We’ve been horse camping down at Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California for five days now, and although we have sets of boots for both pones, we haven’t needed to use them once. The footing for the most part is sand, so most excellent, but it’s comforting to know we can boot if the horses come up sore or if we choose to ride an extra-rocky trail.

There have definitely been places we’ve ridden that I would have been uncomfortable if the horses had been shod in steel shoes.

Yesterday we tried to follow a little-used trail that was somewhat ambiguous as to where it actually went. Worried over losing daylight, we ended up going over a ridge and taking a steep wash back down to the main trail. The wash was filled with rock piles and we had to do some detouring up the sides to get past. It was the sort of place where hooking and yanking off a steel shoe wouldn’t have been a surprise. Patrick led Fergus, while I just turned Small Thing lose for him to figure out the route without my “help”. We all got down without a scratch.

Another favorite trail that we’ve done twice now involves multiple sets of roller coaster-like dips – straight down, followed by straight up. For some reason, the very top of the climbs always ends with a short stretch of vertical slick-rock, positioned nicely for the laboring pone to start scrambling on. But in boots or barefoot it’s a non-event.

All in all we’re having a blast. I’ve ridden 35 miles over four days, and with another four days of riding in our future and glorious weather, this is turning out to be an excellent winter vacation.

Lucy Chaplin Trumbull
Currently at Joshua Tree National
Park, California