Wednesday, July 6, 2011

On the Pony Express Trail -- July 5 2011


July 5, 2011 – Schellbourne Area  -- Today Cindy and I rode the El Capitan Stage road to El Capitan Pass and then climbed above the pass to the May Queen Mine and then to the ridge at 9000 feet.  Our camp is at 6400 feet so the climb was substantial.  The views of the Basin and Range territory were expansive at the top of the pass.  We could still see camp far below us on the alluvial apron leading to the valley floor.  On our climb we saw numerous signs of wild horses but we did not see any mustangs.  I wonder if any mustangs saw us.

El Capitan Pass is higher than the Pony Express trail at Schellbourne Pass and we understand that the El Capitan Pass was used in the winter when the drifts closed Schellbourne Pass.  Even though El Capitan is a higher pass, the southwest exposure is said to have allowed winter passage by horses.  Certainly, both pass could be difficult in the winter and it is hard to believe that horses and mules hauled stages and wagons over El Capitan Pass because the trail is very steep in parts.

We poked around the mine ruins and found a rusted old spike used to nail the ore cart rail to a crosstie.  The wildflowers were in bloom and we passed a snow bank in the shelter of a rock outcropping.  The high terrain made me miss parts of Colorado.

Eventually, we turned the horses around and headed back down the trail to camp.  We led the horses down through the rocks and into the meadows of the secluded valley.  As we came around a corner, we saw a bay mustang stallion grazing on the grass.  The wind was blowing gently in our faces and he did not sense us at first.  Soon enough he noticed us and slipped off into the trees almost effortlessly.  He was quiet, surefooted, and quick.  From behind the forest we heard the mustang snort.  He passed back in front of us and headed up the other side of the valley with another mustang snort.  I think that the snort is a form of communication that can be a challenge or a territorial claim.  Our horses did not respond to the snorts and we continued down the trail.  Cindy and I talked about my mustang back in Idaho and we wondered he would have snorted back in response.

Wednesday and Thursday will be rest days and we plan to go to Ely Nevada for supplies and to do laundry tomorrow.  We'll rest in camp on Thursday and then head west across Nevada for another five days of riding beginning on Friday.

Best Regards,
Tom N

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