The Round-up.

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The dawn’s early light reflected in Ha Hand Lake

Friday, August 15, 2014

I love mornings.

And THIS morning was a fine one indeed!

The night before, our second night in this camp, the skies had cleared. During the night, I awoke to a bright light shining on my tent door. It was as though someone, or something was shining a beam of light right onto my tent. I crawled out of my warm swaddling and unzipped the door. What greeted me was a bright moon just then shining through the pines, casting it’s bright beam down on my tent. I took that as a good omen for a bright and beautiful day ahead. 

As quickly as possible I snuggled back into my cozy nest and fell back to sleep. Just as dawn was breaking with the dim early morning light beginning to brighten the heavens, I awoke and and quite quickly changed into my layers of clothing to help ward off the brisk morning chill. Grabbing my camera, I walked down to the cook tent where Terry, still groggy from sleep, was setting about making cowboy coffee. With a cheerful “good morning” from me, and not wanting to wait for the coffee to brew, I headed off toward the lake. What you see above is the first light hitting some of the mountains around the lake. 

With stillness in the chill of this early dawn, I felt a peacefulness that brings me a joy that I always embrace when I awake to greet a day at sunrise. Being out in nature at times like this brings me closer to how I feel connected to Mother Earth. The reverence I feel and the wonder of being alive on this incredible planet have always comforted me.

I strode around the lake to capture in photos what I was witnessing and the calm waters of the lake reflected exactly the visual image but also the feelings I had at those moments. 

Yes! 

This was going to be a very nice day!

Terry, having the coffee brewing, walked around the lake also and captured his own images of the peaceful serenity reflected upon the still waters. 

As the sunlight lifted higher into the cold morning, banishing away the darkness, beams of the warming rays streamed down to highlight the things I notice most in these early moments of a new day. Flowers along the creek were cast in starring roles as spotlights shone upon them and long beams of sunlight streamed between the tall pines, their needles shimmering with a golden glow.

Oh yes, I do so much appreciate waking to sights such at these.

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Now, with fingers and hands numb from exposure to the cold, I headed back to the cook tent and was soon enjoying a nice, steaming hot cup of strong joe. Hands wrapped around the hot cup helped warm me inside and out. 

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As the rest of the crew began stirring, and the chill was waning as the earth warmed itself, Christine was busy fixing our breakfasts. This morning pancakes and sausages and bacon. Just the ticket for our last day in this camp and to prepare us for our journey to the second camp. 

And to round up those missing horses and mules

(You all were waiting for that, weren’t you?)

As I have already related to my readers, it takes a considerable amount of time to break camp, repack equipment and pack up the mules and horses before setting off to another location. Today was no exception. Laura, Conner and I took down our tents, packed up our duffle bags and were ready to go much sooner than when we actually hit the trail. So, having done all that we could to prepare for departure, Laura and Conner read as I milled about. Terry and Christine have their own routine in getting things ready, so we allowed them that space to do their duties. 

Not being in a mood to read a book this morning, and as our guides were off getting themselves organized, I grew impatient, whereupon, I informed Laura and Conner that I would climb up the steep slope behind camp to where the livestock had been released two nights before. That our modes of transportation had been nowhere in sight in the previous day's trekking up on the higher basin was getting to be a bit unnerving to me. Of course, if the horses and mules had met with some misfortune or just ran off into the wilds, we had food and could just as easily stayed in this wonderful setting. But still, we wondered…

Clambering up to the ridge above (no trail), I emerged a tad further away from the place where we had left the animals. But, no worries, I’d just walk back to find where I had intended to go and, in the process, look out for some sign of our livestock. Over several hills and knolls I found no evidence of their existence. I found the spot where we had stored the saddles and harness (the place where we released the horses and mules), but they had not returned there. Scouting around some more outward from that place, I decided it would be best for me and the others to just stay in place by the saddles and gear, so that I too did not end up missing. 

So I waited, looking down on part of the visible campsite below. In time Terry and Christine came into view, walking across a long grassy area just beyond the camp tent. Then Conner, Christine and Terry came into view together and were again out of sight as they returned to the camp tent area which was not in my line of sight. While I was up there on that ridge, I imagined being an Indian, or a cowboy, spying down on a group of intruders or upon a village, just observing the situation. 

I waited. 

And waited.

Over an hour passed and I began to wonder if my climbing up here was such a good idea, even though Laura and Conner knew my intentions and had surely let our guides know to where I had ventured. Maybe they were worried that I had become lost too and would be just another “problem” in locating me. But I stuck to my plan and just hung out up there. 

Soon enough, more activity stirred below as Terry, Christine and Conner, started across the meadow below with harnesses in hand and set out on the trail around the lake, on their way up to my vantage point. Good, we could then soon rendezvous and go out searching for our wandering livestock. Wait, Terry turned back and returned to camp as the other two continued on. I guessed he had forgotten something and went to retrieve it. I expected Christine and Conner to arrive to me in about 15 minutes at most. But they never came, though I sat in a conspicuous spot to be easily seen from the trail. Terry, in time set out again from below but still no sigh of the other two. What gives? Is everything disappearing up here but me?

In a short time, Terry appeared, catching his breath, inquiring about the other two and my saying they had not arrived. He called out several times and finally we received a shout back. They had mistakenly gone to another location used in a previous trip and had to double back to the real location. 

Now, all together again, the four of us (Laura choose to remain in camp), set out over hill and dale searching for our livestock. It is surprising how many little knolls and hillocks are up in those basins with little lakes and still a vast area with vistas into the distance. Somewhere up there, those rascals had to be hiding. We fanned out, often out of sight of each other on the treeless meadows. Over one knoll and looking down, no animals. And so it went for a little while. 

Then coming up and over another little hill, Christine coming from a different angle than I, we spotted the 9 desperadoes. Just hanging out around a small lake. We called out to Terry and Conner who soon reappeared and, together we converged down to the quietly waiting horses and mules. From my point of view, I was overjoyed to see them. 

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The 5 horses and 4 mules seemed to expect us and just patiently grazed, looking up at us as if to say, "OH, what took you so long?”. 

Rascals!

Quietly and gently walking up to them, we pretty efficiently rounded them up with only a little resistance from one or two horses. They actually were quite docile and easy to approach. Getting close to our own horses, we petted them and talked to them, keeping them calm as Terry and Christine haltered them. The mules went unharnessed, as they typically will follow the horses. Once all of them were back in our control, we walked them back over the grassy knolls and returned to the saddles, bridles and harness. 

It was a relief to have found the animals, unharmed and in good shape. 

It still amazed me that they were able to go over a mile away while hobbled. Again, the mules were not hobbled, only 4 of the horses were. The 5th horse, Louis, just could not get the hang of being hobbled, so they let him run free. He stuck with the pack.

On the return, we saw a good sized deer, the only true large animal I saw on the whole trip.

Now with the horses and mules once again in our control, we got them saddled up and rode back to camp. It was well after noon by then. Before continuing, we had lunch and then, again, waited for our guides to complete packing the mules and readying for the next ride to Sedge Camp. Our departure was not until late afternoon.

The late day departure meant a late arrival at our second camp...

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