Oct 13, 2014

Rock Creek Station Revisited

When we first started trail riding, one of our first camping trips was to Rock Creek Station in Jefferson County near Fairbury.  We pulled in with our stock trailer, tack room filled to the hilt with what I thought we would need for camping, including a tent.  

I'd like to say that those were the good ol' days, but there was nothing good about it.  Case fell in the fire, burned his hands, then burned them again on a lightbulb in the truck trying to see the burn, then every time he would fall asleep, the ice bag would fall off his hands and he would start to cry.  Then the ice melted, the sleeping bags got wet...  well, you get the idea.  Frankly, I am surprised I ever wanted to camp again after that first weekend, but it was all about the horses.  The riding.  The scenery.

Rock Creek Station was a stagecoach and pony express station in the mid 1800's.  It was also the scene of where Wild Bill Hickok killed a man.  The locals reenact that at Rock Creek Days each year.    From the horse camp, the trails take you to Rock Creek Station and from their you can see the ruts of the Oregon Trail.   To the south of Rock Creek Station is Rock Glen Wildlife Management Area.  Riding is also allowed on that land from May to October.  Riders are not allowed in the Wildlife area during major hunting seasons.  Rock Creek Station proper is open year around.

John begged off from going, claiming he had too much work to do, so Pip, Windy and I headed down there early Saturday morning to meet up with my riding buddies.  We were saddled and riding by noon.  Although some of the area is wooded, a lot is prairie.  The fall colors were captivating.  I enjoyed taking pictures as much as I did riding.

It was fun to reminisce about riding here when the boys were younger.  The big burr oak tree that they would look for to find the gate back to the park.  The red rock canyon, the rail road canyon and hedge apples lining the trails.  So many memories.

Years ago, they held competitive trail rides at Rock Creek.  I have been interested in resurrecting the event and after spending the weekend there, I am even more excited.

It appeals to those who enjoy a piece of history and like the ruggedness of the plaines.  It won't be without work to get the miles, but I think it could be done.

I snapped close to four hundred pictures while riding those two days.  There is not enough room on this post to show you all of the beauty.

And there was a little goofiness, too.

Oct 10, 2014

Wyoming in July - In Conclusion

The horse camp was empty when we pulled in on Wednesday.  We picked the best spot and the best corrals and enjoyed the peace and quiet and having the place all to ourselves.  A little later in the day, we heard the familiar hum of a diesel engine coming up the hill; before long, we had neighbors.

We've camped enough to know that sometimes you luck out and have great camping neighbors and sometimes it is miserable.  We had enjoyed keeping our dogs of the leash and now with neighbors, it might not be possible.  The piece and quiet has been awesome and perhaps these new folks like to party all night.  You just never know.  

We watched as they unloaded three horses and started to set up camp.  They found a spot a good distance from us and when our dogs met; they weren't concerned, nor were we.  We started with casual conversation, learning their names were Kay and Duane, and got some tips on where to ride.  As far as camping neighbors were concerned, it looked like these folks might just be okay.  

Duane's son and grandchildren arrived next and Kay's husband would arrive later.  Watching Duane's granddaughters with the horses, I mentioned to Kay that my boys could ride, but it wasn't there passion and she agreed you have to let the kids find their thing in life.  She went on to tell me that her son was a pilot in the Army and was killed in Afghanistan this past January.  Immediately my heart ached for her.  As a mother, it is unimaginable and as a mother of a serviceman, it is our worst fear.  We spoke later on and agreed to exchange contact information and ride together if we are in the area again.

Duane is not only a horseman but elk hunts in this area.  He gave us some great information on the trails and was spot on with his direction.  Hans Creek, the Enchanted Forested, the swimming hole to name a few.  I meant to ask him if those were his names for the areas of the real names.  


The trails have been real diverse as his names imply.  Not only in landscape and terrain, but in level of difficulty.  There were some places that tested my fear of heights.  I found taking pictures helped my anxiety but then I would think WTH am I doing?  All my moving around with pictures is probably not helping Windy.  But she was a rock star for the most part.  I wouldn't have trusted any other horse like I trusted her this week.

Tonight we took a shorter loop that Duane had mentioned and like his previous directions, he was spot on.  We would "cross a creek when the trail ended and hit a cow path and follow it until we cross again and loop back through the trees".  Then we got to one place on the trails that stopped me in our tracks.  Windy and I were leading and the cow path disappeared into a lot of rock and shale with no real path. It was a severe downhill grade.  As I looked at it and consulted with Jules, who was behind me, Windy was most anxious to keep moving.  God, love her for her courage, but I was lacking it at this moment. There was a trail down but it was almost straight down and I didn't see anything we could connect with once we got there and wasn't sure how easy it was to get back up.  

John and Steve were behind Jules and could see my concern.  They asked if we could go up and that was not a possibility.  Windy grew more agitated and about the time I said "let's turn around", Windy had already done so.  It looks so benign in this picture but like John said - even if the first horse could make it, who knows what  could give way for the next horse.  We didn't have a chance to talk to Duane tonight but want to ask him "how the heck?" tomorrow morning.

It's been a great trip for John and me with great friends, old and  new.  Since we had a little problem finding the camp to begin with, we left a little gift behind for the next riders looking for the campground.  

I have to say we were embarrassed when we saw there really was a sign.  And to think we were looking for an RV?  

So long, Wyoming, until next year.  

Oct 8, 2014

Wyoming in July - Day 4

I have to tell you that poodles make the best trail dogs!  Two years ago, if someone would have told me I would have a poodle, I would have thought they were nuts.  I have had springers, shepherds, saints and an variety of mutts.  Really, I love all dogs but a poodle?  Really?

Pip, who you may also hear me call "Sis" or "Sissy",  is a Standard Poodle.  Although she isn't huge - probably around 40 pounds - she has long legs and a lean body and has endurance like no dog before her.  Although I don't ride as many road miles as I did when Ritz was still alive, the times she has went with me have been fun.  If dogs are allowed on the trail, I usually take her along.  

This week, I GPS'd a little over 40 miles and she was with us every step of the way. For every mile we rode, I am sure she went 1.5.  She chased deer and ground squirrels and played in the water. 

Not only did she go on every ride with us, she also played with every dog in camp.  She was quite smitten with another Standard Poodle - Coda - who came a courting.  They played really hard the first night and I caught her sneaking over to his camp a little later in the evening.  It was so stinkin' cute. 

Although female canines are typically smaller than the male of the same breed, I think Pip is small.  She does, however, have incredibly long legs.  She weighs around 50 some pounds.  

Comparatively, her new friend, Coda, is big by Standard Poodle standards.  They said the breeder they got him from breeds specifically for a bigger boned, larger poodle.  I'm not sure if he could have kept up with her on the trails.  

Tonight, after our last ride, she did something she has never done before:  she went to the door of the trailer and asked to be let in.  The rest of us were sitting outside having drinks and she went in and went to bed.  Bless her heart, I think we finally wore out the poodle.  

I have to tell you that I have grown very fond of Case's dog, Nahla, and love her like my own.  But we have taken both Nahla and PIp camping together and they are a handful.  And Nahla would have tried to do these miles, but is just not built to handle them.  I'll have to give her some special time when we get home.  

As I am looking through photos to insert in this post, I realize that Pip is always on the go.  It is hard to capture her doing nothing; she never sits still.   But on the truck ride home, I don't think she raised her head At. All.  She was one tired pup.