A belated Blwyddyn Newydd Dda, or Happy New Year for those unfamiliar with Welsh. My short term New Year's resolution is to get this year's Christmas decorations down before next Christmas, but perhaps I shouldn't bother as some of them are hanging around from 2013 in any case. However, since arriving back in Wales in October 2015, I have managed to almost catch up with bills, paperwork and blog (here is the evidence!), sell a house, keep the ponies from succumbing to the horrendous wet weather, plan out a tentative route for this year and survive the inordinate amount of celebrating my offspring seem obliged to do over Christmas and New Year. New Year's Eve party theme was 'Out of this World' - I went as a Black Hole and came downstairs to find the sitting and dining rooms completely wrapped up in tin foil..
I am now in full swing preparing for this year's ride, and as you must have gathered by now, I intend to follow the Pony Express Trail. I have already been contacted by Petra Keller of the National Pony Express Association who sent me a digital file of most of the 2015 re-ride, and this has been invaluable in planning a more detailed route. To jog your memories, the NPEA run an annual re-ride following the original route between St Joseph and Sacramento as closely as possible. An army of riders relay the mochila across country in around ten days, and it is now so well supported and organised that each rider only needs to cover a few miles.
Cousin Rowena will join the ride in the autumn when I plan to be riding from Salt Lake City to Sacramento. This section includes extensive stretches of waterless desert in Utah and Nevada which will necessitate vehicle support to carry water and fodder. So I have been delighted that Californian rider Lucy Badenhoop (who has participated several times in the Pony Express re-ride) has kindly offered to provide this. She will ride with us when possible.
Petra put me in touch with Samantha Szesciorska, who rode round Nevada on her mustang Sage in 2013 is planning another ride for 2016. Samantha was a fund of useful information including the novel idea of using a plastic bag to scare away wild stallions! Pity I hadn't thought of that in Kazakhstan, though in fact the steppe stallions were not all that troublesome. I have also had a couple of productive chats with Simon Casson who conceived and carried out a ride along the Outlaw Trail from the Mexican border to the Canadian border via Utah and Wyoming in 1999, and wrote a fascinating book about it with one of his co- riders Richard Adamson. see 'Riding The Outlaw Trail' which is available on Amazon.
I feel it is now imperative to have a GPS to tackle some of the more remote sections of the trail further west, and last weekend went on a GPS training course (yet again!) courtesy of GPS Training who have long experience in introducing the uninitiated to the mysteries of mapping and navigating GPS routes. Trainer Andy Ayre has subsequently been very helpful in sorting out a unit with relevant USA maps for me, so hopefully it will help to prevent me going astray in the Utah/Nevada desert. I have no desire to emulate mountain man Jedediah Smith who narrowly escaped dying of thirst there during his 1826 crossing.