Thursdays are adventure days here at the MTM Ranch. We take the bravest, boldest, baddest, cowboys and cowgirls on an all-day expedition through creeks and washes, up atop mesas and ridges, and past a myriad of desert wonders: ever-flowing springs and cottonwood oases, ancient petroglyphs and kivas, and the ever-so-rare, genetically-mutated Crested-Head Sagauro (this is the actual one we see on the rides).
Today's ride was a private ride (Where were you guys? Make your adventure ride reservations today!) called the Bronco Trailride. The MTM crew trailed two fine quarter horses deep into the Tonto National Forest with their saddle bags stuffed with all the long-distance desert riding necessities: cholla combs, fire starters, Leathermans, trailmix and water, and of course, a trusty roll of Charmin. With at least seven hours of riding ahead of us, we set out at a brisk walk through a blooming desert. Hedgehog cactus, elk horn cactus, prickly pear, pin cushion cactus, and the first of the saguaros are all flowering alongside a garden of weedy wildflowers. If you are a photographer or a botany-enthusiast, now is the time to ride the desert.
Water was scarce, as it always is, but even more so this year since the Maricopa County has seen only two measurable rainfalls since December 17th. The three reliable watering holes along the trail had run dry, and the horses had a hot and sweaty 6 hours ahead of them before reaching water at the Cave Creek River. Along the way we passed the skeleton of a less fortunate horse (identified by a shoe still nailed to a detached hoof), and a bovine skeleton. The causes of death we unknown, and the horses sure weren't willing to stick around to find out.
The Bronco trail winds through a wide spectrum of ecosystems: it begins in high desert plains and drops down into the Cottonwood drainage where giant juniper tower 15 feet or more. From there the trail climbs underneath two chalky limestone deposits on the face of Skull Mesa before dropping once again past red sandstone cliffs along a blades-edge ridge which eventually bottoms out in the Cave Creek drainage. It's a stunning montage of all the desert has to offer, and we sincerely hope to see you mounted up on one of our rock-eating quarter horses the next time we ride it.