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Horses, Hitches & Rocky Trails

Back when I used to manage the old Anglers Lodge we had a lot of horses around. In mid summer when it started to get hot we would saddle up and head for the high mountain lakes and streams. At first we did this for our own enjoyment. After awhile some clients expressed interest that they would like to go on a pack trip to the high country. I thought why not as we had plenty of horses and all the tack. I started working on getting all the necessary permits from the Forest Service along with insurance and every thing else that goes with it. The red tape and paperwork was almost beyond me. The government must hire a bunch of people for the sole purpose of creating new and complicated forms to fill out. Finally one day I received in the mail my permit to operate on the Forest Service.

The first trip was with this elderly couple who just wanted a one day trip to a high lake to fly fish for some cutthroat. I knew just the place but I explained to them that the trail was a bit tough with some steep narrow places and marshy areas we had to go through. They said that sounded even better as they weren’t looking for a ride through Central Park.

We got to the trail head and unloaded the horses off the stock truck. In those days we didn’t have fancy pickup’s pulling fancy fifth-wheel trailers. No sir, this was a state of the art 1958 Ford two ton stock truck with the rack covered with cow manure and we could haul six head on it. To unload the horses we would simply find a bank to back up to that was close to the same level as the bed of the truck. Sometimes the horses had to jump up a little bit to get out and sometimes they had to jump down a bit but we always found a place. Don was a fairly big man so I had him climb on Blacky which was a big stout gelding. As soon as he was in he saddle I handed him the reins and for some reason that gelding reared straight in the air. This horse had never done anything like this before and he was a well broke 15 year old horse. I thought to myself that this is the end of the trip and we haven’t even got started. To my amazement Don just said, “well at least this horse has a little spirit, the last one I was on at this stable wouldn’t even trot”. His wife was having a little trouble getting on so I helped her up. That’s when she hit me with her physical condition. She said since her spinal surgery a few months ago she wasn’t quite as agile as she used to be. That’s when I almost canceled the trip but I thought we’ll go for a little ways and when they see what the trail was like they would suggest we turn around. As it turned out this old gal rode that horse like she was part of it and Don and the big black gelding soon bonded. Every time I turned around to see how they were doing, both were smiling and commenting on how much fun they were having. In narrow spots and going through bogs on the trail I told them to let the horse have his head and for city folk they did excellent.

When we got to the lake they were both in awe at the surroundings. This lake is right at timberline and surrounded by high peaks and alpine meadows. Clara said she didn’t care to fish but to just sit on this log and soak up the serenity. Don rigged up and caught one big cutthroat and said “that’s all I want” and joined his wife on that log. For lunch I cooked up the steaks I brought along on an open fire with one of those little folding grills. They said they had to been to some of the finest resturants throughout the world but this was the best meal they ever had. Somehow every thing tastes better in a climate such as we were in.

This was the first pack trip with clients and despite some misgivings it turned out great.

I’m going to do a series of entry’s on pack trips we did and the events that happened, some are hilarious.


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