Wednesday in Yellowstone Park
Lone Star Gyser
August 1, 2012
Wow, 330am came early. Doug got up to give hay to the horses, get coffee and grab the food for our lunches. Lori and I got up at 4am. We all collected our coffee and breakfast. The moon was near full and very bright, nothing like eating your breakfast by moonlight and stars. The coffee that we drink is George’s coffee. George is an old timer on the ride that brings fresh beans and a roster. Every afternoon we can smell the beans being ground and roasted. The coffee is wonderful and has a very good smell.
As we were saddling the vet came by to look at our horses. All 3 look good. We had to have the horses saddled and all our gear up to the front of the airstrip to load out in all the small trailers that we could gather up. The trail head parking spaces in the park are small so every 2, 3 and small 4 horse trailer got used. The park management lets only groups no larger than 25 horses go into the park so all the riders are split into groups and ride a different trail each day. Group 2 is our group and we are going to Old Faithfull today and riding from there. Because there are 6 different groups the vet, farrier and doctor are not along on these rides but are at camp. Each group has a mounted scout that leads, a drag scout and a mounted person that is an EMT. Depending on where you go in the park someone in the group carries a gun and a saw.
We loaded Visa and LP into a 4 horse trailer. It had 2 mules in it. Visa was really nerves so that is why we loaded her with one of her friends. She was really funny in the trailer as she kept snarling at the mule next to her which totally ignored her. Lori and Hopper were in another rig. We had to be at the west park gate by 6am to be ahead of the road construction starts in the park, and most of the tourists.
All the steam pots were billowing up in the early morning sun. We saw the elk grazing in the meadows near the Yellowstone River. We left the parking lot at Old Faithfull and headed south west up the hill. The area we were in was burned in the fire of 1988. The trees now are 30 to 40 feet tall but all the dead fall is still here, so the trails really have been cut out of the trees. Once we got up on top we found lots of marshes complete with steam vents. The marshes had bridges that went across them that were wide enough for a horse to use, but no side railing on them so you had to have a good horse or mule to cross. We rode to Loan Star Geyser. It is the second largest cone geyser in the park. It was bubbling and releasing water and steam. We continued on riding in new forest and got into old forest. The trail could be rocky at times and the deadfall would be over the trail every once in a while so LP had to navigate over the logs.
Lori and Hopper were a few horses in front of me and Doug and Visa were several horses behind me. We were about 7 to 8 miles in when we came across one of those large trees that had fallen over the trail. LP did a good job getting over this and most of us were past it. I heard the sound of someone having trouble. Everyone behind me went running back and I stayed put. I asked if we needed medical help and was advised that we did. LP and I loped up to the next few people who had stopped and retrieved the medical person. Vivian, who has been on this ride for many years, had been twisted off her horse when it got a hoof caught crossing the large log. She was not sure if she could get up or not so we just decided to stay there for a bit and see. Vivian kept insisting that we should finish our ride and just come back later to get her. Several of us teased her about becoming bear bait.
It became apparent that Vivian was not going to be able to ride out so we started making plans. We had passes a clearing on our way to where we were and thought that we needed to get her back to that area so she could be air lifted out. Our lead scout remembered from his Boy Scout days how to make a stretcher out of jackets, belts and polls. So all the men lost their belts and they collected slickers and denim jackets because they did not stretch. We had spare horses to get to the clearing so they were paired up with a rider to pony them. One of the riders, Royal, was a retired sheriff, so he got the gun that would stay with the group that would take the horses to the clearing. While we were waiting the log had been sawed so we did not have to navigate over it on the return.
I had Visa, as L.P. is here “go to” companion. She was a good mare and picked up the idea just fine. In the narrow spots she had to get behind L.P. because the saddle packs and 2 horses could not get through. That clearing was a lot farther than we thought. Royal thought it was 2 to 2 ½ miles. The remaining people started down the hill carrying the newly made stretcher and Vivian.
Each of the riding groups had a GPS with them so when we got to the clearing the GPS emergency button was punched. This should give a signal as to exactly where we were so that EMS type people could be deployed. We tied up all the horses in the trees and some of us horse sat. Lori and several others were recruited to find ground that was not marshy that was large enough for the helicopter to land. Once that was done they picked up all the loose sticks and anything that could get sucked up in the intake of the helicopter or get picked up and fly around. Then they started walking an X into the grass so the pilot could see where they had cleared and know it was safe to land there.
Several other people that had ridden out walked back up the trail and met the group that was carrying Vivian out. They needed relief as it was much farther than we originally thought.
I was horse sitting and one of the mules wanted to lay down all the time. Royal and I kept looking at him thinking he may be colicing. This is rather hard on equipment and not being familiar with mules, Royal and I decided to take his tack off. That was all he wanted. He stood just fine after that. ^%$##@mule.
It took probably 1 ½ hours but Vivian and crew finally arrived. We patiently waited for help another 45 minutes, and then decided to get a group of people and horses out to the parking lot where we left the trailers.
Horses are heard animals; they have their buddies and friends, so when they live and haul together it is best to keep them together in their groups. Vivian’s daughter was also riding with us so their two horses were better off staying together. It was decided that Margie who is a nurse and needed to stay to help the EMT, would send her horse down with us, as she came alone, and Margie would ride Vivian’s horse out. We would figure the trailering out when we got to the parking lot. So 13 people and 14 horses road out, Royal in the lead and Doug as drag.
When we got to the parking lot Royal and a photographer that was with us went to a ranger station to get help. Apparently they had received our beacon from the GPS but not all the coordinates came through. They knew something was wrong, but not able to figure out where we were. By this time it was 530, we were all out of water and the people that we left in the parking lot knew something had happened so they were glad to see us.
Things moved fast from that point the helicopter came from Idaho Falls ID and had no trouble finding where they needed to be.
About 830pm the last 7 people and horses finally made it back to camp. Pat, one of the people who stayed on the hill came and found Lori. The 2 of them were ones that walked the X into the grass. The helicopter pilot said that was great, they knew exactly here to land and they hardly ever get that.
Everyone was totally exhausted and we still had a lot of preparation to do for tomorrows ride. This was the end of day 3 and we had put a lot of miles on our horses. Hopper had the start of a cinch soar, so his cinch got switched out. Visa had a small rub starting on her withers from her saddle pad, so that got switched out. LP had a loose left front shoe so Doug tightened that.
The vet has the results of our horse illness, it is flu. We had several new cases reported today. It is suspected that all the horses in camp have been exposed. We are still going to be allowed to ride in the park so the scheduled rides will go on.
None of us took a shower, even though we all needed one. We just fell into bed as 330am was going to be early again. It was late for us as the music was done for the night that we usually listened to going to sleep.