It only existed for 19 months, from April 1860 until October 1861, but the Pony Express Trail is known all over the world, an intact piece of America’s Wild West. The trail existed for riders to carry messages between Sacramento, California and St. Joseph, Missouri, taking riders through Nevada’s arid deserts and through several states known for their heat. The invention of the telegraph brought about the end of the Pony Express over 150 years ago, but that doesn’t stop badass endurance riders like mother-daughter duo Katie and Linda Azevedo from conquering the trail.
That’s right: in eight weeks, Katie and Linda from Humboldt County, California rode the trail this summer in one of the most difficult yet beautifully transformative journeys of their lives.
“It’s those little moments,” Katie told Jezebel, “the ones you can’t believe are happening. It was the middle of the day, and there was a lone stallion on the trail. A mustang. We were in the mountains. We rode right by him. There were incredible views behind him, and the sun had just risen.”
Katie, who turned 30 while on the Pony Express (which is colloquially known as the XP), was fresh out of a relationship and looking for adventure — and what better way to get that adventure than by adventuring through the West all while becoming closer to your mother? “It was really one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and will always be the most adventurous thing I’ve ever done,” Katie told Times Standard. “It also was really meaningful to do it with my mom and one of our treasured horses.”
For Linda, who’s in her sixties, she was craving adventure as well and wasn’t about to let this experience pass her by. “People don’t realize the idea of an adventure,” Linda told Jezebel. “Yes, it’s dangerous, but you can die just as easily on a freeway. Why not have some fun out there and do something even if it’s got some risk?”
Riders must access various segments of the XP, so the mother-daughter pair relied on XP Rides, a group that showed riders the way and helped them stay on track. “(XP is run by a) husband and wife who love to put on rides so people can ride in historic places,” Katie told Times Standard. “. . .Now in present day in the endurance sport, XP has morphed into meaning any endurance ride held on the Pony Express Trail.”
And, of course, there was a ton of planning involved; feeding multiple living things (yourself, your horse, and dogs), navigating maps sans GPS or cell phone (while worrying about mudslides and closed roads), planning finances, and keeping fit physically were what Katie and Linda prepared for during the two years before their trip. Katie, a nurse, saved up her vacation time for two years in preparation while they trained.
But of course, no amount of planning could prepare them for inconvenient weather — like the time they were in Wyoming, two miles away from the day’s end. “Everything was dark and it starts to rain,” Katie told Jezebel. “The road we were going to turn on was dirt, meaning in two seconds it would be mud. How are we going to turn around? We decided to not push our luck, and found a way to turn our rigs around on this tiny little road, not much wider than our trailer.” The pair also faced high winds and cyclones, but they just pressed through determinedly.
But for their challenges, they reaped rewards, such as being given food by kind strangers in nearby towns, going out on the town with XP riding crews, and developing bonds with their horses. Their own relationship as mother and daughter was also put to the test, and the two passed that test with flying colors. “My mom, I think she’s a genius,” Katie told North Coast Journal. “She did most of the navigation, which is tricky when there’s no cell service.”
Even now, after being separated from their jobs, lives, friends, loved ones for weeks (except for each other, of course!), the women still are dying to go back. “[Riding the trail] was that profound,” Katie told Jezebel. “It was the most adventurous thing I will ever do in my life.”
Katie and Linda are unbelievably strong, badass women who have officially conquered one of the biggest challenges of the Wild West. Congratulations, ladies! If you want to read more about their trip, check out Katie’s blog here.
(Image via Twitter.)