Thanksgiving 2006. I had just returned from my sister's wedding in the UK, feeling drained from both the time difference and my mother's frenetic energy. Would it KILL her to sit still for five minutes? My best friend, Dhana, regaled me with her great memories of her past experiences horse camping atStagecoach Trails, especially during Thanksgiving weekend. I told her it sounded like fun, and she lamented it was probably too late to get reservations as it was the week before. On a hunch, I called and got us a spot "dry camping:, meaning tent and sleeping bags as opposed to an RV. I called her and told her of our upcoming nefarious plans for post familial dinner gatherings on Thanksgiving. She apparently went around the office singing "I'm going horse camping, and you're not, and you're not, and you're not..." as she danced around the office pointing at various individuals. I let her know I had never horse camped before, much less camped at all. In fact, my version of camping out was room service at the Holiday Inn. She told me not to worry, as had plenty of experience and knew what we needed. We we went to a sporting goods store the weekend before Thanksgiving and a grocery store the night before. Dhana also let me know she had a Coleman camping stove and wasn't afraid to use it. 5:00pm the next evening, after our respective family Thanksgiving dinners were completed, we hitched up the trailer, loaded the horses and perishables and were off! We arrived close to sundown, but were able to secure Dhana's favorite spot... a place under the pines with 24x24 corrals for the horses. She showed me how to pitch the tent and set up camp. Friday morning I awoke for my first full day at Stagecoach Trails with the tent side in my face...the wind was so strong it was blowing the tent right into my cot. I poked at it and asked Dhana if this was normal. She said it wasn't unusual to have high winds in the desert. I grimaced and wondered if this was going to be status quo for the remainder of our weekend. We fed horses and had our own breakfast...biscuits and her homemade gravy. A guy who was camping in an RV near ours had walked over and inquired what we were having. I told him and he sulked off. For all his fancy set up with his RV...apparently he was only having Pop Tarts for breakfast. We saddled up and set off across the S2 to the beauty of the Anza Borrego desert. The wind that had been blowing so fiercely back at camp had died down once we crossed the road. It was sunny, but not hot. We were in no hurry as we viewed the many species of cacti and other plants indigenous to the desert. My horse, Player, at one point, decided to reach down and grab a mouthful of an Aloe plant. Biting down on the sticky fronds caused him to jump vertically about a foot in the air, nearly unseating me. I landed on the back rim of the saddle. However, I was able to shift back into the seat and settle back in. Dhana, in true friend fashion, laughed at Player's demise. You see, Player is a bit of a food whore, so this was a good lesson for him. We continued on our ride for most of the day, getting back late in the afternoon. We put the horses away and fed them. Dhana got our campfire going, and then directed us to the boiler powered showers...meaning we could stand under the hot water as long as needed. It was welcome as my muscles were sore from both the long ride and Player's near unseating of me. When we got back to our campsite the fire was in full bloom, curling up with a wonderful wood smoke scent. We poured ourselves a drink, and kicked back in our chairs looking up at the stars. I breathed in the cool night air and couldn't believe how much more relaxed I was than during a full ten days in London. Crab legs were on the menu for supper, and the same guy from the fancy RV came over again. A can of chili was on his agenda for the evening. Upon finding out our menu, he stormed back to his campsite. Geez, guy, your RV cost so much you couldn't afford some nice ground round for dinner? Saturday morning we were back at it with a Fritos Chili Bowl for breakfast (it's not just for lunch anymore!) and onto the trail for another five hours of riding. We explored the trails the Anza Borrego desert had to offer, stepping off trail if we encountered any motorized vehicles. It was okay as we were in no hurry, and thoroughly enjoyed the chance to get to a hilltop and stop and view the surrounding valley. Sunday, our last day, and we needed to be out by Noon. We wanted one last trail ride, so we ate a quick breakfast and tacked up for a short three hour ride. Same beautiful terrain, same sense of peacefulness. We got back to camp, packed up, loaded up the horses and started our departure from Stagecoach Trails. Knowing my previous definition of camping and the aggravation I had with the wind, Dhana cautiously asked how I liked my first horse camping experience...waiting to be lambasted. I turned to her and said "LOVED IT! When can we go again?"
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