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2008 Death Valley Encounter
Images by Steve Bradley


Steve Bradley select photos

Steve Bradley, all photos:
Day 1 || Day 2 || Day 3 || Day 4

Karen Chaton photos:
Day 1 || Day 2 || Day 3 || Day 4

Lucy Trumball photos:
Days 1,3,4


Lucy || Karen || Kevin || Pam

"...If you have never attempted the Death Valley Encounter ride in the four days leading up to New Year’s, put it on your list for next year. The country is wild and remote; the trails and footing are exceptional with good variety of climbs, flatter sections and a light sprinkling of rock and if you luck out with the weather like this year, it just might be the best ride of your year." (...full story)

...we got home late afternoon on Saturday, it was a break that Don and I very much needed after relocating from the warm SoCal a year ago to the frozen NorCal just below the Oregon border. And we got to see old friends, it was very nice! And we can't forget to mention that Chris Heron won the Toad award!

We left on Xmas eve, and drove straight thru (about 600 miles), just barely staying ahead of the storm and much of the going was very slow. Montgomery Pass was scary, blizzard conditions and almost zero visibility, but again, we were a little ahead and it had just started, we could see the lines (barely) on the road in 2nd gear :). We so wanted to stop, but we were afraid we'd get stuck somewhere, so we continued, it was even starting to snow in Bishop when we got there, and snowing on the way into Ridgecrest, and snowing on many of the miles we traveled. We arrived at Jackie Bumgardner's house about 2:30 am, plopped the horses in some empty corrals with hay and water, and climbed into the gooseneck for a little sleep. We got up around 8 am, checked on the beasts, and went into Jackie's house, it was Xmas morning!

Going to Jackie's is a real treat, walking thru her house is a trip thru endurance history, it was Don's first time there, my second, and Jackie's house is very casual and comfortable. And it was Xmas! The XP gang was there, Annie and Dave, some of the help (Joseph and Dave), and of course Nappy. My son, Darren, drove up from Malibu and we all had a wonderful Xmas dinner orchestrated by Annie, I did the dishes as I'm not a dessert person :). Jackie accommodated my son for a few nights, and on Friday, Don took our beasts out with Jackie for a warm up ride while my son and I did shopping (that I couldn't do here due to snow conditions) and did a few errands for Annie. On Saturday, we arrived at base camp. Did a quickie warm up ride, my son was there to help Joseph mark trail and do waters, I brought the tamales and we had that for dinner in the duck camp. My son slept in Annie and Dave's trailer that night!

Sunday was ride day! I saw my son briefly that morning, he had to return home for the work week. I asked him if he had coffee, he replied yes, that Annie takes care of everything! I hugged him and said good-bye. Don and I took off with our wooly boys. It was a hard day, after a year off from riding AERC rides. The boys were pulling the entire time, but at the vet check, they both pulsed in to start the hold, but had a bit of a problem pulsing lower during the hold. Willy was doing better than Whyatt (aka Fatboy), but it just didn't make a lot of sense, yes, they get hot because they're fat (especially Whyatt), yes they have major winter coat, but they looked good (EDPP, good hydration, bright eyed, etc.) and were pulling on us. We spent extra time at the hold and returned back very slow. Dead last I think and vetted thru. I decided to not ride the next day, first because I was wearing 2 layers on the bottom (and forgot the body glide on my thighs) so I was chafed because Whyatt spent so much time pulling and jigging, and second because of the nagging feeling something might be wrong with Whyatt (high pulse/pain?).

So Don took off on day 2 with Willy, I packed camp to move and groomed Whyatt. While grooming I found a 4" gash in his armpit, it wasn't new and probably came apart with the sweat. Likely due to the recent expansion of his paddock, we have a lot of trees, and who knows what else may have been there! So Whyatt was out for the rest of the ride. I felt really bad for riding him and not knowing that gash was there, also showed the gash to Melissa and she told me what to do with it. But Don and Willy did all 4 days, cool! I just volunteered the rest of the ride and mostly ended up being second shift finish line person, although I was also potato lady at the New Years dinner :). And only 8 of us remained to ring in the New Year on Pacific time, what's up with that XP riders?

On New Years Day we returned to Jackie's (just a very short trip, like 30 minutes), put the horses up and went to breakfast, yummy! I hung out in the sun (it was 75df) and watched all the horses interact, Jackie's old horse Ross at 31 running everyone, fatboy Zayante being sassy and giving his historic dirty looks. Then we went for Chinese that night, yummy again! This time we stayed in Jackie's spare room for the night so we wouldn't have to set up the trailer. Jackie made us breakfast next morning and sent us off. Weather was coming, we didn't know if we'd make it home and we got hammered with rain at Walker Lake, and weather reports said it was bad. So we stopped in Fernley (just outside Reno) at Heidi Siegal's house. Heidi put our horses in the front pasture, they were VERY happy, and Heidi put us up in her spare room, again, a beautiful and comfortable house and a walk thru endurance history. We went 2 blocks to a casino for dinner (very cheap prime rib, yummy), and we gambled a little (Don lost $20, I won $5), back to Heidi's, and one of her Burmese cats (Bruno) slept with us all night :). Heidi made us breakfast and sent us on our way. Heidi was also at DVE as a volunteer. We arrived home late afternoon, following morning was a brisk 5df, now you know why I complain about the cold :).

Without wonderful folks like Jackie, Heidi, and Annie, we never could have managed this trip, and because of their generosity, I CAN say I had one of the best holiday seasons ever!!!!! Thank you to our friends, I can never repay what you did, and, we were able to also share with our son, how much better can it get?

Next year should be pretty exciting as Dave is planning the "escape" from Death Valley. Dave is pretty incredible, he does a LOT of research into the history of these rides. Don't know if we can make it or not, but I'd really like to. It was really good to see everybody at DVE.

Pam Bowen (a lost SoCal soul)

Got home last night around midnight after travelling for 11 hours with two horses, a dog, and a dirt bike. We had SO MUCH FUN!!

This is the third year I've been able to ride at DVE and no matter what you end up doing in terms of which days and which distances, you have a great time. Even if you aren't able to ride all the days, to hang out and relax in camp and watch the sunlight on the mountains is the best way I can think of to spend this time of year.

Woke up at home this morning to pouring rain while the day before yesterday I was in Ballarat riding in shorts on our "day off".

Those of you who weren't able to make this ride really missed out. It might not have been easy to get there, but worth the work to do so.

Special kudos to Gary Pegg from northern Oregon who drove 26 hours on his own with his TWH stud and two dogs - as he put it, arriving at 7pm the night before the ride started wasn't quite what he planned but he adjusted his rides accordingly and had fun, I think doing LDs on the first three days and then completing his horse's first 50 on the last day. Congratulations to them (he's probably still on his way home at this point).

My husband Patrick and his young TWH/arab, Fergus, also completed their first ever LD on Day 2 and had so much fun they went again and did their second LD on Day 4 - I am so proud of both of them - they finished in great shape.

Also from the proud department was Roo who had been on a five month vacation after I broke my leg back in June. When the horse I planned to take to DVE had a minor injury at TG, Roo got put back into action and despite only having had minimal conditioning, he completed 50s on Day 1 and Day 4. We weren't the fastest horse out there (OK, so we came in dead last on Day 4), but he looked great at the end and seemed to enjoy himself. My broken leg held up better than expected and, aching aside, I was still able to trot Roo out OK at the vet checks.

Highlights of the trip included getting to do a distance ride with my husband - something I wasn't sure would ever happen - trotting side by side down Panamint Valley, watching the sun rise was brilliant; watching Fergus take off cantering at the top of the big climb on Day 4 (this after Patrick worried that the climb would take too much out of him); seeing a herd of about 20 wild burro towards the end of Day 4; and having Roo canter loose through camp at the end of Day 4, shrieking to get back to his buddy (I had no idea where our rig was, since it hadn't arrived yet when we went out on that loop, so I was relying on Roo to find Fergus for me).

Congratulations to Chris Herron and his mare Impriss Splash, who turned 5000 miles upon completing Day 2. And to Leslie Spitzer and JAC Eagle Cap who started this season by completing all four days (Leslie had never done more than three days in a row, and Eagle had never done more than two).

I was a little bleary during the awards on the last day, having only just come in off the trail, but I think ten horses managed to do all four days - and two of them were gaited. Neat.

The weather was brisk in the mornings, but warmed up nicely to pullover temps during the day (and shorts temps on Day 3 and 4!). The horses all seemed to do great in those temperatures - there were only a couple of pulls each day, mostly for minor lamenesses.

The trails were excellently marked (even if we did all go wrong on Day 1 due to the fact we didn't read our instructions properly), there was tons of water out there, the views spectacular, the trails fun (Karen's right - that singletrack up over the Slate Range on Day 4 was such fun!).

Rider entries were down this year, which was a real shame. Diesel was actually a dollar cheaper (~$2.55) than I paid last year.

I've got a ton of photos that I'll try and get up later today. Happy New Year to everyone - unlike last year's difficulties, this year is going to be great!

Mark your calendars for DVE next year!

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Lucy Chaplin Trumbull
Repotted english person in the Sierra foothills, CA
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Ring in the New Year at the Death Valley Encounter Multi-Day Endurance Event
December 28,29,30,31, 2008
55/50/50/50 & 25/25/30/30

Sanctioning: This is a multi-day format of 4 separate 50’s (day 1 is 55) and 4 Limited Distance Rides. It is sanctioned by the American Endurance Ride Conference.

Basic Ride Info: There is plenty of room for parking rigs at every camp and some water will be available. Riders should be totally self-contained. Be prepared for any kind of weather. Each day will have it's own unique trail

Day 1 Camp & Day 2 Start: Updated on 12/7/08

Directions to base camp for Day one and start of day 2: From US Hwy 395 between Johannesburg and Red Mountain California turn north on the Trona Road. Go 4.8 miles north from Hwy 395 and turn left on a good dirt road to the camp which is a short distance off the pavement. The camp is a large open area with loads of parking and some shelter from surrounding hills. Day one is a loop ride for the 55 and the LD riders, returning to the base camp. The ride is similar but improved from day one of previous years.

Day 2 Finish and Day 3 Basecamp Directions:

Day two starts with a 25 mile loop for both the 50 and LD riders that ends back in base camp for the 25's. The 50 mile riders then ride a new trail that loops back onto the Trona road only 12 miles from the starting basecamp. Because of the short and easy drive between camp and the finish, all on a good paved road, it will be an easy move. In fact, riders who prefer to move their own rigs will be able to do so either before the ride or during the vet check and rest period. At the end of the ride, riders will be able to move their own rigs to the new base camp.

If you need to stop in Ridgecrest continue on 395 and take the first Ridgecrest turn-off and go about 5 miles to stop light at Albertsons. Go through the light and turn right at the stop sign on Bowman Rd. Go East on Bowman until it dead ends on County Line Rd. and turn left. Continue on County Line until it intersects Ridgecrest Blvd Hwy. 178. Turn right and continue about 40 miles through Trona to Ballarat.

Note: On this day, the finish line is in a different location than camp for the following day. Rigs can be moved to the finish line, or riders can team up to trailer together after finishing and have some rigs moved to Ballarat.

Day 3 Camp – Ballarat – Loop Ride

Day three will be a loop ride out of Ballarat.

If coming from Hwy 395 in Ridgecrest take 178 and continue through Trona to Ballarat which is on the right and about 25 miles past Trona. Otherwise, see previous days’ instructions.

Day 4 Finish Basecamp Directions – Ballarat to Valley Wells

Day four will be a point to point for the 50 mile riders but the LD riders will be able to move camp and then do the LD loop out of the final camp at Valley Wells. Since this is also an easy drive, some riders may prefer to go back for their own rigs at the end of the ride. A New Years Eve party will be held at the Valley Wells Country Club in the warm and well lit club house. The recent rains have put the trails in excellent condition and the green grass is a welcome addition. We hope you can join us.

Leave Ballarat and turn left on Highway 178 headed south back towards Valley Wells, approximately 18 miles. You should see a stand of trees on your left which is Valley Wells. Park in the large open area on your right not by the Golf Club House.