29 miles. Ouch. We thought it was going to be 23, but we miscalculated. Thankfully, I woke up feeling much better than yesterday. We kept watching the mile markers on the road pass and knew early on that it was going to be a longer day than we thought. It was a pretty neat ride down the canyon to Lake Powell. The horses got to drink out of the lake, then we made our way around to the bridge that went of the Colorado River. It was kind of a big landmark- crossing the most well known river in the West- nearly 1/3 of the way across the country. The bridge was small but quite high and it looked almost like we were crossing over a narrow spot of the Grand Canyon.
When we got to Hite intersection (it was just a road down to a ranger station and a gas pump), we decided to flag down a vehicle- if one passed- and bum a ride down to the station to get the horses some water for our really long day. A family with a truck was willing, so Richard stayed with the horses and I rode down to the station with them. They offered to empty one of their coolers and fill it with water so we would have plenty. The gas station attendant was a sweet woman who gave me a couple Gatorade, some drinking water, and I got a couple ice creams while I was there! We chatted with the family while the horses drank deeply, then headed out once again to a lonely stretch of dirt road. This was only the half way point in our day.
We rode past several rock cliff formations, with a well known formation called “Jacob’s Chair” in the background. We took turns walking and trying to keep moving as quickly as possible. It was a race to beat the sun. We knew that the stock pond we were going to- the one we found with Mike and Dennis- had no grass there. We had marked the last grassy meadow before the camp so we would know we were two miles from being finished for the day. The plan was to stop there and let the horses eat, then go the last two miles to the water and camp.
We got to the meadow with not a whole lot of daylight to spare. We rushed to take the packs of Fiddle and Tiska so they could eat for an hour and a half without the weight on their backs. While the horses were eating, we did as many camp chores as we could- refilling lunches for tomorrow, taking off hoof boots, making supper, giving the horses salt, etc. We then spent the rest of the time on our hands and knees- hand picking the horses’ next meal. Since there was no grass at the campsite and none as far as we could see, the only thing they would get to eat tomorrow for breakfast would be what we could pick for them tonight. Our hands ached as we ripped furiously at tufts of grass. All considering, we picked quite a bit- not a whole feeding, but enough to keep them happy for a while in the morning.
Just as the light was fading, we worked quickly to put the packs back on Fiddle and Tiska, then walked as quickly as we could to try and find the small dirt driveway to the stock pond before our light was gone. That didn’t happen. We ended up using flashlights and walking slowly and carefully- watching for any change in the edge of the road. The air was still, it was quiet, and it was utterly dark. We nearly passed it thinking it was just another dry wash- but Richard followed the indent in the dirt while I waited -and he saw that it really was a road. He had almost given up- thinking it was the wrong one. It seemed more curvy and longer in the dark than it did in Mike’s car. Richard thought he had gone far enough down the road and the stock pond wasn’t there and he was about to turn around. Just then, a small breeze russelled the leaves in the cottonwood trees enough that Richard heard the different sound and knew that we had found our water in the dark. We thanked God for that sweet wind that carried on it His love, grace, and protection for us and our horses. We would all have been very thirsty if it hadn’t been for that single, isolated, gust of wind- a gift of protection from God.