I pumped the tanks, filled the house and horse water, grazed the horses, played fetch with Tommy, checked the tires air pressure (all are down 5 lb and the passenger side trailer tires are down 10 lb, a trucker told me only to react if its double digit so I need to find a truck stop with a good compressor tomorrow), filled the hay nets, and I forget what else. 2 guys sitting by a campfire said I was working so hard he had to sit down and have a drink. Eventually Liza came outside and asked if I was finished already, she had come to help. We all had a laugh about that.
We went over the next few states in the atlas together. We cross the Rockies in Montana on the way to the camp near Darby. Its not nearly as high as Loveland Pass when I crossed in Colorado thank God. That was terrifying.
9/12/14 afternoon, Billings, SD overnight; Halstead Stable
Yesterday (in ND camp) I heard from two women in the cabin that their friend was seriously hurt from a bucking fit her horse threw on the trail. 2 ambulances and a helicopter came quickly and one of those I guess got her to the hospital. She has a fractured pelvis and other injuries. They are all here together for an annual girls week in the cabin. They are from the area where I am heading, Custer, SD. They took her horse home this morning for her. One showed me a photo of the snow that just fell at her ranch, but when I saw her this morning she reassured to me that the roads were now clear (her husband texted that to her). I just hope it warms up.
We left this morning around 9:30 and got to our overnight in Billings, SD around 2. It was perfectly straight and flat interstate driving so I got to enjoy the beautiful view as I drove, which was really nice for a change. The landscape is like a patchwork quilt and the colors are subtle and many.
The mares are settled into large stalls in a barn with straw bedding, a first for them. It is shielded from the wind in there so they should be nice and cozy for the night. It is cold and overcast. The electric plug they gave me blew with the space heater running so I switched to the gas heat. I’ll need a new tank by tomorrow plus I really need gas in the truck as soon as we leave. Its pretty desolate here but I did see a gas station on the way, just didn’t have enough time to slow down for it.
My daughter’s 19th birthday is tomorrow. I wish I could be with her. I was going to send her money and a card and she said she preferred a painting. This blew me away. I never thought my kids really liked my paintings. I know my husband didn’t. I don’t know what to paint but I am thrilled that she wants one, I’m going to figure this out now.
I settled on a scene of Tiara in Idaho with fall colors and the herd behind her. I hope she likes it. (Tiara is her horse, Wildflower’s adoption buddy that we gave to Rachel for Christmas. She was retired at 4 years old and lives in Idaho now. She has juvenille arthritis in a crooked hind leg.) Unfortunately the painting isn’t done and it will get to her after her birthday. She is going to Disneyland tomorrow to celebrate. She still loves Disneyland, probably always will.
There was a young girl galloping alongside of the highway as we did our u-turn which the gps said to do for some dumb reason (we could of just turned left onto our street), and she showed up here with her horse, 2 Bit, a very sweet little (14 hand) quarter horse. Liza was talking with her and then I joined them. She is a nursing student here at the University and this is her first horse. She wants to get into endurance riding. Her dad came by later and we all met. He did mechanical work for this ranch in exchange for his first horse. He was using their garage to work on a truck he bought so that he can haul a horse trailer and go trail riding with his daughter. What an awesome dad I thought.
He had a compressor and added air to all my tires for me. He asked me why I was doing this trip…he is divorced 2 years now. He is very friendly, easy smile, attractive, a very nice dad… If I was hanging around here I would possibly be interested in this man. Btw, he is type 1 diabetic since a child. I told him my son was as well. He was not able to get a cdl license years ago due to this. Well this news ruffled my feathers, that can not possibly be legal!! When I hear about obstacles my son may have to face with employment and opportunities down the road I get furious and want to do something about it. I have to check this out, not that he wants to be a truck driver but I just want to know if the Disabled Americans Act (or whatever its called) has reversed this or not.
The sun came out and I wandered around. There are some enormous grass pastures for the horses here. One herd with a few babies was running all over the place. I love to watch how they move as one. So then I turned my 2 out in the dirt arena which is quite large. They were very spunky and ran all over the place together. It is great to see them feeling so good. It got pretty cold again and I heard it will frost tonight. We had dinner and I took a hot shower which felt wonderful.
I had trouble sleeping last night, this is pretty unusual for me. I kept thinking about getting settled in with Rachel and Tommy and how happy I am about it. I was making myself giddy and couldn’t fall asleep. When I woke up at 6:30 (which is late for me) I remembered a dream I had. I was at someplace with my horses. There was a canal with a tow path. Along comes a horse drawn old fashioned open carriage. Mom is in the back in looking very comfy all wrapped up in blankets and smiling. Someone behind me said Everyone has a different way of getting here. I think mom has arrived in heaven now.
Happy Birthday Rachel! 19 years old today, wow…you are amazing.
While getting ready to leave the overnight in Billings, and the horses were running around in the arena getting their friskies out, we met another couple here. She just moved here and was there caring for her horse who has not fared well in the move. He was colicy and has an ulcer she thinks. She was there with her ex husband. I said oh, and you’re friendly, how nice. Not just friendly but reconcilled. This is the first I have ever met in real life. I was floored. They said they have another couple friends that remarried. Wow I thought…if Bill found God and became a different person, how nice that would be to reunite. But that will never happen.
We left around 10 I think, the drive down to I-90 was simply breathtakingly beautiful. When I stopped for gas I went in to pay and get some milk, I talked a little with the guy working there and 2 customers. People here are so genuinely nice. Since getting to Billings, 3 times this has happened: they ask me what I am doing here from CA, I tell them, they say I bet you have met a lot of nice people. (and I have to say as a matter of fact this is the biggest surprise I have had, the people I have met are amazing and have restored my faith in humanity). This is not the nationwide response that I usually get tho. Usually its: what an adventure, or you are so brave, or what’s your favorite state, or why did you decide to do this. I think this says something about this area. There is a special something about the people here, about the energy in the air, the comfort level you feel here. (and some pretty handsome rugged looking men I must add).
We stopped for a rest at a Walmart and while Liza got the groceries, I got a propane tank, watered the horses, walked Tommy and walked next door to Tractor Supply to get some things I was running low on. They loaded 10 bags of shavings into the hayrack too. And I got Tommy a bone!
Our directions were kind of vague once we got off the highway but I had been told not to use gps. It took another call to clarify and we got in around 3. They were just finishing up a barrel racing day here. After all the rigs left I met the owners who are super nice folks, Cynthia and Tucker (or you can call him Tommy). I asked about the little houses next to the arena and Cynthia took me in one which was a one room school house that her grandmother had taught in from the age of 17 to 60. They moved it to this location on a hay trailer. It is full of original desks, and teaching materials. It is so cool. Then she took us over to the shanty which was an original house on the ranch. Again full of original things they used in everyday life. This stuff is museum quality stuff. Out here in the middle of no where! (You literally can not see another building from here and it is flat as a pancake, not a single vehicle has gone down the one lane dirt road all day). They raise a special kind of cattle that she said is smaller, long horn and hardy (good thing since it gets 30 below in the winter and the wind is wicked), originally from Mexico. They do the cowboy stuff like bull riding and barrel racing for extra income. The ranch has been in Tucker’s family for over 100 years.
I finished Rachel’s painting and the ND painting later on. The mares have been running around all day in the big arena. Interestingly Dreamy is doing a little bit of pushing around now, I’ve seen her kick at Wildflower a couple of times. Its about time she stood up for herself. Yeah Dreamy! We had dinner and spent considerable time on the fly war inside the trailer. When I opened the door to let Tommy back in after dark I was startled by the incredible display of stars in the sky. I had to put on a jacket and sit out there even tho I was shivering. I saw 3 shooting stars!!! I haven’t seen one in over 30 years I bet. And the milky way was so clear. I just love staring at the stars, its so overwhelming how many there are and how super tiny we are in the universe.
There is a sweet baby horse in the next pasture, with mom and another horse and a goat. I just melt looking at her, so innocent and small. All their horses are sweet actually, all quarter horses of course : )
We move on to Broken Arrow in Custer, SD tomorrow. I’m glad I added the extra overnight, my back is doing just fine with the shorter haul days (and my tens pack) and it has given the weather some time to warm up there too. The snow has melted, yeah! I have heard from 2 folks that grew up there say that it has gotten kind of ruined with so many people moving there but it is still very pretty.
I wrapped up the painting I did for Rachel and asked Tucker to mail it for me, he said Crystal can take it to work on Monday and mail it. I enclosed a check so she can get it framed. All the masonite boards I am painting on are cut from 4’x4’ sheets, which I did in my apartment just before I loaded up the trailer. I didn’t do the neatest job, I was using a jigsaw so none of the panels are perfectly square and the edges are wavy. It may be a challenge to frame it. I have thought about how I will frame all of them should I get lucky enough to have a gallery showing of them all. Maybe they shouldn’t even be framed but mounted on rustic boards. Or 4 or 5 mounted next to each other on an old barn board.
We left around 10 and got to camp around 4 or 5. The last part was a long climb but all the roads in were good (all the snow has melted except in patches in the grass and trees). Our directions left something to be desired tho. But only one u-turn and we found our road. There is no blue sign telling us where to turn as it says on the webpage directions, and I never passed the llamas. It cracks me up the directions people give. The last place when I asked on the phone what was the name of the road that we go on off the highway that follows the interstate (I had 3 choices of turns after the ramp), Tucker said he didn’t know the name of it, its a dirt road that follows the highway, just don’t go on the one that goes north. GPS usually does not work in these rural areas, why the heck can’t they map the rural roads better, they have satellite pictures of houses for heaven’s sake.
Driving thru the small town of Custer made me want to unhitch here. They have buffalo statues painted all different ways, like LA had the angels and Chicago had the cows (?). Its a touristy kind of place but its very cute anyways. And Mount Rushmore is so close and even more interesting to me is the Crazy Horse carving in the works. I love American Indian culture, especially their crafts and art. I hope they are able to complete the sculpture. So far the face is done and they are working on the horse head and his pointing hand. The US government funded Mount Rushmore, the Indians are working with donations. Typical.
This is a lovely camp (except for small pens again, but they are covered and since they are all together I think they are a little warmer, its only 37 degrees right now). The owner, Larry is extremely nice and asked about all my “eccoutraments” hanging off my belt. My hoof pick/knife, carrot bag (for rest stops to check for colic), phone and my tens unit. He has back trouble when driving and wanted to know all about the tens unit. It really is a marvelous thing. He gave me the forms for my brand inspection papers and will sign them for me. Wow, that was easy. I just copied all the stuff off my coggins papers. I have Dreamy’s registration papers, but don’t have a proof of purchase for Wildflower. I hope that isn’t a problem.
The lodge has extremely nice shower/bathrooms and laundry. They have a huge dvd library that is free to use (The Man from Snowy River case is empty tho), wi-fi (kind of slow), nice cabins and bunk house. All sites are pull thru and have 30 amp service and water hook up. There are golf carts available for lugging stuff to and from the trailer to the barn areas. I asked some riders if the trails were marked well and they said no. There is no official map but he will draw one for me today. So I am downloading my DiLorme InReach right now. It’s been working all night on it and is still not finished, ugh. We are at 5,500 feet here so I may just do a little pony walk ride today, the horses may be a little tired from 3 straight days of hauling and the altitude. I have had a small headache since we got here. I remember when I was on that packing class trip with Rachel years ago. We rode up to 10,000’ the first day and I just crumpled. I couldn’t do anything for 24 hours. Rachel, who was only 10 had to set up our tent. I wonder if there is some way to avoid this. The next time I packed that high I took an inhaler and it seemed to work a little bit. I know drinking a lot of water helps too, so I guess I’ll do that.
We crossed the time zone line again so I have been up since 4:00. Its now 6:30 and finally light outside so I’m gonna go feed and check on the horse.
It was 34 degrees when I went to feed the horses, brrr…It warmed up later, at least when you were in the sun. I rode Wildflower and ponied Dreamy on the brown trail area that Sue showed me on the map she had for me. It was about 1-1/2 hours, flat, easy, few rocks. That is what I asked for and it was. I wanted to take it easy on them since they haven’t been this high I don’t think and they hauled the last 3 days…and actually they haven’t had a day off in quite a while now that I think about it. But when they are in small pens, I think they need to go out for a ride or pony at least a couple hours. A day off in a stall isn’t very restorative I don’t think. They were huffing and puffing some. I stopped half way and let them graze so I could get some photos of them for a possible painting.
There are these huge piles of left over parts of trees from logging (I forget what they call that). The forest has gotten too dense and they are thinning it, especially of the dead ones that are getting killed by some beetle. There are piles all over the place, they are like 20’ tall. Seems like a fire hazard to me somehow.
We saw some deer a few times, but Wildflower just notices them and doesn’t react at all anymore. Far cry from her deer spook near Cherry Canyon when she spun, slipped and splayed, ending up with 15 stitches. I ended up letting Dreamy’s rope hang over her back and she followed, grazing and trotting to catch up. Twice she took a short cut over some downed barbed wire, I held my breath and yelled no, but she didn’t listen. Luckily nothing happened, or maybe she saw it and stepped between the strands on purpose?
I tried to hook up the hose to the trailer but my pressure regulator wouldn’t seal tight on the hose big. I ended up filling the tank. I may have a leak in the water tank. There has been a puddle on the floor today and the only thing it could be coming from is the water tank. I wonder if the altitude combined with the stick that has plugged up the air line into the tank could of caused enough pressure to spring a leak? I am hoping that it fixes itself, I only have a month left on the trip and I don’t feel like loosing any more time along the way getting a repair done. When I am finished, I have a very extensive repair list to attend to. For now I am grateful for duct tape.
In the afternoon, I unhitched the trailer (first time in a long time) and we went to the Crazy Horse Memorial. I really didn’t know what this was all about. It is huge, what an enormous undertaking. The face is finished and it is really beautifully done. But the size is so impressive…Mount Rushmore’s 4 heads would fit in the space of Crazy Horse’s head. Its Crazy Horse on a horse, pointing straight ahead. And it is being sculpted on all 4 sides, not just a relief. I was fascinated by the entire experience there. And I had never even heard of it before! Then we stopped in Custer to check it out. Nothing terribly interesting but I did take photos of all the painted buffalos. That was kind of cool.
Once back at camp, I fed the horses and walked Tommy a little bit up the trail. We had burgers, I iced my back (it was bothering me today again) and then I got real cold and tired. I guess the altitude? I am trying to drink a lot of water, but I’m not used to it and haven’t even finished a 20 oz. bottle all day yet.
The other campers I’ve met here so far are from Nebraska, Colorado and Wisconsin.
It was a gorgeous sunny, warm, windy day and I had 2 wonderful rides. First on Dreamy up to 6,000’ to a place called Heaven where you get a 360 view of the Black Hills. We went thru a small herd of cows on the way, Dreamy was fine with that of course. She had boots on, it was pretty rocky once we started climbing. She was perfect as usual and I had fabulous time on her as usual. She didn’t seem to be effected by the altitude today. We trotted most of the way (except for the climb) and it took us 2-1/4 hours. I forget what Charni had told me about how long it takes them, I just remember its much shorter than humans.
When I got back, Liza was just returning from hiking with Tommy. I asked him if he wanted to go for a ride with me. He didn’t even pick up his head he was so tired.
My second ride was on Wildflower who behaved very well until we were on a trail for the second time that ride, I had taken a wrong turn and we had wandered off course for an hour or more. By the time we got to 3 Ponds, she was very annoyed. I tied her to a tree to try and get some photos. She spent the entire time circling the tree, crunching over dead branches and big rocks and getting completely tangled in the pine branches. I don’t know what her problem is. I untied her and let her graze a bit, she had her knickers in a bunch again, oh well… as I tried to put her bridle back on, she would not stand still and stepped on the reins and snapped the headstall. I got so mad and tied her to another tree (where she repeated her temper tantrum) and jerry rigged the leather back together. It was a really nice headstall that the woman in Maryland had given to me. We had been out longer than I had planned already so when I spotted a dirt road nearby, I decided to trot her the whole way back on the road. It was a 3-1/2 hour ride including my wandering part. I had shortened my stirrups one hole finally as had been suggested to me back in PA by Kathy. It actually helped me a lot, thank you! I asked for collection the whole way back and she was compliant but kept loosing it when I relaxed her rein. Buck Brannaman says you have to ask a thousand times on some horses. I am well over a million by now.
We leave tomorrow for Wyoming, its about a 5-6 hour haul. I have the nets filled and the horse area packed back up. I got 10 bales of very nice grass hay here I have to load in the truck in the morning.
I still am very high on SD. And I really love the mountains here. This is a great campground, with very nice owners and great trail access.