FROM: Sam DiMuzio
We have plenty of time leaving Cold Springs Station to get the final leg of Section 7. I wasn’t scheduled to get the mail till about 11pm and it was only 330pm. I did have to make the tough decision to back out of an earlier section in 7 because my boys needed a good rest. Did I mention we were short A LOT of riders this year? Since we still had lots of daylight left, I took Kaity to where she needed to pick me up from at Grubb’s Well so she could get the lay of the land.
We flew down 9 miles of nicely graveled 3 Bars Rd in nowhere, Lander County to the turn off to Grubb’s Well. I drove us in the 2-ish miles to Grubb’s Well itself wanting to make sure the road was passable for truck and trailer. Piece of cake. Sadly (thankfully), the greenbelt of Grubb’s Well was dry which made turning around much easier. Two years ago there was at least 6” of standing water.
After checking it out, we headed back to Ackerman Canyon Road to stage for our leg. I knew the trail crossed at about 4 miles and my ride captain had marked it with lime and ribbon, not to mention the trail is actually quite noticeable itself. However, at the moment we thought where the trail should’ve been, our attention gets grabbed by what we thought were riders up ahead due to the dust created and the equine-like movement. As we chased them to see what might be going on, we realized we were chasing antelope. And clearly passed where we were supposed to be. After travelling a little more up the road towards Ackerman Canyon itself, I finally had enough room to attempt to turnaround.
After mowing down some sagebrush, we headed south, driving slowly so as to not miss the markers, again. We finally spot the lime and the trail, and park, taking up the whole road. It’s about 8pm and we take out some very dusty ponies. Oops, seems the dust cloud I made flying down the gravel roads swirled back into the trailer more than I thought it would. We tied them up, brushed them off, and gave them as much mash, food, and water as they could want.
Around 9, we get comfy in the truck and I check the status of the mail. Not finding a clear answer, the website hasn’t updated and the pinger isn’t behaving, I call one of my HAM guys for an update. A series of unfortunate events seems to have occurred and the mail is about 3 hours behind. I set my alarm for 11 and try to nap. I’ll check status then.
Well, that alarm went off way too soon. I check the pinger and the website can’t make heads or tails out of anything. Send my ride captain a text. Tack up my pony, put on my helmet, cover up with a saddle blanket, get cozy in my chair outside next to my trailer, and set my alarm for every 30 minutes. At 1am, he lets me know he’s made it to the top of Eagle Butte. At 230, the rider is leaving Dry Creek-next stop, us.
At 340, the rider comes in. It’s dark and I left my greenlight headlamp at home. Surprisingly, our HAM guy, Kevin, has one and I strap it on my helmet. Apache seems to prefer green light over red or white in the dark. By 345, Pach and I are on our way out. It’s a long 10 miles.
I’ve realized Apache has two trotting speeds: trotting with a buddy and trotting alone. When we are with a buddy during an endurance ride, 8-9mph is easy for him maintain; when we are alone though, he’s on a Sunday stroll in the park. Don’t get me wrong, I know he’s done a tremendous job the past 48 hours and that he’s carrying 60+ pounds more than normal. His gait is steady and smooth and I know he’s not overexerting himself, but just a little quicker without always needing to nag would be nice .
About mile 6-8, I had been seeing headlights in the distance which have been like a beacon calling to me “you’re almost there” while simultaneously saying “yeah -nope you still got a long ways to go”. Then it disappeared…I took a screenshot of the pinger of where I was when I hit my “Pioneer Moment of Despair”. I know I’m getting closer, but good god why am I not there yet??
As we get closer to the remnants of Grubb’s Well, I know the road goes around to the exchange point. I said screw that and the moment I had an opening in the sage I took it. Even Apache understood my plan and picked up the gallop without me having to ask. Of course, the draw of the other horses didn’t hurt! So I got my XP moment of speed at the very end of our adventure.
We handed the mochila off to Section 8 and bid them godspeed! Sadly, I added an extra hour of delay to our tally and I hoped the other sections can make up some time for us. This year was tough, but we did what needed to be done and now we can truly rest or at least we can once we make the 5 hour trek back home.
We did however take a few hours to rest and nap at the Rodeo Grounds in Austin. The showers were open and I even managed to pack just enough to have a clean set of clothes and toiletries to make use of it! And we made it home with lots of daylight left
Sidenote: Did you know popping bubble wrap and running over Mormon crickets make the same sound? Yeah me either until this trip…Never gonna have the windows down doing that again…
Final Mile Tally: Apache:33.5 Rhy: 15.3