The weather was perfect (with even a light frost on our bedrolls Thursday morning). The desert scenery was so colorful, with greenery and yellow and violet blooms carpeting the desert floor in a way that we hadn’t seen in more than 20 years. And the abundance of water in the Hassayampa River, Minnehaha and other creeks and streams required some trail detours but made for a delightful ride.
Our festivities began on Friday evening, April 14 at Rancho Bar 7 with our “Back Porch Social,” a meet-and-greet get together that was a prelude to a wonderful pre-ride weekend and the Ride itself.
Those of you who didn’t get a chance to visit the DC Headquarters at the La Siesta Plaza at 472 E. Wickenburg Way need to get there as soon as you’re able. It is the first time our beloved Desert Caballeros Trail Ride has had a physical home.
It’s decorated with DC memorabilia, has a bar, a stocked refrigerator filled with beer and soda pop, and a huge conference table where your Board of Directors holds its meetings. On the Saturday morning before the Ride, you can pick up your Ride packet at the DCHQ, sign our famous steerhide, check out the photos and memorabilia, and say hello to your fellow caballeros.
The El Presidente Party on Sunday evening, April 16 was a roaring success. The Silent Auction was just terrific and raised over $10,000 for the DC treasury
(which helps keep our ride fee and dues from going up more than they have to). A big thanks to Don Lawson, auction chair, Ken Loyst and the Los Caballeros Camp who helped set up the auction, as well as Bill Green and Rick Nulman who helped behind the scenes.
We gathered Monday morning, April 17 in front of the Wickenburg Community Center to salute some notable caballeros, to honor our great country, to hear a beautiful rendition of God Bless America, and a special prayer from a local pastor.
Then all the horsemen paraded out of town to the waves and encouraging cheers of wives, sweethearts, and local townspeople, including the beautiful “saloon girls” in their wild west finery.
We followed our Monday Trail Leader, Dr. Stan Goldberg, into our first camp, Sayer’s Station where we were treated to a great “Shrimp and Avocado” party by the California Camp. We enjoyed a terrific Mickey Houston dinner, followed by the introduction of all our Greenstripers (first year riders).
We arose at 5:30am on Tuesday, ate a tasty breakfast, packed our lunches, and set off on an alternate trail (known as The Bull Road) to avoid the higher water crossings and danger of quicksand, which our trail leader, C.J. DeAlmeida, successfully avoided.
On Tuesday afternoon we arrived at Cooper’s Ranch, dismounted our horses, and headed straight to the bar. Cooper’s Ranch was beautiful, with a full carpet of grass, all nicely prepared for us by the Trails Committee and our great camp crew.
Somehow, the Poor Boys Camp found the energy to prepare and host their famous Luau Party, and then it was off to dinner and an evening of relaxation and revelry.
We began Wednesday, our “day-in-camp” (a non-riding day) with a flag ceremony (first initiated by former El Presidente Joe Stevens) and the raising of our beloved Stars & Stripes. Breakfast was followed by the gymkhana events (thanks to Andy Fischbach and Scott Stevens), followed by the trap shoot (run by Don Lawson, Ken Loyst, and the Los Cab Camp), which was then followed by the now-famous Duck Races (run, as always, by DC Director Rob Reed).
With water flowing like it hasn’t in years in the stream we call The Minnehaha, the Duck Races proved to be an absolute hoot!
The Duck Calcutta was very kind to the California Camp, who choose the “fastest” duck, won $5,000, and donated $1,000 of their winnings to the DC Foundation’s “Horses for our Forces” fund. This fund sponsors active duty military men and U.S. veterans so they can also enjoy the experience of being a cowboy for a week.
At cocktail hour on Wednesday, Remuda Camp sponsored its annual Margarita Party, while Rick Nulman, Jack Wiley and Marty Burke sold DC merchandise – ball caps, wild rags, fleeces, and tee shirts – to all the guys who wished to purchase DC memorabilia.
We then gathered for our evening flag ceremony to lower Old Glory, and then had another great Mickey Houston dinner. We gave our pins to recognize riders who had reached milestones in their tenure as DC riders, lit our big bonfire, and continued to party until the wee hours.
Thursday morning started early, with a thin veneer of frost on our cowboy bedrolls, and we then rode from Cooper’s Ranch to Boyd Ranch under clear skies with gentle breezes to keep us from over-heating.
At Boyd Ranch on Thursday evening, we joined the Honkers Camp for their terrific Cheese Crisp Party, visited with friends old and new, and drifted off to a spectacular surf and turf dinner of beef filet and lobster tails.
After our sumptuous dinner, all the first year riders, AKA Greenstripers, lined up on stage of their group photo, followed by a presentation of awards.
Two 35-year pins were given out on Thursday night, to Ken Loyst and Rick Nulman, who both started coming on the Ride in 1988. Then all of the past recipients of our prestigious “Top Hand” Award were called on stage to congratulate the new 2023 Top Hand, Californio Brian Faulkner.
Friday began with a more relaxed start time of 8am, but we didn’t follow our traditional Box Canyon trail into Wickenburg because the water was way too high.
Instead, we rode the Cholla Trail to our gathering place before our big horse parade back into town, led by our flag bearers carrying the American flag and the Arizona flag. All in all, it was another grand adventure.
I want to offer sincere thanks to our two medics, our Ride doctor, Doc Sheldon Roberts, and the three Yavapai Sheriff’s Department deputies for the great job they all did to make sure we arrived back in Wickenburg safe and sound. Thank you so much, gentlemen.
It was a great trail ride, a memorable week, and a sensational experience for me personally. I know we all look forward to another great DC Ride next year – April 15-19, 2024. Mark your calendars, compadres! And have a great rest of the year.