Wednesday June 14, Day 2 for Red and I. Today, we have two legs to ride for Ride Captain Dale Ryan. Our first leg is the upper Kingsbury leg; this leg starts ½ way up Kingsbury Grade (Hwy 207) and follows much of the old Kingsbury toll road. It is a 1500 + foot climb to the top. The second leg is to accompany Bob to Stateline, NV, short notice for us, as the original rider wasn’t able to ride. In addition to the two legs for Red and I have, my Mustang Charlie will carry the mail with Peter visiting from Germany on part of the Upper Kingsbury leg.
We start the day with the news that the overnight riders made up a lot of time and were ahead of schedule! We recalculate when we need to be at the starting point. What time to be there, is always the questions for the rider and support crew! I also wanted to see Chloe ride her second leg along Jacks Valley. I load up Charlie and Red to head to Carson City; I met Jim De Glopper , my support driver, he has helped me the past three years and we make a great team! We head to Jacks Valley road, just in time to catch Chloe and Rainey going by the Pony Express sign!
Then we head towards Kingsbury, enroute we see Jim Phelan at his staging spot at lower Kingsbury and stop and chat, wishing him well. Both of our legs are ones the HAM and Sheriff Office cannot follow along due to the terrain. We arrive at the staging spot and check on progress, I start getting Red ready for our leg. I pack an extra horn bag with water, a lead rope and my cell phone and let Jim De Glopper know he needs to hand it to me at the next leg for when I ride with Bob.
Once Jim receives the mail and starts riding; the HAM, SO and other support crews start arriving at the handoff section. Fun to visit with everyone there, special treat that Wilbur Kirby stopped by to wish us well, a long time supporter and member from West Virginia. We start hearing that they can see Jim making it up the mountain! Time to be ready for the exchange!
The final part of Jim Phelan’s leg is a steep, narrow trail with a sharp right turn through a small opening in the guardrail before crossing the highway. Thankfully the SO is on hand to stop the traffic and help make this a smooth crossing. Peter (Germany) & Ed (Washington) are on hand to help with the Mochila exchange. Red is eager to move out and off we go! We alternate between a gallop and walk depending on terrain and steepness. We enjoy the solitude of the section and reflect on the original riders, would they have had a trail to follow up the mountain like we did. The first part of the leg is asphalted and is the old Kingsbury Toll road – we pass a few homes in this secluded part, also see several cars that had gone over the side. You wonder when those happened, how the occupants fared and the circumstances of the accident. Amazing vistas across the Carson Valley at different times when there are clearings in the tree cover. The end of the old toll road marks the beginning of the dirt trail. A few water crossing from the spring run off, and a mudpit to navigate through and several erosion spots to avoid along the way up to Tramway. We approach Tramway and a soft nicker from Charlie greets us. We exchange the Mochila to Peter and Charlie and together ride down to Boulder Lodge the remainder of the upper Kingsbury leg. Peter has been a member of the NV division for 30 years and wanted to ride on the Re-Ride; glad he was able to ride Charlie to accomplish this goal.
We are greeted by many red shirts and many Pony Fans at Boulder Lodge , here Bob and Peter exchanges the Mochila. Jim had put out some water for Red, before we would accompany Bob along to Stateline. We are heading back down the mountain that we just climbed towards Stateline, NV to hand off to the California division. We were making good time and ahead of schedule to get to Stateline. The trail is mainly a single track going through a heavily wooded area. We reach a secluded subdivision and there are several neighbors with their children out with their lawn chairs sitting on the street waiting for the pony to go by. Bob has ridden this section for several years (only in odd years does it go through this area). The kids are excited to see us and we briefly stop and say Hello to the mini Bob fan club. The horses get some scratches and onwards we go, back onto a single-track trail. We move along when Reds heads perks up to the rustling on our right, I look to see what it is, expecting some deer to be in the brush. What I see is a BEAR, a big black bear! Thankfully running in the opposite direction of where we are heading. I turn to Bob behind me who had not seen it and pointed it out to him. Both of our horses seemed to not care about it and we continued on.
Shortly after, I hear a noise behind me and about at the same time Bob’s horse runs past me (without Bob). I turn to see Bob laying on the trail! Oh no! I jump off Red to go check on Bob, at this point his horse (with the Mochila) decided he wanted to turn around and ran past us and kept going in the direction of where we started. At first Red was trying to follow him! First order is to tend to Bob and then I will deal with the runaway horse. I start talking to Bob to figure out how hurt he is, although I am not seeing blood, Bob is only slightly responsive and I decide to call 911 to get help. I knew I could not determine his injuries and would need help getting him from the trail. While talking to the emergency operator and trying to locate a tree to tie Red too. I was so grateful that I had asked Jim to make sure I had my horn bag on this leg! The emergency operator asks several questions that I am unsure on how to answer – “Where exactly are you”, ‘What is your cross street’. In my head I am trying to figure out how best to get the answers so that I could get help to the right location. I realize that the Mochila had the Pony Express Tracker, but that was with the horse (wherever he went), I did carry my personal Emergency locator on me and was just going to suggest I activate the SOS call on it. Thankfully, at that point, the operator said to me that they had a position on us based on my cell phone (You have to love technology!) – Phew. At this point I was advised to not move Bob other than sit him up. He was leaning up against my leg so that he could have a bit to of water. The operator assures me that help is on the way and then I hear the sirens approaching – oh what a relief to hear them! A little bit later I see the emergency Pickup truck coming down the trail. What a relief I had help! I hang up the phone with 911 and know now I need to think about the horse/Mochila! On my recent calls I see Dean (NPEA National President) number and I call him to give him an update of what is going on. I mention that I would like rider support to follow the horse as I was going to go in the direction of the bear and wanted assistance. Once Bob was loaded in the Truck, I get Red and we follow the truck out to determine where in South Lake we are. A couple California riders meet us and I take them back in the direction of the trail and they are off to go find the horse. At this point Jim had managed to get my Rig into Friday Station Park and we were informed that they located the horse & Mochila. He was caught at the houses where we had stopped to talk to the kids. The saddle was hanging sideways, but the Mochila was still on, the reins had torn off somewhere on the trail. We come up with a plan to get the horse and Mochila. The EMT went up to pick up the Mochila and bring it to the CA group. We would pick up the horse and return it to Bob’s trailer.
Thank you goes to many, especially to these guys! Jim, Dale, Peter, Ed, HAM Radio, Douglas SO, Dean, Arthur, Tahoe Douglas Fire, CA Division Re-Riders and so many more to help with everything!
All this and the Mochila only had a 10-minute delay to California! Thankfully, there was a buffer established by the previous riders! Thank you Pony Team!
I am happy to report that Bob was released from the hospital that evening in remarkable condition! He is one tough Pony Rider!
The next day I pinned my Nebraska Re-Ride pin to my vest, I reflected on the past 8 years. Every year a different state along the trail ‘hosts’ the ride and each rider receives a pin. This year, Red & I completed the Pony Express Trail pins (8 years). I reflect on the memories of the years, each year has such unique memories. Equestrians can appreciate that the best memory is how the bond between Red & I has grown. If it had not been for all the trail miles, our bear encounter could have ended very differently. Each pin represents a lot of hard work, sweat, trust in your partner and an amazing support crew to help you ride for the Pony. In addition to the crew on the trail, there are vets, farriers, pet sitters, mechanics, and coworkers etc. that help ‘get it done’. I am still ‘processing’ yesterday and will get a ride report put together. Go Pony – The mail arrived in Sacramento on June 15th. If each letter carried in that Mochila could just share the stories of all the riders and crew from the trail – that would be quite the book!