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Trip Dispatch #8: Thursday, May 26: Smith Reservoir to Ikes Creek: Mr. Road Grader (12 Miles)

We woke up to horrific winds and whitecaps on the lake. This was so very different than last night. On the way out of the area, Pete asked me if my Gerber knife was handy because we’d need to unwind the fence next to the cattle guard. It wasn’t. I got off Raudi and began rooting through Signy’s pack. A fisherman in a pickup truck stopped his vehicle, and when we told him of our predicament, he let us borrow his pliers. We hustled the horses and dog through the opening, and then refastened the wire. Oh, the kindness of strangers.

We had a bit of excitement on the road to Blanca. We were going up-road when

Horses tied up next to RR tracks in Blanca
Horses tied up next to RR tracks in Blanca

we heard a road grader coming up behind us. Raudi, seeing a tire on a fence post, balked. I got off, and the road grader passed. A short while later it came back, so we turned down a side road in order to let the vehicle again go past. I yelped, as a couple of loose horses came down this road to check us out.

Raudi neighed loudly. Next, a large, fuzzy white guard dog leapt through the fence across the road. I groaned as a nearby mule (who was behind yet another fence) came over to check out the activity. The road grader stopped at the turn, and the driver, who had a bemused expression, looked on. Raudi continued to dance around, narrowly avoiding a tangle of barbwire. I saw a snake, and then began dancing around, yelling “snake, snake, snake.” Mr. Road Grader finally moved on, and we continued on our way.

This episode was a confidence builder, for I realized that this was as much chaos as we’d ever have to deal with at one time. Furthermore, the horses and dog didn’t do anything stupid. This thought served me in good stead when we came to Blanca. We had to pass a truck unloading area, where there was considerable noise and moving machinery. We parked ourselves across the way because we needed to mail some stuff home and pick up some extra food. It had been a tough call, but we decided to send the computer and solar charger home. But I agreed with Pete that we needed to further lighten Signy’s load. We tied the horses to sagebrush near the tracks, and Pete took off. I untied our water bucket, and got water for the horses from a stagnant pond.

Pete returned with (among other things) ice cream bars and lip balm. We consulted the map (again) and decided to follow the railroad tracks for about a mile before heading north toward the base of Mt. Blanca. I remained nervous during the afternoon ride because the post office clerk informed Pete that the train goes by in the late afternoon. We went a short ways and came to a dirt road that dead-ended. We then turned right and headed up road through a rundown neighborhood, complete with horses enclosed in pens constructed of metal siding and bent metal panels.

Pete later asked a local where we might camp. He pointed in the direction of Mt. Blanca, adding that if went a mile north-east, that we’d come to Ikes Creek. This lead to an important realization on Pete’s part, which is that the more affluent people in this area live closer to water sources. Conversely, those who are less affluent live farther away.

Next: Dispatch #9: Artesian Well