Sunday, September 18, 2005

Tom & Frank, Owyhee High Country - Tom Noll


Early in September my horse Frank and I rode the Owyhee High Country
three-day ride. This was a big deal for us. Two years ago Frank set the
pace on this ride. But, earlier this summer, Frank had some lameness issues
and he missed the Big Horn, which is his ride. My thoughts are that a horse
might have a great year or two, but it is a very rare horse that has more
than a few great years. Perhaps Frank could be one of those rare great
horses, but I would be happy if we could just continue to go on down the
trail together for many years to come and that is what I've been working
towards. This year our goal was to run all three days of the Owyhee ride
and have a good time along the way. Frank and I are pals on the trail and
we both think alike. We've both run a few 100s and I hope Frank enjoys my
company as much as I enjoy his companionship on the trails.

Late Friday afternoon I pulled into the ridecamp at Bates Creek. I set up
camp next with Virginia Ware on one side and Ron and Lois Belknap on the
other side. All were three-day riders and Ron and Lois have been tearing up
the trails this summer. I could not have asked for better camp neighbors.

Frank and I would be running at mid-pack. We have had our days running in
front but these three days would be at a more moderate pace. The first day
was Sinker Canyon and we started off at the back of the pack. Coming into
the creek bottom I hopped off and ran all the way down the grade and into
the bottom. I thought to myself, "Well it sure isn't Wasatch, but at least
I can still set a pretty mean pace on the downhills." Frank matched me step
for step. He never complained about my pace and he never said that we could
go faster.

We talked with our friends at the creek bottom and then took off up the
drainage. We headed up the creek at a walk and then up the road at a
canter. Wahoo! This is riding! Frank was switching leads on the curves and
running uphill without even breaking a sweat. We ran around the top and
then off the top and back to the canyon. We stopped for the vet check and
Frank and another fellow Kathy Arnold horse named Quinn shared some leftover
grain with Frank and Quinn each taking turns and waiting while the other
took a few mouthfuls from the bucket.

We left the vet check and it was hot. I ran out of water and the ranch
hands at the Joyce Ranch graciously let me get a drink and refill my bottle
from a faucet outside the ranch. Nance Worman and I rode in to the camp
together and I was at the 50-mile vet check of a 155-mile three-day run.

Day two was chasing demons. Day two around Toy Mountain is a big ride and
two years ago Frank and I led the entire day. My riding partners and I rode
hard and fast that day two years ago and Frank was the only horse of the
three to come back for day three. This year was slower and I planned to
take in the trail and finish again with plenty of horse left. I rode up the
trail with Lynne and Carla, two outlaw ladies from Grangeville Idaho, as
well as Tom Dean and his wife Jan. The five of us set a nice even climbing
pace and we hooked up with the Max the Mule Guy, Nance Worman, and Mary
Forrester and rode into the vet check together. We left the vet check
together but Frank has a faster pace and soon Frank and I were alone on the
trail again. From the pass at the top of the Owyhees you can see off to the
Snake River in the east and off to Nevada, Oregon, and California to south
and west. Looking to the east I thought, "Tomorrow we'll be drinking water
at the Snake River" and that is a sobering thought given the distance to the
river. We took off on the steep downhill. Part of the way down the trail
Frank stumbled hard in some soft dirt and I came off and hit the ground in a
big cloud of dust. Frank was ok so there was nothing else to do but to pick
myself up, get back on, and keep on riding. We passed the old stage stop
where I drove my car in to ski the Owyhees one day in May some years ago.
Now I can't believe that I ever drove up that rough and rocky road all for
some spring tele turns on Quicksilver Mountain. Frank and I made our way
down the mountain trails and across the scrub juniper flats to the last
water tank eight miles out. I gave Frank a twenty-minute rest with a hay
slurpee in the water tank and then we headed on down the trail and back to
camp. Frank knew exactly where we were and he took off from the tanks at a
rocket canter. Had I let him, he would have run all the way back to the
Bates Creek Ranch. As it was we ran most of the last eight miles and came
into camp at a fast Wahoo pace.

My goal on day three was just to hang on and finish. Again, we started at
the very end of the pack. Frank had run 105 miles in two days and we had
another fifty to go. Early on I hooked up with Heidi Smith and we shared
the trails together for rest of the day. We rode around Wild Horse Mesa and
headed down to the river for the last water stop before the vet check. A
large rattler guarded the river trail, but we chased the snake into the
brush and our horses took a drink at the river. Heidi and I followed the
Oregon Trail into the vet check and then followed the ride trails back to
camp. We both rode up Rye Patch Road at a flying canter with our reins
slack on the saddle. I was laughing hard. We rode in to Oreana and the on
up the road to the ranch. Our horses picked up the pace as we got closer to
camp and they would have run full-tilt boogie into camp had we let them. It
is something really special to have a horse that still wants to run flat out
after three days on the trail. Frank finished day three in the top ten
after starting dead last and we had successfully ridden 155 miles of Owyhee

John and Steph are the most gracious hosts and they open their ranch, their
home, and their hearts for their riding guests. Owyhee County is still
rough and rugged territory and the Teeter Ranch is an old-west stage stop in
that dry desert country. The Owyhee Trails are rough and rocky, the horses
are tough, the riders are weather-beaten from days in the desert, and each
trail and each day is full of special memories.

Best Regards,

Tom Noll

SW Idaho

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