Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.

Ashley Smith

Friday, September 30, 2011

The "Bob" Part 2

Water crossing/Drink break- the horses and mule are pretty good at crossing water.  Although Sapphire (the black and white paint in the lead) is kind of a stream hog when he is thirsty!
Lest you think we spent our whole trip lounging around camp, here are some highlights of the actually riding.

This is a pretty typical view for me on a pack trip.  I bring up the rear, give updates on the state of Mule's packs, and generally lolly gag around.  Brian, on the other hand, is in charge of navigation, addressing potential disasters on the trail (think back packers, bicyclists, moths, other things that might potentially eat a horse- never mind bears) and handling the mule.  It can get a little dusty in the back, but I am not one to complain!

The long and dusty trail.
Pretty sure this is Big Prairie... especially because of, well, the big prairie.
Lots of water crossings.

Of course there are times when I can trot up next to Brian:

And times when I can't (or won't!):

This is probably one of our least favorite trail features. Sheer cliff on the left, steep face on the right and footing that is, shall we say, less than perfect...
This was also very steep, but with good footing.  See how it was a little windy up here?
And this is a pretty typical view from the front:

Ears and trail...

A little bit different water crossing.

Pack Bridge at Big Prairie

 My husband jokingly asked me if I would like to lead Mule across this bridge.  Last year on our Bob trip, I wanted to lead Mule.  We did great until we stopped at the foot of a similar bridge to read a sign.  When it was time to go again, I did not pay attention to where the lead rope went.  Well, it went right up the back of my horse's legs and under his tail.  Suffice it to say,  my horse was not at all happy about that.  Some bucking and tearing around ensued, I ended up on the ground and my horse's hoof (complete with metal shoe) connected with my skull.  Minor concussion aside, it was still an awesome trip.  But, I did decline to lead Mule this time...

So, this bridge might not look all that impressive, after all it is no Golden Gate.  But, bear in mind that no motorized vehicles are allowed in the wilderness.  Every stick of wood, bolt, cable, everything... was brought in by pack animals. It's starting to look a little more impressive, isn't it?

The quick summary of camps:

Thursday: Trailhead (we covered this in The "Bob" Part 1)

Friday: What we have named "Ice Box Camp", near the top of Hahn Pass- it was mighty cold that night:

Frozen water bucket

But, lots of grass!
Saturday: Big Prairie.  As ridiculous as it seems, and quite accidentally, we camped in the exact same spot that we camped in 2 or 3 years ago when we rode through here!

Yeah... that's me, being campy.
And even though, we were miles from any road, there is this:

and this.  People get to live here during the summer!! Doesn't that sound awesome?

And this.  although we did not see the draft horses that would pull it...
 Sunday: Danaher Meadows.  We intentionally camped in the same spot this year as we have in the past, because, although there is a lotta, lotta grass here, water is a little harder to find.  Unless you want to camp in the swamp, which was not on our agenda...

Our view from our campsite.
 This is where we heard the wolves howling. and where the big herd of mules appeared outside our tent in the middle of the night. Coincidence?  I don't think so.  The mules actually disturbed me more than the wolves- my horse LOVES mules.  He has jumped out of the electric corral to meet up with them before, so taking no chances, we got up early to saddle up and ride!

Lunch break.  We only tie to trees for short periods, when we are right there to watch everyone.

This was (another) Big, Long day.  I think we did 26 miles this day, part of it over an enormous pass!
The Hoadley/Stadler pass went on forever...
Top of the pass.

Then, going down the other side!

 At the bottom, we stopped at this forest service cabin for a break.

Glad to have a break.

This is another typical scene: my horse stands patiently, while I root around in every pocket, every bag to find something I most likely left at the trailer...
Monday: Back at the trailhead.  So happy to be back at the trailer (no tent to set up), with a wooden corral (no electric corral to set up) and a truck to take us to dinner (no sausage, cheese and crackers for dinner!). As you can imagine, we slept well that night!!

Well that's about it. Already have our trip planned for 2012!  and hopefully another trip to Wyoming (think Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid...)

I hope you enjoyed this trip summary.  I have another tale to tell, but it is from home base (and involves some pretty happy sheep!!)

Happy Indian Summer.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The "Bob" Part 1

so, the railing is in the way, and ridiculously enough blocks the most important sentence about Bob Marshall but, here it is.  This sign is in Ovando, MT
Every year, Brian and I go on a 1 week horse pack trip in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.  We look forward to it from the time we get home one year to the day we leave the next.

This year we almost got skunked.

 Not literally, but you know what I mean ~ we almost didn't get to go.

Traditionally, we have gone the last week in July, to try and get in after the snow melts on one end and beat the fire season on the other.We have done really well with this timing and so planned the same thing for this year.

Well this year we had other fish to fry during that last week of July.  Namely this:


Yes, moving 1204 square bales, by hand, three times (load from field, unload from trailer, stack) kind of sucked the wind out of our sails.  (Don't be impressed with me- my dear husband did 99% of this). 
I may have let the trip go, but Brian is not that kind of guy.  He convinced me (thankfully!) that we should try it over the Labor Day weekend.  So I pleaded with my work to have the Friday before and the Tuesday after off and away we went!!

Yay! Away we go!!!

We left after work Thursday and arrived at the Monture Creek trailhead at 11:30 pm, in the pitch black.  We have never been to this trailhead before and so being dazed and exhausted from the 6 hour drive, made a premature turn and ended up in the Outfitter's Camp.  We did not know this until the next morning, although we were a little amazed at the number of horses in the corrals there- luckily we pack our own corral, so we were set up in under 45 minutes and fell into bed.

This photo is from our Pee Wee Creek trip, but shows our corral set up nicely!  And that beautiful white trailer in the background?  Most fantastic sleeping accommodations- ever!
We woke in the morning to the sound of tractors and lots of people moving around.  When we ventured outside, we realized that we had camped inappropriately.  Outfitters pay a lease to be able to use the Outfitter Camp and they do not take that responsibility lightly (rightly so).  We located the public area, made some apologies and moved over where we should have been in the first place!

They have beautiful facilities at this trail head:

Four wooden corrals...

with troughs for hay.

Happy, happy, hay-eatin' boys

Sorry, you have to bring your own cute cowboy.
The summary (if you are already tired of reading about this) is:
  • 88 miles
  • 4 days
  • beautiful scenery (rocks, rivers, trees and the occasional grassy meadow!)
  • wildlife (elk, deer, bear sign, wolf howls)
  • 2 horses
  • 1 mule
  • 2 happy campers :)
The long story:
We travel pretty light- Brian calls it backpacking on horseback. So, no cast iron pots, no wall tents with stoves and cots, no big screen TV.
We do not suffer however- this is our house (big bonus- it's mobile!):

From trees...

to rivers!
And our bedroom:

Yes we do have an inflatable mattress.  If you think we're sissies, you ride a horse over rocks and mountain passes for 22 miles and then sleep on the ground!!!
Dining room:
Complete with tack room:

For evening entertainment, we have something better than Survivor.  It's called Nature!
Fall beauty...

Now, personally I love these tipped over trees.  The root configurations are so fascinating.  My horse, however, is convinced that this is an H.E.M. (horse-eating-monster)


We were captivated by this little whirlpool.
See how it sucked the yellow flower in? 
Well, I am out of time today, but there is more (much more!!) to tell...

So until next week- Happy first day of Fall!!