Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Conquered by the Canyon

There could be lots of titles for this post....."When Hell ( Hells Canyon ) freezes over" would be a good one...or perhaps"I should have stayed in bed".....Here is my account of our horse camping/hunting trip.

The morning started out wrong...when we went to load our mares to head out on our trip we found the mares were already out and needed rounded up! Ally was at the barn waiting for Mike, Izzy was giving HeartBreaker google eyes over the fence....silly girls! someone managed to disconnect the gate from its hanging posts....silly mares!

When we arrived at camp, Darren and Jeff were already there...the weather was spectacular and Mike and I hobbled Izzy and Ally, left them to graze while we set up our tent and got things arranged. This is a stunning place, at 7000 ft elevation you can see forever! The Seven Devil mountains rise in the background of this pic, they are to the NE of where we camp.

The next day the guys scouted a bit....we turned the hobbled mares out to graze and things seemed to be going well enough....The noise level at night was a problem though, the mares played in their corral, banging off the panels and thumping the ground. Hmmm, I will have to think of a way to remedy that. Ally and Izzy found a quiet spot to relaxe as the fog/clouds came in that day.

Saturday, the rest of the hunters arrived...there will be 7 hunters, and me...the horse wrangler I guess? More camp set up, and some scouting for the guys..we also noticed that there are way more pack trains going down into Deep Creek than usual. We had spotted a large herd of over 100 elk on the hill side above Deep Creek, but the constant stream of pack trains would be sending those elk into no mans land....an area where there are cliffs, no roads and no way to get to them. In the night, I heard the corral panels again, this time though, it was a different sound, and I knew right away what it was....Ally had laid down close to the panels, when she went to get up....she had her front feet under the panel....so, @ 3am, I slipped on my shoes, and went out to get her out of her predicament.....she seemed a little sleepy..had to slap her on the fanny to get her up once she was free...

Sunday the season opened...Mike is 52 today! The guys hunted all day long. The weather was so/so...no sun left anymore...it was quite cool, 20 degrees when the guys left camp this am. Duane and I hand grazed the mares awhile, then hobbled them and turned them out. Imagine my shock when we checked on them and they were no where to be found! We started searching, and found them at a neighboring camp...a camp which had mules....we called the mares with a grain bucket and they came as fast as they could. Our mares also found out they can canter while in hobbles....not so good at first, but after a few trys...pretty darn good! They made one nice canter through camp...that kind of ended a whole lot of time in hobbles.

The week went on....the weather got a little tougher each day..then by Wednesday, the temp just stayed at 15 degrees, night and day..the wind picked up too, and from then on, blew 30PMH steady, with some 60 MPH gusts....talk about cold! Luckily Duane and my job was to keep the wood stoves burning and warm.....one in the main sleeping tent and one in the cookshack. At one point we were all sitting in the cookshack when a huge gust of wind came along..it tore the 14 X 30 tarp, which we used for a rain fly right off the tent.....within moments the guys were outside trying to catch the tarp, but it had already spooked the mares who were relaxing in their corral....Ally was nearest to the fence, and on her way out she skinned her nose...pulling a flap of skin right down the bone....Mike and I went after the escaped mares, and Duane helped me doctor Ally's nose....the best thing I could think of was to lay the skin back down and hope it would graft back on....I had a bandaid out of guaze and duct tape. It worked too! By morning the skin flap was laid down and had started the healing process.
Then..it started to snow.....each day we got more snow and more wind....I kept the blankets on the mares 24/7, they needed the extra warmth....the next few days were cold and the guys had nearly no visibility..elk hunting here you count on your eyes....with fog/clouds at our heads/snow/blowing snow...the conditions were tough...in fact, we know of NO elk being harvested after opening day....we were not the only ones the weather was conquering.

More snow..more wind...I calculated the temp + wind factor...it was -5 degrees most of the week, according to the wind chill chart! We kept the fires toasty warm and kept the mares fed and happy..no hobbles now...everything was buried in snow. I highlined the mares, I really wanted to see how they would do, and they handled it just fine....

It was apparent by the end of the week, we just were not going to get a weather break before our season ended. Here are a few more pics from our week, Mike hauling wood to the main sleeping tent.....Ally staying warm in her blanket.....a few icicles on the tent ;-)
A couple days before we headed home we found out we were sharing the cookshack with a chipmunk...."Chip" spent 2 days with us....snacking on carmel popcorn, and a few other snacks we thought he would like...he was very undaunted by my camera and I have fun trying to get the perfect shot of Chip....
We headed for home on Saturday..it had been a wonderful and memorable week. Even though I had no opportunity for some spectacular packing pics, I saw my mares grow up a whole bunch and that is always of value. The training that I did over the last month will pay off in the end for these girls, and they will know the routine if they go camping again. If not for good equipment, plenty of planning and experience we might have been short on supplies or equipment...but we lacked nothing....a good time and a memorable time...that is what life is all about ;-) It took us 2 1/2 hours to break camp...each of the 7 of us working on a task.....and I snuck away to take a pic of the sunrise..in the back of my head I remembered...."red in the morning, sailors warning" I can only imagine what it would have been like on the edge of Hells Canyon that very night!

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