Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The Bighorn Trail - Cindy Collins

Cindy Collins

OK. I've tried to be quiet, but it just isn't in me. I have to share a
little of my love of this trail. The Big Horn 100 predates the AERC. It
has been run continuously since 1971. It is a single loop 100 mile trail.

It was twice the site of the Race of Champions. It starts out of Shell,
WY at ~4,000 ft. The first 25 miles rise gradually out of the desert to
the base of the mountains. The sunrise over the desert floor takes your
breath away. Purple, orange, rose, and every shade of brown and tan
appear in the rocks. You cross beautiful, clear, cold streams of water.
Then you begin the spectacular climb 5,000 ft. through a series of five
canyons with running streams. As you climb, the views of the valley floor
spread out below you and you see the mountain ranges in the distance...the
Beartooths, the Absarokas, the Pryors and the Wind Rivers. Wild flowers
of every imaginable color spread out over the Big Horn trails once you get
to the top. Pictures really can't do them justice. Once on top of this
plateau, you see the big snowcapped peaks of the BigHorns, especially
Cloud Peak, and you ride toward those distant shrines. At the half way
point of Antelope Butte, you just think that it can't get any more
beautiful. But, you are wrong.

The trail leads out of the mid way point
on to the Adelaide trail and the Cloud Peak wilderness area. The quaking
aspen trees, streams, flowers, and views continue to be awe inspiring.
Now you climb up a narrow, single track trail to Adelaide Lake. The lake
is a jewel surrounded by alpine meadows, streams, and spectacular rock
formations. As you continue to climb through Boulder Basin, you look back
over your shoulder to see both Adelaide Lake and Shell Reservoir sparkling
below you, surrounded by mountains. You reach the high point of the ride,
almost 11,000 ft. and see the entire BigHorn basin of Wyoming spread out
below you.

Then you begin the descent toward Jack Creek and your final
rest before the long trail back down to Shell over the Black Mt. road. If
you are "my" speed, you get to watch another amazing sunset as you descend
through more wild flowers and mountain meadows toward the desert floor.
The stars in the Wyoming sky look like you could reach up and touch them.
You see a few scattered pinpoints of light below that show you really
aren't totally alone in this magnificent place. As you make your final
drop onto the red desert floor and head toward the few vehicle lights
awaiting the end of your journey, you know that you and your horse have
accomplished something magical that no one can ever take away from you.
You won't have a stadium of cheering volunteers, but the people there will
care about you as an individual because you will be one of a very small
number of riders they worried about all day long.

I have completed the Big Horn 100 seven times. I have helped with the
ride in a variety of jobs since 1981. I have faced the "agony" of defeat
on it more times than I care to recall. It fills my dreams and my heart.
Some day, I hope my ashes are spread over it. Most of all, I love every
inch of it. It represents endurance riding to me, and all of the brave
horses that have carried me over it. I can close my eyes and feel them
under me. I can see the faces and hear the voices of my many dear friends
who have shared these trails with me. I can lean down and smell the
greatness in the mane of horses like Khalil. Joe let me take him on a
conditioning ride on a portion of the trail. I can see ROC winners
racing, literally, for those last few yards after traveling this grueling
trail. I can see "old timers" racing across a wooden, no side rails,
bridge over Shell creek, making a 90 degrees turn on a single track off
that bridge at a full gallop into the finish line at the camp. I am
humbled by their horses' hearts.

Tevis probably has 500 volunteers. It is a magnificent trail. I've
ridden all but 5 miles of it and I totally understand its mystique.
However, I truly believe that the BigHorn is the most beautiful trail in
the world. We're lucky if we have 20 volunteers we can count on. You do
have to be much more independent and pioneer-like for the Big Horn. But,
I do believe it is worth all the hardships and heartaches just to see it
one time in your life. Please come ride with us. We'll do our very best
to make it a memorable experience. Cindy

No comments: