In the Jan/Feb issue of the magazine, as part of our Snowbirds Guide to Riding in Arizona, we featured three routes to Arizona based on the conversations we had with readers who have actually driven them.
Just after Christmas, with two horses (and a dog) in tow, Dean and I and Wee, started out on Route #2 ourselves – from Calgary to Phoenix (Cave Creek, more correctly).
For me, the challenge of meeting a 4:00 a.m. departure deadline is firstly, responding to the iPhone alarm that rouses me from sleep, and secondly, actually, and finally leaving the house. I\’m always sure I\’ve left something undone, behind or unmanaged. Once we\’ve finally loaded the horses and are on the road, I can relax.
We left the log house just after 4:00 a.m. with the idea of hitting the U.S. Customs crossing at Sweetgrass, Montana, just in time to meet the federal vet at 8:00 a.m. This year, it all went to plan, and we were well into Montana by 9:00 a.m. This route is interstate all the way, but the mountain passes through Montana can be snowy and slippery, and even territory down through Utah can be set in winter conditions. We were fortunate to have favourable road conditions bringing us safely to Ogden, Utah, just after 6:00 p.m. that evening.
As it can take a full hour to drive from the north to the south end of the city, our intent had been to avoid the next mornings rush hour traffic by pushing through Salt Lake City and overnighting the horses just south of the city at the South Jordan Fairgrounds (see Salt Lake County Fair on Facebook), which we understood offers $15/night stalls as well as plug-ins for your living quarters trailer right by the barn. However, in the hours as we approached SLC, we were unable to reach anyone at the fairgrounds and so opted instead for the Golden Spike Arena. We called ahead and a fellow met us promptly, and assigned two comfy and bedded stalls for our horses. (if you do plan on overnighting your horses here, keep in mind they lock the gates for the night at midnight and reopen at 5:00 a.m.)
Another suggested overnight with horses is just prior to Ogden at the Tremonton Fairgrounds (manager: (435) 257-5366) for a quick overnighter. Clearly signed as you are about to enter Tremonton, and only about a mile off the freeway, pay $10/night for a bedded, clean, safe stall which they will muck out for you in the morning.
By the way, for hardcore haulers who can go the distance, I mention a few other stops, an hour or more south of Salt Lake City, as well as a few worthwhile side trips and great places to eat and western shop in the Ogden and SLC area in our Road to Arizona feature in the magazine.
By 6:00 a.m. the following morning, we were loading our rested horses, and the second leg of the 2,588 kilometre trip through the south end of Utah and into Arizona flew by. A favoured activity became monitoring the rise of the outside temperature throughout the day. As expected, by 6:00 p.m. we were unloading horses in the warmth of an early evening at our winter home near Cave Creek, Arizona.
At the end of it all, we agreed it feels a bit as though we\’re not as up to the long hauls as we used to be, and perhaps next year, we\’d opt for a two-overnight on the way, hauling hard for 12-13 hours the first day to Ogden, then an easy 6-1/2 hours over to Las Vegas the second day, leaving a short 5 hour jaunt from Vegas to Cave Creek for the final day.
It felt great to have our horses back in our little corner of the desert for the winter. Riding here is truly a seriously effective anecdote to the cold north temperatures, and we were in need of a good dose of it. We gave the horses a restful day off and then headed out to the desert. I think they loved it as much as we did.
If I\’ve peaked your curiosity about more routes to Arizona, and wintering with horses in this riding utopia, remember the Jan/Feb issue of Western Horse Review is on newsstands now.