So, on an all-day ride there surely can’t be much to talk about can there. After all, it’s just riding the whole time isn’t it? Well we’ll see as hopefully a day in the saddle can bring some enjoyment to you all as well as me!
The ride started slightly later than planned. This wasn’t too big an issue as the route wouldn’t be changing so we’d be riding for the same period of time. The reason for the delay was one of the 5 horses on the ride (one wrangler and four of us guests) had managed to lose a shoe. Better for it to happen at the start rather than half way through in reality and the delay was quite minimal when it comes to it. 20 minutes or so later than expected and we were on our way.
You’ll see from the route below that we take quite an elongated route out to the National Park and our lunch break. There is a good reason for this, and that’s because there isn’t any loping allowed once you are in the park. To be fair there aren’t really many areas where it would be safe to anyway. The only wide enough areas are the washes and they are too deep for that. Therefore to get the loping in, the roundabout route out is taken to enable us all to get some wind in our hair (or hats) and so the horses can have a stretch before a long period of walking. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue, but our late start lead to an unexpected problem and that is that we met some traffic. We were about to head off on a lope when we noticed so were some others looking to come the other way. Being the late starters and having the whole day to ride, we gave way so that the others could get back in time for their next ride.
One of the many washes in the National Park
The two way traffic on a one way road situation resolved, we were quickly on our way again and were soon leaving the ranch grounds and enjoying different views to the usual ones. We’d be slowly (no loping now for quite some time as we were in the National Park) making out way to the lunch stop. It’s quite an early lunch but by the time it arrives its welcome. The path there is a combination of washes and named trails. From previous experience I know that even on these the horses know where they are going and know it well. I was somewhat surprised then when my, and everyone else’s horses started spooking. Turns out that the horses are far more observant than us humans. Just off to the left of us, hidden in the bushes, were a family of deer. They were as nervous of us as the horses were of them. It led to quite a staccato bit of riding needing to pay close attention to the horse’s behaviour so that a sudden movement could be countered by the riders.
One of the deer we met (left side of the picture)
After a while the deer headed in a different direction to our route and the horses settled down again. It wasn’t long though till our lunch break, the only long stop we would get during the day. It’s in a rest area where people can park up and not use the BBQ pits that have been placed there (a fire risk in the desert). Our arrival caused a stir though. I can only assume it was some out of town people visiting the park as people arriving on horseback caused the cameras to come out and for an impromptu photo session to take place. I’d like to think that they thought we were real cowboys enroute somewhere, but I struggle to believe it. Anyway, it clearly made their day, so that was a little bonus as well.
Canyon posing for the camera at lunch time.
A map of the Cam-Boh Trail, one of a number we took after lunch.
Despire being miles from anywhere, the trails are all well signposted
Lunch done with, it was time to head deep into the park. This was to be more fun than you could imagine as I was introduced to the Stick Game. This sounds very simple, but is trickier than it sounds, which is normally the basis for most successful games. The lead rider has the easiest role. They select a stick from one of the passing trees and picks another tree or bush to leave it on. The next rider picks it up and places it on another tree or bush. This continues until it gets to the back of the line of riders. The tricky part comes in that what is reachable for one person isn’t for another and getting it to rest on a branch while moving can be difficult. It took a number of goes for it to make it to the back of the line, but it proved a fun game as we carried on playing for quite some time after.
Stick Number One – Unsuccessful
Stick Number Two – Unsuccessful as well
Stick Number Three – A triumphant and honoured stick that made it all the way.
Most of the rest of the time was uneventful with wonderful views of rolling hills of cacti upon cacti. The route was slightly different from my previous venture into the park, but it was good to have different views. There was still a visit to the petroglyphs and this time, without any work being carried out we didn’t have to double back and managed to ride through what I could only describe as an excellent place for an ambush. I think it was called Box Canyon and I can understand why.
Rolling Hills of Cacti
Some of the Petroglyphs
With both horses and riders tired it was time to start heading back to the ranch and after a bit of time we linked back up with the washes we’d ridden along earlier but this time in reverse. A little bit longer as we were back inside the ranches grounds and loping back at speed. There were a few slips and stumbles but nothing, you’ll be glad to hear, that rider or horse couldn’t cope with. We even had the chance to wave to one of the slow rides on its way back as well.
Route of the Friday All Day Ride
It had been a long and tiring day, as I expected, but what was comforting was that I wasn’t hurting as much as I had done the last time I had done the ride. I had suspected that I wouldn’t given that I felt more comfortable on Canyon for such a ride. Yes I ached a bit, but it was a good ache!
There was a big of chat after dinner, but with it having been such a long day I wasn’t going to stay up late. If even there was going to be the chance for a good night of sleep, this would be the night!
Links and screen shots of actual rides courtseyof Sports Tracker