It turns out that being a gypsy takes a lot of fore-thought. There have been numerous iterations but our route for this year is now fairly solid.
Originally, our plan for 2019 revolved around Squamish, British Columbia. We thought we’d make our way north from Arizona and settle in Canada for two or three months during the summer. Squamish is known for its world class rock climbing. Unfortunately for us, it turns out the parks near the climbing areas are not very horse-friendly. Many trails don’t allow horses or are too rough for equines to navigate. Additionally, I failed to find suitable camping or boarding options anywhere close to our climbing destination. Frustrated, I eventually threw up my hands and decided that Canada would be put off until another time.
I went back to the drawing board, or in this case a custom Google Map that Byron and I have populated with climbing areas and horse campgrounds. Read our previous post if you are interested in learning how to make your own custom map.
I scanned our map for places with both climbing and horse camps in close proximity. The Wind River Range of Wyoming caught my eye and I began to investigate. Nearly all of the climbing in “The Winds” is categorized as alpine due to its remoteness and high altitude. One area in particular, known as The Cirque of the Towers, is incredibly beautiful. It reminded me of Cinque Torri (Five Towers) in the Dolomite Mountains of Northern Italy where we climbed in 2016. A Google image search of the two will blow you away! Fun Fact: the header image on our home page is actually a shot Byron took in Cinque Torri.
I quickly became obsessed with finding a way to ride and climb at The Cirque in Wyoming and began an extensive research mission. The Cirque is over 10 miles from the nearest trailhead and above 10,000 feet elevation. There is a steep and rocky pass that allows access to the valley where the towers are located. Unfortunately, horses cannot use this pass so my dreams of riding directly to the climbing area were dashed. There is a lake along the trail a few miles before the pass and I considered it as a potential camping spot for the horses. My thought was to camp for a few days; alternating riding and climbing in the back-country. However, I ultimately abandoned this plan due to the fact that our campsite would be so far away from the climbing.
I scoped out another alpine climbing area in The Winds, called Midsummer Dome. Again, this would be about 10 miles from the trailhead, which we could easily do in a day with the assistance of the horses. I found a potential campsite near a lake at the bottom of the climbing wall so we would be close and have access to water. The problem is this campsite is above 10,000 feet. This presents a significant challenge for the horses because there most likely will not be much grass for them to eat, thus requiring us to carry food for them in addition to our own necessities. For reference, our horses need to consume 20 pounds of forage each and every day. That’s a lot of weight to haul up a mountain. Plus, where the heck would we put it? We’d already be carrying our tent, food, and climbing gear. It became clear that the logistics for this endeavor were too complicated and the consequences too dangerous for novice back-country horsemen like us. As much as it pained me to do so, I decided this too would need to wait for a future opportunity. Back to the drawing board. Again.
We don’t want to go too far north into the mountains too early in the season. Many of the destinations on our list will have snow at higher elevations through June. So, we’ve decided to stay in Tombstone, Arizona for the month of March and enjoy some warm weather. Then, move up to Paria River Ranch in Southern Utah for much of April. We’ll explore Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park while we’re there. Then, spend some time in Moab as well.
Friends here in Arizona were singing the praises of a camp in South Dakota known as French Creek. It sounded wonderful so we decided to give the Black Hills a shot. Unfortunately, French Creek was completely booked but I managed to get a reservation at a nearby camp called Broken Arrow in Custer, SD. We’re excited to explore the mountains and ride to Mount Rushmore.
We’ll venture west into Wyoming, stopping to climb at Devil’s Tower in Sundance. Then, we’ll base camp for a few weeks in Ten Sleep to ride and climb in the Big Horn Mountains. Next, we’ll head towards Bozeman and Helena, Montana for more climbing and back-country mountain riding. Smith Rock State Park in Oregon is a favorite climbing spot so we plan to stop there as we begin to loop southwards.
Our ultimate goal is to reach Yosemite National Park by September. We hope to base camp there for a few weeks before moving south again into the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Our plan is relatively flexible so it can and most likely will change. The advantage to living a mobile lifestyle is that we can go wherever the wind takes us. That being said, it is amazing how much time and effort goes into planning our travels. I’ve spent countless hours researching and drafting our plans. We are always thinking ahead and even planning a year or more in advance in some cases. Not exactly what you imagine when you think of the mobile/nomadic/gypsy lifestyle, is it?