A Beautiful Day for Flying…or a Horseback Ride

We did the ride.

We were supposed to go flying. Mike had clearly stated the day before that he was going flying on Sunday. We debated about where to go. I’m always interested in the $100 hamburger (or egg sandwich) — you know, flying into an airport with a restaurant (or nearby restaurant) and getting a bite to eat before flying home.

“How about Sedona?” I suggested.

“On a Sunday?” he said. “That place is a zoo on Sundays.”

“How about Winslow? We can go to that historic hotel.” I couldn’t remember the name of the place, but he knew what I was talking about.

He wasn’t interested. I think it was farther away than he’d wanted to go.

“Prescott? We have a car there.” My ancient but loyal Toyota is back at Prescott Airport, waiting to serve me the next time I fly in.

“Yeah,” he said as he tried to think of an excuse not to go to Prescott.

I got the idea and stopped making suggestions. If I were flying, I’d have no trouble coming up with a destination. Heck, who needs a destination anyway? Just hop in the helicopter and follow the birds. Or the cows. Or whatever you feel like following. Be surprised where you end up. But I couldn’t fly. The helicopter, although still technically mine, had been sold and paid for. I’d be flying it on Monday to its new owner. As far as I was concerned, it wasn’t really mine anymore and I shouldn’t fly it unless I had to.

That was yesterday. Today, the day we were supposed to go flying, we didn’t even talk about flying. I think he’d changed his mind about it. He claimed he felt lazy, like just taking it easy. (We all know how much hard work flying an airplane 30 minutes to another airport can be.) “Let’s go for a horseback ride,” he said not long after our 10:00 AM lunch.

An hour later, we were saddled up and riding out. We rode down the wash (Cemetery Wash, which runs past our house — when it runs) and turned right into the slot canyon near Ocotillo. We passed some women out on their horses with three red dogs and kept going.

It was a nice ride. The air was cool but the sun was strong. The combination made for comfortable riding conditions. I was fine in my light cotton pants and long-sleeved cotton henley. I didn’t bother with a hat.

My horse even behaved for most of the ride. He walked fast, which is quite unusual for him on the way out. He didn’t get spooked by anything and didn’t try to turn around more than four or five times. But when we reached the first gate and he realized we were going through it, he started getting cranky.

My horses can count gates. They know that every time we go through a gate on the way out, it means the ride will be at least 30 minutes longer. A one-gate ride can be about an hour. But add a gate and you add 30-60 minutes.

We only went through one gate on the way out. And we didn’t take the longest trail we could have. But we were still out over 2 hours.

We rode in the state or BLM land out behind my home, following the same trails the wranglers at Rancho de los Caballeros use. The trails wind through the Sonoran desert, past saguaro, cholla, barrel, and prickly pear cactus, around mesquite and palo verde trees and creosote bushes, and over all kinds of rocks. There are numerous intersections and several gates. The trails climb high over peaks and along ridges and sink low into washes and canyons.

We know the trails very well, and have our own names for them. For example, today we rode down the wash to the Slot Canyon Trail then took that through the gate at the end to Deer Valley Trail (named because we used to see deer there all the time). I made a wrong turn at a fork in Deer Valley and that brought us prematurely to the Ridge Ride Trail. (Shortened the ride by about 15 minutes.) We went a short distance on the Ridge Ride and stopped at a high point to admire the view. From up there, you can clearly see Los Cab and its golf course, as well as the entire town of Wickenburg spread out to the northeast. We gave our horses a scare when we started back the way we’d come, then took the Red Rock Trail back down to Cemetery Wash. We followed a trail through the wash through a gate near Los Cab to the Golf Course Trail, which goes past the golf course before heading back toward our house. We came through another gate near our neighbor’s house and rode the remaining 1/4 mile home.

Of course these are just OUR names for the trails. The Los Cab wranglers have different names for them, but since the trails aren’t mapped, they don’t really have names.

Why two gates on the way back and only one on the way out? There’s no gate in the slot canyon. The fence that was there was washed away long ago.

It was a nice ride, a nice time out. It was good to get my fat horse some exercise.

And since I won’t have anything to fly for the next month or so, I’ll probably be doing a lot of horseback riding again.

What do you think?