Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Packing out base camp, and a Doc update

A few days ago four of us rode up East Maroon to pack out the base camp which the Maroon Bells Outfitters has set up out there all summer. The aspen leaves are turning yellow, all at once it seems. Only a few days ago the whole valley was still green!

The art of packing is quite interesting, in fact, this whole Outfitting thing is quite interesting, I knew that packing on horseback was a neat idea, but I never had any idea what an art it is.

Base camp is big. Brian, our owner, likes to say that everything else can go wrong, the horses, the weather, you name it, but if the food is excellent, no one cares.

Last night, we had halibut, shrimp, potatoes, corn, grilled vegis, cesar salad, a full cheese plate, gauac and salsa and chips, we drank white russians and fine wine. After a sunset ride through the turning leaves, it was a real treat. We sat around the campfire till late, then tucked in to warm sleeping bags.

The next morning, we got up early to break down as much of camp as we could with three pack horses, who can all carry about 250 lbs of gear each. Its not even the weight so much as the large, awkward shapes of the items that get carried in and out. The packs tend to shift as the horses move under them, and barefoot horses tend to walk on the side of the trail, scraping their packs against all manner of bushes and trees.

Its fun, and scenic, and at the same time, you have to keep your head on, because the horses tend to want to shy if they are new to packing, so sometimes a saddle horse that's leading a pack horse will freak out because the two horses are attached by their lead ropes, and the scary giant wobbly noisy pack on the horse that's being ponied is just too much for the saddle horse to handle.

That's what happened today, we had a plastic tarp on Patch, who I was ponying behind a very cool horse, Arthur. The pack caught on a tree and off Arthur went, bucking down the trail. But after a little while, Arthur realized that the scary pack saddle probably wasn't going to eat him, and he settled down nicely, and looked over his shoulder at me kind of sheepishly.

We gathered up Patch and we were off again. We had to rebalance loads here and there, but Melissa is becoming an expert at packing, after working years of hunting camps in Meeker for Brian, and so we were in good hands.

When we got back, we unloaded all the gear and stowed it for next time, un-tacked our saddle horses, grained them, and then I got a lovely surprise phone call from Michael in Africa. He's been on the coast in Bata for a week, where there is no internet, so we haven't talked in days. We sat down and caught up on life in the jungle, body surfing and doctoring the local population, and my week at the stables. We made plans for him to come out to Man Camp with me, and bring his guitar, so thats VERY exciting!

After catching up with Michael, I went in an got Doc, who had been hanging his head over the corral during the entire conversation, and took him for a walk.

Doc is doing really well, he's a lead guide horse now, he can pony another horse behind him without freaking out, wear saddle bags, the whole shebang. And he's really good at his job! We also use him as a pony horse for little kids, and they love it. Its like riding an elephant. He's picking up his feet, but he doesn't like it, and I can't hold them for more than a few seconds. Its going to be a long time before I get shoes on him.

He has a stone bruise from walking barefoot, so he's been resting aside from pony rides for the last two weeks. I hope he'll be better to come out to Meeker for hunting season, but it doesn't look likely.  The best news yet, Brian is going to let me keep Doc up here for the winter! So he'll be staying in a friend's pasture, and I'll be able to visit and keep working on his feet.


Aspen Real Life said...

Oh boy, I have a whole lotta catching up to do. Love your ambition and your stories!

Let's meet for coffee soon. I'm thinking I need to interview you on camera.

Best, Jillian

Unknown said...

Hey, Jillian! It was nice to meet you at Victoria's. Thanks for coming by again, I'd love to have coffee with you, and I'm intrigued... on camera for what? Name the day!

Unknown said...
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