Carol Fontana knows a lot about big dreams, lofty goals and the hard work it takes to get there. As a classical concert pianist, she practiced for hours every day, perfecting her art. As an endurance rider, she rode for 25, 50 miles at a time, winning recognition and awards. And as one of three daughters of a single mom, she has experienced the difficulties of making ends meet.
Saddle Up! Kickoff Event
You, too, can get involved! Come to the free Saddle Up! Kickoff Event Sunday, March 13 at the Prescott Rodeo Grounds. Learn more about PASS, meet Carol and Tiki and enjoy music and refreshments.
If You Go:
What: Saddle Up! Kickoff Event
Who: Carol, Tiki, supporters and more
When: Sunday, March 13
Time: 2-4 PM
Where: Prescott Rodeo Grounds, 848 Rodeo Drive, Prescott
Now Fontana is tackling one of the biggest challenges of her life. An 800-mile equestrian ride along the Arizona Trail, starting at the Mexican border and going all the way to Vermillion Cliffs National Monument at the Utah border. Part of the time she’ll ride Tiki, her Arabian horse. In the areas where the trail is rocky and even dangerous for a horse, she’ll saddle up her trusty mule, Bella.
The trail, which has just been recently completed, breaks into 43 passages, and each has a designated base camp. The trail goes over Mt. Lemmon, through Saguaro National Park, the Superstition Mountains, Tonto National Forest, Coconino National Forest, Walnut Canyon National Monument and in and out of the Grand Canyon.
An adventure like this takes an enormous amount of planning. Fontana and her husband, John, are covering all the costs of the trip, which will take about two months, including ‘trail’ days and ‘break’ days. She will start on April 2, and expects to finish on May 30, 2016. They have an RV to drive from base camp to base camp.
Fontana shows her binder, filled with meticulous details and plans.
Fontana and Tiki are making this trek from border to border as part of a grand effort to raise funds for Prescott Area Shelter Services (PASS). Anyone can make pledges at the Saddle Up! AZ website. All amounts are welcome, even as little as a penny per mile. Since the costs of the trip are being donated by Fontana and her husband, 100% of the money pledged will be given directly to PASS.
In an interview with Prescott eNews, Fontana explains, “Eleven years ago, I said, ‘Mom,’ (she was living with us at the time. She was very elderly and frail. But she had that spirit.) ‘I really want to do a long ride. A long, long ride. Maybe even across the country, and do it for a cause I believe in. John thinks it’s the craziest idea he’s ever heard of. What do you think?’”
Fontana continued, “She looked at me with those bright blue eyes of hers and said, ‘I think some dreams should come true.’”
“When we moved out here, I hadn’t given up on that plan,” Fontana said. “I was going to do a ride with the Pony Express Riders from Missouri to California, and John wasn’t really interested in going. He said, ‘That’s not a meaningful thing.’ I said, ‘Well, what about a meaningful ride for both of us that we can do for a cause we both believe in, up the Arizona Trail?’”
They finally had a plan they both could believe in. “Then we found PASS and decided it was a worthy, worthy cause.” On her website, Fontana says, “There are several reasons why I feel so passionately about the Saddle Up! ride. For one, it is for a very good cause, Prescott Area Shelter Services. Of course, there are many good causes, but PASS is unique. It is the only emergency and transitional housing shelter for women and families in all of Yavapai County. When I learned of the great need and it's tenuous financing without the benefit of government grants, I had to find a way to help.
“Second, this is very personal to me. My mother was a single Mom with three daughters and while we never lived in a shelter, I know first hand the challenges. I have been very fortunate, and I want to give back.”
She admits that the challenge itself is an inspiration. “… I am enraptured by the idea of being the first person, male or female, to thru ride the Arizona Trail. Many people are not sure it can be done, but I have to try.”
Fontana isn’t undertaking this adventure alone. In addition to her traveling support team, she has built a large support team across the state. School children are reading Tiki’s blog and will be following the progress of the trip from start to finish.
“I would like to share the adventure with others, particularly young people, who are not sure if they should dare to take on difficult tasks or to dream big dreams,” Fontana said.
Learn more at the Saddle Up! Arizona website.
By the way, Tiki likes to romp with his younger buddy, Sterling. You can see them here: