Saturday, May 19, 2007

Superstition Ride - - - Day 2 - - - Packing In

I woke up about a half hour before dawn. The eastern sky is behind the mountains so there isn't any judging the halflight. I put some hay out for the horses, changed the water in their bucket, and scooped a measure of oat and molasses mixture into a frisbee for each of them. I had a muffin and some coffee. Then it was time to get to work.

The load for Sally was about 120 lbs. It was mostly water in bags that hang off of the pack saddle. Even though there are known sources of safe water all along this trip, this is the desert. You simply cannot have too much water. I also make it a point to never count water that I haven't seen. Along with the water I packed in a field medical kit, GPS transponder, satellite phone (2 spare batteries), several blankets, and some very light, very basic foods. One of the main foods I like to carry in the wilderness is Hardtack. This is my favorite recipe. It was the ship's biscuit served to the intrepid sailors who followed the great John Paul Jones.


In a bowl combine:

2 1/2 cups rolled or steel cut oats (not quick cooking)
3 cups stone ground whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sea or kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

In another bowl combine:

1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons bacon drippings (or be a wuss and use lard or crisco)

Mix the dry and liquid ingredients together to form a tight dough. Separate this into eight equal size balls. Roll these out on a floured surface to about 1/4" thickness. Place onto ungreased pizza pans or cookie sheets. It helps to stipple the surface of the crackers to ensure even baking all the way through. This can be done by rolling with a pegged roller or using a meat hammer once the dough is rolled out.

Bake in a 450° oven for 5 1/2 minutes, use a spatula to turn the crackers over and bake for another four minutes. When done the result can be golden brown at the edges but you want dry, light, and stiff units. Cool totally on racks and leave uncovered in the open air for at least a full day before storing in plastic bags. This stuff is nutrient dense, light, and doesn't even taste all that bad. One of the things you will miss when foraging through the wilderness is carbs. This is all carbs. I use it crumbled into soups and stews, or dunked into coffee. Trying to bite into it like a saltine or ritz cracker can cost you money and dental pain.

Along with the hardtack I packed dry cure bacon and some elk jerky left from my hunting last year and a bag of dried fruit. There are also some lemons and a bag of saliditos. For an extra treat I stowed two jars of canned peaches. Then a small hand coffee grinder and some beans, some alfalfa pellets and cut oats. Some pennywhistles to amuse myself and to keep from going into shock from not making some form of music everyday. For a three day trip, even if I find no water and no other food along the way, I won't starve, the horses and I will have plenty to eat and plenty to drink.

I saddled up Rosalita with a McClellan, crossfire rigged saddle. Behind the saddle are two light canvas saddle bags where I have some extra clothing, black licorice nuggets (my horses won't do shit without proper bribery), braided rawhide riata, combination hatchet/hammer, .410 breakaway single shotgun, box of 3" shells, .22 long rifle Remington pump (both in saddle scabbards), shoulder water bags.

I checked Sally's pack rig for balance and comfort one more time, gave her a licorice treat, locked up the truck and trailer, stashed the keys in a hubcap, mounted up and started out on the trail.

The weather was gorgeous. Cool, with a light breeze. Not a cloud in the sky. After about an hour of easy walking we were in full on Sonora desert, the saguaro, cholla, prickley pear, ah hell, all the cactus are in full bloom. Most of the arroyos have a dusting of wild flowers. There had been a decent rain last week, but the melt off from the Mogollon rim and the Tonto range is in full swing. I'm seeing quail, rabbit, lots of coyote sign. A couple of times I see the tails of gopher and king snakes disappearing into the sage stands. The sage is loaded with tiny purple flowers and makes the trail smell like incense.

Another half hour brings us to the first water. Taking a side canyon up about 300 yards (with slight incline) brings me to "the horse tanks." These are brimming full. I take Sally's gear off first and she plunges into the water right off. Even though I'm on the way to Rosalita, she lets me know that I have violated herd senority standards by not letting her play first. She hops right in.

When the horse come out of the water I dry them off well with sage branches and we saddle and mount up again. I get back into the main trail and begin to go through a series of narrow passes. Having shade from the stone walls of the passes is a welcome comfort. The heat isn't brutal, but it is most likely in the mid-eighties and climbing steady. There is a spring fed pond on the outskirts of the abandoned ranch where I am headed after the third pass. We'll stop for a drink and meal when we get there. I reach behind me and pull out my little silver "G" pennywhistle. The high trebles bounce off the stone walls gleefully as I play "I'll Tell Me Ma" and the "Rakes of Mallow." When I start to play "Poor Wandering One" Sally begins to snicker in anticipation and sidles up to me expectantly. I pass her a nugget of licorice then have another ready for Rosalita. I take out one of my lemons, take a plug from the center, stick in a couple of saliditos and suck the squeezed juice merrily. We are making good and easy progress.

At the spring pond the horses drink deeply and Sally begins to browse among the bushes like she's at the best salad bar in the world. Rosalita stands watching, then joins in with gusto. I break out the sterno stove and make a small pot of coffee and soon am happily dunking hardtack and jerky into a steaming mug. For dessert I stick a few dried apricots into my cheek like a chaw of tobacco and we saddle up for the final push of the day. There are about four hours of daylight left and we should be where I plan to make camp in about two and a half hours.

The trail is on a steady incline, but easy travel for my desert bred horses. There are Red Tail and Cooper's Hawks in the air. I am seeing many signs of the people that used to live here. A broken down corral, a section of fence, what used to be fields in cultivation. Once I pass the outline and crumbled chimney of what was once a line shack for a winter fence rider.

A Red Tail shrieks and I answer with the pennywhistle. We come to where the main ranch buildings once stood. There is a large pond, and a creek running full. I take care of the horses and begin to make myself at home.

The quiet of the place is beautiful. The sun is setting with its typically Arizonan gaudy show. I wander through the old orchard snapping off dead sticks to build a small fire. I feed the horses, but they have decided that there is better browsing in between the old fruit trees and are not interested in alfalfa pellets. A measure of oats also goes uneaten. I boil the horses leftovers into a porridge and eat it with a couple slices of bacon and a chunk of hardtack. My coffee tastes like nectar.

I am sitting with my back resting on my saddle. Blankets spread over a patch of soft grass smoking a welcome cigarette when I hear a another set of horse hooves clopping lazily.

A voice I recognize calls out "You got good coffee. Hope you brought me some peaches."

I grin and walk toward the sound of the voice saying "I came up here to be alone, but I do have some coffee and peaches."

Silas grins at me and says "You go be alone then. I'll just help myself. Then we can have a smoke and talk about things."




Blogger Sherry said...

it is a wonderful tale and as far removed from my experience as can be.
i am enjoying this so much.

11:10 AM  
Anonymous Constant Comment said...

Consider me officially hooked. Silas fascinates the hell out of me--can't wait for the next installment...


1:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not going to use the correct term (because I forget it), but I hope you realize how blessed you are to have your own shaman.........

- oddjob

6:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I in the same place would have gotten all fascinated with watching the desert pollinators, which I suspect are largely insects you only see at this time of year, that then lay eggs and die while the immatures spend the rest of the year underground until next year.

- oddjob (who has always loved watching solitary bees go about their business)

6:52 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

This is truly great reading, strange and full of wonder to a New England wharf rat. thank you.

7:15 AM  
Blogger Brave Sir Robin said...

Wow, I am yearning for the mountains.

Wonderful reading.

2:05 PM  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

I am enjoying this immensely.

What new lesson will you learn? Will Silas broker it?

I enjoy your meting out your tale in the installment method.

7:44 PM  

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