So I have run into many people that tell me there is a short cut to where I want to go. Usually they know the mileage or even drive me over the trail to make sure I don't get lost (oh god the terror). So when I was told there was a shortcut from Cokeville to Kemmerer I thought, cool, that will be great. I got directions from 3 different people, they all added up to the same path, so I figured that the distance given was pretty accurate too. Hmmmmmmm . . . not really.
I was up early, to be on the road before 8am, allowing myself 10 to 12 hours of travel time for the day, making allowances for opening and closing cattle gates and time taken to walk to rest Delightful, who was making her debut as the saddle horse on this pass. The girls were ready and eager to be off, apparently kinda bored after their long break. I loaded Mystic up and saddled Pei Pei, and headed to the store for some water and ice before hitting the road.
Now the directions were simple, head down the highway, til you reach the Thompson ranch, the second ranch outside of town directly after the hill. Turn and cut through their land to the BLM road that goes through to Kemmerer. When that road Ys go left and follow the main road to the highway on the other side. Simple right. Yeah, sure.
Now, the Thompson ranch, is a few miles outside of Cokeville as promised and the girls and I turned in and headed across. We met a few nice people going through that opened some gates for us and I thought, "this was going well" big mistake. I stopped to check Mystics pack load and reposition the saddle pads to make sure they were not bothering her sore, was treated to a runaway cow being chased by a woman, her daughter (on horseback) and a man in the truck and trailer. Gathered up my mares and headed down the road again. After a few more miles I found a nice spot and got up on Delightful for our inaugural ride on this trip. She was perfect, smooth, comfortable to ride, well behaved, surprising. After a few more miles and several cattle gates, gotten off to open and close (Delightful is not quite perfect with the whole mounting and remounting thing) I ran into the BLM guy and verified my path and distance, he saying another 30 miles. Sighing I headed back up the trail, thinking that a 38 miles shortcut was not too bad since the highway was 44miles. We rode up the first hill, and suddenly, a very tired Delightful decided the bugs didn't really bother her, hmmm odd, exhausted horse, no flip out from mosquitoes, interesting. We reached the top, lovely view, and dropped down into the cattle valley, lots of cows, big meadows, smelly cow ponds, across that and once again climbing. At the top of that hill we reached the ridge line that we were supposed to follow into Kemmerer.
Now I calculated that at that time I had come about 12 miles and after another mile I came to the Emigrant Camp ground (this is significant trust me). We continued along, going up and down the hills that rolled along the ridge line, marvelling at the lovely scenery, trying to ignore the time ticking by and hoping for a random car. My wishes were answered, in the form of a truck with 2 women and some kids in it. I waved the down and asked how far I was from Kemmerer and received the answer of 15 miles, not what I wanted to hear. I noticed some ominous clouds on the horizon and started wondering about the forecast I had gotten that morning. The women came back the other way, passing us, stopping long enough to tell me that they were sure that I was 12 miles from Kemmerer and mentioning the gathering weather, and that it should miss where I was. The wind shifted directions and brought that storm right down on us, the temperature dropped to about 50 degrees and the skies opened up and dumped buckets of water upon us. It wasn't long before I was soaked to the skin and the constant 20 mph winds soon had me chilled to the bone. We rode on in the rain for about 40 minutes before it slacked off to a light sprinkle, wind still blowing. It was about this time that those women came back, to tell me I was 5 miles away from the end of that road and to laugh at the fact I didn't have my rain jacket on. This was probably the first time on this trip that I was not polite to someone. There I sat, shivering violently, and they thought it was funny. So I made a less than cordial response to their comment (no swearing, I promise) and when they drove off put my head down and rode on towards the promise of an end to that road. I had to get off about 3 miles later, I was seriously cold, most likely hypothermic, and took 20 minutes to dig out my oilskin from my pack, stripped off the soaking wet fleece and buttoned myself up, then proceeded to walk 5 more miles to get warm. Now you might have noticed that made 8 miles from when I was told I had only 5 to go. . . 2 hrs later and 8 more miles it got dark and 1 hr 45 min and 7 more miles I reached the highway. I had to get off about 10 minutes after it got dark to open a cattle pass through gate, and since it was pitch black and I couldn't find a place to get back on, I walked the rest of the way. Upon reaching the highway I headed towards town only to find myself standing in the middle of the road, staring into the darkness. I decided I needed to find a place to stay and headed for a house that had its lights on, went through the pass through gate ( I really hate those things) and tied the girls to a telephone pole in front of the house's fence and crossed the last grate to knock on the door. It was answered by a saint of a man, Ken Moon, who took my greeting, subsequent bursting into tears and laughing in stride. He asked what I needed and when I said permission to tie my horses at the pole and pitch a tent, he responded with that wasn't his land . . . but I could bring them onto his land and put them in his pasture and pitch my tent in his barn. All that accomplished he asked if I needed anything and me being me, I asked if he had any soda, Coke preferably. He did! So Coke pounded down, some nice conversation had, I headed back to my tent to strip the still wet clothes off, change into dry ones and slide into my sleeping bag to warm up and stop the shivering that had resurfaced upon the removal of my coat.
So for you math buffs, that was a distance of 30 miles from Emigrant Camp plus another 12 before that for a grand savings on the shortcut of 2, count them, 2 miles. Factor in the extra time of 10 to 15 minutes a gate (and there was 12 gates on this road) and we have a short cut that actually took me an additional 2 to 3 hrs.
Well it was a beautiful ride, til it poured rain on me . . .and it got dark . . .and the mosquitoes came out . . . and I got exhausted and lost my sanity . . . and burst into tears in front of a kind stranger. Yep, totally worth it . . . Oh God I am tired.