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City of Rocks - Idaho Parks & Rec

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City of Rocks National Reserve
Images by Merri Melde
Ride photos by Jenn McCabe and Wendee Monson


City of Rocks is the first leg of the Idaho Ironhorse!

Merri Melde photos - Sunday

Steph Teeter photos - Sunday

Merri Melde/Connie Holloway
photos - Monday

Merri Melde photos - Tuesday

Merri Melde photos - Wednesday

Merri Melde
photos - Ride Day 1

Merri Melde
photos - Ride Day 2

Merri Melde
photos - Ride Day 3

Bemer Cuff, Scoot Boots and Fellow Endurance Riders Save the Day(s) at City of Rocks Pioneer Endurance Ride

June 17 2019
by Merri Melde-Endurance.net

I felt something rip below my knee when I squatted down, 2 nights before the City of Rocks Pioneer endurance ride, and I'd been hoping to try and ride all 3 days on Hillbillie Willie.

Fortunately Naomi Preston saw me limping the next day. She offered me her Bemer Cuff for equines. "Bemer originated in Germany 20 years ago," Naomi said, "and delivers a patented PEMF (pulsed electro magnetic frequency) signal. It improves microcirculation and helps the body heal itself. Use it 3 times a day if you can." I did, because I really wanted to ride!

And it was either the BEMER cuff or a miracle or both, but the strain or sprain or whatever it was went away and I did not once feel it the rest of the weekend! (Naomi is a distributor of the BEMER cuff; if you want more information you can PM her.)

It was Hillbillie Willie's first attempt at finishing 3 days of a Pioneer ride at City of Rocks. His riding partner was Jackpot Jackson, with Debbie Grose aboard. The two geldings were moving along splendidly on Day 1, into the first vet check - when we discovered Jack had lost his right front shoe. With the vet check out of camp, no farrier was available, and when we hollered if anybody had an Easyboot to spare, there wasn't one.

However, Francis Lewis had a spare Scoot Boot that he offered. It happened to fit. Jack finished the ride with no problem, escorting and mentoring Hillbillie Willie through Day 1. Fellow rider Lee Pearce put a shoe and pad on Jack when we got back to camp, and Deb packed the Scoot Boot in her saddle bags for Day 2, just in case.

On Day 2's 55-miler, on the first loop we came upon 2 horses and riders on the Boise-Kelton stage trail, one of whom had lost a shoe. (Made us think of those old days where the horses and oxen lost their shoes, some of which you can still find on those old trails, if you know where to look.) Deb was able to offer Jeff and DWA Malik her new Scoot Boot - and Malik went on to finish 3rd and take Best Condition.

Wisely, at the vet check, Deb fetched the second Scoot Boot from Francis (she bought the pair), which happened to come in awful handy when, out on the second loop in one heck of a frigid wind storm blowing down off the mountain, one of Jack's hind shoes twisted. After wrangling the shoe off and the boot on (made challenging with human fingers freeing, and horses trying to keep butts to wind), Jack finished Day 2 sound and ready to continue.

Wisely, Deb packed the other spare boot in her saddle bag for Day 3. Which came in handy when, near the end of the first loop, the other of Jack's hind shoes started clinking! At the vet check, Regina got the shoe off and Deb put the second Scoot Boot on Jack's hind foot, and with the two hind Scoot Boots, he finished the third day of City of Rocks - his first 3-day pioneer ride completion.

That's one of the best parts of endurance riding - the willingness of other riders to help you get back on your horse and keep going. So, thank you Naomi Preston and BEMER, thank you Francis Lewis, thank you Scoot Boots, and thank you Lee Pearce for the shoe; all that effort got 1 rider and 3 horses through finishes at City of Rocks!

9th Annual City of Rocks Pioneer Endurance Ride: EPIC

"EPIC" is how ride manager Steph Teeter described the 9th annual City of Rocks Pioneer endurance ride in Almo, Idaho. "We had heat, Thunderstorms (hail/rain/50mph gusts), cold, snow, more wind, the most beautiful scenery imaginable. Still cheerful riders and all of the horses looked great all weekend." (One wind gust blew a porta-potty over. Nobody was inside at the time.) :)

Katrin Levermann, who journeyed 2 full days from British Columbia to get there, also called it epic. "Put it on your bucket list! This ride is epic!"

"Disneyland for horseback riders," said Bobbie Walker, who rode all 3 days aboard Dreamer. "I can’t say enough about that ride. Not only is it a beautiful ride, but there is so much to see in addition to the rocks!"

"A feast for all the senses," commented Naomi Preston, riding "Uncle Mal," Fire Mt Malabar, to a second place finish on Day 1's 50 miler.

The horses thrived on the cooler weather. "I've been vetting rides for 40 years," said veterinarian David Hayes, "and I've never seen a better group of horses. They got stronger every day." Head veterinarian Jessica Heinrick agreed, saying endurance is the only horse sport where people really take excellent care of their horses - they have to, to be able to ride long distances.

Indeed, any kind of weather can occur at any time of year in south-central Idaho; and after last year's rather warm and dry and windy event, this year felt more like July with its storms and September with the rather cold weather over the weekend. Not that I, the Ice Princess, was complaining! You just have to get lucky with the thunderstorms (we did this year! They passed around riders and Ridecamp), and if you wear or carry the proper clothing - because conditions can change drastically in 15 minutes - weather won't even be a factor.

This year's City of Rocks Pioneer was the first leg of the inaugural Idaho Ironhorse Challenge: 3 days of City of Rocks, 3 days of Top O' the World (July 26-28), 3 days at Autumn Sun (October 10-13).

Ridecamp sprawled with a boatload of horses and riders in a grassy meadow just outside City of Rocks National Reserve, at 5500 feet, with a view of Utah to the south and Castle Rocks State Park to the north.

Day 1's trails took riders to and through Castle Rocks State Park. 40 riders started the 30 miler, with 36 finishing. Two of the muleteers from Heart 2 Heart Ranch stole the show, with Junior rider Annie Edmonds finishing first on Rusty, and Trinity Jackson finishing second on Ebony. Fifth place Cat Cook took Best Condition aboard her mare Diamonds.

20 riders started the 50, with 17 finishing. David Laws and Che Ole took first place by seven minutes over Naomi Preston on Fire Mt Malabar and Lee Pearce and JAC Winterhawk. Winterhawk took Best Condition.

The memorable weather took center stage on Day 2, with trails heading out across the desert and around one Big Bad Bull by a water trough (he was flirting with lady friends so he didn't bother anybody) and over the Boise/Kelton stage route, and by an old stage stop, before heading down the California Trail into City of Rocks National Reserve park.

Most of the 25-milers finished their ride before the weather excitement and its aftermath occurred. 37 started, with 36 finishing. Simone Mauhl and Boogey finished first, just a second ahead of her husband Wade aboard Sundance. Behind Anna McNamer and Dash in third were those mules, Sophie Martin aboard Irish, Trinity Jackson aboard Hope, and Leila Fry aboard Gracie. Boogey got the Best Condition award.

All 13 started and finished the 55 miler, with David Laws winning aboard Fancy Grace, with Sara Ewing and Cal's Carisma finishing second. Third place DWA Malik, ridden by Jeff Stuart, took Best Condition.

Most of the 55 milers had the (take your pick) anguish/excitement/delight of watching a fierce cold front blow in. (I put my third coat layer on, so it was a delight for me!) We were above the clouds for a time, watching the cold layer of rain/fog shoot over a pass and into the park valley below. The winds had to be ripping along at 50 mph. But our horses just kept trotting onward. During the last miles of the ride we were pelted with hail and snow (yay!), even while the sun shined down upon us lucky endurance riders. Steph Teeter and Connie Holloway drove up into the park with extra jackets for anybody still on the trail who was frozen. We stayed warm riding, but it was the vets and volunteers and ride management in camp who froze, waiting for riders to come in!

Day 3 repeated the trails from the day before, the only difference being the Big Bad Bull was laying down right beside our trail (his lady friends were gone and he looked tired), and there was 0% chance of precipitation, though it did spit a bit of snow on us in the afternoon!

45 riders started the 25 miler, with 44 finishing. The mules took the first 5 out of 6 placings, with Parker Wynn and Irish pulsing down first. 7th place Carrie Johnson and Payback Daysea Duke got Best Condition.

18 started the 50 miler, with 16 finishing. Lee Pearce and JAC Winterhawk tied with David Laws and Che Ole for first place, with Winterhawk getting Best Condition.

The Idaho IronHorse Challenge got off to a great start, with 18 horse/rider teams in contention, having completed all 3 days on the same horse - 4 of them on the 50-mile rides, and 14 on the LD rides. The Idaho IronButt Challenge (one rider, multiple horses, any distances) has 6 riders in contention, and the Idaho IronTeam Challenge (horse & rider team, mixed distances) has 3. More on this in the next post.

City of Rocks is truly one of the most beautiful rides in the country. Next year's 10th anniversary is sure to be memorable. Put this Bucket List ride on your calendar.

***Fact check: the storms did not miss Ridecamp. Hellacious hail thunderstorms Thursday afternoon... not long after we were congratulating ourselves on such a smooth day. Saturday got pretty interesting in camp too....
- Steph

That's right! I'd been referring to that wicked lightning storm (because we all know how scared of lightning I am) I think it was Friday evening that passed just NW of us in the park, and that looked so scary that Connie and I both got scared out of our tents and took refuge in the back of horse trailers!
- Merri

Come join us for this spectacular ride at the City of Rocks National Reserve and Castle Rocks State Park. The park has amazing rock formations and scenery, as well as a rich pioneer history which you will experience on the trail. We will have marked Trail rides as well as 25 and 50 mile rides each day. There are plenty of things to do for families and fun. Durfy Hotsprings has swimming and soaking pools for every temperature preference (be sure to bring your swim suit!). Try the Great Pizza at Rock City, have a steak dinner at Almo Creek Inn, and explore the trails and scenic spots.

Basecamp is a large field adjacent to the City of Rocks National Preserve, elevation 5500 ft. The trail footing in this area is very good, with just a few rocky sections - it is NOT a rocky ride! City of Rocks is known for its botanical diversity - you'll see cactus, pinion pine, sagebrush, aspen and sub-alpine fire - all on one day's ride! The wildflowers should be in full bloom in June!

2019 Updates

    Maps for 2019

    Registration: Riders may register on site, you can also email your info: [Name, AERC#, Horse(s) AERC# ] to Regina, rrose4u2002@yahoo.com to give us a headstart. AERC has increased their fees, ride entry fee is $115 for both LD and Endurance distances. $35 for trail ride.

    Meals: We will NOT be offering meals this year . However, we will supply a meat (and vegetarian) dish, so you can potluck the rest! you can match your contributions with the nightly meat dish, you know, like you'd match a fine wine with the meals.

    First day is spaghetti, 2nd day is pulled pork, and 3rd day is roast beef.

    The town of Almo is just 1 mile from basecamp, they have groceries, a GREAT Pizza place, and a nice steak-house restaurant at the Almo Inn. We will have the tents set up and a few tables and chairs for ride meetings, but you should plan on bringing your own chairs too.

    Camp: We'll be renting the same basecamp as in years past, large fields on both sides of the gravel road. We haul all of the water for horses to camp, you will need your own potable water.You do not need certified weed free hay in camp. We will supply hay at the out-vet check.
    Basecamp is at 5000 feet, this is a high elevation ride!

    From Boise take I-84 to exit 216 (Declo); go south on Idaho 77 to Conner Creek Junction, then southwest on the Elba-Almo Road.
    One mile south of the visitor center in Almo, PASS BY the intrance to City of Rocks/Equestrian Campground. Instead, continue straight south onto dirt road, and you'll shortly see Ridecamp on your right - Castle View RV Park.
    From Pocatello and Idaho Falls, take I-86 and I-84 to exit 216 and proceed as above.
    From Salt Lake City take I-84 to exit 245 (Sublett/Malta) then head west toward Malta.
    Turn left (south) onto highway 81 for .2 miles to Highway 77, then turn right (west). At Connor Creek Junction, follow directions above toward Almo.

    Trails: The trails are challenging with elevations up to 7500' Day's 2 and 3, and 6700' Day 1. Footing is very good though, very little rock (except for the scenery), some gravel road, lots of single track in the mountains and jeep roads and cow trails through the BLM land.

    Maps for 2019

    for more information, contact steph@endurance.net

    Circle Creek High Trail Video by Merri

City of Rocks

City of Rocks, Almo Idaho

It's time to start thinking about our next event. We discovered this treasure in 2010. My son Clay had told me about an amazing place after his in-laws had their family reunion in the little town of Almo. Wynne's family came from the area, and it was a chance for them to revisit the old home place. Clay said "you gotta see this place!" .

So, I found myself veering off the Interstate when I saw the sign for 'City of Rocks' on our way home from Wyoming. Merri and I had been crewing for our friends Rusty, Kevin, and Kevin at the Big Horn 100. Heads full of adventure and beautiful scenery from several days in the Wyoming Bighorn Mountains, warm sunny July day ... just seemed like the right thing to do.

The road to Almo and City of Rocks passes through high desert scenery - farmland in the valleys, surrounded by mountains. We wind our way through the valleys and over a few passes and BOOM all of a sudden there is this immense world of granite.

and it just kept going, past Castle Rocks State Park and then into the City of Rocks National Reserve. An expansive stunning landscape of sagebrush, aspen, firs, pinon pines, cactus, sub-alpine firs, snowy peaks... dotted with cattle and old homesteads. This area was a major crossroads for emigrants as they traveled west toward California, Oregon and Nevada, or north to Idaho. Pioneer journal entries describe the site as "a city of tall spires,” “steeple rocks," and "the silent city."

There are natural granite caves with names and dates of the pioneers inscribed in axle grease, or etched into the rock . There is a very strong sense of awe, and perhaps humility, when confronted by such magnificent scenery, and how it must have affected these travelers.

It didn't take long for the idea (compulsion) of an endurance ride took hold. Perhaps a few seconds. I talked with the park managers - they were very excited about the idea having invested heavily in making the park horse friendly with trail heads and well designed equestrian trail. Oh my, getting better. I spoke with the Forest Ranger (Sawtooth National Forest) and he was very supportive. We met a rancher happy to lease us a campsite. And after one evening in the hotsprings there was no going back...the rest is history. The first ride was a mid summer 5-day 250 mile event with trails going off in every direction. Ambitious? of course! and the 'Crick Gang' spent many glorious days scouting new trail, riding the country, basking in the high altitude sunshine.

I've changed a few things since our first 2011 event - only three days now, and in early June instead of mid summer. With the high altitude and mountain ranges summer thunderstorms can get pretty Exciting, and the heat is intense. So we're doing cooler weather, and simpler rides - and sticking with the most scenic trails and easiest logistics. (smarter with age?)

Now... just waiting for springtime to actually arrive! Might be a little snow up at Indian Grove in the high country...


2018 City of Rocks Pioneer Endurance Ride: Put it on Your Bucket List

June 14 2018
by Merri Melde

"City of the Rocks ride was absolutely amazing!!" - Idaho rider Sally Tarbet

We Crick people do our bestest to put on a great 3-day Pioneer endurance ride for those who want great trails and a good challenge. Over the 8 years we've done it, we've got our routine and jobs down pretty pat. That's not to say it's not exhausting, but it's pretty rewarding when numerous people take the time to write, or stop by before they head home, and gush about their experiences, and thank us for putting it on. And when you hear the term "Bucket List ride" tossed around a bit, well, the tiredness and tribulations (like that gnarly wind storm we had Saturday night!) seem trivial enough.

Gasp-worthy vistas and great trails and pretty darn good ride weather greeted a record number of riders for this year's City of Rocks ride near Almo, Idaho. Participants from as far away as Canada, Arizona, and California - as well as local Idaho first-time riders - partook of the delights, which, besides the excellent riding, were the town amenities of the Durfee Hot Springs (they know us by name now) and Rock City (they also know our names) and their fabulous pizza and gourmet beer selection. To be sure, we got some Washington and Oregon riders because Klickitat was cancelled, and Strawberry Fields is 3 weeks later this year instead of two, but whatever the reason, they pulled into Ridecamp in droves this year.

5 or 6 of us hauled horses and gear and a refrigerator (best idea ever!) the 4 hours from the Crick to a perfect basecamp at 5600 feet right outside of City of Rocks National Reserve, to camp out for 10+ days, and work non-stop setting up camp, marking trail by ATV, hiking and riding. John T even had the great honor (?) and VIP job of doing the water this year, since the indispensable Nicholes kids couldn't be present to help.

Over the week, Ridecamp grew bigger and bigger, on both sides of the road, till it was busting out of its seams. The locals were agog at this annual conglomeration of avid horse riders and campers.

An astounding 75 riders took to the trails on Day 1, touring Castle Rocks State Park to the north. 33 started the 25-mile LD, with those racing mules from Heart 2 Heart Ranch taking the top spots. Junior Lucy Martin's mule Irish pulsed down first in 2:51 for the win, with Junior Claire Sterling and Bear the mule second, and Trinity Jackson and Hope the mule third. Fourth place David Brown on that other Equus species, a horse, finished in 3:08 and got Best Condition.

30 riders finished, with Ann Kuck and Dirty Martini bringing up the Turtle spot in 4:58. Both Ann and Marty have come a long way together in their endurance journey; he's slowly coming to be one of those other Equus species, a good dependable riding horse!

42 riders started the 50, with only 1 rider option pull. We all want Jessica to get well soon, though she found an upside in being sick on The Big Brass, who can sometimes be very naughty. "Now I know I can puke off Brass without freaking him out - always good information to have!"

Stephanie Chase aboard DA Serabaars Secret and Christoph Schork aboard GE Atticus Golden Sun tied for first place in 5:20, with Secret getting the Best Condition award. That was Secret's 6th BC in his 5-year career.

Day 2 had 66 riders, with 33 in each distance. Trails looped along the Emigrant Trail through Emigrant Canyon and into the City of Rocks National Reserve past the iconic Twin Sisters granite spires, and back up into the park near or up to Indian Grove springs at 7200 feet.

Junior Sidney Jackson won the 30-mile LD in 3:25, and got Best Condition on the mule John Henry. Jill Hedt and Gracie the mule were second, and Trinity and Baby the mule were third. Only 3 pulls on the LD.

28 of 33 finished the 55-mile ride, with Christoph aboard the AERC War Mare GE Stars Aflame finishing first in 6:29. Second in 6:29.02 was Christoph's intern Tina Gottwald aboard Pinky (GE RR Jazz Dancer); they won the Best Condition award. On this day, Crockett Dumas aboard OT Rasa RSI (another AERC War Mare, and an AHA Distance Horse of the Year) met a cactus he didn't like when Rasa took a spin in a new direction Crockett wasn't prepared for. It of course did not deter Crockett from saddling Rasa up for the third day.

Day 3 had 62 riders, with the same loops through Emigrant Canyon, and up to Indian Grove, though the Indian Grove loop was done in the reverse direction so you could see totally different, still-spectacular scenery.

37 of 38 riders finished the 25-mile LD, with Lee Ann Clark and ROL Burning Love getting first place in 3:12, and the Best Condition award. Junior Baylee Morgan on the mule Bear was second, and Junior Parker Eversole on the mule Irish was third.

22 of 24 finished the 50-miler, with, guess who, Christoph aboard Medinah MHF tying for first again with Stephanie Chase on Secret, with Medinah getting the Best Condition award. They finished in 6:01. Tina Gottwald was third aboard GE Atticus Golden Sun.

A number of riders finished all 3 days on their horses. 8 rode all 3 days of the Limited Distance rides, with Carrie Johnson and Payback Daysea Duke getting the overall fastest time. 7 finished all 155 miles (3 of them from Canada, eh?) with Layne Lewis and Beauty's Harley getting fastest overall time. Both Carrie and Layne's horses got the Vet's Choice award, the Getaway Horse.

Veteran endurance rider Naomi Preston summed it up:
"One word. Spectacular! City of Rocks Pioneer 3 day ride in Idaho. A MUST for your bucket list! Reminded me of the gorgeous trails and fun at the old Race of Champions!"

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go sleep for a week.

Previous years, photos and stories:





2013 AERC
National Championship



Circle Creek High Trail Video by Merri

Maps 2019 click image to enlarge:

Thursday,Day 1 - Castle Rock State Park jpg:
Friday,Day 2 - Indian Grove 55 jpg:
Saturday,Day 3 - Indian Grove 50 jpg: