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July 13, 2019: The End of the Lander Cutoff Trail

Another tough day. However, all the animals, including the dog, were superstars. Same with Pete. Me, less so. Change, self-growth, it takes time.

Last night we camped at Hobble Creek, this was off a trail off the Lander Cutoff Trail. This site did not lend itself to our being organized. The highline area, our campsite, and the creek were all a ways apart. I had to keep a close eye on the horses when they were hobbled because there was so much deadfall.

We made the decision this morning to head back up to what we perceived to be the Lander Cutoff Trail cutoff, rather than continue down the Hobble Creek Trail. Backtracking took a long time, three hours total. Fortunately, Hrimmi crossed back over the trail she had previously refused to cross. The trail went up and down, through a spruce forest. We stepped over quite a bit of deadfall, some of which required Pete’s handsaw efforts. We finally took a left, thinking this was the trail.

I am not sure at what point I began walking Tyra. The saddle felt like it was too far tipped to the left. I wondered, could it be that this was because it felt like there was knot in my calf? I recalled that I had sustained an injury, two days before – a tree limb wacked my calf as I was attempting, with my foot, to break up a deadfall obstruction.

The worst was yet to come. The trail narrowed and there was a drop off. Pete, riding Raudi and ponying Hrimmi, kept going. He conceded that we were going

The wild flowers were in bloom for much of our ride on the Lander Cut-off.
The wild flowers were in bloom for much of our ride on the Lander Cutoff.

The Lander Cut-off rejoins the road at the Smith Fork crossing.
The Lander Cutoff rejoins the road at the Smith Fork crossing.

in the wrong direction after crossing what I called a rock avalanche area – there was scree above and below, and in the middle, a very narrow trail. Even walking, my heart was in my throat. I kept myself from losing it by looking ahead, at the wall on my left, but not down.

We crossed a creek and Pete tied Hrimmi and Raudi to trees. I held onto Tyra. He checked out the trail on the right, returned, and said that it was not passable. I then went and checked out the trail on the left. I walked a quarter of a mile, and came to a creek with brush on the far side. It was surreal. The horse tracked that I’d been following had suddenly disappeared.

We agreed, we had no choice but to backtrack. My heart began pounding wildly as I realized that we’d again have to make our way across the scree embankment.

We then acted upon a plan, which was for Pete to take Raudi, then Hrimmi across the more narrow steep section of trail. I’d follow with Tyra. It was right then that it occurred to me that we were in a literal and figurative tough spot, one with an uncertain outcome. It might later make for a good story, but not at this very moment. The prospect of getting hurt or dying filled me with dread.

Brave Raudi, left the others and followed Pete. Hrimmi of course pitched a fit, rearing and neighing. Pete returned, and took her to where he’d tied Raudi. Tyra then pitched a fit, rearing and neighing. When finally, Pete returned, I for a second time walked Tyra across the knee deep creek, all the while keeping my balance by holding onto her mane.

We regrouped, and then talked about our next plan of action, which was to go back to where we’d originally turned off the Lander Cutoff Trail, onto the Hobble Creek Trail. We rode through spruce forests and open meadows full of wild daisies. Both of us later agreed that the time and trouble involved in finding this trail was well worth it. However, this sense of euphoria was short-lived. We came to a large open meadow full of daisies and wildflowers – alas, the ground was hard packed clay, and the trail non-existent. There were now no rock carns, grave markers, or concrete trail markers.

Pete left me with the horses and went looking for it. I sat in the shade and watched a green inch worm work its way up a thin thread, up into the branches. Could, I wonder, an analogy be made here? We were having an equally tough time of it.

Pete finally returned, a smile on his face. He said he’d found the trail. Down we rode, through a patch of large boulders. There was a swift moving creek at the base, separating us from the dirt road. Pete, on Raudi, went first, and the rest of us followed. The water was so deep in places that the horses and dogs had to swim.

I did at the day’s end tell Pete that I had at times felt fearful. If he felt similarly, he did not say.

Next: 192. 7/14/19: A Short Day on the Trail

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