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Friday and Saturday

Friday.
It was decided that regardless of how sound LP was that I would not ride today. I did not need to further injure anything he might have done. Janie found a ride for him with another horse so we did not have to take her house apart in the horse compartment of our trailer. Lori was worried how the other horses in our group would take it with LP, the go to leader horse, not there. As it worked out her Hopper took over. She said it is like they all knew. Reports of the day were that the terrain was very rocky, and everyone was glad that I stayed “home “ with LP.

It was actually fun for me to see how fast camp packs up and moves, kind of a modern day version of the Nez Perce packing up and moving everything each day. It actually takes about 45 minutes from the time the riders leave to the time the trucks start rolling out. Rather amazing, the kitchen, dance floor and equipment, water tanks, outhouses, all start moving out.
When the horses got into camp we did our daily look at their shoes. These shoes had done a marvelous job for the horses. However, they had worn the toe grabs completely off of them, and what was left of the heal grab was ground down and rounded off.
Friday night camp is always fun, but somewhat sad, as it is the end of another year’s ride segment of “The Jo” is over with. We have already started planning next year’s ride as it will be the 50th ride. There is an older couple that has been on every ride since it started. 2012 was the first year they did not bring a horse and ride. God willing I hope they make the 50th next year.

Sat
It was load up time for the last time Janie took down her house in the horse compartment of the trailer and Darlene started piling up her belonging that had been in Big Bear and Sandy’s truck all week. We ate breakfast and packed our lunch one last time for this year.
Our ride home was rather uneventful. We stopped at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Lori has done a lot of reading on the Indian wars and wanted to stop. Lori and I walked the trails and Doug stayed with the horses. He met a man on a motorcycle that was following the Nez Perce trail as good as he could on his motorcycle. What a coincidence, those 2 had a good time looking at maps and telling where they had been.
We made it to Kenebec SD and pulled into the rodeo grounds, found pens for the horses and went to bed. Everyone was tired and we all needed a rest.
We were home by 930 AM on Sunday, no blown tires on the way home either.
As I look back on this great trip I have a much larger appreciation for the flight of the Nez Perce and what the people and the horses went through. I am looking forward to the Chief Jo Trail Ride next year already. There are approximately 300 miles left to go, so will take another 3 years to finish the trail., then start over in Joseph Oregon.

Hardest riding day of my life…so far

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The day started with LP getting a shoe put on. Then breakfast. All week it has been a race to see who gets up earliest and feed the horses. That is something that Doug usually does, however Darleen actually beats him to it, she gets up earlier, today Darlene slept in until 530, so Doug got to do chores

Today is Doug and Lori’s 16th wedding anniversary. I thought, what a great way to spend your anniversary!
The area that we are in is actually trail, not suggested trail, not nearby trail. Historians know that we are following actually NP trail until the end of the ride. The Nez Perce were in the mountains coming out of Yellowstone, they were following the Clark fork of the Yellowstone river. The army was convinced that the Nez Perce would never go down this valley following the Clark River, as they could not get out of it. Little did the Army know they were wrong. Todays ride is starting from our campsite and riding to the river bottom of the canyon. The decent is 1500 feet from where the Nez Perce started to the riverbed at the bottom. This area is known as The Slide among horse people. We were warned that this was difficult riding at the beginning of the week.
The plan was to get together in groups of 4 – 8 horses and make your way down this mountain. Each group was sent out at 3 minute intervals. The way our horses work LP would be first, and Doug would be last on the 4 year old mare. We rode out of camp and I ended up behind a man who had a really nice horse that seemed like someone that would push LP on a bit. Going down hills he can be a real “picker” of his way and take time to get down the hill. I asked him if he was with anyone and if he would lead our group. He agreed and so the 6 of us were set to ride.

Once we were sent off by the ride scout at the top of the ridge there was no turning back. Unlike yesterdays ride, there was plenty of trees and rocks so I did not feel so exposed like I did the day before. We walked on rock ledges, and worked our way around the side of a mountain. If I cared to look, in spots I could see the river at the bottom. Even from as high up as we were, I could see it was a huge river.
The trail…if you can call it that… became one switchback after another with rocks in various places that LP had to work around. In horse language it was one turn on the haunches after another. If I had wanted to I could have reached up and touched the horse on the switchback above me.

At one point Doug asked Darlene if she still had those wipes with her, as he was going to need them to clean his underwear. We all got a laugh out of it, but knew how he felt. Once we got ¾ of the way down the trail eases up and I began to see the end. Our group was really going to make it down The Slide. It took us 35 minutes to get to the bottom.
Once we hit the green open area of the river bottom we all cheered, got off our horses and then watched the rest of the horses come down the hill. It was so amazing to watch it all. It was an adrenaline rush to say the least.
I asked Doug and Lori what they were going to do for next year’s anniversary! They both agreed that this was one they were not going to forget.

I must admit that I have a newfound appreciation for the Appaloosa horse. The horses that we have today have some of the blood in them from these horses that scaled down the side of this mountain. When our group was on the top of the hill waiting to start, I asked Kat if her ancestors had been with Chief Joseph. She said they had, so right there were 2 young women (Kat and her Sister Lucy) that were following the trail of their ancestors.

The story goes that as soon as the 700 people and 2000 horses got down the mountain that they rested and camped in the river bottom overnight. Sturgis and his men were miles away and not going to right direction at this time. This gave Chief Joseph a long lead at heading north to Canada.

We had lunch in the river bottom and then started to cross the river. It was deep, wide and swift moving. I managed to not look down at the river bottom as it makes a rider somewhat disoriented and you start drifting with the direction on the current. Lori does not swim, so her directions were to keep her feet in the stirrups and hold on to the pommel of her saddle. Hopper did just fine, but she looked down and drifted about 30 feet downstream by the time she got across.

When LP got out to the bank on the other side of the river he was 3 legged lame. I walked him in the soft dirt for a bit, checked his hooves for rocks, nothing helped. I don’t know what he did in the river to hurt himself, possible twist a joint on the rounded rocks, or land hard and give himself a stone bruise. Our group pulled off, and Sandy and I traded horses. She is one of those people that there is nothing to her, so the intent was to get some weight off of LP.
Now the terrain was very rocky as we were following the river canyon. Soon the drag caught up with us with the vet. He gave him a shot of painkiller and it was decided that one of the scouts would lead him out to the road, which was 4 miles away. Sandy got back on her horse and I got in this all terrain vehicle that had a photographer and a reporter in it.

I had a great time with these people, I got an interview with the reporter, so have to find the card he gave me and look up the article. Two hours later we reached the road and a horse trailer was waiting for LP and I. My big horse got a well needed ride back to camp.
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Unbelievable Wed….

Wed,

Hump day. We all woke up to the same song as the caravan parks mostly in the same order every day.

Today we left camp with our 2 Forest Service enforcement officers.  Off on a climb over Dead Indian Pass.  We had a good warm up walking down a road for probably 2 miles.  Soon we went into Forest Service property past a sign that said Dead Indian Pass 14 miles.  I got to thinking that I had never ridden up and over a mountain pass on my horse.

We started climbing and doing switchbacks along the face of the hill.  We kept climbing on a trail that was just wide enough in most places for a horse or mule to walk. LP and I were in the front of our group, so I was constantly thinking strategy for our 5 horses.  Sometime we would get stopped for various reasons and I tried to keep space so I didn’t get the group stopped on some rock ledge or in some occasional tree roots. As a whole, most of the trail was open so you could look straight and see where you were going and also down with no obstruction. We kept climbing and climbing and climbing.  Soon we were what felt like miles above the valley floor that we started in.  It got to the point that I could not look down, could not look anywhere except at the horse in front of me.

When you are riding the shelf trails like we had all morning, you sit perfectly in the middle of you horse, don’t bug them with the reins and use a downhill spur if you must.

LP was breathing hard and hot.  We got to a place where it was flat as well as open, so we took our morning 20 min break there.  We were all happy to rest our horses.  At that point I thought we were close to the top and it would be a down hill adventure from here.  I was wrong.  After we mounted up we climbed another hour and 15 min., still along a shelf trail heading up hill.  Towards the end of the climb the horses were getting tired.  We would stop for short intervals so they could breath. LP and Hopper are the 2 largest horses, with the heaviest muscling.  It makes a horse that has a lot of strength, but also takes a lot of fuel to run that body.  I would let the horse in front of me get a ways ahead of me so LP could do anything he wanted to finish the climb.  He mostly walked, but when the trail turned up the hill and was not on a shelf he would lunge up the hill.  FINALLY we reached the summit.

To tell you the truth I could not even look down, even after I got off LP. We had climbed over 2000 feet.  It was truly beautiful, but unnerving to look down at where I had come from.

When we got to the top of the hill most of us were a bit rattled, but we all got there, even our fearless leader Doug was a bit intimidated by what we had just come up.

We all needed to rest our horses and get some fluids in them. We used the collapsible buckets and bottles of water that we carried.  Gave them our apples as they were wet and had calories in them.  Hopper and LP got some sugar syrup that we carry on us.  They really needed the rest as now we had to go down hill.  I think it is harder for a horse to go down hill safely than uphill when they are tired.  Thankfully lunch was over an hour so by the time we started out after lunch our horses had recovered nicely.

We headed out and were in the trees working our way down a canyon.  We were on shelf trails again, but they were in the trees and rocks, so it did not feel so intimidating.

I was walking down one of the shelf trails and was having no problem.  All of a sudden the shelf disintegrated under LP.  I knew I was going down the hill., I had one foot out of the stirrup and was about ready to push off the swells of my saddle. Miraculously LP found footing and stood up and went on.  That really was a close call, but thankful for the horse I have, everything is safe and sound

In about an hour we got to the bottom of the canyon and were able to water

We rode 20 miles today… we were tired by the time we got to camp.  We were ready to see our driver Janie and Ron, who now has a new Indian name of Big Bear, and get off for the day.  Camp is near the switchback road that we drove in on.  All 5 of us were so glad to have our good horses.  I have such an appreciation for the Appaloosa horse.  Even though we all got a bit rattled, I kept telling myself that if the Nez Perce could ride this, so could I.

Truly I have ridden many places in my life, but this one was unnerving for me, and I can’t say that I have ever felt that way riding before.

We were checking shoes on all the horses and discovered that LP had a broken shoe.  It had worn so much that actually broke at his toe.  So off to the Farrier LP, Doug and I went.    The Farrier said that he could put a similar one on in the morning at 5 45 AM…..  I think that is just after his song playing of You’ve got to get up ….

We were camped at the bottom of the mountain that we had driven over coming from Cody to Cook City a week ago.  The road with all the switchbacks.  As I sat in camp I could imagine the Army going around that mountain and getting out on the open plain.  I was all starting to make sense to me now as to the route that the NP took and where Sturgis and his men were at.

At 11 pm, after the dancing music had stopped, Semore Young Dog walked up on a hill at the campsite and sang and drummed native songs. Semore is a Lakota Sioux that comes to the ride every year.  He is a retired engineer that decided he wanted to move back to Pine Ridge and help the tribe.  It was very moving, as the moon was trying to come up behind the mountain.  Strangely enough we were camped at the base of the switchbacks on hwy 296 that we had driven down a week earlier.  Semore does a wonderful job and it makes for a humbling experience.   It was a great way to end the day.

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Beautiful Tuesday on the JO

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I woke up to …. YOU’VE GOT TO GET UP, YOU’VE GOT TO GET UP, YOU’VE GOT TO GET UP IN THE MORNING  … song was being blared out of the farriers truck..  all 4 doors of his truck were open.  There was a cot/bedroll city around the truck.  Good thing Doug had brought us coffee and we at least had our eyes open.  It was actually fun watching the people in their cots and bedrolls wake up or attempted to….

The morning was just beautiful, sun coming up and not a cloud in the sky.  The bell rang for breakfast before 6am and everyone knew we better get going.  Doreen had beat Doug to feeding horses, which is a record in itself.  He gets up early, but Doreen gets up earlier!

We saddled up and headed toward a hard top road that we crossed yesterday into camp.  How the scouts instruct everyone to cross the road is literally at the same time.  All 140 some riders line up along the road and when given the signal we all walk across the road.  It looks like a cavalry charge.

We rode up a canyon that had been part of the out of control backfire again.  At one time we actually were in such rough country that we had to turn around and go back to a clearing and take another rout. The trail was too blocked with downed timber.  This actually took some time to determine as our NFS law enforcement guide and the scouts tried to find a way through the timber. All 5 or our horses stood quietly in such a variety of difficult places until we were told to turn around.  I was on a ledge so I had to decide if I was going to swing LPs front end up the mountain or down it to get turned around.  His haunches were going to have to stay put regardless of which way I went.  In the end I opted for down the hill.

Once we all turned around I ended up being the first horse in our group of 5 horses.  Horses like to work together and if riders let them they will sort out an order that encourages them all on.  On Monday we really did not do that as the riding was easy and we were all busy talking to other riders on the road.  Now that the riding was getting harder we needed to get our order figured out so our horses were working at their peak.

As it turned out LP ended up leading our group.  This did not surprise any of us as he is the heard patriarch at home.  Hopper and Lori, Sandy and Visa, Darleen and Dandy, and then Doug and Tamie Fae is how our order worked out.  When the going got hard we all fell into this order and all worked together.

We continued to climb steadily in altitude, (wishing we had the GPS), and pick our way through the deadfall for most of the morning.    We managed to flush out a moose that was eating in a bog.  Poor thing can you imagine what the moose though of his privacy being invaded by 140 horse….

Going through the deadfall was slow as we had to stop 2 times for they guys to get the saws out and cut downed logs.

By lunchtime we had reached the top of the mountain, which was above timberline.   I can’t say that I have ever ridden my horse above timberline, let alone had my lunch there, but today we did. We got off and held our horses and ate our lunch.  The view was fantastic and we could see a long ways.

After lunch we started off single file down the other side of the mountain with LP leading our group.  I managed to get behind this horse that we had watched kick a persons leg during lunch.   I kept my distance from the horse and tried to talk people into coming in the line in front of me.  I could not pay anyone to get in front of me behind that horse, so I just kept a large space between.  We headed down a really steep hill at one point there was a log over the trail and horse were riding around it.  I decided that this was not what I really wanted to do.  I headed LP at the log and he crossed it nicely.  Everyone got over it except Tammie Fay who managed to do a 4 year old thing, of not watching where her front feet went. She stumbled and twisted Doug off. Thankfully Doug only managed to scrape his elbow and no harm done to the mare.  That was a lucky break in an ugly place.

We wound our way out of the mountain and into a valley that had a creek flowing in it.  I could see the Nez Perce riding and running along this creek making a run for it as it was fairly easy moving;  I realized we had crossed the wet part of the mountains and were now headed to the dry side of the mountains.

We were able to water the horses in the creek so water was not such a desperate thing today when we were in camp.  The little ½ ton pickup would not be such a needed commodity today.  The creek emend up being only 100 yards from the camp, so many people took advantage of it and went for a dip in the creek.  The farrier and the vet went swimming every afternoon if they could.

Tonight Emit Taylor a Nez Perce historian spoke. He talked about what happened in this area when the Nez Perce went through here.  The kids also did the empty saddle ceremony again.  I so remember this from last year.  This year in was dedicated to a Nez Perce man that was killed by a neighboring tribe.  The area we are riding in tomorrow is called Dead Indian Pass in honor of him.

Also the Nez Perce women where recognized.  There were very few men that were along on the Nez Perce trail, so the women were the ones who packed up each day and made things work.   Today they honored 6 Nez Perce women who have completed the 13 years on the ride.  There have no men who have done the 13 years yet.

Darlene had one of the Nez Perce women pray with her yesterday and was given an herb that was a tea for healing.  I can understand what she is feeling as I felt the same way last year. For some reason this is such a wonderful feeling and so serene.

I feel such a undying spirit as I sit here writing this and taking pictures of the full moon coming up over the hills..  Life today is beautiful on the Nez Perce Trail, but I don’t loose sight of the people who made this trail and why.

First Day of the Chief Jo 2013

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The first day of any large ride can prove to be a challenge to some.  Thankfully everyone got out of camp on top of their horse today.

We were told that today would be the easiest ride we would have all week.  The trail followed a forest service road that wound through a valley and beautiful ranch country.  Lots of irrigation and green hay fields, and open range pasture.  One thing about road riding it’s easy to talk to a lot of other riders, so it was a good first days ride.

At one point a deer jumped up and scared Dandy, he spun around and sent Tammy Fae scrambling, which she in turn ran into Hopper.  Sandy and I were behind them and just watched the scrambling.  When it was all over, everyone was still on top, but the GPS had flown out of Doug’s saddle bag and gotten stepped on.  The screen was cracked and it would not work.  Darn, we are going to miss that as we have used it so much.

At lunchtime we walked through an area that had 3 or 4 houses in it.  The people knew we were coming and were out waiting for us.  That was fun.  One man had a sign in his yard that we had gone 8.4 miles.  If we had the GPS we would have known that… Oh well. It was fun to see that other people in the area were excited that we were there.

Later in the day we were going down a road and had to go through a gate because we had run into an auto gate, or what some people would call a cattle guard.  As we started around it we stirred up some old barbed wire.  One of the horses stepped into the wire, but stopped and waited for the wire to be cut.  Once we had the wire pulled out of the way everyone could get through the gate.

We were almost to camp when we passed a pasture of mules and horses. They all had a US brand on them, so we knew they were government animal.  We have a US Forest Service law enforcement person with us all the time.  The officer explained that this forest is backcountry forest so it is monitored and serviced buy mules and horses.

Camp tonight was in a beautiful setting, we were all glad to get out of the gravel pit and onto better ground. After dinner we have some kind of speaker each night.  I really look forward to this, as you learn more about the area and the history.

One of the riders, George, brings coffee beans to the ride each year and roasts them for the camp coffee pots. Every afternoon he roasts beans once we get to camp.  The smell of roasting beans floats through camp, and we all know that George is busy.  Tonight, the cook told us that camp almost had no coffee this morning. Apparently the coffee grinder did not work, but the crew had managed to fix it.  A part had broken and needed to be soldered back together. The kitchen staff had a micro torch, but no solder.  It did not take long before they figured out how where to get some.  They took a bullet, and using the micro torch were able to melt the lead in it into a folded piece of tin foil, thus making a string of led solder to fix the grinder with.  Pretty resourceful if you ask me, and we all got our coffee.

It became obvious to us that water was going to be a real issue on this ride.  We were going to have to be very resourceful about every drop we had.  Thankfully our rig and the 50-gallon barrel that we had along were full when we started, however 4 people living in the trailer for a week, things were going to be a stretch. It seemed that the contractor that was bringing us water from Cody WY either had underestimated what 140 horses and 200 people needed, or he just was contracted for so much water.  The horse water tanks would get empty fast, so being the usual resourceful people that we are a plan was devised.   There was a ½ ton pickup in camp that had a water cube on it.  One like you might see the contractors using to build roads.  Each day some of the crew would go find us more water.  That poor pickup would come back loaded down, but we had more water then.  We all said it was the smallest truck in camp, but got the job done.

Saturday and Sunday

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We got to camp, it is nothing short of a large family reunion.  People I had not seen since last year, and some new faces also.

I met Darlene, a friend of Doug and Lori’s that had come to the ride for the first time.  She has an LP son, Dandy, that she had brought to the ride.  In talking to her she reminded me of myself on last years ride.  She had lost a daughter of a pulmonary embolism.  It has been really hard on her.  I told her my story about loosing my husband and how healing this ride had been to me 1 year ago.  I hope the same for her on this year.

Janie, our driver got to camp in the early afternoon.  It is her 25th year taking part in the ride. She set up her living area in the horse compartment of the trailer.

We all went for a ride.  There is a trailhead here that goes to a lake 7 miles away.  We took the trail several miles, then got into the backfire area and rode to the top of a ridge.  From there you looked down on camp, over the valley. What a site it was.  Surrounded by mountains and one that looked like a mini Matterhorn.

Saturday evening is traditionally a dutch oven cook and pot luck.  I had decided that I was going to try the dutch oven cook.  I had purchased an oven before leaving home, and found a recipe for a desert in a magazine.  I had a great time watching everyone put something together to cook, and the process of cooking it with coals on the top and bottom of the oven.  It was a lot of fun.

Sunday

Janie and Darlene had to get their trucks to the termination camp.  They all caravan out and then a bus brings them back.  This took them 6 hours to do.

As camp grows with people still arriving I remember how camp becomes a 1 ton truck convention.  There is much talk about the roads that everyone had to take to get here.  All good roads, but mountains and how loaded down everyone was getting here.

My good friends from the St. Louis area, Sandy and Ron finally arrive.  Sandy has leased Visa for the week and this will be her first “Jo” ride.  Sandy and Ron rented a travel trailer to live in and he will drive from one camp to the next.  We quickly figured out that their truck would be a great place to put Darleen’s belongings and some of our hay that got handed out today.

Lori is on the ApHC board of directors, so was helping check in people all day.  Once Sandy got there everyone but Lori, who was still working, went for a ride.  Sandy wanted to ride Visa before the ride started on Monday morning.  We did the same ride as we did the day before, and then went on up the trail more.  A lot of this area is part of the backfire so we were always navigating between downed timbers.

Sunday evening is our first meal that is provided by the ride, and then our orientation takes place.  We receive all our instruction and are introduced to the ride scouts and staff.  Most of the staff and scouts are the same from year to year, as this ride is rather addictive.  This year one of the new scouts is Lucy.  I remember Lucy and her sister Kat from last year.  They are beautiful Nez Perce young ladies that started coming to the ride when they were 12 years old.  This year Lucy is old enough to be a scout.

We sorted out our game plan for the morning and decided that we were as ready to start this adventure as we were going to be.  Everyone was excited to get going in the morning.

A Day Off

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Today was a catch up day.  Lori and I went to Cook City to do laundry.  The horses needed a day off and this was the perfect place.  The pens were in the shade and very nice.

When we were in Cooke City I could see where a forest fire had almost burned the town down.  It had come down a hill and stopped short of the town by feet.  I asked a local person the story.  Turns out that in 1988 when Yellowstone was burning, a backfire was lit to try and stop it.  The backfire got out of control also and the fire damage I was asking about was caused by the backfire.

We found a campground down the road where we could fill up our water barrel.  We made several trips to get the trailer tanks filled, so we would be full when we started the ride.

Doug took a trip down the road to find the assimilation camp, as we had to drive by it yesterday and missed it.  He found it, we were several miles away and it was actually an old gravel pit.  He said it was not very pretty, but it would do the job.

We had intended to go to a car wash at this point in our trip and clean out the horse compartment of the trailer. During the next week we will have a driver, Janie, who moves our rig every day and sets up camp for us while we ride to that nights camp. She moves into the horse compartment.  To our surprise, Cook City has no car wash, so we are on our own getting it clean.  What bedding we had left was not worth saving so it went into the horse pens and the trailer got swept out really good.  It actually looks good, so we are hoping this will work.

Later in the afternoon Lori and I went to Cook City again.  There was one pay phone in town.  I actually thought those things were extinct, but I guess they are only an endangered species right now.  We made our calls then headed home.  Right there in the street was a horse trailer parked with an Appaloosa in it.  We parked quickly and went to see who it was, as it had to be someone headed for the ride.  Sure enough it was Bob Peterson from southern Arizona.  He was looking for a place to stay, so Lori and I brought him home.

Some time ago Doug had declared no more dogs or cats being brought home, but he did not say anything about another horse or a man, so Lori was in the clear.

Bob was a lot of fun.  He had been on the road 3 days and just today in the mountains he declared that he must have shifted the truck at least 1000 times.

We fixed dinner told stories and were eager to head to the camp tomorrow.

On The Move

Thursday

So much has happened today I hardly know where to begin.  I woke up during the night to Lori and Doug standing at the door.  I asked what was going on and someone said then heard a bump in the night.  Something had hit the trailer, but it did not shake it.  After outside investigation everything and all the horses were fine.  Still don’t know what it was, and I was so dead to the world I did not even here it.

Before we all got back to sleep it started to rain.  I had left my pommel bag out side so it had to be retrieved.  I was worried about the sheets on the horses getting wet and the horses getting cold.  Lori was still worried about the Bump in the night and Doug was worried about how we were going to get out of Camp Heaven in the morning.  Boy, were we a worry team or what!

We got up early to find our yard full of black tail deer.  The first group was 2 young bucks and a doe.  They were eating grass and picking up some of the grain that the horses had left from the night before.  The next group was 3 young bucks and a doe.  They drank water out of our water tub.  All the bucks had velvet on their antlers and they have a pecking order in the herd, just like horses do.   We watch one buck keep a younger buck in line.

We saddled everyone but Tammie Fae as she was not going on our ride today.  We planned to ride a ridge above timberline that we had picked out on our way in.

First we had to get the trailer out of Camp Haven and leave all the underside of the trailer intact.  We left the horses on the highline and got the trailer out in one piece.  As we were driving down the road we saw another moose out in a bog eating away.

First stop was to the Medicine Wheel.  It was right across the valley floor from Camp Haven.  The road up to the Medicine Wheel is gravel and is built into the side of the hill.  Thankfully the new dodge truck did a great job getting us up to the parking lot, which was 1000 feet higher than we started the day at.  The Medicine Wheel was very interesting.  I can see why the Native people used it as a place to meditate. Look one way and you see the Yellowstone Plateau, look the other way and see the Big Horn Mountains.  The Forest Service guide also told us where some teepee rings were at.   Lori and I found them.  These were places where the Indians built their teepees.  They would hold the skins of the walls down on the ground with rocks.  When they moved, they left the rocks for the next time someone else came through the area.

From the Medicine Wheel we headed to the ridge that we wanted to ride.  It was a pull off at the top of a hill.  When we got there the gate was locked and we could not find a safe way to get through the guardrails.  We were disappointed but moved on.

We headed towards Graybull WY.  Doug and Lori have relatives there and they wanted to go through there.  To get there we drove through Shell Canyon.  What scenery just was so beautiful to see as we wound our way out of the mountains.  One of the bridges that we crossed Doug had hauled the beams for it from Egger Steel in Sioux Falls.  We thought it was just a bit of trivia for the day.

When we go to Greybull it was hot and we were on the dry side of the mountains, out on the plains.  From there we headed to Cody WY to restock supplies.  We stopped and took some time on the way to get the horses out of the trailer and unsaddle the 3 that were saddled.  It was hot and the grass was dry.

Cody WY is a tourist and cowboy town, Lots going on and people were very gracious to us.  We needed to dump the sewer tank, refill our water and get rid of all our trash. A store let us dump our trash and gave us ice.  We found a campground that let us dump and refill, but only because we were headed to the Chief Jo.  They knew all about the ride and had Appaloosas.

Heading out of Cody towards Cook City MT. we took Highway 296 it was 62 miles to Cook City.  Doug had never driven this road; Lori and I decided that was pretty amazing in itself.  Amazing turned out to be an understatement.  This road was through beautiful country that climbed into the mountains.  There were miles and miles of switchbacks and we gawked at all the scenery.  Again we were very thankful to have a truck driver at the wheel, and the new truck with the jake break.   The driving was slow going 25 mph average so that 62 miles took hours to do; in fact we never did make it to Cook City.  We found some forest service horse pens at a trailhead and pulled in for the night.  We did not ride today, but the beautiful scenery that we took in was all worth it. Horses or not, if you ever are traveling in this area take 296, take lots of time and have a good vehicle.  You will enjoy the ride.

PS…. I may not have access to internet for the next few days, or possibly the week of the ride.  I will get everything posted though.

Cook City has no internet service and no cell service.  I drove to Silver Gate and found some service.

More Heaven

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Wed

During the night Lori woke up and thought she heard the wind coming up.  The awning had been left open on the trailer, so Doug got up and put it away.  He also checked horses.  Tammie Fae had gotten a front leg over her lead rope.  She was standing with her head pulled down and her front hoof off the ground.  She was not struggling just waiting for someone to come get her out of the mess.

We got up early, cooked coffee and watched our meadow again.  Horses were saddled for our morning ride.  We decided to go through our meadow and work our way to Porcupine Falls.  We could have followed a road that goes behind Camp Heaven, but we decided there was more to see than road riding.  We followed deer trails and old forest service roads and eventually got to the falls.  Doug was riding Visa today, and Tammie Fay was packing.  We were picking our way through a bog when Visa was standing there with her hind leg stretched out and holding it up.  Lori and I rushed to help, as Doug had the pack horse and he was off Visa.  Giving Visa some time she walked off just fine, but she had a cut on her coronet band of her right hind leg.   When she got into the bog she had stepped on herself with the other hind shoe. As she was pulling herself out.   Either the heal or toe calk on her shoe cut her.

Before we left the farrier had put what I refer to as mountain climbing shoes on the horses hooves.  They are a thick, hot set shoe with toe and heal calks grabs on them. They have come in handy every day we have ridden.  They really do well in the variety of terrain that we ride in.

Porcupine Falls was beautiful.  When we got to the parking area there was a hitching rail.  We laughed, thinking it was put there just for us.   We walked out to the rim of the canyon and just gawked at the view.  We could see for miles, and the falls were right below us.

From our falls stop we continued riding towards Bucking Mule Trail Head.  Again we decided not to ride down the road.  We headed down an old forest service trail that we soon figured out it had been a fire line for the Intermission Fire that burned in 1988.  The fire burned 1800 acres.  It was interesting to see all the old growth forest on one side of the trail then the new growth on the other side of it.  The forest fighters had cut trees from the fire side of the line and moved them to the non burn side of the line.  At times our fire line became un-rideable with fallen trees so we would head off into the forest.  It was great bushwhacking, logs, stumps,

rocks, what ever we came to we found a way through or over. With the old forest trees on the floor from the fire, and the new growth it was a great.

We had a great ride and did 8 miles.  Today was one of our harder rides so far and we could feel that on our horses.  They were glad to ride back up our meadow and get to the trailer.

We had moved the electric fence early today so the horses had fresh grass.  For some reason they would not drink out of the streams that we crossed today.  Yesterday they were all good drinkers.  At the back of the trailer is this great old tree trunk that is our blanket and cinch drying rack.  Someone put that there just for our use we all decided.  I rinsed some of the cinches today, as we need to keep them clean and dry for each ride.

Lori had made one of my favorite diners for tonight.  It is a chicken dish that she puts in the crockpot, so we left the trailer with the small generator running to power the 110.  When we got back it was still cooking and the bears had not helped themselves to it.

Lori and I were sitting outside the trailer after dinner when boots, shoes and rugs started fling out the door.  We looked at each other and decided that a cleaning was underway.  The statement was made that someone was tired of getting up and night and walking on a gravel road…… House is now clean!

We are breaking camp early in the morning and going to the Medicine Wheel that is very near here.  Then, we are all excited about riding a ridge that is above the timberline.  The view is spectacular!  We picked out this ridge when we came in to the area.  We are getting low on water again, and we need to get rid of our trash somewhere in none bear area.   We are going to watch our meadow tonight and see who comes to visit us.  Camp Heaven, what a great place!

Heading to the Big Horns

SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSCI am getting this posted on July 18, as we have had no service of any kind since we climed the mountain on Tuesday night out of Sheridan WY.

Tuesday

I am sitting is one of the most beautiful places that I have ever been.  We have named it Camp Heaven.  We are looking over a meadow that has a marsh in it that attracts wild life.  Look a little further and you are surrounded by mountains, hills of trees and open expansive meadows, wildflowers of every color are blooming, green grass everywhere.

We have made our camp in the Big Horn National Forest, just off NFS road 14A (for any of you detail people).

We arrived early this morning in the Big Horns after a rather restless night.  We left our day camp yesterday evening and drove to Gillette Wyoming and did our shopping, water refill and sewer dumped. Doug stayed at the trailer and fed and watered the horses while Lori and I went shopping.

A thunderstorm with hail had just gone through the area, and other rain clouds were making up so our timing was really good.  We were between storms, the temperature had dropped and it was great traveling weather with horses.  We drove on towards Sheridan WY and the plan was to get the horses out there for a few hours and get some sleep.  The rest areas in most of the Wyoming have pens for horses and we were going to use them.  The rest area in Sheridan did not have any, so we decided to hay the horses and see if we all could rest a while.  We had a mountain to climb to get us into the Big Horns and the plan was to do it in the early daylight.

Our rest was only for a few hours as the horses were not very quiet with all the noise of the parked trucks.  Finally Doug got up and announced he was going up the mountain now, as the horses were not resting at all.   We started at 4010 feet in Dayton WY and headed up this winding road, climbing to over 8500 feet.  It was actually nice to have the entire road to our selves.  We finally stopped at Burgess Junction at a pull over and went to bed.  The horses rested well.  About 5:30AM we unloaded, to give the horses a walk about, eat grass and drink water.  They were in good shape, and we all put our coats on, it was 42 degrees out.

We traveled on through the most beautiful areas, mountains that were just spectacular, with rock out croppings , and open meadows.  We stopped at a pullout on a ridge that was above the tree line and we realized that we were above the clouds that were hanging in the valley below. The sun was shining where we were at.

Early in the year I had gotten a map of the Big Horns from the forest service.  We had all studied it and were eager to see the things that we had picked out.  First stop was Jaws Trail Head.  We unloaded, saddled and packed the paniards on Visa with all our gear.  In this type of terrain and setting it is not advised to go off with out everything you might need. Layers of clothes, as the weather can change quickly, along with our lunch, side arm and saw, to name a few.  We headed off to Bucking Mule Falls, which was down the trail 7 miles.

We were probably 4 miles from home, going through a trail of rocks, I was in front when L.P. s head went up, he saw something ahead.  It was a 2 moose; one cannot mistake those horns!  They were probably getting a drink in the water as we were following Porcupine Creek.  They ran up the hill from us, but we proceeded cautiously, making a lot of noise, as to not get between them if there were more around.

We had a great ride, stopped for lunch, and rested.  We had been there a bit when Lori noticed that Tammy Fae had gotten her saddle horn hooked on the rope she was tied up with.  She had her head bent around and her saddle pulled forward.  She was not struggling or scared, thankfully, so Doug just took his knife and cut her loose.  We all breathed a sigh of relief, as that could have been a big wreck.

We got back to the trailhead and decided it was time to find our camp spot.  In the National Forest you are able to camp about anywhere.  Just make your home.  One of the things we had to look for was a place that was fairly level to get off the road so we don’t rip anything out from the underside of the trailer.  It took us a while, but that is when we found Camp Heaven.  We put up the electric fence and highline for the horses.  They were turned our all afternoon until we did evening chores and tonight put a sheet on each horse as it will be in the 40s again tonight.

We sat out all afternoon and evening watching our meadow.  So far we have seen elk  and deer.  The elk are bugling, something that I have not heard before.  Birds singing everywhere, and if you listen you can here Porcupine Creek running.

We have taken all the precautions for bears that we can.  Trash is locked up as well as our cooking grill removed and put away.  The horses are quiet and resting well on the highline, they need a good nights sleep tonight, just like we do.

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