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September 29, 2013: What are the Odds?

Some things seem more than serendipitous, today being a case in point. We decided to do a pit stop just after we passed Burwash Landing. I went to the outhouse, and as I emerged, I noticed that a battered gray horse trailer had pulled into the rest area. I further noticed that two people had stepped forth. One was a woman who looked to be my age, and another was a man who looked to be Pete’s age.

The man greeted Pete. He had a thick German accent. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that he and his partner were the couple that had been riding from Argentina to Alaska. We’d learned about the pair last June, when we stopped at the Beaver Creek Visitor’s Centre. Pete and I had spoken of the pair often. Now, before us were the infamous Gunter Wamser and Sonja Endelweber.

Pete and Gunter greeted one another, and Sonja and I did the same. I could hardly believe it. Sonja could have been my double. She had a similar build, was wearing wire rimmed glasses, and had brown hair fringed with gray. She was also wearing a fleece coat and nylon camp pants. The difference was that my pants are bright blue, while hers were tan with brown patches on the knees.

We all talked excitedly for twenty minutes or so, exchanging information quickly, because it was cold, and we had horses in the trailers. Pete and I learned that Gunter and Sonja’s plan was initially to ride to and through the Wrangell Mountains and finish their trek in the Talkeetnas. This portion of their trip didn’t go as planned – they could not cross the Nebesna River. So they backtracked and ended up finishing their trip in Healy.

Gunter had been riding summers for twenty years. Sonja, for seven. They were now heading for Whitehorse, where they’d leave they’d stay with friends. They planned to winter their four mustangs in British Columbia. As I understood it, they’d gotten the younger horses at a BLM sale in Wyoming. The only problem was one expressed a desire to return to his original herd when the pair went through that area. Gunter will ride “the good bits” next summer. And Sonja is going back to Austria, where she will visit with family.

I found this to be most interesting. Sonja offhandedly remarked that Gunther is “the one in charge,” and that her area of trip specialization is tending to the horses. I didn’t say it, but her statement made me realize that when doing such trips, that tending to animals is easily one person’s full time job when traveling.

I told her about Mr. Siggi’s death and she said that she had just one close call. The horse she was riding at the time slipped while on a ledge in Glacier Park. This was with her on it. She stayed on and the horse regained its balance. My response was, “how lucky we all are. . . .”

The pair travel with four horses, two riding and two pack animals. They have varied the pack/rider order, but have one horse who really likes being out in the lead.

Before parting company Gunther handed Pete a book that he wrote. It is entitled Abenteuer Rocky Mountains: 3,000 Meilens Mit Pferden Durch Die Wildnis Amerikas. It is written in German, so I am not sure what the text says. But the photos are quite beautiful. I hope to find a translator and have them read it to me.

Both Sonja and Gunter have (of course) now been inducted into the Long Rider’s Guild. You need to ride 1,000 miles, unsupported, in a season in order to be a member. I am of course wanting to qualify, but it is going to be some time, if ever, before this happens. In the meantime, I’m living vicariously through the existence of those like these two intrepid trekkers.

Next: 189: 9/30/13: Winter Camping