This Sight is Continuously Evolving

 

Rocky Mountain Horse Trek

 

 

Robert Russell McLeish

His journal, spring ‘03

 

I have been invited to travel on horseback with the Clearwater Horse Party, from Kamiah, Idaho to the Pioneer  mountains of Montana.

This is my account of our journey.

 

First of all, I would like to talk about our gear and supplies. All of our horse tack was pre-1840. Hans built his saddles and my gear was built by Steve Stefely. All of our clothing and personal gear was of the period. I carried a 24gauge trade gun with a thirty inch barrel. Hans carried a short barreled rifle.

Our food consisted of;

bacon

jerky

potatoes

hard cheese

Several heads of garlic

Pemmican

Pilot bread

Hard tack

sugar

coffee

tea

chocolate

hard sausage

rice, lentils, split peas, & beans

Oatmeal, steel cut & rolled

Assorted nuts, seeds, raisins, dried fruit and dates

In my saddle bags I carried my cup, boiler, and some pinole.

We each carried a canteen of water and a canteen of whiskey or rum.

We also had a three gallon bucket to boil our water and cook our dinners in.

Four tarps, three of them died on the trip. Two blankets apiece plus our saddle blankets.

 

Day 1, May 30, ‘03

Our party consists of Hans Assmusen, his son, Conan, their heeler Kona and Rena, a young woman from Wisconsin. Our stock consisted of four horses under saddle and two pack animals, one of them being a mule named Snowflake.

We got started without much problem. The sky is gray and we are experiencing rain showers off and on. Sparky my 20 yr old, is getting his first experience as a pack animal. He seems to have his own ideas about which way to go and how fast. So I have resorted to ponying him. He has a much faster gate than my saddle horse, a 6yr old buckskin named Sunny. This has not made the first few miles very easy. We have selected a trail to a place called Fish Creek. The trail is covered with melting snow and drifts of snow. My horses have never been in snow before and they are acting like it. The first blow down that we encounter I get in a tangle with my animals and break my ramrod. A little while later I get into another issue with Sunny about the treachery of snow. And in the ensuing tangle, lose my grip on my pack horse’s lead. So old Sparky decides it’s time to head home while I’m busy with Sunny. But instead of taking the trail he decides to go down a snow covered ravine and get hung up. My smile is getting smaller. I tie off Sunny and go on foot to catch up with the packhorse. The snow is about four feet deep and it is thick forest. I Find my “friend” Sparky and head back up the canyon. I’m wore out and I have gone about a mile. The rest of the party has given me up for lost and went on. I finally catch up with them at the bottom of the canyon at Fish Creek. Fish Creek is about three or four feet deep and moving pretty good. We find a place to cross and naturally my guy wants to argue about it. Unfortunately we dead end in to solid snow to deep to travel through and no grass. It’s getting late so we decide to camp on a little bend on the creek where there is a little grass and just enough room for the stock.                                                                         

Conan got the fire going while the rest of us set camp and picketed the animals. It was decided that we will have to retrace our steps and find another route. Distance  traveled today, 2 miles.

 

Day 2, May 31, ‘03

Nice day, slow start. Trouble with my saddle horse crossing the creek. Conan loaned me his spurs, that got the cayuse across. Rena and her horse dove into the creek, landing about six feet out. Sparky, my wonderful, pack horse decided he was going to live there. He would not go into the creek. We figured he would get lonely  if we just rode on. Well, after about a mile and no Sparky, Hans decided he better go back after him. Since I seemed to be having enough trouble for a day and a half. Hans managed to get Sparky across, but not without getting his saddle pulled out of whack. But that wasn’t going to be the end of Sparky’s shenanigans, on the way back up the trail, his breast collar broke and old Sparky just stepped out of those packs like they were a pair of pants. Never missed a step. Hans was ponying him at the time and didn’t even notice. So Hans did a quick fix of the breast collar and we repacked the cayuse. Found grass and water about 7:30 p.m. Made about 12 miles.

 

Day 3, June 1, ‘03

Clear skies chased a deer for awhile no luck. Hans is going to scout for some grass while we pack. Got almost packed and that fool deer came back. It is a long way to the Pioneer mtns and we thought it best to hang on to our dry stores as long as possible. Hans found a nice meadow and water about 2 miles away. Sparky did his magic and slipped his packs again as he climbed out of the hole we had camped in. We got to the meadow about 6 p.m., a very beautiful site, a western view of the sunset and plenty of room for the horses.

Made 2 miles.

 

Day 4, June 2, ‘03

We decided to let the horses rest today. This is the best grass they have had since we left. It would also give us rest and let that snow that we could see off in the distance time to melt. Two moose came into camp today.

Sparky seemed a little puzzled by them big creatures. He stared off in their direction long after they had moved on. Lazy day today Conan made a fine stew.

 

Day 5, June 3, ‘03

Up early, made 15 miles today. Set camp at the Loscha river. Beautiful day, nice trail down the mountain. Lots of flowers, venison steaks tonight. Sparky and Sunny did fine, a little saddle sore, all three of us.

 

Day 6, June 4, ‘03

Bright sunny day. Lots of dew. Spread canvas to dry. Sparky is lame, seems to be his right shoulder. I do not want to end up having to put him down and this is the only time we will cross a road. Not wanting to take a chance on him I ask that he be sent home. So Conan hitched a ride with a 96yr old woman and her 73 yr old daughter. Back to Kamiah to get my trailer and a friend of his to drive the rig back. The down side is, it was going to cut a serious hole in our provisions and comfort gear. Goodies and extra clothes  also had to go back.  The up side was Conan came back with a whole bunch of spirits to make us feel better. And I was able to swap out my saddle for a better fitting one for Sunny. I  was trying to use a saddle that fit both of my horses, just in case I had ended up on my pack horse. With Sparky going home, I could use the saddle built for Sunny.

 

Day 7, June 5,’03

Another beautiful day. I rinsed out my shirt and drawers yesterday. I can put up with them for another week. Arthritis in left hand getting worse. I can barely hold the pencil. Camped near a hot spring called Huckleberry Flat. Sunny and I missed our trail and rode about 2 miles too far. Conan caught up with me and brought us back. Kona stayed with the horses, while the rest of us went to get cleaned up at the hot spring. In order to get to the hot spring we had to cross this skinny little log over a very swift boulder creek. Plumb scared the bejeesus out of me. But what’s a feller going to do? I’m already catching hell for being from “California”. I just didn’t want to be the one that fell in. All went well and my dignity was kept in tack.                            

A young buck has decided we are good company. We did not need the meat. Made 5 miles

 

Day 8, June 6, ‘03

Clear sunny day. Did not sleep well. One full week now and I am gaining a real appreciation for my bed at home. Linda, my wife, is on my mind a lot. I hope her and our family of dogs are well. It is hard for me to get used to these slow mornings. This Clearwater Horse Party sure likes their morning sleep. That little buck spent the morning with us. Got started about 11 a.m., went well until we hit snow. Chest deep on the horses. Hard on my gear and body.  My horse seemed to have the most trouble with the snow. The rest of the stock seemed to have a knack for walking across the top of the snow. I guess they figured out how to spread their weight. Sunny, my buckskin, is just to heavy bodied and inexperienced. We kept breaking through the snow, up to his chest at times. One  of those times we broke through a snow bridge and ended up in snow and water up to his chest. Before I could get off and give him a hand, he powered his way out of the mess beating me half to death. Later on, he broke through the snow, and in the process of lunging his way out tossed me up on to the pommel. The second lunge threw me back onto the cantle. About the third time, he cleared the snow and I landed back in my seat. We‘re having fun now! There is no trail to follow, we just wind in and out of the deadfalls and snow drifts in the general direction of the trail. We finally come to a nice meadow with some decent grass and decide to make camp. Made 12 miles

 

Day 9, June 7, ‘03

Hardest day so far. This morning we picked up our trail and started up the mountain. Less than five minutes on the trail and I decide to do Sunny a favor and steer him around a root tangle in the middle of the trail. I go to throw my shoulder into some “dead” branches to break them off, instead of breaking, they snag my powder horn strap, rip the plug out of the horn and dump my powder on the ground. In the process of looking in horror at all my powder spilling out, I don’t see the tree that Sunny has decided to run me into. As I crash into the tree I break my other wiping stick. Great! No powder, no ramrods. Hans’ powder horn plug, has broken off inside his horn, and all Conan has with him is a small metal flask of powder. I had sent my spare powder horn back with Sparky. Climbed up Fish lake divide. Snow about 8ft deep, all the way up and across. No grass at Fish lake. We found what looked like a crossroads of trails by the lay of the land. So we dug down to the sign and confirmed we were on the right track.  Stayed on ridge and walked around the other side south. Took a few spills walking the side of a steep slope. It was a long way down. Snowflake lost his footing and went tumbling down the slope. I thought we had lost him. But the old boy caught himself, regained his balance and climbed back up to us. This mule is 25yrs old and should have an “S” on his chest. I walked Sunny most of the day, he is just too heavy and kept breaking through the snow. Rena and her little mustang took a nasty spill down the slope. They pitched head over heals and luckily when the horse rolled over her the snow took up the impact. But they both went on a long slide to the bottom of a saddle in the ridge. Horse and rider ok just a bit shook up. Got to a drainage, still no trail. We had to negotiate a cliff side of melting snow and loose rock to get down to the drainage. Found some grass. While Conan got the fire going I helped with the stock, then helped Rena figure out a camp. While I’m doing this, I had this feeling that I should look over towards my horse. He was in the process of crunching down on my one and only tin cup. I had this bright idea that the boulder that I picketed him next to, made a good spot to stow my gear. It took several minutes and Conan’s help to pound my cup back into something I could drink out of.  Made maybe 8 miles.

 

Day 10, June 8, ‘03

Rain clouds got us moving early today, but just a few sprinkles.

Busted brush for several hours and finally picked up our trail. Found a little fawn today, probably spooked the mother. Found a large meadow, best grass since we started. Stopped early so horses could rest and eat. Nice day to rest after yesterday’s ordeal.

 

Day 11, June 9, ‘03

No entry

 

Day 12, June10, ‘03

Yesterday was full of highs and lows. It took  awhile to get out of the snow. A lot of dead falls kept us off our trail. About noon we were out of the snow and in an old burn. Very swampy, reminded me of a Louisiana bayou. In less than a mile we saw a young bull moose, 15 or 20 elk and as many deer. Hans’ capper wouldn’t fire and in order to load mine we got the ball down the barrel as far as it would  go with my broken wiping stick and then used Hans’ ramrod to seat the ball. Around 3 or 4 p.m. we came to a large river swollen with snow melt. The bridge had been washed away. We had no choice but to cross it. Hans went first with the pack mule, then Rena on the little mustang. She was almost swept away. Conan and I went together. My horse Sunny, his first time in such danger did very well. Although all of us were almost swept away. Our little dog Kona was not so fortunate, sadly, she was swept away. In our haste to take ourselves across we forgot about her. It was a very quiet ride after that. The rivers that we had followed and crossed were Wounded Doe Creek and Moose Creek. It was a long ride to grass, we did not get to the meadows until  long after dark. But we had a moon to light our way. It amazed me how well Conan could pick up that trail in the dark. If it wasn’t for Snowflake glowing in the dark, I may have had a hard time following them. A few pieces of venison and a hasty camp and we went to bed. Made 20 miles.

A thunder storm came through during the night. Today we are taking a rest and tomorrow also, in hope that little Kona can catch up with us if she is able. This morning we needed to find a better place to camp, the water was inaccessible here. So we just put on our breech clouts and rode the horses bareback. It felt really good to get out of our riding clothes for a change. We found a beautiful place to camp, about two miles further down the trail. Good access to the water and acres of grass. The party left me there to cut a tripod and get a fire going and get some water boiling.

Unfortunately, (for me) I was only wearing my breech clout and all I had with me was my small belt knife and emergency fire kit. I made do, it took awhile to cut the sticks for the tripod. And I had to set some black moss in the sun to dry before I could get a fire started. To add to me tribulations the sticks I cut did not have sufficient forks to hold the tripod together. I looked around and found a Trumpet flower vine growing up and around a small tree. And it was in full bloom. So I cut it off at ground level and untangled it from the tree. I used the entire vine to tie the tripod together and used the thick base as the hook to hold the bucket of water and used the weight of the bucket to wedge the end of the vine against itself. I also left the flowers on the vine and  wound them around the top of the tripod. Very nice! By the time the rest of the party showed up with our gear the water was boiling and there was a nice flower arrangement. A la California! The rest of the party got a real kick out of it and put everyone in a better mood.

Most everything got wet during the river crossing, so it is all spread out drying. I took the opportunity to wash my clothes and body and shave.  Bright and sunny day, a few clouds.

 

Day 13 June 11,’03

Another day of rest. This place is beautiful, a 1,000 acres of flat grassy parks rimmed with trees. Weather is sunny with some clouds. We are all busy repairing our gear. I managed to carve another wiping stick out of some wild plum. No sign of Kona, we fear she is lost. We had a small ceremony for her and hung a medicine bag in a tree for her. She is greatly missed.

 

Day 14, June 12, ‘03

No entry

 

Day 15, June 13,’03

Yesterday we got up and started our earliest of the trip. Fortunately there was a bridge for us to use to get across the river we were camped next to. I believe the river was called Moose creek. We stopped at Moose creek ranger station and sent a message home that we are ok and that Kona was lost. The ranger gave us some tea and sugar.

We  made 17 miles and sighted a bald eagle flying “below” us as we rode on the side of a very deep river canyon. Today is a bright sunny hot day. We are camped on a large flat called “Shearer”. We are taking  another day of rest. My horse Sunny, is starting to cramp, so we are going to give him time to rest and get some salts in his body. Varied weather today, rain, clouds and sunny skies. The rest of the party went to talk to some hunters camped about a mile away, about what trails might be best. I opted to stay in camp with the mule and the little mustang. Everybody came back full of liquor. Thunderstorm moving in. Storm blew by. The party talked me into going over to the hunters camp and getting to know them and their liquor. I let a little girl ride Sunny while I tried to catch up on the liquor. Real nice folks.

 

Day 16 June 14, ‘03

Left Shearer flat late, looked like rain but it burned off. Made 17 miles to a place called Paradise. Visited with an outfitter who gave our horses some oats and restocked us with tea and sugar. Camped in a flat next to a river.

 

Day 17 June 15, ‘03

We are now traveling on the Nez Perc’e trail. Also known as the Macgruder corridor. Made another 17 miles, camped in an old abandoned fenced pasture. Chest deep grass, the animals had it made, no pickets, free to move around. Nice day.

 

Day 18 June 16, ‘03

Bright sunny day, took our time packing, we do not have far to go today. Made 6 miles and camped next to the Selway river. We are no longer on the Nez Perc’e trail. I was able to take a much needed bath and shave. Rinsed my shirt and drawers. Sighted some grouse, no opportunity for a shot.

 

Day 19 June 17, ‘03

Another beautiful sunny day. The party has decided to leave me behind for several days without food, for crimes that I did not commit. But Sunny is my horse and I must take responsibility for his actions. I will track them in a few days and try to catch up.

 

My horse is quite upset about being left behind so I will wait awhile to forage for some dinner. The flies are quite bothersome and have forced me to put on my poncho. Bugs have been a pain all day, finally put on my skins and took a nap. Very hot today. Tried fishing but no luck. I found some worms under an old elk skull. Thunderstorms sent me scurrying to set up my tarp, but the thunderheads moved faster than I. They just went on their way, very little rain. I found a good supply of some kind of swamp grass that was growing in a bog. Kinda reminded me of miniature cattails. Very tasty tender stalks. The small birds that I see remind me of some sort of wren. At first I thought they were chickadees.

 

Day 20 June 18, ‘03

Clear, hot and sunny, no clouds. Last night was uneventful. Some dandelion and thistle stew and some yarrow tea. This morning I scouted a little further and found a good supply of dandelions and thistles for this evening’s meal. This has been the longest that I have not seen any game. Of course! I have no food, so why see game?   On my morning scout I saw a large very brown snake about 3ft long and about 1 and inch round. There are snakes everywhere, you can hardly take a step without stirring one up. Might make a good meal, but I feel more like vegetables today. The flies have driven me back into my clothes again and out of camp. They are not so bad outside of the glade that I have camped in. My horse has adjusted very well to not having the other horses around. MMMMM! thistle, dandelion, some thistle heads, green currants, all make a tasty stew chased down with some yarrow tea. Still no game.

 

Day 21 June 19, ‘03

Last night a storm came in threatening to get me wet. So I set my rag of a tarp on a pole wedged between the forks of two evergreen trees. Just enough room for me and my weapons. I covered my saddle and plunder with my rain poncho. I had a visitor this morning, a small doe came into camp to see what she could steal. Not knowing if my compadres had made meat I had to let her go, hungry as I was, it was to much meat for me to carry. I was bored of this camp and decided to move on and start tracking my party. I was not expected for yet another day.

Unfortunately, tracking them was easier than I expected and they had only traveled about five miles ahead of me. Since I was a day early I decided to camp on the entrance of the meadow they were in. They are not aware of my presence. A wonderful time to count coup!

But I did not. This was the most difficult day of all, less than a mile away from food and coffee and nothing to forage. I had to move further down the trail to keep my horse from calling to the other horses. Interesting that I am the only one who knows where I am. Their horses did not spot me and my horse did not get wind of them.

No fire, no food, yippee! Boy am I having fun.

 

Day 22 June 20, ‘03

Got up early and broke camp. I am very hungry and I am going to have me a proper breakfast! My party was still asleep when I came roaring into camp. But I knew they would be, It wasn’t 9 am yet. It seems that counting coup last night was on somebody’s agenda even if I wasn’t me. Some young deer came into camp last night and made off with the headstall and reins of Rena’s little mustang. Probably for the salt. We spent the morning looking for it, with no luck. Hans rigged a rope headstall for the little mustang. Speaking of salt and eating things. You would think I would have learned a few things by this time. Forgetting about my friend Sunny and his penchant to chew on things I need. I had again picketed him too close to my gear. Hans came up to me as I was enjoying my first cup of coffee in a few days and tossed this green, chewed looking thing in my lap. It looked like it used to be a glove. He had this big smile on his face. I looked at the “thing” and said “that ain’t mine! Mine are all black from soot and grease.” Then he threw me the other one. That damn horse had chewed the black right out of my buckskin gloves. Luckily I always carry an extra pair, but I had given them to Hans. He took pity on me and gave them back.  We headed into an old burn and a strong gusty wind came up. Widow makers started breaking all around us. The sounds were like loud gunfire and very scary. We did not know which way to move. After several minutes that felt like forever the wind subsided and we moved on. In a hurry to get out of that spooky place. But as luck would have it, our trail followed the burn. A long day in the saddle, made it to the top of Parker mountain in the middle of a storm about dark. A hasty camp and straight to bed. No grass for the horses, made about 22 miles.

 

Day 23, June 21, ‘03

Spent the morning looking for the right trail, found it after about three grueling hours on top of this mountain. Drifts of snow and steep trails made searching difficult. Beautiful views though. Found the Roan ridge trail and thought we had it made. A good trail for a change that actually looked like someone had been on it in the last 20 or so years. But that didn’t last long. Our trail led us down a steep canyon for about two miles. The trail was so old and unused that we could only see it from ground level.

So we got off our horses and I took the lead. I seemed to have a better eye for following this particular trail. Very steep and full of switch-backs. Near the bottom of the canyon, about 2 or 3 hundred feet up, our trail ended in a slide. With nowhere to go but down, Sunny and I started down the slide trying to find a decent path for the rest to follow. We all made it without wrecking which was amazing. At the bottom was Horse Creek, a raging narrow creek too deep and swift to cross. We might have made it, but we were still a little gun shy from our last water crossing. We could see a slide covering our trail on the other side and the knowledge that even if we made it across the creek and over the slide we had to climb up something like we just came down. So we decided to head a little north to a main trail and hot springs. But that way was blocked by a washout of the trail and no way around. So we had to head southwest down the Horse creek canyon towards the Salmon river. The trail looks like it might be navigable and we saw some survey markers that couldn’t be more than 10 or 20 years old. Lots of down trees and slides across trail and no grass or place to camp. And it’s getting late in the afternoon. We had to build a ramp out of rocks from a slide that covered the trail, up to a large tree that had fallen over the slide and trail. And then build a ramp down on the other side. And then encourage the stock to jump the tree. A little while later we came to another rock slide that covered our trail. With no way around we rebuilt the trail and walked the animals through. Dancer, Conan’s horse, being the Arab that she is, does a little dance on the way across and dislodged a rock that was holding up a portion of the slide. A rock hit her rear foot and sprung her shoe and damaged her hoof in such away we could not safely reset or pull the shoe. But after walking on it for awhile she reset it herself. Late camp in a hole by the river. No grass for the horses. Made about 12 miles.

 

Day 24 June 22, ‘03

I have come up lame after yesterday’s ordeal. My moccasins are made for riding not walking. A piece of leather balled up and rubbed my little toe to excruciating pain and has put me in a foul mood. I cut out the offending section of my moc. They have been resoled so many times that it was no loss and did not affect the integrity of the outside of the moc. I am not looking forward to walking today, it is very painful to do so. Continued walking the horses for about two miles. Finally enough unobstructed trail we are able to ride. Got to the Salmon river late afternoon. Nice groomed trail and ripe currants and serviceberrys on both sides of the trail. I just put my reins on my horn and held out my hands grabbing handfuls of ripe berries. Leaning forward and giving my buddy Sunny handfuls to munch on. Came upon a ranger who asked us where we came from. When we told her, she said that the Horse creek canyon had been closed for ten years or so. We told her it’s open now.  Made it to the settlement of Colson creek, population:12. And to our delight there was a saloon, the M T saloon! Hitching rail and all. We all rode up with Conan in the lead at the gallop. The saloon keepers Peggy and Mike filled our bellies  with plenty of alcohol and food. And gave us hay for our horses. We were too busy socializing to remember to set up a camp and too buzzed to worry about it when we went to bed. So we just spread our blankets on a patch of grass and pulled the tarp over us. We woke up about 4am in a down pour of a real cold rain. Being on a slight slope, the water started running under us. So we high-tailed it to the saloon. The owner had left the door unlocked in case we wanted to use the building. We did! Finished the rest of the early morning on the floor of the saloon.  Real nice folks at Colson creek. Made 25 miles.

 

Day 25 June 23, ‘03

Left Colson creek rode 27 miles to Napias creek. Rain, cold, and hail all day. Coldest night yet.

 

Day 26 June 24, ‘03

Rode 25 miles to a cattle ranch. The owner said we could stay in the pasture with our stock. No place to tie our tarp to but the fence line. No fire wood, and there was a storm coming. But all was not lost. There was this feller delivering frozen goods to the ranch house. So I hollered over to him and asked if he had some ice cream. He said he did and if I would tell him where I lived, he would deliver some to me! Well, I told him I lived right where I was standing. He seemed to have a little trouble comprehending that. But he was good to his word and walked over and delivered us a gallon of the best tasting treat we’d had since we came across that saloon. Well Hans didn’t want no part of it saying something like it was to sweet. This from a feller who has a little coffee with his sugar in the morning. Well, me, Conan and Rena didn’t have no trouble with it. Except we were kinda  queasy after trying to eat the whole thing. Slept in pasture with horses. Cold and rainy.

 

Day 27 June 25, ‘03

Rode into the settlement of Salmon today. Able to get more supplies and a good meal in a roadhouse. Managed to aggravate the owner of the store where we purchased our groceries. Something about our animals and what they left behind on the sidewalk. But after a few “words” with the feller I offered to relocate the  contribution and told him what he could do with the rest of it. Rode on to Dante creek? I think. A real nice fellow called himself “The Pilgrim” and his wife, pointed out a good place to camp in some abandoned corrals and gave us some hay for our horses. Cloudy with some rain showers. Made 20 miles.

 

Day 28 June 26, ‘03

Went up and over the continental divide today, through Goldstone pass. On the way up to the trail we stopped so Hans could replace a shoe on his horse Star and my guy Sunny. They had worn the shoes out. The shoes were worn paper thin. The trail up was all rock and was particularly hard on Rena’s little mustang. She was not wearing shoes this entire trip and was very footsore. At the top of the pass was an old gold mine, some kind of mine anyway. Took us awhile to sort out all the trails to find the one to take us into Montana. Set camp at sunset in Montana at Skinner meadow. Made 16 miles

 

Day 29 June 27, ‘03

Rode 5 miles to Doc Ivory’s place.Doc wasn’t home and his gate was locked. We were a couple of days early and he wasn’t figuring on seeing us yet. So we rode down to this little stream that wound around some grass and waited for Doc to show up. Not a real good location to wait. Grass and water for the horses and about a billion mosquitoes and no shade for us. I have heard of a having your head in a cloud but I don’t think this is the right kind of cloud. Too much for me, I took a ride to look for  a better place to camp in case Doc didn’t show up. Well Doc did show up and after we got the stock taken care of, he put us up in his bunkhouse. Stowed our gear and he fired up his redwood hot tub down at the creek. Shining times! Ain’t seen hot water since that hot spring a long time ago. The four of us stayed in that tub ‘til almost dark and we were waterlogged. Doc  took real good care of us. Stayed up most of the night telling tales.

 

Day 30 June 28, ‘03

Lazy day, slept on the floor of the bunkhouse last night. The beds are too soft. Re-shod Star and Sunny. Hans also made up some rawhide boots for the little mustang. She is so sore she can hardly walk. Enjoying Doc’s hospitality, buff steaks for dinner. Sunny day.

 

Day 31 June 29, ‘03

Hot, sunny and breezy, keeping the mosquitoes down.  Busy fixing gear and tending to the stock. The rest of the party we are joining up with should be here today. Everybody showed up late.

 

Day 32 June 30, ‘03

Slow start getting the brigade size party going. The members are Doc Ivory, Hawk, Richard Ashburn, Bob Strohmenger, Clay, Shauna, Rena, Hans, Conan, and yours truly.  And 16 animals. Made 14 miles. Set camp early in a nice grassy park.  Some rain showers.

 

Day 33 July 1, ‘03

Another nice day, woke early listening to Doc chasing his horses. About mid-morning, we come to a tree blocking the trail. No big deal, we all just went around it. All but the pack animals that is. The pack stock was following behind us with Snowflake in the lead. When they came up on the down tree, Snowflake went his own way around. Never the same way we go, naturally. Well, the rest of the stock saw us on the other side of the tree and tried to go under, over, through, everything but around. So we had this jumble of pack animals stuck up against the tree and no leadership. The brigade decided to move on and let the animals work it out. Hawk and Conan offered to stay behind and make sure all goes well. Bob and I lagged back a bit to watch the show. Snowflake got impatient with his crew of horses and started back for them bawling his head off. Well, everything looked like it was under control, some of the animals have started to figure out what to do. So Bob and I rode on to catch up with the rest of the party leaving Hawk and Conan. When we caught up with the brigade they asked us where the rest were. We said they should be along any minute-they were right behind us. Well, we waited and we waited and they didn’t show. So Richard and Clay said they would go back and see what is going on. And we wait and wait another long period of time. Now we are thinking maybe some Crow are back there doing some bushwhacking. Somebody else said they thought it might be Blackfoot. So Hans says he is going back to see what happened. A little while later, Hawk, Conan, Richard, Clay and the pack stock all show up. We ask where is Hans? They ain’t seen him! Great! How could that be? Well while we are all discussing what might have happened to Hans, Conan decides to see if his pistol still works. We didn’t need that kind of wake up call. After we got the stock and ourselves settled down Hans showed up. Then Hawk and Conan told us about their efforts with the pack stock that caused all this confusion in the first place. Seems Conan decided to get off his horse to help the pack stock get past the fallen tree I guess it what like a Chinese fire drill by the time he got the last ones over the first ones would make their way back to the wrong side. Meanwhile Conan’s horse decided to move on without him. So some time was spent catching her. Rode all day, Doc, Clay, and I got separated from the rest of the brigade most of the afternoon. Set camp late, lots of mosquitoes. Made 14 miles.

 

Day 34 July 2, ‘03

Rode six miles to rendezvous and some well earned down time.

But, on the way into the rendezvous we had a few interesting events. We came across a large herd of cattle and Doc’s dog decided they needed some herding. Unfortunately it was in the direction of the main camp. I tried to cut the dog off but he beat me around the corner and the cattle were on the run. Hans and Conan took off for a gate up ahead of the cattle to get it closed. While the rest of us tried to get control of the dog. In the commotion we noticed a riderless horse and a loose mule. Bob! What happened? We turned around to see Bob walking up. Seems his pack mule from hell got excited and raked him out of the saddle. It was a bit hard on him and his rifle. But he is a big tough guy and it takes more than that to slow him down. Of course his smile was a little thin. After that the brigade decided to “paint up” for a charge into camp. Snowflake herded the stray cattle away from us while this was being done. On the way in to the rendezvous, Doc managed to get his horse and himself up to the chest in a bog. Hawk being the good friend that he is, rode up laughing and yelled “smile” and then rode away. Well, we regrouped, had all the animals together and everyone on their cayuses. Ready for the big charge into camp. That is, until Hans checked the load in his rifle. It took about another hour to round up the pack stock. We charged in too camp and it sure was good to see everybody. Total miles traveled, 324 give or take. I think this is an underestimate. No serious injuries to critters or humans aside from losing our friend Kona.

 

Hans and Conan are top hands, I can’t say enough about them and their ability to keep themselves  and their stock healthy. They are like Centuars when they ride. Just this growth on the backs of their horses. Rena is a most remarkable young woman. She was always in a good mood (that alone is remarkable for a woman). She was always a team player, never complained, never a liability. Not to mention she rode a little horse that was wild just a few months earlier. We all got along very well. The most serious debate, aside from which way to go, was what was period correct and what was not. I learned a lot, I learned just how tough and sure footed horses are. I went through, down, up, and over places I would have avoided before. When the going got tough, everyone, stock and humans’ stepped up to the plate. I have a certain standard that I use, it goes like this; “when Bugs Boys come boiling over the ridge I want to know that a person will stand with me and fight.” I have no doubt in my mind that my three compadre’s on this trip would stand and fight.


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