Day 24 (8/6/16)

It is now close to 4 weeks from when we left Sandston, Virginia, approximately 2600 miles away.  We were finally on our last leg, with 333 miles to go.  It would be a 6 hour trip.  The scenery and landscape so familiar to us and crossing the Continental Divide so thrilling.  We were eager to get to Ashley Creek Stables, where we would board our horses until we could have them on our property, most likely Spring of 2018.  We unloaded them and got them situated easily.  They seemed fine and just happy to finally have a chance to really run about in the open paddock.  This time, no worries about having to gather them up for another day of driving.  We were HOME.  As we pulled up our driveway we saw the progress on both the arena and garage for the first time in several months.  Everything looked terrific, the garage doors installed, the roof on and oh the arena, how great is that going to be?  We felt such a relief to finally get home in one piece, what loomed as such an impossible task, so filled with unknowns was now behind us.

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Now begins another journey, possibly more difficult, but we made it this far, no reason to think we cannot do anything we put our minds to.  Dennis says we are a good team, and I have to agree.  We did learn so many lessons along this journey—a few of these are noted below:

  1.  Always ask if the horse camps have clean bathrooms, showers and laundry facilities.  Get specific.
  2.   Ask “do you have internet access from where you are parked?”
  3.  Always shut off your electric water pump and water heater when not in use.
  4. Check the weather–constantly.
  5. Keep your water tank filled and your grey and black water emptied as much as possible.
  6. Make sure you put everything away in the RV–everything–before you hit the road.
  7. Keep your coolers filled with ice and also gallons of fresh water–just in case.
  8. Always grill outside, never inside.
  9. Wipe the sides of your slideouts if it has been raining before sliding them back into the trailer.

Before I close this chapter of our blog, I want to thank my dear friend Karen of Arlington, Virginia who encouraged me to do the blog and helped me with setting it up and the name for it.  Funny isn’t it that for my birthday in October after we finished the move that she gave me this card….it says, “In order to fly one need only to take the reins…how high you fly is up to you–Go for it!”  How perfect is that?

I also want to thank my dearest daughter–I only have one–for starting to input these entries and photos while we were on our journey given the lack of internet access during the trip.  Thank you so much.

Also, thank you so much to our dear Debbie Bull of Rein Dance Farms in Virginia who started us on this reining journey–you brought us so far, you gave us so much and we miss you terribly–so do Sly and Lucky.

 

Day 23 (8/5/16)

Our last day of showing and preparation to load up everything and head northwest to our final destination–home to Somers, Montana. Hard to believe, so close but still a distance to go.  We both showed and did okay, but there is a lot of practice we need to do.  We enjoyed meeting so many great folks who all share a similar passion.  We also were encouraged to sign up for the Big Sky Reining Classic which was going to be held at the end of August in Kalispell–not sure we could manage that with moving in, but a worthy goal.

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Dennis was “roped” into some lessons with the youngsters at the show, many of them children of the various trainers and competitors.  So well behaved and just having a blast running around and enjoying the great outdoors.

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A final sundowner with our Montana reining friends!

Day 22 (8/4/16)

It’s Showtime!  We have been meeting a lot of nice horse people–great to have this opportunity only having arrived two days before.  We were scheduled to show right after lunch.  Jane was 7th up and Dennis was 12th.  Jane had a good ride but overspun which netted her a zero and Dennis started out well but going into a lead change, Lucky ducked in and then went to pieces.  However, Dennis’ slide stops were quite respectable and he had one really nice rollback.  Jane was pretty disappointed and decided to show again the next day.  Why not?  We signed up and then decided to return to the Bank Bar where we met a lot of other reiners who were competing at the show.  We were beginning to feel truly at home!

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Cooling off Sly after a long day of practice and showing.

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We reconnected with Meaghan Shea who has a great reining training facility in Eureka, about 2 hours from Somers.  She will be our trainer once we get home.

 

Day 21 (8/3/16)

Another beautiful, sunny, hot day, but no humidity, so it really felt pretty comfortable.  We practiced riding in the morning and waited for the farrier to put sliders on our horses hind feet.  We resumed practicing in the afternoon in anticipation of showing the next day.  We got great tips from Jay Dee.  After, we went into the small town of Wilsall to the “Bank Bar” for supper.

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Leading Sly into the arena for some serious riding.

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Not sure what this is about, but it was for real!

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Heading to the world famous “Bank Bar” for dinner.

Day 20 (8/2/16)

We got up early, no leisure camping breakfast today.  We left around 8 a.m. and stopped in Buffalo to fuel up, dump our grey and black water and fill up with fresh.  This was also a historic moment as Jane had her first ever breakfast at Macdonalds!  Have to admit, the lattes were not that bad….perhaps judgement impaired due to camping.

The horses seemed a bit sad to leave this amazing place of unspoiled beauty and vast vistas.  We had decided to leave a day early and drive all the way to Wilsall (300 miles from Buffalo) near Livingston, Montana to Jay Dee Anderson’s–a reining trainer and breeder.  We had learned a few days before that Anderson Reining was hosting a reining show starting August 4.  JD invited us to stop on our way “home” to practice and show–what unexpected perfect timing.

Upon our arrival, JD met us and urged us to saddle up and start practicing….we were ready!

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J.D. Anderson, Wilsall, Montana

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Practicing in the outside arena

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I think we are going to have to get one of these someday!

 

Day 19 (8/1/16)

A beautiful, sunny and clear Wyoming morning, awakened by the sounds of horses moving about and campers heading out on trail rides.  We decided that our “arena” horses would probably do better on the ride called “The Mesa”–a flat plateau on the mountain top that extends as far as you can see 360 degrees.  As we were a bit slow getting going, as I looked out of our window, Dennis could see Mike leading his horse “Tuff” to a built up area and was proceeding to saddle his horse by himself!  Dennis’ immediate instinct was to go and help him, but instead took photos–so amazed with what he was witnessing.  It took him a while but he not only saddled his horse, but next time he peered out the RV, he was mounted and ready to ride!  Amazing!! We did our own ride on the Mesa, and our horses did fine–they seemed happy to be up high with such an amazing view all around–no boogey men hiding in the bushes.

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Breakfast, cooking outside–a far cry from our full gourmet breakfasts at Paradise–but the price unbeatable!

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This is what we had dreamed about for months–riding our own horses in the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains.  Sly behaved perfectly!

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Even Lucky seemed less nervous, just look at the view!

Later that afternoon, when Mike and Patty McGowan returned from their ride we offered our help and they seemed willing to accept.  Later, they joined us for a sundowner and we heard more about their story.

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Mike and Patty have been camp hosts at the USFS Hunter Corrals for over 6 years–volunteering each August.  They are from Wisconsin.  A number of years ago, he offered to ride a 3 year old colt for training purposes and the colt spooked and pitched him off–landing awkwardly in a badger hole–a very unlikely scenario but with dire consequences–paralyzed for life.  But this has not stopped them from pursuing their passion for horses and riding.  As Mike said, he had to change the four letter word “can’t” to “can”–this was now his motto in life.  Mike was voted in 1991 as Wisconsin’s Horse Person of the Year and it was obvious why.  What an amazing couple with true grit and an abundance of kindness on top of that.  What a combination–what “unforgettable characters”!

 

Day 18 (7/31/16)

We were eager to get going as we were now finally headed to Buffalo, Wyoming a easy 162 mile drive–to the Hunter Trailhead Campground which is located in the Bighorn National Forest at an elevation of 7800 feet.  We had heard about it and actually had checked it out during our first drive across country to make sure it would be a good place to camp with our horses.  The Hunter Corrals were also familiar to us because the camp facility is situated right outside Paradise Ranch, the place we had gone to the previous two summers.  The Hunter Trailhead is a campground constructed with the equestrian in mind. It is just two miles off the Cloud Peak Scenic Byway on Hwy. 16 on a gravel road offering spectacular views of wildlife, mountain streams and abundant wildflowers.  No region in Wyoming provides a more diverse landscape, from lush grasslands to alpine meadows.  A dense forest of lodgepole pine surrounds the campground.  The trailhead provides numerous hiking and horse friendly trails to access front country and the Cloud Peak Wilderness Area.  Each campsite has a 20 x 20 hardened use pad and an individual livestock corral.  Potable water is available at the facility.  In short, the perfect spot to camp and ride off the grid!  Knowing how popular this campground is, we had made our reservations early on “Recreation.gov”–a very easy to use system for reserving camp sites on U.S. public lands.  And, can you believe it, with Dennis’ senior pass, it was only 24 dollars for 3 nights!  The ability to ride on the same trails as when we were at Paradise Ranch for a fraction of the cost!  Wow!

So, when we arrived, we felt like we were almost “home” with Paradise Ranch just over the hill.  As we pulled our rig into our reserved campsite, Jane greeted another couple who were setting up and announced we were from Virginia, to which the lady replied “we are from Pennsylvania”!  We were also greeted by our camp host, Mike, wearing a straw cowboy hat and in his wheelchair!  He is paralyzed from the waist down from a horse accident years ago.  We spoke a little, then he went about his business….and left us wondering, “what in the heck is a guy like this doing in a place like this?”  We were going to find out a lot more in the days ahead.  We put our horses together in a small round pen for the first time and they did fine–with a few squeals and kick-ups now and then.

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Driving along U.S. Forest Road 19 toward the Hunter Corrals.  The mesa where we had ridden before when staying at Paradise is off to the right.

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This reminded us of “Fan Rock” at Paradise.

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Our camp site at Hunter Corral.

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Our camp hosts, Mike and Patty saddling up for an early morning ride.

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There is Mike above, in the red shirt.

We were astonished and amazed!  Who were these people?  What was their story?  We suspected this was going to be another encounter with an “Unforgettable Character”.

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Mike leading “Tuff”–what a picture!

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Dennis giving a roping lesson to our camp neighbors during a sundowner.