Back on track

by Gillian Larson | posted: August 12, 2016
Looking down at Summit Lake from the Diamond Peak area

It was nice to set out the next morning on a more relaxed pace after the grueling push of the past three days. I also had 20lbs of food for Shyla, which I had picked up at Shelter Cove, as we had only one more overnight before we would meet my mother north of Crater Lake, so I had the ability to pack a heavier meal for the horse this day. That turned out to be a good thing, since the small pond we camped beside this evening didn't have any grazing. I have generally found that the grazing is not good for horses on most of the PCT. The fantasy that most people have about traveling on horseback is that the horse can just eat what grows along the trail, and it isn't necessary to carry much food. That may be possible in some areas, but it is not my experience on the PCT. Part of the problem is the altitude at which the PCT runs; they don't call it the Pacific CREST trail for nothing. No horseback rider in their right mind would choose to ride in some of the areas where the trail runs if there was any other option, and I am certain that back in the day when horses were the general mode of transportation (before housing tracts and malls and highways took over all the available flat and usable land in the valleys and town and cities dominated the areas where there was water and farms and ranches fenced off the rest of the countryside), people traveling with horses were able to pick their route where there was water and grass for their animals. And in some other parts of the country, with more open rangeland or prairies, the situation might be different as well. I remember that the film Unbroken, which chronicled Ben Masters and his companions similar journey with mustangs from Mexico to Canada through Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana, depicted a much different geography most of the time, and I was envious of the huge open meadows where they turned their 16 horses free to graze. There is nowhere on the PCT where I would want to be with more than just a couple of horses, and very seldom do I have much grazing even to support one. And then there are lots of rules and regulations about stock (especially in the Sierra and some national parks) where grazing is prohibited in the meadows, so even if a lush green valley of grass appears, it is off-limits to us.


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