Kathleen Schmitt was born in Chicago on January 1 long enough ago that she remembers watching the broadcast of mankind's first steps on the moon. In second grade, she was invited to a horseback riding lesson, at which she instantly discovered her life vocation: horses. Horse-focused summer camps supplemented the usual weekly riding lessons right through high school.
During her senior year of high school, Kathleen worked at Horst and Harriet Haenert’s Pine Grove Farms just outside Scales Mound, Illinois (population under 400, not on every map) and a far cry in every way from her urban upbringing. Among their other horses, the Haenerts bred a distinctive line of horses, Davenport Arabians.
One morning after high school graduation, Harriet remarked that one of their horses, Alibhai, was looking less robust than usual. She speculated that the next winter could be especially hard on him. As a joke, Kathleen suggested riding him to Harriet's sister’s farm in Arizona. Harriet went to get an atlas. The idea of The Grand Trek was born.
Between riding training in Britain and Germany and graduating from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, it took until the first woman was nominated to the Supreme Court before Kathleen got around to undertaking The Grand Trek. The Trekkers – Jack, a National Champion Trail horse, Murphy a half- Davenport with a spotty history as saddle horses go, and Country Boy, a Boxer dog who had a lot of learning to do to fulfill his role as The Pawed Protector – departed from the Lincoln Memorial to hit the road to California.
Over backroads and through rural communities, The Grand Trek mostly paralleled the National Turnpike / Route 40, and therefore followed the general path of European westward settlement. After seven months on the road, Kathleen returned to the East Coast and started a hike up the corporate ladder. Bill Clinton was President when she later stepped off that ladder and returned to her vocation, restoring a formerly prominent horse boarding and training operation to a thriving horse boarding and training facility.
People asked often enough about The Grand Trek that Kathleen resorted to writing some of its more interesting days before, during and after. The result is The Best That Can Happen: The Grand Trek.
Kathleen is working on a sequel about adventures after The Grand Trek.