The Longest Trail Ride

 

For horse hobbyists, trail riding and horse camping provide opportunities to take your animals into rambling and challenging terrain, test your mettle against unexpected circumstances, changing weather, local fauna and generally rough it overnight with your trail companions in a tent or trailer while your horses munch dinner in a corral. What if this experience lasted five or six months, covered over 2650 miles and you did it all alone? Horsewoman Rhonda Marquis of Central Oregon will attempt to complete the entire Pacific Coast Trail in one season, alone on the trail with Liz, her Tennessee Walker mare, and Cheyenne and Rio, both Paso Fino geldings. When she arrives at the Canadian border in the fall she will join an elite corps of female equestrians who have accomplished this challenge.

Born and raised in Alaska, Rhonda surmised she was infused there with a tradition of independence and pluck. She worked on the Alaskan Pipeline with her new husband Patrick. After living on the Kenai Peninsula for 12 years they eventually moved to the Crooked River Ranch community in Central Oregon where they enjoy a small herd of horses and keep involved in various equestrian organizations and activities. Rhonda blames Patrick for planting the idea of a PCT ride ten years ago.

No stranger to long rides, Rhonda completed the Metolius-Windigo Trail to Bear Valley in 2010 and wrote an account of that trip. She has also enjoyed the 46 mile Three Sisters Loop. By 2012 she was reading books about the PCT, taking notes and beginning to plan the dream trail ride. Watching the OPB video story of Don and June Mulford’s groundbreaking PCT horseback ride in 1959 fueled her vision. Just last year, in 2014, she began to tell people that she was definitely going to make the trip. Her husband had no interest in riding the trail so rather than ride, offered to be her support team, driving parallel to the PCT and hauling their 3-horse trailer with living quarters inside. This was a great relief to Rhonda as he could carry relief horses, the horse feed, extra water, repair tools and fresh food which she would greatly enjoy at their frequent scheduled meets.

Once the commitment to go was made, Rhonda began prepping her horses, the Tennessee Walker and two Paso Finos, gathering gear, contacting various agencies for the required permits along the route and learning how to operate her InReach personal locator device. She will also carry her Garmin GPS and a cell phone to use when the towers support contact. She researched water and grazing spots along the trail and studied mileage and data books. The webmaster of Oregon Equestrian Trails will help her set up a blog site so that she can write about her adventures and trials as she rides.

Rhonda’s horses have been barefoot for over ten years so she won’t have to worry about one of them throwing a shoe on the trail. She will carry hoof boots for the rougher portion of the trail and her husband will have trimming tools in the trailer for maintenance of their hooves. She will highline the horses at night and sleep in a bivy sack in the open air. Her trail food will be quick and easy as she expects full, hot meals when she meets Patrick at their rendezvous. In the desert she will carry extra water for the horses as this is developing into a dry year in the Southern California regions and she can’t count on water sources to be available.

When asked why she is undertaking such an arduous journey alone she replied that as an independent woman she loves adventure and challenge. This ride will be a test of her skills and endurance and if she doesn’t do it now she will ever wonder “what if….?” This is also going to be a special triple celebration of her turning 60, her husband turning 70 and their 40th wedding anniversary this year. We’ll check in with her along the way and report on her progress. Travel safe Rhonda and have the ride of your life!

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