I can't even remember now where we first heard about the Leavitt Meadows Stock drive. We signed up for it as soon as we had heard about it, several months in advance. Their web page is at http://www.leavittmeadows.com/ and we highly recommend this activity for anyone who is old enough (or still young enough) to be able to ride a horse at full speed (and I DO mean full speed) and loves the mountains and an adventure.
We left Friday night, ran into some cows on Highway 4 (my notes say "one lane, no line" ??) and stopped to get out of the car to admire the Milky Way, a sight rarely seen in any standard town or city these days. Glorious.
Dinner was at a Topaz, Nevada casino where you could smoke at the table! What a pleasure. Reservations had been made at one of the few places still available in the area, The Sierra Retreat, the Walker Cabin #3, I believe in Coleville with a population of 63. It was a delightful little cabin and a pleasant stay.
Saturday brought coffee at the Basque Restaurant, then we headed off to the "Leavitt Meadows World Headquarters" on Lassen Road in Antelope Valley. They served us a huge and delicious breakfast at the Meadow Cliff Lodge restaurant (http://www.meadowcliff.com/) where we met Bart, Trevor and Shirley Cranney, Elise and Patsy, Cathy and Patty, Gordon and Lynn Marie, Chad and Kelly, Diane, Annie, Tim, Sue and Chuck and Chuck.
After breakfast we drove to the Pack Station where our gear for two days was loaded up on the trucks that would accompany the stock drive. There must have been around thirty of us with abilities ranging from semi beginner (me) to born on a horse (David). We were all fitted on a horse, I rode Grey Eagle and David rode Archie. That's when the fun started.
Bart told us to wander over to the large arena gate and hold our horses in a tight line, and hold them there for as long as we could. That SHOULD have been my first clue. The donkey in the pen kicking at his fencing should have been my second clue. He realized what was going on and was becoming extremely excited, only to transfer his anxiety (or impatience) to all the other riderless horses. Silly me didn't think anything of it. That's when Bart opened the gates.
The only way to describe what happened was a stampede. One girl fell off her horse and the others all just went with the flow until the loose horses ran out their need to run. Eventually everyone settled down, the riders keeping a casual circle around the herd.
Our first stop was for a group pee that will live forever in the minds of one local resident. The horses were held while the ladies all went over a hill and pee in the wilds. What we did not see right away is the house waaaay down at the bottom of the hill and the guy at the window. His view was a dozen or so ladies bottoms, jeans wrapped around their ankles peeing backwards downhill.
We crossed 120 and 395, requiring all the traffic to come to a stop. Quite a sight that must have been.
Lunch was at Burcham Flat. We expected maybe hot dogs and sodas. Not! Several women who had gone on the stock drive years before decided this was just not their cup of tea and started cooking for the drivers. We rode up to a complete flotilla of trucks, tables, chairs and food, tied our horses off and sat down to a wonderful lunch. We were so full it was with reluctance we got back up on the horses again.
The evening stop was at Deep Creek where the trucks had brought our bags and gear. We realized in dismay that we could have brought a mattress as some one else had for all the room they had available. They had set up tents, tables, dinner, campfires, you name it. Dinner was a spread any cowpoke would envy. We may not be in our graves yet but sleeping on the ground is just too much for our old bones, so we brought blow up air mattresses that never made it home with us. I think they might have been 'lost' somewhere on the road. In either case, we spent the night in a tent angled slightly towards the rushing creek, rolling on and off those horrid mattresses. We felt like we had slept on rocks. The list for what we forgot and must bring next year started at this point, and immediately included chapstick, no underwear, a smaller saddle for me and suntan lotion.
The next day we basically dragged ourselves up, staggered through breakfast, saddled up and got back up on the horses again, wondering if we would actually live through this. By this time, the herd had slowed down to a casual meander outside of one mischevious guy who kept insisting on seeing how far he could get away from the group, so we were actually able to spend time talking and visiting amongst ourselves. One woman was a nun who had been driving the stock for more years than she can remember. About half of the drivers were first timers, the other half being devout repeat participants.
Arriving at the main station in Bridgeport, CA, was a relief and a but a sadness as well. The end of the road. We all climbed down, unsaddled, ate lunch and one by one, disappeared into our vehicles and drove off into the sunset, vowing to return the following year.
We had heard rumours of a local hot springs but checked into the Bridgeport Best Western first. The room was, for some reason, absolutely full of flies but we hardly could have cared less. Without exaggeration, we fell back onto the beds, fully dressed, boots and all, and simply could not move for two hours. I don't remember even napping, just laying there feeling so helpless and unable to move. We managed, finally, to talk each other back up and took showers in the hottest water the hotel had. That's when we discovered I had bruised, literally, from one inside knee to the other inside knee. It was actually quite beautiful shades of dark purple and blue, but it explained the pain I felt at any thigh movement, lol!!
We had dinner at the Stagecoach stop saloon after a tour of sunset at Mono Lake at sunset. Back to the hotel for a crash and burn with scotch and Excederin. Lots of both.
In the morning we walked through town looking for coffee, amazed at the $1.99 a gallon gas prices. Funny how we always seem to time these trips when gas prices are soaring. We did manage to find the hot springs at Travertime where several people already were enjoying the hot water. We had not planned on this particular spot and had not packed any swim suits. David, raised strictly on a old time cattle ranch with a fairly conservative family was about to experience his first time doing what this hippie had spent more time doing than I care now to count, being naked in front of other people, let alone strangers. He did superbly! I was so proud of him.
The brightness of my bruises was confirmed when I rolled down my jeans and one of the guys in the water immediately gasped and asked, "What did you DO?" The hot water was the world's best medicine for our aching muscles and we stayed until we were prunes.
We had lunch at Nicely's in Lee Vining which we consider reasonable cafeteria food if there isn't any other place to go, which there is not. We now use Nicely's as a threat against our children when they don't like where we are eating dinner. "Wanna go to Nicely's instead? It CAN be arranged!" They lost the electricity during the meal, which only added to our entertainment for the meal. My notes also say "LAST lunch at Nicely's" so it must have been pretty bad.
In Lee Vining we also found my hat. Brown felt cowboy hat that will remain with me the rest of my life no matter how old we both get. On the way home we drive through Yosemite and passed a control burn. Then we saw our infamous coyote taking a dump right smack in the middle of the road. We actually came around a curve to see him there and had to stop and wait for him to finish. He will loom large in our legends for years to come.
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