Thursday, November 6, 2008

Camping on horseback.......

DISCLAIMER: I am unable to make short posts or to make a story short. Sack lunches, bowls of popcorn and drinks are encouraged and probably a necessity for making it through one of my posts.

Ok with that said........

Since some people have never been camping or have camped in totally different environments, I thought I would share what it's like to camp in the mountains on horseback. Roughing it is an understatement. Everything you need has to be able to fit into saddle bags. Saddle bags are bags (usually made of leather) that attach to the back of your saddle and fit across the horses rear end. A lot of horses do not like having something "flop" around on their butt the first time, so a "rodeo" can erupt. That's another story. In the saddle bags you put your clothing, toiletries, etc. (Ziplock bags are great for keeping your things dry for when you cross creeks and then they double as pillows when blown up) Anyhoo.... on top of the saddle bags is your bedroll. Basically it's a sleeping bag rolled up very tightly. We have a lot of bears and cougars in the mountains so attached to my saddle (and my son's) are gun scabbards that carry our rifles. (Annie Oakley aint got crap on me) On your saddlehorn you hang a canteen of water and lasso (rope).

When my kids go with me I always take two pack horses, which are horses that carry your drinking water, pot's and pan's, hay and grain for the horses and our food as well. The saddle bags have to have even weight distribution or the horses walk lop sided and I have seen them actually fall. All food items need to be in cans (tinned) or dehydrated, refrigeration is not an option. We only carry enough fresh water to make it from one camp to another. The rest of the time all water is drank from streams which is where you bathe as well.(This gives a whole new meaning to the term "cold shower" LOL) This time of year water is plentifull because the streams and creeks are up and running. If you have never had a cool drink of water from a spring, can't imagine how sweet and pure it is.

Ok, so now we are packed and ready to ride. My son, ****-age 24, took his GPS with us this time which was pretty cool because he could tell us how far we had rode and how fast (or slow) we were traveling. The first creek crossing was quite a challenge because we literally had to swim the horses across. It was that deep. (Thank God for ziplock bags) The first day we rode 26 miles, about half of that was uphill then we found a great camping spot for the night. First thing is to unsaddle the horses and water them, then the pack horses. I use a "picket line" which is basically a rope ran between two tree's in which the horses are tied to this rope so they can move around but can't escape. (Well there was this one time.....ok, that's another story too) anyhoo...after the horses are unpacked, we gather firewood and start a fire in a fire ring made from large rocks. I am a coffee addict so before I do anything else I start a pot of coffee. We were camped next to a fresh spring so here's how ya do coffee in the woods. Take tin coffee pot, dip into creek till almost full of water, throw in a handfull of coffee a pinch of salt (takes the bitter taste out), put lid on, place on fire and boil. After it boils for a lil while you dip another cup full of water out of the spring, remove lid from coffee pot and slowly pour the cold water around the inside edge of the pot. This makes all the coffee grounds settle to the bottom and TAH DAH no coffee filter is needed. This is actually an "ole cowboy" trick. By the way, nothing smells as good as coffee on an open fire. (IMHO).

I'm not much of a "tent" person, so rarely do I pack one, instead we tie a tarp between tree's to make a cover to put our bedroll's under. Just a way to keep the evening and morning dew off of ya. My son and I usually don't sleep under it because we both enjoy looking up at the stars. Meals are very simple, usually biscuits baked in the dutch oven or fried cornbread with some type of cured meat and if you wanna get fancy, some beans. (My son who thinks he's the great white hunter and fisherman has left me and his sisters eating jerky and dried fruit for several days when he "barely missed" his target. So we don't rely on his meal provisions anymore). After supper we take the foods packs and hang them from a rope that we throw over a high limb a good distance from camp in case some hungry, enquiring minded bears or cougars come by (learned this the hard way too.....yep...that's another story). Then we gather more firewood and stoke it up (this is a deterent for keeping critters at bay). The saddles are placed around the fire to be used as a type of recliner, more coffee is made of course and it's time to relax and reflect. That day our entertainment was my youngest daughter, ***** age-21. At the first creek crossing she failed to keep her horses head up and the horse got dizzy and lost her balance. My daughter and her horse both started floating down stream. My son was able to throw his rope (he's a very accomplished roper) and luckily it grabbed ahold of her saddle horn and he was able to tow them both up out of the creek and up on the bank. So needless to say that night was spent teasing her unmercifully. Finally it's time to retire to our bedrolls. After some giggling and the "Walton family good night's, - Goodnight Mary Ellen, Goodnight John Boy, sleep comes quickly with the soft nickering of the horses, the sounds of the animals scurrying through the woods, coyotes howling off in the distance, the soft glow of the campfire....and what the HELL is crawling under my bedroll????????? I'm just to damn tired to care...zzzzZZZzzzZZZ.

Sometime during the night I awaken to the "smells" and sounds of something tearing open packages !! I slowly roll over and look across the fire to see an ENTIRE family of "SKUNKS" happily eating bags of cookies and cakes that my oldest daughter, ***** age-22, had failed to hang up in the tree with the other food !! All I could do was lay there and hold my breath and pray that one of the kids didn't make any quick movements or noises in their sleep and scare the lil buggers !! That would NOT have made for "another" story.

Sheeesh, this post has turned into a least a chapter anyway. I'll save the rest of the trip for another post :)

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