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Over The Hill


10/7/12, N. Side of Mono Lake, CA (Coord. N 38 deg, 02.839 min, W. 119 deg, 10.102 min)

This was a day of tough hills, beautiful scenery and a happy ending.

I didnít pull away from my hostís house until 9:30 am. The lads were a little frisky this morning and it took a few minutes to coax my wild brumbies out of their large pasture.  But in the end, a pan of grain and a bucket of water won them over and they left their free and easy life for the toil of the trace. 

My goal today was to tackle a very large hill that lay between my camping spot and Mono Lake.  The team had to pull the wagon up 1500 feet in elevation, then go down another 1200 feet to Mono Lake.  It was a daunting task, but by shuffling horses around, we prevailed.

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The Sierra Nevada Mountains from my overnight camp.

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After a little water and grain, the lads were a little more sedate after being tied to a hitching post. This was in sharp contrast to the bucksnorts and wild horse type behavior they were providing only a short while before.

It was a six mile pull over fairly level ground to the Bodie turnoff, where the steeper grade actually began.  For this segment, I had the Belgians hitched and Doc in the rear, harnessed and ready to go to work. Just before I hit the steeper grade, I pulled the team over and brought Doc up front.  For the first part of the uphill climb, the grade was steep, but there was a passing lane, so I ran with three horses in front of the wagon.

As an explanation - I can hold a two horse hitch to a line of plus or minus 3 or 4 inches. When I have a unicorn hitched, the best I can do in plus or minus a foot.  So when I know I have some maneuver room, three horses is a good way to go.  If the going is really tight, I try to put only two horses up front to leave ĎChallenged Driversí some room to maneuver their vehicles.

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I always try and give the guys a break before they break their wind. Here, weíre taking advantage of a pullout for a short rest.

Several times as I made my way up the mountain, people pulled over to chat or take pictures.  When it was safe and convenient, I stopped the team.  I try to limit these uphill chat session to a time and place where the team needs a break and itís a good place to pull over.

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The aspen are starting to turn in the high country.  As I made my way up the mountain, copses of aspen trees began to appear below me.

Around 2 pm, I finally made the summit at 8,138 feet.  This was a significant elevation change when a team is hauling 9000 pounds of weight.

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At the top!

A mile down the other side was a turnout for folks to enjoy the view of Mono Lake. Since the lads were well past their normal lunch hour, I pulled into this place with a magnificent view of Mono Lake and unhitched the team for lunch.

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B.O.B. keeps telling me to keep a sharp eye out for the good views!

Coasting down the backside of the mountain was fairly easy.  The road was four lane the entire time and Sunday traffic was light.  Reaching the bottom, I set about finding a place to camp. A mile from the bottom of the hill, I turned into a sagebrush covered roadside to make camp. Just after I finished unhitching, Steve showed up to let me know about a great camping place with grazing and water, only 1/4 mile down a side road.  The lines went back on and the horse went to the front of the wagon.

About this time, I nice guy and his wife showed up and gave me a generous contribution to the travel fund - Thank You.

Tonight, Iím camped on some good grass and water in a great place, directly under the Sierra Mountains.  As I havenít fed hardly any feed in the past few days, I still have nearly a full load of hay on the wagon.

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Another nice sunset in a beautiful camp.

Thanks to Steve and his wife Harriet, we have a great camping spot at the end of a very good day.