had three days full of pent up energy. He was a gentleman though and didn`t do any funny business which made me very happy as well. Sandy had only done two endurance rides before this, the Tevis and the Swanton 100.

On this, the fourth day we got to start an hour later - 7 a.m. Yesssss!!!! Partly because this day was *only* (as if that`s not enough?) 50 miles. For about the first hour my leg cramped up so we`d have to walk in between trotting until I worked it out. After that, the pain went away and my leg was happy. I loved these nice controlled starts for so long, giving the horses such a nice warm up which is really important on a ride like this. Even though this day was less difficult, especially technically, it still caused the horses to work. The varied terrain still demands a lot out of the horse. We would encounter everything from mud to deep sand to rock and also some nice footing. I was beginning to feel the excitement of becoming an OUTLAW, and I think Rocky was too. We had a vet check at about 19 miles with a short hold. This day we spent a good deal of time being pissed at each other. I was still mad at him for stepping on me at that bridge the day before (who cares if it was really my fault, I was still mad at him....). We mainly followed behind Weaver this day, which of course caused me to take most of my pictures of him and Sandy. hehe She had to hold him back for the first 35 miles, but after the hour hold he mellowed out to his normal self and she had him on a loose rein. Dave met us at Tropic for the hour hold. Everything was going extremely well. Rocky was no longer sore where the cactus got him, and it was a gorgeous day. We left after the hour hold and had to pass a couple of ranches on the way into town where we crossed over and headed up towards Bryce Canyon. Rocky spooked at a cow that was colored differently than any he had seen before. He was starting to feel his normal self again, complete with attitude. Went past the local high school where we saw some overzealous teenagers had painted soap words all over the cars in the parking lot. hehe. Onward we went, catching up with Andy the runner. He directed us onto a couple of turns that we may have missed otherwise. I can`t believe that he was maintaining as fast or faster an overall time on this type of terrain than we were on the horses! We kept climbing the hill and rode alongside the cliff edges where we had incredible views of the canyons. The trail was marked extremely well in this section, in fact you nearly needed sunglasses to keep from being blinded by the trail markings. I had the horses both wearing breast collars because I had them on loose cinches. I made a point of getting off on all the downhills to help Rocky out and give him a break. We finished this day late in the afternoon, near the back of the pack. Vetted thru fine, then cleaned up and took a shower. We cleaned the horses up but before they could dry it started pouring rain. When we moved to that camp we had been told to make sure and park downhill, so that when they pulled us out we would be pointing the right way (boy they weren`t kidding!). I tried to get all of Rocky`s various scratches and boo-boos cleaned up, and kept icing his legs. Walked him often.

This evening included a history lesson. Wallace Ott came to speak. He is the only living person to have known Butch Cassidy. He brought lots of historical information with him including photos, artifacts and of course personal stories. He had spearheads he had found on the trail that the Smithsonian had dated at over 10,000 years old!

Day 5. I couldn`t believe that we were starting the last day already. It seemed as if it had flown by. Another 7 a.m. controlled start. By going so slow the day before my horse had recovered and was strong again, wanting to be in the lead and having enough attitude to want to toss his head. We rode down to the Pahrea (sp?), which was absolutely incredible! The river was shallow, while the rock canyons towered above us reminding us how incredibly small we are. As the sun rose, light reflected off of the brilliantly colored rock and thru the crevices and breaks in the formations. Steam from the horses sweat rose above forming a cloud of mist among the groups of horses. While the river flowed about us, we picked our way thru the wet sand and the rocks. There was no one trail, and each horse chose their own route to follow. The canyon seemed to go on forever, then we finally made it into the vet check. The vet assured me that Rocky could do it....we could be OUTLAWS.....and so we spent our hour hold fully inspired by the possibility of making it thru all five days of this trail. Dave met me at this check, having ridden in with Marty (Trilby`s crew). The horses happily inhaled hay and drank well while I had one of the sandwiches provided, and chugged down some soda. Caffeine...give me caffeine!!!!

Back down the trail we went. Sandy was getting a little tired but still in good spirits. Jeff Leuternaur was also riding with us. As this trail progressed we found ourselves on more slick rock. I got off and led and watched while Sandy rode Weaver down some of this technical stuff and was just amazed at how graceful and how smoothly the two of them moved together. (why is he such a clod with me?) As I led on foot down one trail thru very thick trees (where you couldn`t see ahead at all) I shot out of the trail right onto a really steep bank that dropped into the river!! Eeeeegads, and there was no way I was going to be able to get on in this position, the entire saddle was covered up with tree branches. Hmmmm. After some finagling of where to put the horse and the rider, I finally ended up on him again, and we got into the river and even though we didn`t see any trail markers we saw prints so followed those. I looked back and honestly could not see how we could have possibly come down that rock that we had just come down. We continued on thru the river section. It was the warmest part of the day and so we sponged here and there to cool them. They drank well, and Weaver was trying to eat the rocks, since there was no green stuff available. We were all smiles when we made it into the last vet check, 6 miles from the finish. The horses were down right away and spent their hold time eating well. They gave us water and Snickers, which helped Sandy quite a bit . On the last 6 miles of the ride we opened the horses up and just flew! I couldn`t believe how much they wanted to go. I had Rocky in a fast canter while Weaver quietly trotted with Sandy and he was ahead of us! As soon as we started going down some steep stuff, I got off and led down. I wanted to bring the horses in cool and dry in case we had another afternoon thundershower. What a feeling to pop up over that little hill into camp and be finished! I was sad in a way, that it was over. But what a sense of accomplishment. Both horses vetted right thru and we headed over to the trailer to take care of them. Got to take another shower and clean up good before the awards. They served steak dinner that night, which was excellent. They did a nice presentation of the awards. All in all, 15 horses completed all 5 days of the ride and 265 miles (OUTLAWS!!). Another 8 riders completed all 5 days on different horses (Pinkertons!). We received pure silver Outlaw Trail coins (troy ounces) for each days completion award, and for overall our horses each received a beautiful polar fleece Outlaw Trail blanket (donated by Easycare and made by Tammy at Trail-Rite). Us OUTLAW`s also got vests with the ride logo, and in addition they had several other awards and items to give out.

This was the nicest trail that I have ever ridden. It was something that most of us would never get to see on our own; most people don`t even know that country like this exists. We are incredibly fortunate to have people like Sharon and Crocket out there who are willing to do the work and effort required to pull off something such as this. This ride defines what endurance is all about.

This page links the photos I have put up. It will take awhile to get all 5 days up. (the first three are up now)

Happy Trails,

in NV
& OUTLAW Rocky, 2,010 miles
& Weaver, 3,105 miles

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