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June 30, 2014: Horse Trekking: Hatcher Pass Ride

Last night we got a call from the Sihler’s who suggested that we ride the road to Summit Lake – this is in the Hatcher Pass area. This sounded like a good idea to me – added incentive was that this road (which is a shortcut for those going from Palmer to Willow and vice-versa) is open seasonally, from July 4th to Labor Day. During this time it’s traversed by locals and tourists. Indeed, the prospect of riding a portion of this road during a time in which no vehicles could do the same was inviting.

So this morning we loaded the horses into the trailer and did a gear check before heading out. We pulled into the parking lot about a minute before the Sihlers. It took us a while to get going –

there was so much to get caught up on. And Frank was full of information about his hoof trimming and horse boot findings.

Finally, we were ready to go. We made our way down paved Hatcher Pass Road to where the gravel-based Hatcher Pass Road heads to Willow. I walked Raudi and Rainbow because it’s too difficult ponying Rainbow – and the others rode. Fortunately, we were able to get around the gate – if this were not possible, we’d have had to come up with yet another game plan.

I was relieved to see that the road to Summit Lake began with a steep climb. This was because Raudi was again full of herself. She wanted to go fast so badly that she was trembling. And anytime I attempted to hold her back, she raised her head and shook it hard. So I ended up riding with Frank who was on Giff, and Pete ended up riding with Claudia, who was on Katla.

We were above tree line most of the time, could see mountains, jagged peaks, still with snowfall on them. Below the peaks the terrain consisted of lush green forage. It was overcast, looked like rain, which aside from a bit of spitting here and there, held off.

Horses and humans were quite happy. However, the happiest of all was Rainbow who went non-stop, chasing one, then another, then another marmot. She has never caught one, but this has never kept her from trying.

We ate lunch at Summit Lake and took lots of photos of one another, just as tourists do. Of course, we were a notch above tourists, because we got to and from our destination by horseback.

On the return trip we decided to check out a gully full of loose rocks, just to see where it went. I wasn’t keen on doing this because the terrain seemed to me to be unstable. However, I had no choice but to follow everyone else. This portion of our ride was tricky—it required considerable concentration on the part of the horses and riders. Raudi, realizing that this was serious business, was a study in concentration, carefully putting one foot in front of the other, and getting it right each and every time.

We didn’t go far; Pete finally said he was concerned about Hrimmi’s being able to continue. So we all went back uphill to the road, then downhill, our final destination being where we started out, that is the parking lot.

This was for me a bittersweet trip because it reminded me of our one long and two short summer treks. Mostly this was because we were above tree line. It made me realize that going on another long trek is what I most want to do. All this is going to require is our having a pack horse and money and time.

Next: 180. 7/1/14: Lessons Learned: The Value of Teamwork