Kevin nailed it perfectly with "epic." First, I was too exhausted and then too busy to write with some home/work obligations and I've decided this may have to come in pieces and parts. Perhaps others will fill in parts I leave off or can't recall. I am a much better oral story teller than writer, so hopefully those of you more gifted with the printed word will also fill in.
I am, of course, heart-broken that I did not finish the ride. But, I have so much gratitude that not finishing the ride seems almost embarrassing to mention. There are several heroes in my story and I want to repeat their names several times in my tale...Ronnie Eden, Walt Benhardus, and Tim French. IF you ever need help, I hope you are surrounded by folks half as fine as those three are. A big thank you, also, to the Haeberle family of Laramie. They'll be in my story, too. Ronnie sacrificed her completion of the ride staying with me, taking over my horse, and trying to get us help. She spent a lonely, wet, cold night on the mountain babysitting her horse and mine. I can't imagine how frightening that must have been. They just don't make many people like that in our world and if you ever get to meet her, I hope you will tell her how special she really is! Then, there is Walt. He didn't know me from "Adam." We'd never met before when he chose to stay by my side and lead me on foot down Black Mt Rd. It was a Herculean effort. Wish I could tell you why I got sooo sick. I'm infamous for my normal vertigo in the dark coming off that mountain. My normal pattern is to puke once, then I'm fine and go on to finish. That didn't happen this time. Don't know if it's because I'm older, or because I got soaked several times and was chilled to the bones (yes, I had two raincoats and they were both soaked through by the third rain storm), or because I was so stressed knowing that the horses were slipping and sliding all over the trail in the down pour and each step felt like they might injure themselves permanently or because I was so stressed thinking about all of the people lost in the cold rain and mud on the mountain...who can know...what I can tell you is that I have never been that sick in my life. Someone who was there said I vomited at least nine times. I couldn't ride, couldn't walk, was shivering so hard that my teeth rattled and Ronnie and Walt kept holding me in a bear hug on either side trying to warm me and keep me from shock. Ronnie gave me her wonderful Aussie raincoat and when I think of her alone on that mountain trying to sleep in a huddle without her coat, it just brings me to my knees.
Mother nature certainly caused 99% of the problems on the ride, if not all. In the 30 years I've been on that trail, I've never seen rain like that during the ride. Snow, yes, but not rain. Ride manager, Jeanette Tolman, was heading from Ranger Creek to Jack Creek to put out the night markings for the trail during one of the down pours. She was hauling her four wheeler in her horse trailer when her truck and trailer slid off the road and her trailer with the four wheeler was left hanging off a cliff. Hopefully, Dr. Haeberle will post his photo of the rig. So, that's the short version of why there were NO markings on the trail off the mountain when we riders took off down it in the rain. Of course, I didn't know any of that at the time. Since everyone knows how prejudiced I am about this ride, I'll ask others to comment on the ride markings before this point. To me, they were perfection. I'd say it was the best marking ever on the trail up to the Jack Creek stop.
I am going to take a break in my story right now because really, truly I am starting to cry and need to compose myself before I continue with part 2. Cindy