Onward and upward
After a rough start on the 17th, when I struggled to find a camping place with water for the horses that night, the next couple of days went much better. I rode into Horseshoe Meadow, where I had cached food with the pack station before hitting the trail at Kennedy Meadows, and the horses were happy to be able to spend the night with plenty of hay and water available in a spacious corral in the horse camp there. I gave them the next day off and met up with my Dad and Nancy in Lone Pine, at the base of the mountain along Highway 395, which parallels the Sierra on the eastern side. We spent the day in town, where they fed me a good lunch and dinner, and I was able to get a chance to shower at their motel. Then they took me back up the hill to Horseshoe Meadow that evening. It was great to see them, especially since it is probably the last time I will get to visit with my dad until the trail is over. One of the hardest things about a ride of this extent is the way it takes me away from people I love for a very long time and makes it difficult to stay in touch with them. But their patience and understanding makes it possible to tough it out.
So today I rode out of Horseshoe Meadow with the horses, and Takoda's pack was at maximum capacity. This is the one part of the PCT where having a pack horse is a real advantage, in my opinion. I have often brought Takoda along so far more for companionship than for real necessity. He and Shyla, being mother and son, are obviously very bonded with each other, and they really do seem to enjoy each other's presence on the trail. But there is no doubt that having a second horse can be a liability as much as an asset. It requires me to bring twice as much food, which impacts supplies in the trailer as well as of course adding to the load we carry on the PCT itself. And making camp at night or packing up in the morning takes at least twice as long, often more because the pack saddle is more complicated than just a saddle and saddlebags. And then there are twice the opportunities for lost shoes, or injuries, or complications when crossing an obstacle. It definitely multiplies my work, even if it does at times lighten the burden for Shyla if Takoda can carry the majority of the weight on a section, freeing her to just be a riding horse. But for the Sierra, with the long, long stretches without easy re-supply options, I would have to drastically reduce the rations I could give Shyla each day if I didn't have Takoda to help out. This is the section of the trail that I have always been counting on doing with him, and I am glad that he is healthy and fit at this point to do the job for us.
Our day was smooth and uneventful. We stopped for lunch at Rock Creek and then made camp near Sandy Meadow that night. Often the meadows are not open for grazing if they are still too wet to handle the wear and tear, so it is ironic that there might be grass available but none that the horses can eat . . . it's like hikers going through a buffet and being told that the food is off-limits!