G had to go to a conference in Vegas this week, so I took the opportunity to take Dixie and Cersei on a vacation. We went to Clark Fork horse campground, in Stanislaus National Forest – it’s just to the north of Yosemite, so very similar terrain. I asked around and got a few good ideas for where to go, but honestly I ended up kind of looking at the map and saying “yes, that’s how far I want to drive.”
All the pics and video are from MY NEW WEE CAMERA, bought for TEVIS NEXT WEEKEND. I’m gonna go do the social media volunteering thing again, and I’m so excited!
Getting there was pretty easy. It’s 200 miles from SF, so it’s a pretty easy haul. I stopped at a Tractor Supply in Sonora and asked about that certified weed-free hay, but they were out (and don’t carry straight grass anyway) so Dixie had a neverending buffet of EGM Stable Mix, which she loves. Nobody checked, but she loves Stable Mix so it’s an easy enough rule to follow.
The campground was easy enough to find, and I had it all to myself. There’s two (or three?) people campgrounds and one horse campground, all near each other. There was a huge crowd of kids and adults – I think it was an organized event – at the campground across the river, and a few campers in the people campground next to mine. I wasn’t ~all alone~ in the wilderness, but I had all the solitude I wanted.
I was a little worried that Dixie would be unhappy all alone, with no other horses nearby, but I figured if she hated it we’d leave after the first night. She was surprisingly ok. Pretty alert when deer came through, and she watched for me when I’d disappear out of site to the toilet, but she spent her free time dozing and eating. She rolled in the night the second night, but I made myself listen to the weird noises before I went exploding out of the tent to see what was going on.
Wednesday we dinked around most of the day. I think I went six miles in five hours. We went from grassy spot to grassy spot down a short trail, then back to camp, then back out across the Clark Fork river. I tried to keep us out of the way of the kids and parents, but I couldn’t find a good way around the other campground, so I leashed up Cersei and led the horse and dog through camp to the north.
We crossed a paved road into a clearing where the FS had been logging, and wandered through it further north. Eventually we found a stream and crossed that and ended up in a meadow – cue ominous music – with COWS!
Then we went back through the logged area to the west, to try to find Arnot Creek, which had a proper trail on the other side. We found the creek, but there was no decent way down.
We followed the creek south back to the road and got across it again. It was low traffic, but the traffic that did go by was absolutely flying. I knew from the map that if we crossed the creek on the paved bridge, the trail I was kinda looking for was just to the west of the bridge, but I didn’t want to get halfway across it holding a dog and pony and have some crazed minivan driver mow us down. So we worked our way back east along the Clark Fork.
I didn’t really want to go back into the kid camp, and I didn’t want to try that paved road again, so eventually I found the best spot and took Dixie across the river again. I didn’t film that one – I had to get off to lead her down a nasty slope to the river, then I’d have to lead her up the far side through some downed trees, so I just waded through.
She was such a rockstar. She crossed the creeks and rivers maybe five times that day, and she’d never crossed that type of river before in her life – fast moving water over fist-sized rocks. She’s turned into such a point-and-shoot horse.
Anyway, she waited pretty patiently for me to break some pointy branches and clear a path up the other side, then she surged on past me to get up the hill so I grabbed her tail and let her tow me up. Yes, I tailed my horse with no preparation at all. I don’t think she “knows how to tail” or anything, but at least I know she’s fine with the theory.
(I think it’s just an endurance thing – we call it tailing when we get off, send the horse up the hill at a walk, and grab the horse’s tail for a “power assist” to walk up the hill behind. Ideally, she’d wait for me to get behind her, then go on voice command, then woah on voice command. All we did was the “tow the human up the hill” part.)
Back at camp, I changed into my clean jeans and sandals and spent the afternoon writing and walking Dixie out to graze. Cersei snored nonstop, except for when I’d get up and unhook the horse, when she’d spring to life and charge out with us.
Last night, Cersei was too tired and sore to sleep on her perfectly nice Thermarest camping dog bed, and she insisted on the comfort of my cot. Somehow we worked it out to where I had my legs bent and she got to sleep on my feet and in the bend of my knees. Also, she stepped on my Kindle and broke it. Dogs are the best pets. DOGS ARE THE BEST PETS. Keep repeating this until it’s true. 😉
I had one more meandering walk this morning, down the short dead-end trail out of camp, then we headed back to the city. The house is too quiet, but I’m pretty Zen anyway.
Dixie really is the horse of my dreams now. It took a lot of work, on both of our parts, but I wouldn’t sell her for any amount of money. So laid back, such a super athlete. We can go do hard fifty mile rides or we can go off totally alone into the wilderness. What more could I possibly want?
I know many of my readers are cat fans, or at least fans of Banders. Banders was very glad to see me – he loves me with all his soul. The Kitten was way too cool to come up to see me; she waited til I called her before she sauntered out of hiding. They were both quite displeased with the dry rations and empty house they’d been left with. Woe, woe is cat.