Sedge Camp and The Ride Out

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Big Sky Country! Montana lives up to it’s name.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The trail ride from Ha Hand Lake Camp to Sedge Camp was to take about 3 hours. We did not depart until after 4 p.m. and Terry told us we would be “bushwhacking” for a part of the ride, meaning taking some lesser used trails, or maybe no trial at all. Hummm, that’s intriguing.

Starting out the weather was OK, but it did not last. Off and on it rained or drizzled prompting us to stop and put on our rain slickers. Then we had some pretty steep climbs up mountain sides. I certainly was glad not to have to be hiking that kind of terrain. It WAS rugged.

The reward of that steep climb is the photo above. The weather gave us a short break for a grand vista from atop that ridge. Truly a fantastic panorama. But then we had to descend for about another hour before reaching the last camp.

The bushwhacking took us through some dense forest with much undergrowth. We twisted and turned and wound our way down the trail. Skies, having turned much darker, only intensified the darkness in the pine forest. That prompted me to say “lions and tiger and bears - OH MY!” It really was dank, dark and dreary - and a bit scary. 

But we did, finally, emerge from the woods and into a broad meadow, where another white cook tent sat in waiting. As Terry busied himself with unpacking the mules, Christine set about un-saddling the horses and hobbling them to romp in the large meadow before us. It looked forested on three sides with mountains on the fourth side. With such low cloud cover, however, it was all not very clear and I was too tired to really take in much of the scene at that time. Being after 7 o’clock p.m. and with the rain, it did not look like a very appealing camp at the time of our arrival. The horses and mules were content to start grazing and wandered off into the meadow, but this time they were within our sights. Hopefully they would not venture off into the surrounding forest.

After setting up our tents under the pines, we sat about and waited for Christine and Terry to prepare our dinner. Under the circumstances of our late arrival, dreary weather and quickly approaching nightfall, it was well after 9 p.m. before we ate. But, with a hot meal in our bellies, and being late, it was soon off to our tents. Preparing, as in the previous nights for a cold night, I was quickly in my bedroll, cuddled against the night chill. The soothing sound of raindrops on my tent quickly brought me to slumberland.


Sat, August 16, 2014

Awaking around 6 a.m. I was down to the cook tent where Terry was again brewing the strong cowboy coffee. I had my camera in hand and set out into the meadow.

This meadow had an abundance of tall grasses and a meandering stream that wove it’s way from one end to the other. Horses and mules were in sight, across the stream up on the lower, grassy slope of a mountain. The mountain directly in front of me, across the meadow was catching the early morning sunlight, glowing red in the chill of this morning. Stepping out away from camp, to my right, I was presented with two other mountains, also aglow in this warming morning light. 

As the sun rose higher, the stock, higher up on the slope were catching those first warming rays as they either grazed or just stood still presenting a perfect pastoral scene.

With the wandering stream before me I roamed about in the meadow, knocking at the frost tipped grasses, absorbing the views both visually and photographically.

With no one else stirring it was quiet and magnificent as I continued to marvel at the start to what looked the beginnings of a bright new day.

The stream was too deep to just wade across, so I stayed on the one side and observed the livestock as they stood on the other. In time, fingers and hands numbed by the cold, I headed back to the camp and had my hands wrapped around a hot steaming cup of coffee as quickly as possible.

In time, the others began to stir and we had another delicious breakfast. Our plan for the day was to hike up to a lake dead ahead of our location. That was to be Alp Lake, which Terry told us was well worth the effort to get there. By late morning we set out and alternately crossed the meadow, through the pines, upward climbing most of the way. Starting out, however, we had to cross the meadow stream, which was a challenge. Conner, handily jumped, I waded across in the most shallow spot I could find, without water topping over my boots. Laura, unfortunately did not quite fare so well and took a little dunking in her attempts both over and back. 

Other meadows along the way also were interspersed in our hike with many wildflowers throughout. Our whole troupe were together on this day excursion. Taking frequent breaks from the strenuous climbing, we took a snack break along a stream and small meadow before again striking out on this little used and sometimes disappearing trail. Several places along the way showed evidence of large hoof prints, probably elk and maybe a moose.

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After a couple of hours we reached our destination, sat upon a rock outcropping and enjoyed lunch before wandering over to Alp Lake, just out of sight from our resting spot. While the others rested or walked around the small lake I ventured into the stream that drained water from the lake and down through a narrow chute creating a slender waterfall that dropped far into a valley below. Wildflowers grew along the stream in abundance.

With the hour getting late in the afternoon, we left that peaceful place and much more quickly descended back to camp. This was a perfect day hike, a bit strenuous to climb up, but still very rewarding in the end.

The next day was our last day and so, after a more timely supper, we did not stay up for long and again were in the tents and off to sleep.







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Christine the flower child

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Last Day and Ride Out.

Again, this last morning in camp, I was up at dawn and out in the meadow taking in yet another splendid sunrise. The frost upon the grasses was even thicker and it coated my boots in a layer of ice crystals, making it appear I had been tromping out in the snow. The horses and mules, thankfully were still out in the far meadow, but well within our vision. That surely would mean an easy (easier) round up.

It started out to be an easy gathering of the animals as Laura, Conner and I went ahead to approach and keep our horses in tow. Laura helped Conner and I put rope halters on our own horses, who were patient as we approached them, touched and talked to them and willingly allowed us to attach the halters. (I had saved a couple of baby carrots from the previous day’s snack and offered them toDakota as a bribe. He liked the treat and was very compliant). By then Christine and Terry were at the scene to halter their own steeds, Cowboy and Louis. 

Cowboy was willing. 

Louis was not.

Louis avoided Christine and Terry, running and kicking up his heals, tearing about in the meadow, dodging all attempts to corner him or otherwise try to catch him. Frisky for sure. He must have been feeling his oats (or all that fresh grass he ate - or was it loco weed?). It was a sight, so see him frolicking about and teasing his master. Ha, ha, betcha can’t catch me.

 BUT, not only Louis, but one of the mules decided to follow Louis’ lead and preferred that Terry and Christine work for their living. When they ran off into the woods however, it became more of a real cat and mouse episode. They could decide, on their own to find the trail (which they surely knew is where we were headed this day) and just trot back to the trailhead on their own. 

Not a good scenario.

With plan B, we simply led the willing animals into the pines where the saddles and harness were stashed, tied them up to trees and Christine began saddling each horse. The cooperating mules posed no problems. Rambunctious Louis and his buddy mule were left alone for the time being and then, having calmed down, and always within sight in the trees, they were close at hand . Maybe tired of being mischievous, they finally, willingly, accepted defeat and allowed themselves to be fitted for the day’s ride out of the backcountry and to the waiting horse trailer at the trailhead.

The preparation time took the usual hours to complete before we could hit the completion our our pack trip and return to the trailhead. This ride was estimated at about 3 hours and with a 2:30 departure time we would be back around 5 p.m., still plenty of daylight for us to drive back to West Yellowstone to our lodging and a hot shower and spreading out on a real bed.

We took a different route back to the trailhead area, again with many high, steep ascents and descents, many small stream crossings interspersed with pine forests and meadowlands. Other than stopping briefly for a water break, we opted to continue without dismounting to stretch our legs or for a snack break. Consequently  we arrived back to our starting point at 5 p.m., ahead of our estimated time. 

It took little time for us to gather up our personal belongings and head back to town as Terry and Christine still had much to do to prepare for their own departure much later than the three guests.

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One thing I failed to mention on this horse pack trip was that, I had not topped off my gas tank before starting out on Aug. 13. Not knowing how far we would be driving to the trailhead, my truck had less than  ¼ tank of fuel as we started. As we turned down the long dirt road to the trailhead my low fuel light came on, causing me to fear running out of gas. Though I informed the others of this potential dilemma as we started the trail ride, Laura offered to drive back as I followed behind in case I stalled and then would have a means to get back to a gas station in West Yellowstone. During the whole pack trip I gave this issue little thought. There was nothing I could do about that situation until the end of the trip and did not want that hanging over me nagging me for 5 days. 

Luckily, driving slowly, and me coasting downhill when possible, I did make it back to town and filled up at the first gas station. I think I had less than half a gallon of fuel left. Whew! Squeaked by on that one! And thanks to Laura for driving ahead, slowly, to assure I conserved what little gasoline was left in my tank.

Other than a somewhat sore rump, and a little ache in my left knee, this horse pack trip was perfect for me. The layovers in camps were good for the livestock as well as us mortal beings. 

I would highly recommend this shorter venture into the backcountry on horseback. 

But, other than that one deer, no scary bears ever appeared to test my mettle and that’s just fine with me. 

My venture into the actual Yellowstone National Park, next to West Yellowstone might provide me some glimpses of such beasts. Who knows??? 

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THE END


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