Friday, July 10, 2009

High Country Pack Trip
Take a ride with me on a most memorable back country trip on horse back.Packing in to a camp spot on Horses and Mules is an experience of it's own.

In America,the heriage of horse power is as old as the westward expansion across the great plains and the Rocky mountains.The first explorers were pack trippers of sort.But there is far more of it today than when the west was being won,but now it is mostly pleasure and adventure than necessity.

A pack trip can be of any duration,the longer the better.Being an experienced rider is helpful.Too see Grizzlies,mountain goats and the such,you have to travel off the main roads and sometimes miles back into the wilderness.

A good many outdoorsmen have become hooked on these pack trips,especially when you ride into and see places like the Bob Marshall wilderness of Montana or the High Sierras of California.

I can recall one of my finer moments of this ordeal,when my wife and I packed into a meadow in the Sierra Nevada.The trail started out as dirt for about a mile,then we crossed a creek and headed up a rocky slope which went on for a half mile,exiting into a meadow that was about ten acres.There was an old line shack there the Ranchers used for staying in while they moved their cattle to higher pastures.We put the horses in the corral and had lunch.After an hour of rest we saddled up and headed out to our final destination which was seven miles up the trail.We stopped in a meadow and let the horses eat for a while,then proceeded on down the last mile into our destination.The meadow was 20 to 30 acres and had four cabins on it.They were once used as a hunting camp,until the deer herds became scarce from over hunting.We tied our horses up and checked the cabins out for a couple of hours then decided we better head back to base camp,as we were not staying the night.When we got the horses saddled up and started to ride out,my horse wanted to lie down with me.I knew right then I was in for trouble,10 miles from camp.

Never let your horse lay down if it has colic.You will have to lead it,sometimes in a circle,but keep heading for your destination and don't give up as your horse will lay down and die.I fought the old girl for 8 miles up and down that trail,but finally she got better and I mounted and rode her the rest of the way to camp.I think she ate a bad weed in the meadow that made her sick.

But like the pack tripper,one lives for the next adventure like packing into the Beartooth Wilderness of Montana or maybe into the head waters of Oyster creek in the south Alberta Rockies.No matter where you go,looking down on greenish colored lakes and catching those alpine trout will make that long hard trip worth the ride,when you are eating them with potatoes and onions,then topping it off with a shot of bourbon,chased with some icy spring water. Look up at the top of the mountain,you just might see a Mountain Goat watching you.

I have compiled a few things that you should know to do before packing in;

The most important thing is be in physical shape as you have read how many miles I had to walk.Your stock has to be in good shape also,such as shoes,do not pack in without shoes on your stock.Carry a boot in case a shoe comes off.

Carry about 30 feet of rope with you,plus halters ,as you will tie your rope between two trees,then your stock to the rope.This proceedure keeps the stock from stomping and digging the tree roots,exposing the to insects and the elements.

Carry water with you.sometimes it's a long haul to the next spring.Do not drink out of creeks or rivers as you will get sick .

Carry matches in a closed container.

Carry a rain coat,as it storms when you least expect it to.

Carry first aid kit.Poison Ivy abounds in the mountains.

Camp 100 or more yards from water.

Carry a GPS with you,

I have been lost before and it is not fun to find your way out.

Do not approach a bear,stop and make alot of noise as there may be cubs between you and momma.

She will not hesitate to charge you,and this could lead to you getting bucked off,loosing your stock and getting attacked.

Don't hobble all of your animals.Always keep one tied up in case the others decide it's time to go home,about 1 in the morning.

You wake up and see an empty meadow.They will be a long way down the trail before you catch up to them.

Build a fire by digging a pit.

Do not pile a bunch of rocks up as this leaves a bad taste in the mouth f the next person,who wants to beleive he is the first person to camp there.Always make sure your fire is out,Cover with Dirt,Stir,Pour water,Stir some more,Feel with hand .

Do not throw the coals out of pit as this ruins the camp spot for ever.No one likes to track charcoal into their tent.

Carry Oats for your stock,It gives them more vitality then grass.

Place the most dominant animal in the rear of the string,as this will keep you from having a wreck from kicking and biting animals,also the dominant animal will keep the rest of the stock moving forward at a steady pace.

Put your food in a tree out of reach of Bear and away from camp.Nothing like being awaken with a Bear tearing your food sack to pieces.

Which reminds me,always carry a flashlight.Catch as many fish as you are going to eat and use barbless hooks so you don't cripple the fish you are returning to water.

Keep your fingers out of the fish's gills,as this will keep diseases out.