I have been friends with Kay Stahl and her daughter Sandy Rahilly for many years. Sandy and her husband have been horse camping and packing all of their married life. A couple times a year, they take their horses to Clarks Fork just below Sonora Pass to one of the few horse camps in California. When she asked if I would ride one of her horses this year, I jumped at the chance!!
There are 14 horse camps with one large water trough in the middle. Not being a fan of a communal water supply for our horses, we hauled water from the tent campground. There is plenty of room to line tie the horses and park both trucks and trailers. They had already been camped for a few days when I arrived. My truck is on the left. My back seat folds down and with the addition of an air mattress, makes a nice bed.
Cooking in camp is a big deal, and Sandy and Evan have it down. Here's the kitchen stove and camp lights, with cast iron skillet, coffee pot and "wash" pot. The dutch oven at bottom left, comes into play in a couple days. All of the food and supplies are kept in her horse trailer because of the local black bears. Although we didn't see any this trip (thank goodness), they have dealt with them many times before. ALL food must be locked up and NO garbage kept in camp. I didn't even keep a package of crackers in my truck. They can easily break windows if they smell anything ... and they have GREAT smellers!!!!
The horses were tied about 20 feet from camp. Called "line tying", a long line is stretched between trees. The horses halters are tied to the line with large rings which allow them to move from one side to the other. The requirement other than water, is feed for the horses. You have to haul all your own feed (usually hay) but since there was quite a bit of grass in this area and we were the only campers, Sandy turned one horse loose to roam around and graze, while the other stayed tied up. It's very rare than one horse would leave his buddy, and neither one traveled out of site. This is Patches on the left and Petey on the right.
Sandy's dog Ollie (it's a girl ... something about being short for a Greek Goddess!!!) had the most beautiful yellow eyes!! She went everywhere with us, leash free .... except for crossing roads, when we put the horse lead on and led her from horseback. No ... she never got stepped on!!!
A better picture of Patches, we were getting ready to ride out for a few hours. Since they had been on a very long, hard ride the day before, we did a short trip up the river. At an altitude of 7200, these guys have to be in shape ... and Sandy is a master at getting them ready!!! It involves almost daily riding at walk, trot and lope as well as feed management. Over 5 days these two climbed well over 4000 feet.
I'm riding Petey here, following Sandy up the trail. You can see Ollie in the very front.
Once we returned and fed the horses, we took off on foot around the entire area, crossing the bridge and heading up the other side to Sand Flat campground. This river was about 150 yards from our camp and full of trout (you will see some later). Whenever possible, we watered our horses here.
Unfortunately Sandy couldn't remember the exact spot where the log was that we would cross over to return to camp. I found out quickly that camping with Sandy is an adventure. We decided to just remove our boots and cross here. It ended up being much deeper than we realized and both of us came out soaked above our knees ... but at least our boots were dry!!
Can't wait for day two!!!!!