Saturday, 25 February 2017

Hobbling Along

Thursday October 14th.  It immediately became evident when we set out the next morning that Mo was unsound.  However he seemed to recover, and we put it down to a bruise or stiffness from a knock.  
In the photo below we have just ridden from the Sand Springs Range in the middle distance. Sand Springs Pony Express station lay at the foot of the great pale sand dune of Sand Mountain, which can be clearly seen to the left in front of the Stillwater Range. Since 1976 when the true location of the station was discovered, Cold Springs has been the focus of archaeological study. This was one of the places where extraction of numerous fragments of liquor containers suggest that Pony Express employees were not always as rigid in adhering to Majors' oath of abstinence from alcohol as he might have desired!  The interpretive site lies near the US50 at the end of the promontory of the Sand Springs Range.
The Pony Express Station was built in March 1860 by Bolivar Roberts, J Kelly and others, and James McNaughton was the first station keeper, later becoming a rider. But by October 1860 Burton described it as "roofless and and chairless, filthy and squalid, with a smoky fire in one corner and a table on an impure floor, the walls open to every wind, and the interior full of dust".
Unsurprisingly the water supply was not good "thick and stale with sulphury salts: it blistered even the hands". Perhaps a reason they turned to the demon drink.
 
We were deviating from the original Pony Express trail to follow the route of the re-ride, which loops south of the Salt Wells Basin.  In the next photo Sand Mountain can be seen to the right - the original trail ran westwards (left) from there along the base of the Stillwater Range to cross Eightmile Flat, the alkali plain in the middle distance.  Burton commented about this crossing "All off the road was dangerous ground: in one place the horses sank to their hocks and were not extracted without difficulty"
However we were taking a southerly route round the alkali flat, following a rough track along the base of the Cocoon Mountains, sometimes through rugged basalt rocks as seen here, sometimes through deep sand, but at least not a morass.
From the US50 at Sand Springs to where the trail crossed the Schurz Highway south of Fallon was  over 25 miles which I felt was too far for Mo to cover in a day.  It was a waterless stretch not accessible by Lucy's rig except at one point I had identified - a rough but firm road ran from US50 to a thermal power station located on the trail by Simpson Pass in the Cocoon Mountains.  We successfully rendezvoused there as the wind began to get up again.  Once more we found a relatively sheltered spot, unfortunately right up against the power station fence where the strident throbbing of the turbines was loudest.  But the wind died down, and the horses seemed to be soothed by the hearty humming, as demonstrated by Lady the following morning Friday October 15th...
...and what a lovely sandy bed to lie on!
The view from Carson Pass as we head west...
The White Throne Mountains where we are headed rise up on the other side of the alkali Bass Flat. Carson Lake and Fallon lie off to the right.
Crossing Bass Flat....
Rowena is walking as Mo's unsoundness had come back and worsened. 
 
Lady by the ruins of Wildcat Freight station (Allen's Station)..
 
The sign reads "These ruins are the remains of the Wildcat Freight Station founded in 1863 by Lemuel Allen this station was an important watering and rest stop on a turnpike which originated to the west of Fort Churchill and extended past Sand Mountain to the east.  The turnpike closely followed a route taken by Capt James Simpson in 1859 and used by the Pony Express in 1860-1861".

Another couple of hours brought us to the Schurz Highway where Lucy was waiting with the rig. But decisions had to be made.  Mo was still visibly unsound, and the bad weather which had been forecast was now imminent, with heavy rain threatening.  We had already planned to stay with Petra near Carson City for a couple of days and get the horses reshod, though I had hoped to make it to Fort Churchill where Petra had arranged to pick us up. But it now seemed expedient to give Mo a rest and sit the weather out.  It was a couple of hours drive for Petra from her home in the Washoe valley to the north of Carson City to fetch the horses in her trailer, and this was particularly charitable as she had only just returned home after being evacuated due to wildfires!

3 comments:

  1. Good information you have shared here. I like how you have written about your journey. Mo is quite a sturdy horse.

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