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July 30, 2019: Observation Pass

As I’ve often said, I make things far more difficult than they need to be. Seem like the easier something is, the harder I make it. Quite obviously, if I perceived things to be easy, they would be easy. Easier said than done. See how my mind works?

Observation Pass was not as difficult as I thought it would be. However, it was challenging. Alex had told us that the trail might not be that well maintained since it is in another U.S. Forest Service district. He was right. We knew at the onset that we had our day’s ride cut out for us. This summer we have become very adept at determining when a trail was last worked on, mainly by when the saw cuts were last made. If there are piles of sawdust under moved logs, well then, the cuts were

 The trail for stock to a deture to avoid a mud bog
The trail for stock to a deture to avoid a mud bog

recent, and most likely there are going to be very few logs on the trail. If the logs look old and weathered, well, most likely more have fallen since the original cuts.

Today the horses did a lot of log hopping, and Pete did a lot of sawing. Our maintenance-related activities were made more difficult by the fact that we could not tie the horses to the deadfall trees because the trees, which have a weakened root system, could conceivably fall on the tied up horses.

We did, an hour into our ride, come to a forested area on the first uphill portion of our journey. It even smelled good. And here and there were ferns. The forest opened up into an alpine meadow where we ate lunch. We didn’t tie up the horses – big mistake. Tyra, dear Tyra, chose to roll with her saddle on and bent the stirrup. Patient Pete somehow managed to straighten it out to the point where it was nearly as good as new.

We ate lunch early thinking that we were near the top of the pass. But no, it turned out that we had a l-o-o-n-g ways to go. And the top of Observation pass was obscured by standing deadwood, so we headed down. I then reminded Pete of what the fellow on the Tennessee Walker, the one smoking the pipe, said – that he would never again ride in this area because it was so damn ugly because of previous burns. I didn’t say what I was thinking, that yes, it was unsightly. But at the same time we were seeing a portion of the forest that few get to see. New growth follows old.

The downhill stretch was four or so miles. I walked Tyra down most of it, in part because I wanted to be moving and because she was again starting to throw her head up and down when we went to make turns on switchbacks. I’m not sure, but I am thinking that her saddle might be slipping forward.

Once again there were narrow ledges and drop offs. At one point we came to a pile of boulders on the trail. I took Tyra, uphill, went around it. Raudi, with Pete riding, hopped right down it, and Hrimmi followed suit. I thanked dog once again, these horses are all so damn sure footed.

Going down, I kept looking at the sky and watched the clouds build up. The mass began moving towards us, somewhat fast. Then, once overhead, it began to hail. I heard thunder, saw lightening at the distance. What to do? Pete and I didn’t even say anything to one another. We put on our raincoats and then kept going. Five minutes after the hail started, it stopped. Down, down, down we continued, through the deadfall, on each side of us charred trees and stumps, remnants of a major fire. The stumps reminded me of baked potatoes, the wood underneath was beige in color.

At the base of the canyon I breathed yet another sigh of relief and wondered how many sighs I had in me. We were again in unscathed forest. I got back on Tyra – because I walked, we both had plenty of energy. The fire – it had been so immense – I can’t imagine what firefighters think when they see orange walls of flame coming in their direction.

It was now that time of day when I again wondered if we’d find a suitable campsite. And I once again had my doubts that anything would materialize. But we stumbled upon a very adequate established site after we turned onto the Mainline Trail, which is the trail that’s going to take us back to Indian Meadows, our starting point. I think the rest of our pack trip is going to be a piece of cake. We are going to stop midday at the Denaher Guard Station – we’re hoping they’ll have information about our remaining sites.

Next: 209. July 31, 2019: Raudi’s Accident

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