August 3, 2012
We are blessed with another glorious morning! The weather has cooperated so well. We have not had to put our rain slickers on once and we just layer our clothes in the morning and peal them off and tie them on as we get warm. Janie, one of our “next door neighbors” was not riding today so she helped hold horses as we got ready. She has given L.P. a new name, Propane. Janie claims that she can never remember L.P. but she can remember Propane.
We are headed to Mary Mountain today. It is where a lot of buffalo are. The buffalo are in their breeding season right now. We drove to the other side of the park again and found where we were to park. Today we stuffed 5 horses in a 4 horse stock trailer and used Doug and Lori’s truck to pull it with. Visa is put between L.P. and Hopper, so she did not squeal and do mare things. I swear this entire camp is a convention of one ton trucks and larger!
We parked along the west side of the Yellowstone River. The buffalo were running down a hill on the east side of the river and getting a drink. We unloaded and put our bridles on. Everyone was getting on when the buffalo, several hundred buffalo, started to come out of the river and move toward us. Boy did we get on and out of there. They make a lot of noise, kind of hard to describe, but like a groan. Everyone’s horse was good in this situation thankfully and we were able to leave and get out of the way of the oncoming buffalo.
We could see steam pots in the distance, vast areas of grass, mountains, the river-wow it is just indescribable and overwhelming to take all in. We quickly headed out up a hill giving the oncoming buffalo a wide berth. I noticed that all the trees in the area have the bark rubbed on the bottom of them. This is from the buffalo using it as a scratching post. The edges of the area we were in were covered with old forest that rolled out onto a plain of grass, and the river nearby, perfect buffalo roaming area.
One of our nightly camp lectures talked about the buffalo. We were told that the old buffalo bulls would not go chasing after the cows, they would leave that to the younger bulls. The old bulls would go off by themselves. We rode by some of these loan bulls. They are huge! They like to lay in these dirt wallows that they make.
The area we were in had a lot of springs that just came out of the hills and lots of bogs to cross. The geese were out in droves along with some other large birds. We were gradually climbing in elevation all the time. When we were crossing one of the bogs L.P.s right front leg sunk out of sight. He pulled himself up at a funny angle and took a bad step. I quickly got off; just sure he had pulled something. He seemed to be just fine, so on we went.
We had climbed up a hill. Doug got off Visa to go get rid of some morning coffee. He walked over this ridge and Lori and I could hear him yell, “we have bears over here”. He had scared up a momma grizzly and her 2 cubs. They took off running and would stop and stand up and look at us then would go a bit farther. Nicole, our EMT is some kind of naturalist so she can identify many things for us. She verified that it was a grizzly. Apparently a hiker in this same area in 2011 had either died then was eaten by the bears, or was killed by a bear then eaten. We decided that only Doug could go pee and scare up bears. This now became a great new children’s story with our own version. Lori and I decided we were going to work on the new version on the drive home.
Once we got up the mountain farther we could see where the 88 fire came over the hill. The new forest and the old forest meet. We got to our destination, Lake Mary, and had lunch. Rested a bit and then started back towards the trail head. Descending into the plains and valley was just beautiful. We could see herds of buffalo and miles of country.
We were probably 5 miles from the trailers when the mule that was with us suddenly decided that he was not going to cross one of the bogs. Yes, the same^&*#*% mule. There was one horse who also had trouble as he had started watching the mule, but with help he finally got through it fine. This soon became entertainment as the mule took off braying and just refused to get his feet in the bog at all. Finally Doug and Visa went back to help. He had a work saddle on, so he dallied up the mule and drug it across the bog. That mule could jump, as he went way over Doug’s head getting drug across the bog. He had to do this several times and we still had more bogs to cross. Visa was a trooper, she had never pulled anything before but stepped up to and did her job. L.P. can pull anything, but my saddle is a park and recreation saddle. The horn is not designed to pull anything.
We came over a ridge and could see the road where the trailers were. We only had one problem; there was a herd of buffalo between us and the trailers. We skirted the herd and got back to the trailers. The buffalo had managed to stop the traffic on the road so we left in another park traffic jam. We did 21 miles today, our last day in Yellowstone Park. I feel very blessed to have been a part of this historical ride.
Lori had talked about possibly taking a ride, just the 3 of us tomorrow from a trail head that starts outside the park, then leaving later Saturday afternoon. I was game to go, as was Doug. The 3 of us were doing our after ride chores and taking care of our horses. One of my jobs was washing all the salt and sweat off the horses and looking for rubs each day. It is really important to keep dry saddle pads and cinches so we had lots of both with us to switch off when needed. Hopper had a welt from where his saddle pad and cinch laid. This had caused a pressure point near his withers on the same side where he had another welt. Lori felt so bad, but we doctored him and he will be fine. Visa had rubs from her breast collar and a cinch rub on her left side, both from pulling the mule. She had mud up to her knees and hocks and her stomach was splattered from pulling. L.P. seemed just fine. At this point we knew we needed to rest and heal up our horses and plan to come again to this great place.