I’ve been awakened in the night by a lot of animals along this trip. I’ve expected to see bears, mountain lions, elk, deer, and a whole host of other critters. But I wasn’t prepared for the things that went bump in the night as of late.

I was camped high upon a promontory point within the Apache reservation. (In Yavapai, Apache means “Enemy”, but I would be hard pressed to find a more friendly people to me on this trip. The Apache are truly wonderfully kind people.) The moon had nearly set for the night, and I was sound asleep, then…something woke me. I thought I was just dreaming, and a bit restless. As I started to drift back to sleep, I heard something again. Unsure what it was I heard, I strained my ears to discern what the noise was. Then, much louder than before, I heard it again…thunder. But it wasn’t the thunder you might expect.

This wasn’t the atmospheric rumblings that bring with it its own warnings, no this was another booming roar of thudding reverberation, this was the thunder of hooves. I had stopped into the Apache reservation game office earlier in the day because I had heard they might have Wifi that I could use. In the office they proudly display all the animals that have been killed in the hills of the reservation. Mountain lions, havalina, bears, dear, and lots and lots of elk. In northern Arizona years ago, I was running along a fire road and happened upon a herd of elk, scaring me as much as them, and I heard the peal of thunder as their hooves carried them far from me. The thudding and rumpus I heard now wasn’t the sound of elk, it was something bigger, and perhaps more dangerous.

I unzipped my sleeping bag and bivy, sitting up cautiously I noticed them, their eyes and silhouettes black against the blue-grey sky. Horses. Wild mustangs. They were circling me at first and I was intrigued, but as they circled like sharks I thought about how during the day as I gathered firewood, I noticed horse pucky, tracks, and large bedding placed. As per normal, I assumed this was evidence that someone had come up and ridden their horses here, and perhaps some havalina, elk, or deer had bedded down here, but now I knew.

I wasn’t afraid, but at the same time I didn’t want to get stampeded, or trampled because I was in their bedding area. I was also elated at the fact that I was really seeing wild horses. So cool. I grabbed my headlamp and shown it at them in some feeble attempt to show them I was there. They circled me again, and then lost interest and galloped away into the night as if led by Zorro himself.

In the morning, I checked the tracks to see if by chance they were stable horses set out to roam the night. When I checked their tracks (and I have become pretty good at reading tracks) I saw that their hooves werent’ shod. That just made it so much more neat.

Last night as sauntered into Steve’s hay barn, I was immediately greeted by a big Tom Cat. This tabby and I became fast friends, and as it was his realm to protect, he had to crawl in and around my cart just to make sure I wasn’t harboring any villainous mice. I offered him some peanut butter and celery, and laughed hysterically as he licked the top of his mouth as a lament to his indiscretion. After crawling into my bag, he had to check there as well for any interlopers or stowaways. He crawled all the way to the bottom and quickly returned. (Probably because of the smell of my feet) He finally found his perch by which to keep guard. Sitting atop my stomach and chest his purr had me drifting off to sleep. I named him Samson because he was so big, strong, and heavy. I found out this morning though that his real name is John Henry. Funny, two different people naming this one cat after famous strong men. Happy.