'Long Rider' Takes Path Less Traveled

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He calls himself a Long Rider, a nomad who treads the earth on a solitary equestrian journey of exploration and discovery.

But for 52-year-old Ron Hamby, his lone adventures are not without danger.

In November 2003, Hamby left the Forest Lakes area with two horses and headed for Yuma. He stopped to camp overnight near Doll Baby Ranch just west of Payson.

Thirteen days later, his horses returned to the ranch with no tack and no sign of Hamby.

"During the trip, I fell and injured my back," Hamby said. "I released the horses and dragged myself along for 21 days."

A massive search was launched involving Gila and Yavapai County Sheriff's offices, trackers from Tonto Search and Rescue, and a helicopter from the Department of Public Safety.

Leaving his tack and rifle behind, Hamby made his way to the Tango Creek Forest Service administration site where he was discovered Dec. 6 by two men riding ATVs. He was flown to a Valley hospital and treated for dehydration and starvation.

This definition from www.thelongridersguild.com may enable a better understanding of Hamby and the unique life he chooses to live: "... the only valid definition of a Long Rider should be courage in the face of danger, resolve in the presence of hardship, and continual compassion for our horses."

Undaunted by his mishap, Hamby is back on the trail and camping once again near Doll Baby Ranch.

"I needed to come in to town to see a doctor and for some supplies," Hamby said, "But now I'm going back up to get the rest of my gear and heading east over the Rim."

He rode alone with a second horse behind him on a lead rope.

"This is a rescued horse from the 88 Ranch that was being abused." Hamby said. "I'm trying to get him acquainted with people so I brought him along."

When asked why he returns to the wilderness on horseback Hamby replies, "This is the only vehicle that will take me where I want to go."

Adorned with a Green Bay Packers leather jacket, Hamby rode slowly down Country Club Drive toward Doll Baby Ranch.

"You better believe I'm a Packers fan," Hamby said. "I was really hoping they would make it to the playoffs. They're a tough team."

Hamby's weatherworn face bears witness that the life of a Long Rider takes a toughness all its own.

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