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The Wagonteamster Channel has it’s first video production - Journey To the Valley Of the Wild Horses

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Honest Horses


8/27/12, South of Riley, OR; (Coord. N. 43 deg, 21.119 min; W. 119 deg, 40.921 min.)

A couple of weeks ago, I stayed with an ‘Ol Cowboy who referred to my team as “Honest Horses”. This was the term he used to refer to a horse that was kind and gave an honest day’s work.  I really liked the expression and thought it suited my lads just right.

On our second day of journey across the high desert of the Northern Great Basin, Doc and Bill pulled us 26 miles closer to our destination of Lakeview, OR.

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All day, a haze dominated the horizon. This is smoke blown north from fires far to the south.

The day started with a nine mile run to the west, down US 20/395.  With almost no shoulders and a lot of traffic, I was glad to make the turn south down US-395 in Riley, OR. 

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Riley, OR consists of the store and a post office across the street. This also the last place to get gas or park your RV if you’re headed south.  There are not a lot of tourist attractions in the area, so I wasn’t surprised at the lack of campers in the RV park.

A few days ago, when I drove into the Silvie River valley, I entered the northern edge of the Great Basin. Two rivers drain the area between the Rockies and the Sierra’s to the ocean. The Snake/Columbia River to the north and the Colorado River to the south.  However, there is a huge chunk of land, covering a part of many Western States where the water doesn’t make it too the ocean (the Great Basin).  Instead, stream flow into the great basin either soaks into the ground or is evaporated by the sun.

As I travel down the east side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, I will travel through the Great Basin for nearly a thousand miles.

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You know you’re headed into some remote territory when the ‘Livestock - Caution’ sign says, ‘Next 89 Miles’!

Almost as soon as I headed south from Riley, the terrain changed to a rock strewn ground, covered with an endless sea of sage brush and dried out bunch-grass.  Instead of being flat, the road frequently climbed over ridges of ancient lava flows, probably from a large lone-cone mountain, located about 20 miles to the east.

Traffic on this section of US-395 is extremely light.  At it’s peak time, a car or truck goes by about every 10 to 15 minutes.

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Leaving Riley, I passed over a series of three cattle guards (with only painted lines, not pipe), designed for nearsighted livestock.  These weren’t as elaborate as the one I saw in the National Forest, so neither I nor the horses were fooled. 

Most of the day my ace team of Doc and Bill kept up a 4 mph pace.  Returning from a three day period without pulling, Bill definitely had his ‘bounce back’.  When Bill is well rested, he likes to trot in place as he pulls alongside his teammate.

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The ocean of gray sage brush stretched to the horizon, except along the road surface. Here, enough moisture was available to allow some rabbit brush to grow.  In August, rabbit brush blooms, providing a welcome contrast to the earth tones seen everywhere else.

Tonight, I’m camped at a driveway entrance to a piece of range.  From the tracks, it doesn’t look like it’s been accessed in a couple of weeks, so I doubt if I’ll be in someone’s way.  The lads have a nice piece of dusty ground to roll on, one that each horse used at least a half dozen times.

I’m camped in a remote area. Except for the infrequent intervals when a car passes, I can safely say that there is no one else within ten or fifteen miles. As I was putting the grill away after supper, a chorus of coyotes chimed in and serenaded me for about 10 minutes.

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My ‘Honest Horses’ after a hard day of work. While I feasted on steak and corn on the cob, they enjoyed munching their oats and nibbling on their hay.

Because I intend to travel a little faster through the dry lands, I’ve increased the amount of oats each horse gets from 15 to 20 lbs/day.  I purposely bought extra oats for this purpose. One of the hardest tasks when traveling across a lot of territory with a team is balancing the calories in, versus the calories they burn.

You know, an ‘Honest Horse’ is much like an honest person. When the going gets tough, you can always count on them to give you their best!

Surprisingly, I have an internet signal tonight, but I don’t hold out a lot of hope for the next few days - we’ll see. Tomorrow, I’m going to try and make about another 25 miles.  Goodnight.