“Have you ever thought you would like to just pack up your
horse.... and travel for months on end?”
was the opening line to a program describing Brenda Braidwaith and her
adventures on horseback. Would that question be all it took to make me
leave my upper management job in a computer company, and my
comfortable home on a 110 acre ranch, to embark on a four to five
month adventure? It
certainly got me thinking.
once, but twice, Brenda took horse adventures of more than 1000 miles:
once in Italy, and again in the US from the Canadian border to
I heard her story, my thoughts began to drift and wander. As far back
as my childhood, I had dreamed of doing some long trip on horseback.
Reading about Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, the Lewis and Clark
expedition, and Davie Crocket instilled in me an adventurous spirit.
his book The Long Haul about “thru-hiking” the Appalachian Trail,
Craig Haire writes, “most of us have grown up in a culture steeped
in the traditions of our pioneer past, romantic stories of the
conquering of the American wilderness. But now the wilderness is
already over-conquered, and there are very few adventures left to
satisfy our romantic spirit.”
because of traffic, riding a horse anywhere outside the arena is
dangerous. But for many
horse enthusiasts like myself, the rewards are worth it. Staying in the arena is fun, but there is certainly more to
see elsewhere. Add a pack and tent and the opportunities unfold.
his book Treading Lightly with Pack Animals, Dan Aadland mentioned
Thoreau’s dictate, that we must simplify life in order to know it
better. He says, “Some of us have answered Thoreau’s call
strenuously, even passionately . . . so we have periodically fled the
concrete for a carpet of pine needles, . . . we have rejected the
snowmobile in favor of snowshoes.”
In my case it would mean a giving up a great job, the comforts
of a 110 acre ranch with a great king-size bed, and a good pick-up
truck for a couple of horses, a sleeping bag, and a tent. Am I really
ready for that? He also mentioned “packing with animals is about
rediscovery.” I certainly was in the mood for “rediscovery.”
of Brenda’s story inspired my spirit of adventure and desire to
conquer America’s “lack of wilderness.” There is no better way
to do so than using horses (my passion) in a challenge that fulfills
not only my desire for adventure, but also my love of the outdoors.
There is a lot to be said about possible escape back to a simpler
time, and “rediscovery.” An
adventure this large has its cost, risk of injury, and sacrifices,
such as loss of the comforts of home.
dream began two years ago, but this last year, I began thinking maybe
I could do this. I
learned there are many who have attempted, and who are at this moment
attempting, similar feats of adventure on horseback around the world.
So many that there is actually a “Long Riders Guild” that tracks
rides of over 1000 miles not only of the past, but current treks.
There are almost 200 documented Long Riders around the world alive
today and most are listed on the Long Riders Guild site www.thelongridersguild.com.
pace at which we live and life now moves, seems to cause some people
at times to stop and jump out of the system or “race” as it is
sometimes referred. We have all heard of someone who has followed the
“beat of a different drummer.”
in corporate America for the last 20 years in high tech Silicon
Valley, I have seen many people decide to try something outrageous.
For example a friend who is an executive for one of the largest
computer companies left her good job to spend a year circumnavigating
the globe in a sailboat. Another
friend took a year to ride her bike across America. Be careful before
you judge … it could happen to you.
a friend gave me a card with a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes, “I
find that the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand,
as in what direction we are moving.”
I realize he was not referring to geography alone, but the path
of growth in our lives.
planning for Brenda’s last trip she intended to ride from Canada to
Mexico, yet changed her direction due to unforeseen problems, and
ended in San Francisco. I realize the magnitude of a trip this long
and I ask myself the question, am I up to this large of a challenge?
West defines success in his book, Have Saddle Will Travel as follows:
“I must survive, my horse must survive, and I must have
fun!” I like the fun part of that!
close friend gave me a magnet for my refrigerator two years ago that
had a picture of a very small boy in front of a very large horse,
which was captioned, "Never stop Dreaming!"
Wood, a biologist from San Diego has taken three trips on horseback,
one the length of California, a trip in Tibet, and last year from the
West Coast to the East Coast.
her book “Chasing the California Dream” she states she was
inspired by Joseph Smeaton Chase’s journey along the California
coast in 1911. She said in reference to her trip, “I do not enact
most of my dreams but in this case, common sense failed me.”
of us at some time did stop dreaming. Responsibilities and routine
have robbed many of us of the spirit of exploration and conquest and
those childhood dreams. Maybe it’s time to take them back as adults.
On March 15th I set out on my journey to travel the length of
California. I hope to see many of you out on the trail.
to "Your Dream Adventure"
Stauber (written on
March 25, 2003)
"This is really
happening!" Two years of planning and the trip is finally
happening. Eleven days and over 200 miles completed with only 108 days
and 1300 miles to go.
Days 1 and 2 were
awesome and fairly easy, with few surprises. However, on day 3 I awoke
to find three shoes missing on "the girls" (my two quarter
horses joining me on this trip). It was devastating, knowing I had to
climb San Benito Mountain with shoes missing and no town for three
more days. I walked over the mountain for nine miles and the entire
twenty miles the next day, leading the saddled horses. I was not
prepared for that much walking, with my riding boots. My blisters were
larger than silver dollars. But two days later I found a great farrier
in Coalinga and we were back on the road, with me "back in the
Martha McNiel came to
ride with me from Coalinga to Parkfield and on through the Carrizo
Plain. On day 6 we rode to Parkfield, the self-proclaimed Earthquake
Capital of the World. This was a great stop with a hot shower and a
good steak dinner. The next two nights’ layover stops were not
planned (as we were not sure where the days’ ride would end).
Ranches are far apart out here and we had to knock on doors to ask for
permission to camp in their yards and leave our horses on their
properties. Both nights our hosts were very kind and generous and both
actually cooked for us. On the second night (of day 8) our host wasn’t
home when we arrived (at the only ranch site for miles and miles) and
we didn’t know what to do. It is one thing to ask to set up camp at
someone’s ranch, but another to do it without permission. We did
unload our horses and waited by the road. Our host arrived back home
at dusk, after a full day of branding 135 calves. Unbeknownst to us,
our previous host had called ahead and they were prepared to see us.
On day 7, after
crossing under Highway 46, I had dismounted to open a farmer’s gate
at a cattle guard. Oh, and can I tell you that I have had to do that
at least 25 times so far on this trip! I now hate cattle guards, but I
digress. Anyway, by highway 46, a semi-truck decided to
"encourage" us by tooting his horn, which frightened my pack
horse (Ginger) into a race across the countryside. She was dropping
equipment as she ran in a panic. Later I found out that during this
little escapade, I lost my flashlight and my cell phone re-charger in
the field. Shucks, I can’t call my work.
Our next town was
Simmler and there we stayed with the most hospitable family on the
Carrizo Plain: Sandy, DeWayne and Robbie Rowlett. They literally gave
us their home. I am overwhelmed with how nice people have been on the
road. Riding through the Carrizo Plain was beautiful, but no people
for miles and miles. But wildflowers and gorgeous landscapes have
given me the greatest front yard every night. The stars are bright in
the heavens and a red-tailed hawk keeps circling overhead, meaning
"safe travel" to the Native American peoples. As I look
ahead I can see snow on the upcoming Tejon Pass. But that’s in