Monday, 22 August 2016

A Nasty Hail Storm

Saturday June 11th  A short morning ride brought us to Fort Bridger, founded by the renowned mountain man Jim Bridger, who as mentioned before, was portrayed as a young man in the recent film 'The Revenant' and was arguably the first European to see the Great Salt Lake.  Jim Bridger evidently recognised a good spot, as you can see we are still in an area of abundant trees and grass...
 He established a trading post on the Black Fork's river here in 1842, and it became an important supply post on the emigrant trails.  Following friction with Jim Bridger, the Mormons temporarily took control of the post in 1855.  During the Mormon/Utah war of 1858 it became a US military post, closing in 1890.    Unusually the Pony Express was allowed to use it as a relay station.
Several original buildings from the old fort including the old Pony Express barn still remain, and it is now preserved as a Historic site. Unfortunately I did not have time to stop, and a visit will have to wait until another day!
Shop till you drop?...
We now started climbing up into the hills of the Bear River Divide.  We had left the Oregon trail behind as from Fort Bridger it strikes north-west, but were still following the line of the Mormon and California trails as well as the Pony Express trail.
 Here are the horses on Bridger Butte looking back to the Black Fork's river valley with the snow-capped Uinta mountains in the background.  These mountains run east to west just south of this location.
Riding up the Muddy Creek valley we came to this sign indicating that the Mormon trail crossed here.  This is used a location for handcart treks.  You may just be able to see the glint of Muddy Creek in the background and the trail winding away on the other side, next to a couple of blue portacabins ready for the next onslaught of trekkers.
The Pony Express trail also passed this way, so this was no doubt the site of Muddy Creek Pony Express station, run by station keeper Jean Baptiste and his English wife.

Not enormous bee-hives but restored charcoal kilns at the ghost town of Piedmont, of which little remains....   
The town developed from around 1867 as a supply point for the Union Pacific Railway which was originally routed this way. The charcoal kilns were built in 1877 and provided charcoal as fuel for the passenger cars.  However after 1901 the railway was re-routed through the recently completed  Aspen tunnel just to the north, and the town fell into decline. Apart from the kilns nothing is left but a few wooden ruins.
Piedmont road that I had been riding along actually uses the old railway line embankment.
 
Arriving at the Guild Ranch where I had arranged to a place for the horses...
Kelly Guild sorted Mo and Lady out with stalls in the barn...
..but I did not need to join them as Earl and Jody Guild invited me to stay in the house, where I had a warm welcome from the houseful of family celebrating Earl's 77th birthday - and jolly spry he looked on it!   Daughter Wendy runs handcart treks from the site I passed.  A view from the barn over the Muddy Creek...
...I mentioned how similar to Wales it looked with the mountain river rushing through green hills, and Earl said it would look very different in the middle of summer when the river runs dry and the hills are brown!
But as I set out on the day's ride on Sunday June 12th along a quiet track through fabulous scenery, it was still reminiscent of home except for the dry sage brush instead of heather!....
After a fine start to the morning, clouds began to gather, and in the afternoon we even ran into some hail which really upset Lady, though I managed to keep control of her.  Mo was unconcerned.  Then passing through the small scattered settlement of Hilliard, another threatening thunderstorm boiled up. As I was riding along I heard a weird roaring noise rather like a train coming.  It suddenly dawned on me it was the noise of hail pelting metal shed roofs about a mile away. If I could hear it from where we were, it must be serious stuff.  I immediately dug my heels into Lady's sides and dashed for the cover at a nearby ranch house, dragging the horses under an overhang just as the hail arrived...
The house turned out to belong to Jessie Lester, who came running out to help me and put away the awning on their RV. Some of the hail was apparently an inch across.  It broke the skylight window of Jessie's RV, dented their vehicles and gave her some nasty bruises.  I thanked my lucky stars that we had arrived at Hilliard - if I had been caught in the open country I had been riding across all day I suspect Lady would have bolted.  During a lull we got the horses into the shelter of the garage, and I ended up staying for a while until the danger was completely past. Any excuse for a cup of tea and a piece of Jessie's delicious strawberry and rhubarb pie!  Jessie with husband Ron and little son Nash...
I had in fact passed them on their ATV on the way, but thankfully they also managed to get under cover before the storm hit.

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