The Last Leg
On Thursday I set out on the last leg of the journey, which will take me from Kearsarge Pass back north to Vermilion Valley Resort. It seemed fitting to end the ride with both horses on the trail, riding Shyla while Takoda packed. Things didn't get off to a good start, however. Because grad school had already started and I had a class until 9pm on Wednesday, Mom drove up ahead of me with the horses to set up camp near Lone Pine, and I was going to follow and get there as soon as I could. She got into the camp ground where--thanks to a friendly camp host--she was able to create a make-shift corral, even though this wasn't an official horse camping site. But after she went to sleep, the horses somehow got loose, and she awoke to hear their hooves clattering on the pavement as they ran down the road, heading in the direction of highway 395. She ran after them, but it was pitch dark and she couldn't find see them and soon she could no longer hear them either. So she went back and got the camper (which took a little while, as things had to be secured and put away) and then drove down the road after them. Over the past five months, they have become very accustomed to the sound of that truck, with its distinctive heavy-duty diesel engine growl; usually, one of them is in the trailer behind it, and the other one is being picked up, and they associate the sound of the truck with happy things--with reunion, and rest, and food. As soon as they heard the truck, they came trotting out of the darkness toward it, and Mom was able to catch them. Just about then, I drove up too, and we made certain to secure the horses to the highline this time when we got them back to camp. It was a very short and not very restful night, but we were glad that the horses didn't get hurt or lose any shoes as a result of going AWOL. The whole section might never have been completed if something like that had occured, because I'm not sure when I would have enough consecutive days to ride the 100 miles that remain. The next morning, we drove to the Onion Valley trailhead again, and I headed out onto the trail for the last time.