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Unicorn Hitch to the Bar E Ranch


5/6/12, Cimarron, CO - After a long day, full of a lot of steep grades, the team and I are settled at the Bar E Ranch, home of my good friends Cady and Linda Daniels.  When I left Sapinero this morning, I had the two Belgians hitched up for the first mile.  Until we crossed the Blue Mesa Lake bridge, the terrain was fairly flat.  But, on the other side of the bridge the road climbed up some fairly steep hills. Doc was waiting in reserve, harnessed up and ready to go.  As soon as we reached the other side of the bridge, I pulled over and hitched up Doc to the front of the rig.  It’s a good thing I had the extra pulling power.   In the next ten miles, we first climbed to the top of the mesa (about 1000 feet elevation gain), then descended into Pine Canyon (about 1000 feet descent) then climbed Blue Mesa Hill (about 1500 feet elevation gain). A lot of the grades were steeply pitched between 7 and 10% grade.

Having a third horse to use for going up steep grades is a tremendous asset. And now, with two independent hydraulic braking systems, I can descend long grades without stopping to let the brakes cool.   I just shift from one set to the other.

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Driving across the bridge with just the two Belgians hitched.  Before the dam flooded up the lake, the land under the bridge was a very deep gorge.  Consequently, the lake under the bridge is several hundred feet deep.

Doc is a very proud horse, that absolutely loves the Unicorn Hitch.  When he’s out front, he ‘knows’ he is the best, and his tail is almost always straight in the air. He also tries (and usually succeeds) in out-pulling both of the Belgians put together.

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The lads pulling up the long hill above the Blue Mesa Lake Dam.  This is the first time they have pulled the Unicorn (on the road) since 2010.  It might as well have been yesterday. They never gave me a bit of trouble.

Driving tandem teams attracts three or four more times the attention from the public as driving a single team.  The number of picture takers and people stopping to chat was several times what I would normally receive.

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Why does Doc always appear to be announcing, “Break Time”?

My visitors today included the ‘Frey’ family.  The kids had a fun time meeting the lads.  I normally don’t let anyone sit on a horse that is hitched, but Doc didn’t have a teammate and they had just finished climbing 700 feet in elevation, without a break - they weren’t about to move.

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As Doc was all sweated-up from the climb up the hill, I bet mom had to put an extra cup of laundry soap in the washer to get her daughter’s pants clean!

Dad and the kids jumped on board for a wagon ride. Mom followed behind in the car and picked them up after a mile. I wonder how long these kids will remember this afternoon?

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A very nice family.

After climbing to the top of the mesa, we descended about 1000 feet in elevation to the bottom of Pine Canyon.  As the descent was steep, this was the first really good test of the dual brakes.  Not only was it quicker, as I didn’t have to stop and let the brakes cool, it was also a lot safer.  With the road grade steeper than what the horses could hold back with no brakes, I knew I had another set to rely on if I were to lose the brakes that I was using.  I wish I had this setup on previous trips.

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Entering the mouth of Pine Canyon, a very beautiful place. I was thinking of naming it B.O.B.’s Canyon; but, he already has a big head - I didn’t want it to swell anymore. By the way, Doc’s Canyon has an official name (thanks Kelly) but I’m not going to tell you what it’s called.  I like it better named after my good gray horse!

The road through the canyon was narrow and windy, but it was Sunday and traffic was light. Most drivers were courteous and cautious.

I stopped the lads for lunch at a wide turnout along Pine Creek. Lunch alongside a gurgling mountain stream, adorned in spruce trees is always a good thing.

Not long after pulling out of Pine Canyon, I started the long ascent up Blue Mesa Hill.  The team was getting tired, but they dug in and kept going. Doc, is a machine.  He’s sort of like the Energizer Bunny.  B.O.B. needs to be encouraged to pull his load.  Bill really steps out, until he feels he has given it all.  Shortly after reaching the summit, he dug in his heals and said “that’s enough”.  Rather than fighting with him, I swapped driving lines and positions with Doc and put Bill behind the trailer. With only a ten minute break, I was back in business with Bob and Doc hitched for the long descent into the Cimarron River Valley.

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After being released into a field full of sweet spring grass, Bill and Doc went right for the water bucket.  B.O.B. went exploring.

The Bar E is a beautiful 800 acre ranch, nestled between the Little Cimarron and Cimarron Rivers. It’s mostly irrigated and a very picturesque place.  In a few weeks, Cattleman Nick Gray will move 500 cow/calf pairs on to the place, to graze for a month before they head to high country.  In the fall, when the cows are driven down from the forest, they’ll spend another few weeks here before heading to winter pastures.

The lads and I are going to take the day off tomorrow. The boys are so excited about their new digs, they passed up most of there oats so they could graze on the sweet new grass. Well, B.O.B. didn’t. He finished his grain and Doc and Bill’s too.

There’s no Verizon cell service here, so this will be a late posting.