Thursday, 13 July 2017

The End of the Trail!

Tuesday 4th April was a significant day in more ways than one.  Firstly I completed my journey along the Pony Express Trail, but secondly I had timed it to coincide with the date that the first mail left Sacramento 157 years ago.   But the first mail left on April 3rd I hear you exclaim!  And that is true, but it actually left from San Francisco (at 4pm on April 3rd), and was only carried by the pony with rider James Randall as far as the waterfront.  Here it was put on the steamship Antelope to Sacramento, where it arrived in the early hours of the following morning. The first rider to carry the mail out of Sacramento at 2.45am on 4th April 1860 was William (Sam) Hamilton, and one could argue this is where the pony part of the Pony Express eastern run really began.
Lucy and I were certainly not intending to start at such an ungodly hour, and set off from home at a more respectable time.  Lucy was going to meet up with me to ride the last couple of miles into old Sacramento on Mohawk, her pinto Tennessee Walking Horse, but dropped Lady and me back at CalExpo to cover the section in between.  Unfortunately I discovered I had left my camera battery behind, so this post has to rely on a few photos on my Kindle.

As we neared Sacramento, the trail rapidly began to acquire a different atmosphere.  Gone were the lycra clad cyclists and instead we passed a small tent camp of homeless people and dogs.  There were occasional glimpses of tent camps tucked away in the backwoods......

The completely deserted trail had a post apocalyptic look.   An abandoned raft washed up on the side of the muddy path ....
 ...was it really capable of floating?
Mud plastering everything bore evidence of recent flooding, and in the distance in this photo, a fallen tree blocked the path....
 ..people had evidently been using a narrow gap on the right hand side to negotiate it, but as I drew nearer there were ominous rustlings in the bushes.  Was it an ambush?  I suspect not but I still pushed my way quickly through the thickets on the other side without dismounting.
We started to encounter swampy flooded sections with creepers draping the trees, and I half expected to see zombies wading out of the tangled foliage.....
  In fact this flooded section was only a couple of hundred yards long, and to my surprise I emerged at the far end to find three of the lycra brigade faltering at the edge of the flood before they turned tail.

I met Lucy as planned just the other side of the Jibboom St bridge over the American river, and we rode into town along the side of the Sacramento river.    Lucy and I pose in front of the Hastings building where the Wells Fargo and Pony Express offices were housed.....
and in front of the Pony Express statue on the other side of the road...
 Note we are both decked out in our Pony Express uniforms of blue jeans, red shirts, leather waistcoats, yellow bandanas and cowboy boots.
No cheering crowds waiting to greet us , but we celebrated with a very welcome (and delicious) ice-cream, in my case a suitably named Rocky Road

There was just time afterwards for a trip to see the Kirtlan family who live not far from Sacramento.  I had met Carrie Kirtlan when I was judging at a Welsh breeds show in California in September 2015, and she contacted me last autumn.  They were coming over to Wales for the Welsh cob sales and were on the look out for a nice Welsh cob stallion.  Could I advise on the best studs to visit?  Sods law I would be riding in California at the same time as they would be in Wales, but I gave her an introduction to Owen Griffiths, a former Welsh Pony and Cob Society Young Ambassador who I felt sure would be able to help them out.
The result was that he took them up to the renowned Synod stud after they had failed to find something to their liking at the sales, and they had done a deal on a young Welsh cob colt who in due course had followed them back to Sacramento.   And here he is in his new home....
Carrie's vet had accompanied them just for the trip, but had also ended up buying a Synod Welsh cob, in his case a two year filly Synod Ruby.

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