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July 25, 2019: First Day Packing in The Bob

There are so many ways in which one might spend their time. Right now, I can’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing, other than what I’m now doing, a wilderness pack trip in the Bob Marshall Complex. Pete says “Big W” meaning it’s an area in which horse packers and hikers are welcome, and motorized vehicles are not – even during hunting season.

We were slow to get going because it was quite cold, much to our surprise. Could be, I said to Pete, that this is a place of extremes, hot during the day, and cold at night, to which he agreed.

We also had more stuff to sort out. We had previously left on our Wyoming Range trip post haste, and we had forgotten many important items, including Pete’s

Hrimmi at the Indian Meddows campsite
Hrimmi at the Indian Meddows campsite

sunglasses and toothbrush. We were determined to not let this happen again.

We rode out of the campground, past the signage, complete with an illustration of Smokey Bear, first over a small bridge, then over a boardwalk bridge, and up what the sign indicates is the Mainline Trail. “Look!” I says to Pete. “Signage!” This seemed to me to be a good omen – signs were either non-existent or difficult to find in the Wyoming Range. As in the Wyoming Range, we were surrounded by deadfall – the difference here being no trees were obstructing the easy to follow trail.

Up, up, up we went, along a slowly climbing grade. We leveled off after four miles, in coming to the Hart Lake Campground. This site was horsey camping heaven. My dog, what a place. The campground was at the edge of a blue-green lake, one surrounded by a spruce forest. I heard a loon and saw a hawk. Though it was mid-day, fish were rising to the surface and making concentric rings in the water. As for the campsite – there was a Forest Service Highline in the middle. It was made of cable and had a ratchet strap holding the cables to the trees. It was the ultimate highline. The site was in a spruce grove – if there was deadfall it had been removed. There was a fire pit, with stumps surrounding it. An area next to the lakeshore had been sectioned off – a sign indicated that passerby were to stay off so that new growth could occur. There was even an upscale outhouse – it was a shelter with a compost toilet – it had the word NEMO on the outside of it.

I wanted to stay put, but Pete was right in noting that there was no forage available for the horses. Our day would have been complete if a bale or two of hay had been left behind.

We continued on, with me muttering about wanting to stay. We met up with four young women hikers, coming from the opposite direction. They had been out four days – one wearing a Montana Wilderness Bible School sweatshirt said that it had been quite windy.

We soon came to a series of very steep switchbacks – this part of the Switch Back Trail was located in a spruce covered hillside. I am not talking about one or two switchbacks, but more like 25 or so. The horses, (fortunately) being small and compact, have tight turning radiuses—quickly, Pete got the hang of moving around the turn, waiting for Hrimmi to follow, and then continuing on. Tyra got a little loopy after a bit – she started putting her weight on her hindquarters and doing little bobs. I thought this to be quite comical. It continued, so near the base of the switchbacks I got off and walked her.

Our campsite was at the base of, and to the right of the switchbacks, in a grove of Aspen. I called one, a very large aspen, the mother of all aspen. I was grazing Raudi and I discovered, on an overturned leaf, that an aphid had chomped its own switchback trail. Plenty of grass here, in between the clusters of trees. The horses at least seemed happy. I took a bath in a rapidly moving stream. The water was warm. Either I am getting used to doing this kind of thing or it’s finally warming up.

I had my fingers crossed that we’d continue to travel on well-maintained trails with exemplary campsites.

Next: 205. 7/27/19: No Horse Left Behind

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