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Big Horn 100 - Shell, Wyoming

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2006 Steph's Story || 2006 Joyce Anderson's Story || 2006 Dr Dave Brown's Story || 2003 Tom Noll's Story

2010 Stories:
Bighorn Stories - Cindy Collins || Bighorn: The Most Unpredictable Ride of Them All - Kevin Myers
Bighorn Crew Story - Carrie Thornburn || Ronnie's Report,Big Horn 100, 2010 - Ronnie Eden
An Outlaw Rides the Big Horn Trail - Tom Noll & Frank || Big Horn 100 2010-And Beyond - by Lucky 6 Nellie(with help from Marirose)
Another Big Horn Crew Perspective - Dan Ward
Darlene & Lumpy do the Big Horn 100, 2010. Our Epic Adventure, Part I - Darlene Anderson
Darlene & Lumpy do Big Horn 2010, our Epic Adventure, part II - Darlene Anderson
Darlene & Lumpy do Big Horn 2010, our Epic Adventure, part III - Darlene Anderson
Darlene & Lumpy do Big Horn 2010, our Epic Adventure, part III, the Final Installment! - Darlene Anderson

Another Big Horn Crew Perspective - Dan Ward

July 17, 2010

I had arrived in Worland, WY after a long day of flying from Duluth, MN with several connections and a 7-hour layover in Denver along with a bumpy ride in a puddle jumper to meet up with my wife Tracy Blue. She'd been camping in Basin, WY for several days and was excitedly anticipating the Big Horn 100. The following morning, we loaded the horses and dogs before heading to base camp a few miles from Shell, WY.

Our hosts at the base camp were a nice couple of former fellow Minnesotans who had been living in Wyoming since the late 1980s. Their friend Steven, also a fellow Minnesotan, was there to help as well. They were all so generous and helpful to everyone. We were very grateful for their hospitality and patience, especially when it came to their lawn mowers, which became popular items for clearing campsites. They provided good water access and even a bathroom with a shower!

The day we arrived, Tracy had been surprised to discover that her former BH 100 companion Tom Noll was at the ride. During the truck ride back to camp after a refreshing swim in Shell Creek I asked Tom what the plan was for tomorrow, ride day. He replied "I'd like to ride with Tracy" and my wife nodded in agreement. It was set, they'd attempt this adventure for a third time. We met Tom's girlfriend Carrie and coordinated a plan to crew together for Tom and Tracy. I liked Carrie right off the bat and felt we would get along great over the 24+ hours of the ride.

Saturday morning we awoke at 3:00 am, with surprisingly little effort on my part (for once) and helped prepare Tracy and Diego for the big adventure. I had some anxiety about how Diego would start the ride with his buddies calling out to him in the dark and all of the flashing head lamps and silhouettes of pacing horses, riders and crew members. To my surprise, he was remarkably calm during all of this and it set my mind at ease. I watched Tom and Tracy disappear in the dark and hoped they would have a good time.

After a short period of preparation, Carrie and I load the dogs, Wedgie, Tucker and Kilo and started heading up the mountain. Along the way, we saw lots of deer and Carrie mentioned seeing moose for the first time at a previous ride. A few minutes later, we saw two moose grazing next to the road. It was a beautiful ride up to the Horse Creek vet check at an elevation of about 9,000 feet. The air was thin (hard to breathe for us flatlanders) but the vistas were amazing. After a long wait, Tom arrived at Horse Creek by himself. I later found out that he had a lot of trouble handling his horse Frank at a cattle gate near the start. Frank was a bit out of control and Tom couldn't let go his grip on his reins to turn off his headlamp around other riders whose horses were being spooked by all of the commotion. Tom decided to take off and Tracy didn't see him on the trail again for the remainder of the ride.

About 15 minutes after Tom arrived at Horse Creek, Tracy and our good friend Walt Benhardus appeared and both of them and their horses were in good shape after the difficult climb. I was happy to see Tracy riding with Walt. He's a very sincere guy, with no big ego, just a good hearted person. It also helped that his incredible Kentucky Mountain Horse Thunder got along swimmingly with Diego. After they hit the trail again, we loaded up and proceeded to the next vet check at Antelope Butte Ski Resort. As we were winding our way along the rugged mountain road, we saw Tracy and Walt way down in a beautiful valley and gave a honk of the horn and they waved back in enthusiastic acknowledgment.

After a short period of waiting at Antelope Butte, riders began arriving and the weather started to change for the worse. We had some short bouts of rain and wind which we hoped would be short lived. While Tracy, Walt and the horses rested, we all got to have some hot hamburgers courtesy of ride management as well as some cookies from Walt's wife Linda. After Tracy and Walt left, I helped Linda tie down items on her hauler then headed back to my truck. To my surprise, Carrie had nearly finished loading everything back into the truck! In the past, I've shared crew duties with fine people at the BH 100 out of our truck, but never with someone as organized and helpful as Carrie!

Next Carrie and I headed out for the Jack Creek vet check along Ranger Creek Road. This is my least favorite road at the Big Horn. It's a pain when its dry with 24-inch deep ruts, but when it's wet, it's more of a carnival ride than a road. I still can't believe that one crew made it all of the way along that road in a Volkswagen Jetta! I think Jack Creek is a beautiful location with the creek rushing nearby and some beautiful rolling hills blanketed with wild flowers. I'm sure it's a challenge for the riders and horses though. I always worry a little about Tracy and the other riders while waiting at this vet check, since it was so difficult to reach that vet check the last time we were there. Tracy and Walt made it to the check at a reasonable time, but still had the hour hold and another long loop back to the check before they could descend down the mountain.In fact, the weather became so bad the riders that opted for two thirty minute holds instead of one sixty minute, were told to go on ahead and not wait the additional thirty minutes. At least those folks got a small jump on the worsening weather and what was left of the daylight. I gave Tracy my rain coat, hoping it would help her warm up a bit and keep her dry, but I wasn't sure it was going to work. I think Tracy was more grateful to Carrie for the use of some warm dry socks. After the loop back to Jack Creek, Tracy and Walt looked cold, but they and the horses were still in good shape as they headed out for the next big section.

After descending the mountain, Carrie and I headed back to the base camp for a time, then went on to the Trapper Creek trail head to wait for Tom, then later for Tracy and Walt. Many riders passed by throughout the night including riders that were behind Tracy and Walt. After that I was becoming a little more concerned for them and my own exhaustion wasn't helping. At one point I remember seeing a single rider light heading toward us and then suddenly waking up and not seeing the light. I must have dozed off, but for how long? I was afraid Tracy had passed me without knowing I was there, since it was so dark. At that point, I decided to drive down near the Trapper Creek Lodge. As we were nearing the road to the lodge, Tracy appeared out the darkness, very exhausted and worried. She was very concerned about Walt and two other riders who were still up on the mountain.Tracy let us know she had 'ran' ahead as best she could finding her way down to Jeanette on her quad and making her aware of the situation.Tracy asked us to let them know as soon as we arrived at base camp that there were some folks still out needing help. At some point Diego had stepped into some kind of quick sand like mud and Tracy had to really fight to get him out. He was fine though and she wanted to continue. It was 3:00 am. We watched her pass the trail head and again disappear into the darkness with only 8-9 miles left to finish. I remember thinking, "Damn, she's tough!".

At that point, we drove back to base camp to notify management that there were riders in distress on the mountain. After waiting a long time at the finish, I feared that Tracy may be lost, so I drove back and forth between Trapper Creek and the frail head near Highway 14 multiple times hoping I might see her on a ridge or approaching the trail heads, but to no avail. She was found a few hours later near the Trapper Creek trail head, where she and Diego were able to eat and drink before we headed back to base camp. Diego was in remarkably good shape and although his hooves were a little sore, he wasn't lame at all (he's a barefoot horse BTW). Walt, Cindy and Ronnie were also found safely after a long, cold night. This was a great relief to Tracy and me.

We can't begin to thank certain people enough for their empathy and help in searching for Tracy and the other riders. And Tracy, Walt and Ronnie, what an amazing group! They shared responsibility by either staying behind to help Cindy (who was very sick) or by going ahead to find help, without a concern for placing or even finishing the ride. To me, their compassion for a fellow human being is very impressive, and I value someone's character much more than their accomplishments. Thank you to all of the anonymous people who took the time to help the riders who themselves were helping others.

Dan Ward