If you haven’t noticed, there is a definite change in the air. Ol’ Dangerous had to turn the furnace on in the sheep camp to keep us warm this past weekend. Even my heavy fur coat wasn’t thick enough to keep me warm at a chilly 26 degrees. Remember, Dangerous gets the comfy, queen size bed while I sleep on the cold, vinyl floor. I do get a rug to lie on, but he doesn’t offer to share the bed.
There are other ways besides the weather to tell winter isn’t far off on the High Plateau. The elk are bugling all around, and there are hunters camped all along Highway 12. The tourists viewing the fall foliage have been replaced with hunters wearing bright orange vests and packing high-powered rifles. It isn’t a safe time to be riding a dark buckskin Walking Horse in the aspens and pines.
Another way to tell winter is just around the corner is the annual, fall Walking Horse ride. From May to October, Dottie is usually the only Walker in the group; but in October Bill shows up with his high-powered horses. When Bill and Thunder come to ride, Utah Jack and Little Guy choose to stay home. Even Fremont Bob, took the weekend off to nurse his injured hip. Utah says riding at Walking Horse speeds dries his eye balls out, and Fremont compares the experience to the Star Wars movie where Luke and Hans are darting in and out of trees at breakneck speed on their rocket powered scooters.Bill and Thunder set a wicked pace. With my short legs, I have to run to keep up, and it isn’t long before my tongue is hanging out. Normal horses usually walk three to four miles an hour across flat ground, but not Walkers. Thunder’s flat walk is probably five miles an hour, and at a fast walk, he travels between eight and ten miles per hour. You might not think that is very fast, but you ought to try keeping up. Utah rode once with the Walking horse bunch, and didn’t have time to take in the scenery or snap any pictures. To save me, Dangerous tries to put Dottie out front. She really covers the ground, but always has Thunder’s head sticking in her butt.
I have never seen Dangerous try to take pictures while riding at Walking horse speed. The landscape is usually a blur, and trying to dig his camera out to snap a photo is a bit foolish. Pictures have to wait until we are stopped. Even though Dottie has an incredibly smooth gate, Dangerous is usually concentrating on staying on and keeping her upright in rough country. When we do stop, out comes the camera to record where we have been or where we are going.You can tell by his outfit that John isn’t a regular rider. He doesn’t wear the requisite boots and spurs. From what I overheard, he had been on a horse a few times but years ago. I don’t know how Bill cons his friends who haven’t ridden much into joining us, but he does every year. He gets them to go by telling them that riding a Walking Horse is as smooth and comfortable as sitting in a rocking chair. There is an element of truth in what Bill tells his friends, but as John mentioned a number of times riding a horse, even a Walking Horse, is pretty demanding exercise. John was a good sport and never complained, but started and ended the day with a strong dose of ibuprofen. Fortunately for John, Bill had him riding his sweet mare Misty who took good care of John.
Dangerous had planned to show John an alpine trail in full autumn colors. However, the weather and hunt pushed us into the desert. With the wind, rain, and occasional snow shower, we rode the desert surrounding the High Plateau. It was a lot safer with all those trigger happy hunters on the mountain, and the weather ended the fall display early this year. I don’t think John was disappointed with what he saw. Every year Bill wants to know why Dangerous hasn't told him about the trail we are riding. I think Ol’ Dangerous might be holding out on him.
While we didn’t see any hunters, we did share the desert with some other travelers. This five to six foot gopher snake was looking for a sunny spot on a cold, windy day. I hope he gets a few warmer days before winter drives him into his den. Let’s hope the riding season isn’t over, and we get a long Indian Summer that takes us past Thanksgiving. Love to hear from you!