Six days of riding. A year to prepare. Generations of members.
The Bill Williams Mountain Men left on their annual Rendezvous Ride March 29 after eating a hearty breakfast provided by the Sultana. The group gathered their supplies at the Bob Dean Rodeo Grounds prior to setting out on this year's adventure. The trek itself, scheduled to last roughly six days, will bring the group from Williams to the Phoenix area by horseback. Twenty-one riders set out on this year's journey.
Mountain man Dan Cook said the event takes about a year to prepare for.
"We have a trail boss that's elected by the club the previous year," Cook said. "His job is (that) he has one year to plan the route, get permission to cross certain private properties. He's the trail boss, he's completely in charge of the whole trip. He's in charge of any kind of entertainment that we have, any kind of logistics as far as food and beverages, camping and camping locations. It's a long process. This year the trail boss is Jeff Ashworth. He lives in Williamson Valley.
"We have a logistical crew that goes on ahead of us, sets up camps and then we ride from point A to point B. They'll have the camp set up there, like a lunch camp, and then the riders will leave point B and go to point C. During the ride our camp help has already cleaned up the old camp, moved everything up to New River. They'll have a party waiting for us there. That'll be Friday afternoon. Friday evening we normally camp out at the rodeo grounds in Cave Creek. There's a rodeo dance on Friday night and there's a big rodeo breakfast on Friday morning and then we participate in the Cave Creek Rodeo Days parade, which is huge, on Saturday morning. After that, whoever wants to stays and rides in the grand entry parade. We trailer back up the hill from there."
The trip, Cook said, is for men only.
"There's no ladies on the ride. We'll have some guests along the way. We serve dinner normally and invite landowners. If we're crossing your land then we invite you to come out and have dinner with us that evening," Cook said. "We come from all different walks of life. I'm a horseshoer. I work for the National Forest Service. We have businessmen that are in here. We have anywhere from doctors and lawyers to laborers. Income is not a criteria for being in our club, but riding is the main thing. Some of the requirements are you need to either own a horse or have accessibility to a horse or a mule. Membership is by invitation. You have to be invited by one of the current members. You are invited to go on our Rendezvous Ride, as a guest rider. Once you complete the guest ride, you're eligible to apply for membership in the club. We figure, after six days riding together, you'll know if you want to be one of us and we'll know if we want you to be one of us. At the end of the ride, you're eligible."
The Mountain Men plan to participate in the Memorial Day parade next, and also hope to participate in the upcoming Buckskinner's Rendezvous.
"We plan on participating in some of the activities out there. Some of the guys might want to shoot, maybe not, but we'd like to at least go out there and camp out with them and hang out with them," Cook said.
The annual Rendezvous Ride occurs at roughly the same time each year, coordinated around the Cave Creek Rodeo Days. In the past, the mountain men would coordinate their trip around the Jaycee Rodeo. Since the Jaycees disbanded, Cook said, the group now supports the Cave Creek event.
"The Mountain Men have been doing this since 1953. The club is a men's riding club. We get together for comeraderie of course, but we also do fundraisers. We're here to support Williams. We represent Williams," Cook said. "This year is really nice, because Bob Dean, he's one of our elder members, he's made this ride over 40 times. His father, Diz Dean, was one of the original founders of the club and this year, Bob Dean is going, his son is going and his grandson is going. There's going to be three generations going on the ride. With Bob's dad, that's four generations total," Cook said.
Three generations of Deans first made the Rendezvous Ride in 1980. Twenty-eight years later, three generations will make the trip again. Mountain Man Bob Dean said he's excited about this week's ride and is looking forward to spending the time with his son Delbert Dean and grandson Jake Dean.
"The first trip my son went as a guest rider and my dad and I were both in the club. My dad was one of the main instigators in getting the club started," Dean said. "It was pretty neat to sit around the campfire at night and visit. It was a very special thing and now we're going to do it again with my grandson. I'm the old-timer now. My grandson will be the fourth generation Dean that goes on the ride."