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July 27, 2019: No Horse Left Behind

This morning I awoke to the sound of loud distressed neighing. I recognized the voice as being that of Hrimmi’s. I looked outside the tent and saw that both she and Tyra were standing, heads high, eyes wide, and looking to the left, in the same direction. Raudi’s halter, attached to the line connected to the highline, lay on the ground.

I turned to Pete and addressed Pete directly, saying “Raudi has slipped her halter and run off.” There was considerable jostling as Pete and I scrambled to get dressed. We could not put our boots on at the same time, the tent opening was too small, so as I was zipping up my fleece coat, he put on his boots, and then scrambled out of the tent. I looked over at him as I was tightening my lace toggles. He was taking a leak. I didn’t say it, but it seemed to me that finding Raudi was most important.

Pete then ran off in the direction of the far aspen grove. I started off in the direction of the nearby creek. “Found her!” he yelled. We surmised that she simply wanted to graze, and having found a good patch of grass, she settled down for a chew. We removed her halter from the line, put it on her, lead her back to the highline, and again clipped her in. I surmised that the top buckle had been too loose.

It was then business as usual, what with doing morning chores and packing up again. The morning ride was stellar.

Alys and Tyra at the pass before Blacktail Creek
Alys and Tyra at the pass before Blacktail Creek

Alys and Tyra nogotiate a creek crossing
Alys and Tyra nogotiate a creek crossing

We wound our way along, on a well maintained trail, through a spruce and aspen forest. The dog chased squirrels. Birds sang. We could see the distant pass, the one we’d soon be climbing, through breaks in the trees. I put Tyra in the lead. Both of us agreed that this was a welcome break from our usual view, Hrimmi brown and white butt. We crossed several bridges. Tyra’s ears swiveled back and forth as her hoofs connected with the wood, making a hollow sound. We ate lunch in a lush green meadow and let the horses graze.

We continued on, now out of the forest, and made our way up a rocky, steep pass. The well maintained trail tempered any feelings of anxiety I might have. I have always found riding in high country, above tree line, to be somewhat daunting. The pass was in a bowl-like depression – and made our way through a rock-strewn boulder field. I looked up – there were no clouds in the pale blue sky.

As we climbed, the wind picked up, rustling the horses’ manes. We finally came to a crossroads where two trails intersected. This crossroad was marked by a rock cairn and a weathered, but readable sign. Pete dismounted, and I held the three horses while he consulted his map. They jostled me some because there was no grass to be had in this area. Pete pulled forth his map which rustled in the wind. He used Raudi’s left side as a wind shield, moving with her.

It seemed to me as though it took hours for him to figure out which direction we should go. Finally, he said “left.” We mounted up, and headed up a boulder strewn ledge – one that actually shielded us from the wind. The mile climb was steep – the horses stopped to rest several times. I decided it was worth the climb when we crested a ridge, for there, before us, was a vast mountain range that extended in all directions. The jagged mountains were a near uniform gray in color, adding to the sense of vastness.

Pete took a moment to consult the map then said that he thought we’d come the wrong way. I swore quite loudly because this meant we’d have to backtrack, meaning ride along the narrow ledge again. Are you sure we can’t continue on?” I asked. “No, I think we need to take the other trail,” he said. Down we went. We followed the other trail until we got to a second pass. And then, history repeated itself. Here, Pete saw a sign and said, after considerable deliberation, that he’d made a mistake. The trail we’d just been on was the right trail. We rode back to it. At the trail junction, Raudi, who did not want again go back up the hill, planted her feet, as did Tyra and Hrimmi.

I got off Tyra and led her up the side of the pass. Pete also got off and lead Raudi and Hrimmi. Again we headed to the ridge where we again took in the view. I joked that it had not changed since the last time we’d been there. We continued on -- we could not linger, otherwise it might be well after dark before we found a suitable campsite.

The ridge was what I call a false ridge – there were several more ahead of us. And with the climb came strong winds. I stopped, pulled my windbreaker forth from my saddle bag, hunkered down in my saddle and hoped for the best. The best came shortly after we began our descent. We headed down a series of switchbacks, which took us back down below tree line and into the forest. At the base of the lowest switchback was a creek – the trail paralleled it. Where there’s a creek, there’s a campsite, I thought. I was right. We found an established site, one occupied by two anglers. We searched around further, and found another established site, this one to be occupied by us.

Next: 206. 7/28/19: Oasis

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