I rounded the corner and came face to face with a herd of cattle in the trail. Not one, not two, but a whole herd. In the trail.
When I was on the AT I’d run into cows in the trail, usually one or two that I could walk around, or a whole herd in a pasture, but this was different. There was no way to walk around them, and there was no where for them to go except up the trail or down the trail.
Two of the cows turned towards me and tried to stare me down. It looked like I was going to need to learn how to herd cattle… something that I’d never expected to do, but seemed sort of fitting out in this scrubby area of the desert.
I pretended that it was a heard of black bears and I moved forward slowly and deliberately while talking to the cows in a calm, cool collected way. “Hey y’all, I’m sorry to disturb you, but you’re in the middle of the trail. If you could kindly move out of the way I’d really appreciate it.”
The herd did not respond in a cool and collected way. They started stampeding up the trail! I worried about what they would do if they encountered another hiker coming from the opposite direction? I hadn’t seen any southbounders so far and i hoped that trend would continue so I wouldn’t find out what the cattle would do with that kind of dilemma.
After the initial stampede, I gave the cows some subtly words of encouragement and before long I had them marching single file up the trail in front of me. I felt like maybe I could handle this whole cowgirl thing afterall!
I envisioned myself as a cowgirl wandering the old west: thirsty, dirty, and with a herd of cattle to look after. California was certainly west, and I was definitely thirsty and dirty… The cows were even kicking up a fair amount of dust. I decided to call it close enough and claim my title as a modern cowgirl and started singing one of my favorite songs:
On the loose to climb a mountain
On the loose where I am free
On the loose to live my life
The way I think my life should be
For I only have a moment
And the whole world yet to see
I’ll be looking for tomorrow
On the loose!
I held onto this new image of myself until I met a real cowgirl, Gillian. The PCT is approved for both human and equestrian thru-hikers and Gillian (check out her webpage) is working on a doing a thru-hike with her horses. I kept pace with her and her horses for a while and chatted with her about her adventures, but their pace of 3-4 miles per hour was a bit much for me (my comfortable pace on that kind of terrain is more like 2-3 miles per hour). After meeting Gillian, I relinquished my title and gave it to her. Headed off on here solo ride of the PCT she seems to epitomize the modern cowgirl to me!