MY DAY AT FORT ORD: AND I MET COMANCHE 2!






I took my snuffely nose and hacky cough on the Trail Walk at Fort Ord on Saturday!

Wow!

All I can say is that I wish I had a horse in the Monterey area… There are 83 MILES of lovely trails inside the Monument area!!!

Wow… 83 MILES.

-OPEN TO HORSES!

IN CALIFORNIA!!!

What makes me crazy is that I did have a horse down there in 2006.  In fact, I had 5 horses down there!!

But, at that time, there was no organization to help riders understand usage of the trails – like they have now.  I remember trying to get onto those trails and being afraid I would get lost.  All of them zig zag and intersect at sea level.   No hills to tell you which way was towards the ocean/parking lot area.

Not anymore!

Now the trails are marked.  The staging area is marked.

There are MAPS!

Dang.  I sure would loooove to take Finn on those trails.

I would also love to explore the buildings more.  These stables were the original WW2 cavalry hospital buildings and is the only equine warhorse hospital still standing in the US.

I could feel the history just standing there.  Awesome.  1400 mules and horses were stationed here.

These are the original hospital buildings for the Cavalry at Fort Ord.

These are the original hospital buildings for the Cavalry at Fort Ord.

Fort Ord had the largest Cavalry in the entire US.

Fort Ord had the largest Cavalry in the entire US.

 

THE TOUR

I had a blast!

First off, the guide was led by a very educated, passionate, engaging and warm woman who sounded so similar to Ellen DeGeneres that I kept hearing DORY as she led us on our expedition.

I was smiling to myself so often – asking her questions just to hear her response in the Ellen voice!

Ha!  How could one not feel comfortable with Dory in the lead?!  And on top of her likable disposition, she was the pioneer, the passion, the force behind the movement to save Fort Ord.

Commendable.

I asked her what motivated her to help save Fort Ord?  Why was she fighting so hard – without pay.

She said she was compelled.  She has no choice.  She has to keep moving forward  to save this land.

Hmmmmm.  Nice.  That is the kind of person you want in that position.

Here is the FB page, if you’d like to follow the fight.

These are two of the hospitals.  With 1400 horses, they needed the stalls.  There were tilting operating tables and a totally padded colic building.  Very cool.  All intact.  Fort Ord's equine hospital buildings are THE ONLY WW2 horse hospitals left standing.  They are very historic.

These are two of the hospitals. With 1400 horses, they needed the stalls. There were tilting operating tables and a totally padded colic building. Very cool. All intact. Fort Ord’s equine hospital buildings are THE ONLY WW2 horse hospitals left standing. They are very historic.

The trailhead - named after Sgt. MacDonald who served at Fort Ord, before during and after WW 2  and built all the facilities, and is the last living cavalrymen from Fort Ord.  He rode Comanche 1 and 2.

The trailhead – named after Sgt. MacDonald who served at Fort Ord, before during and after WW 2 and built all the facilities, and is the last living cavalrymen from Fort Ord. He rode Comanche 1 and 2.

 

THE GROUP

The rest of the group of hikers were all convivial.

You know how it works, you are in one place and then for some reason (sand in shoe) you fall back and hook up with another group… or someone notices a snake so we all stop and regroup – and then you head out with another stranger.

I enjoy meeting individuals whose paths you would never cross in your regular life.

I learn so much!

One woman knew all the plants along the trail.  Loved that…  Another woman didn’t have horses but just liked to walk with people.  Another was dressed in all yellow!  She was such a yellow person!  Sunny!

I brought my step-daughters and it was great to see them easily and happily absorb history while exercising their young limbs.

The whole journey was delightful.

Meadows, open sandy trails...

Meadows, open sandy trails…

trail2

Shaded paths

trail3

Oaks

tree

This green plant hanging from the tree doesn’t kill the tree. I learned that it needs sun to live so it hangs off of open branches.

THE TRAILS

The trails were very much the kind I like.  Varied terrain, safe, shade and sun, not crowded, lots of different foliage, single track and wide, tree coverage and not…

As we traveled, we would come upon a few areas with fences around them –

Our guide would tell us what proposed project was in the works for each area….  Yikes.  Some just seem idiotic.

For  me, I simply could not see the wisdom in a casino and horse track smack in the middle of this land.  First of all, there is NO easy way to get to Monterey.  All the highways are one or two lane – and need to stay that way due to topography.

How in the world will all these gamers come in to Monterey?

Also, there isn’t much water there.  ???  And, do we really need a casino in a pristine, natural environment?  Race Track?  C’mon.  We’ve shut down so many racetracks in CA.  Why build another?  Crazy.

Pretty

Pretty

trail6

Pristine, clean inviting… and as you moved away from the ocean, there were oak groves and hills.

horses

The only horses we saw using the trails – on a SATURDAY!  This is a trail riding gem that needs to be discovered by more!

COMANCHE’S GRAVE

Comanche’s grave was our turnaround point.

Sgt MacDonald picked the site of her grave because of the concrete troughs that were used for the 1400 equines on the base when it was in full force.

Perhaps the spirits of all of those cavalry horses keep her company…

We sat on one end of the troughs when we rested and ate our snacks.

Comanche’s grave was very nice.  A group had recently come in and redone it to get it back into tip top shape.

What I found touching was the little shadowbox MacDonald had created for his mare.  So sweet.

Comanche, a pure white BLM mare, was the last cavalry and parade horse on Fort Ord, literally.  Right after she died, the base closed.  MacDonald was given special permission to bury his mare here.

Comanche's grave was recently rebuilt.  It was nice.

Comanche’s grave was recently rebuilt. It was nice.

trough

Sgt. MacDonald wanted her buried next to these troughs – left over from the glory days when there were 1400 equines roaming these beautiful fields.

box

This is the shadowbox Sgt. MacDonald made for his mare when she died…

trough2

Our group sits on the troughs while we rest.

COMANCHE 2

When we returned from our 7 mile hike, I walked around the Fort Ord stables to find Comanche 2, Sgt MacDonald’s replacement – a now 20+, white BLM mare.

I found her easily.

She had a special stall.  Since Sgt MacDonald and his crew had originally built all of the stables, he had his pick of the best place for her.   Comanche’s stall was at the end of a row, slightly larger and with a view was of the other horses, the ocean and the hills.  Not bad.

There she was.  Glowing white.  Friendly.  She came right over to me.

Me:  Hi!  You are beautiful.

Comanche 2:  And Famous!

Me:  Can I pet you?

Comanche 2: Yes!  Especially my forehead, please.

She was very sweet and very proud.  I could tell that she didn’t work much anymore.  Comanche 2 is still quite bright even though her body gives away her age.  She didn’t seem bored or needy.

She really enjoyed our visit, I think.

From what I learned, MacDonald doesn’t ride anymore.  But, his daughter does and she has a horse right next door to Comanche.  The two horses are good friends.  They are turned out together.  Comanche is regularly groomed and cared for by the daughter and others.

As I turned away from Comanche 2 there were young girls nearby, tending to their horses.

I asked if they knew the history of this horse… They said they didn’t.  I told them briefly and then suggested they google “Comanche, Fort Ord” and see what comes up.

They got all excited!

Comanche 2.  Proud, sweet, older yet dignified.  She knew who she was.  And, she had the best stall in the place.

Comanche 2. Proud, sweet, older yet dignified. She knew who she was. And, she had the best stall in the place.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I hope they don’t built a stoopid racetrack and casino on this valuable and beautiful land that humans so enjoy for the nature of it all…

I wish I could have taken Comanche 2 home with me…

I took this while I was rubbing her face...

I took this while I was rubbing her face…

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9 comments have been posted...

  1. Luana Conley

    This is such a beautiful photo essay on your experience on Fort Ord’s magnificent lands. Please revel in knowing that the Access Alliance just celebrated gathering over 28,000 signatures to place the Open Space Access Initiative on November’s ballot. Voters will decide whether they want to preserve these trees, trails and habitat, or if it should be bulldozed for a horse race track. Read more at fortordaccess.org. We appreciate the continued support of horse lovers everywhere in this David/Goliath battle.

  2. RiderWriter

    Oh – so glad you DID meet Comanche 2! She is beautiful! The shadowbox for her predecessor, and indeed the whole carefully-tended grave, made me cry. How wonderful a tribute to a beloved and historical mount.

    I hope your friend “Dory” is successful in leading the charge to preserve that gorgeous land!

  3. Sharon Guzman

    Thank you so much for this tour. I really enjoyed it and hope to be able to visit Fort Ord in the future. No we do not need another casino!!!

  4. Missy

    This place makes me think of Colonel Potter on MASH. He was so proud of his time in the cavalry and his uniform from that time. I hope that the land can be saved and enjoyed and the history can be used for all of us as citizens.

  5. Sarah Henderson

    Thank you so much for sharing your walk. I know Sgt. MacDonald and he is a wonderful person! My husband and I live in the Sierras but hope to bring our three horses down and ride some of these wonderful trails. Again, thank you for bringing them to life!

  6. Robynne Catheron

    I’ve always loved Fort Ord, with the smell of the ocean and eucalyptus. The history here should be preserved, and the riding trails. Do you know if anyone from the California State Horse Council is taking this under their purview? Maybe it could be used by leave-no-trace horse campers, equine 4-H groups, etc, or just protected as it stands. They can’t possibly desecrate that beautiful place with a casino, and I’m praying that someone is building forces to prevent development. Thank you for sharing your lovely day and this beautiful and historical place with us!

  7. Cheri Villines

    One year for Christmas I was given the articulated Comanche horse with the calvary tack set. One of my favorite gifts ever. :)

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