August 1, 2005

Horse-packing into the Emigrant Wilderness...

We've just returned from a splendid adventure. The Weidners horse-packed into the Emigrant Wilderness, and camped for four days.

It wasn't easy! Let me tell you, five or six hours in the saddle on steep rocky trails is about an hour too many. But I feel very proud of me, and my family, and our friend Pam--we did it! (Scotty couldn't make it, but...next time!) The trails were unbelievable. In many of the steep places they are built with steps made of slabs of stone--in some places hundreds of steps twisting and winding up the slopes and ravines. And in other places the trails cross great sloping sheets of bare stone, with the path marked only with cairns. Horses and mules clattered and clambered up rocky hills, or picked their way downhill with many a jolting drop.

I couldn't get any pictures of the most dramatic parts, I had to concentrate on riding! But this might give you a bit of the flavor of it..

Rocky slope
That's my son Will, who was right in front of me, and further down you see Betsy and Charlene. Everything you see is rock, scoured by the glaciers of the last Ice Age. Those trees grow out of crevices, or little pockets of soil.

This is the horse I rode, named Robert. This was the first time in my life that I encountered a horse and felt instantly that he was just my style. And I was right. How I enjoyed him. He's big fellow, at least 17 hands. He responded to the smallest signals, and seemed to take the wildest and steepest--and sometimes downright terrifying--paths with aplomb. What a treat.

My horse, "Robert"

The trip was a mix of good and bad things. But for Charlene and I, the good far out-weighed the bad. We are avid for this sort of extreme natural beauty, and are willing to suffer for it.

Charlene by Deer Lakejpg

Good: patches of snow remained on the slopes above our campground, feeding little streams and rivulets of fresh water. Superb.
Bad: The mosquitos had just hatched--we were tormented by them, and spent a lot of time sitting near smoky fires..

Rock hillside near Deer lake

Good: We were in the high country, over 9,000 feet, with views of intense clarity and brilliance and drama.
Bad: When we were trapped for a while on a hot steep narrow trail due to pack-mule mishaps, I fainted from altitude-sickness and fell off my horse! Clunk. I was OK as soon as I got to moving and breathing deeply, but my poor family was terrified!

Here's me. Down below you see Deer Lake, where we camped. Close by here was a snow field, where I'm about to dig a load of snow to re-fill our ice-chest. (If you wonder why one would prefer horse-packing to back-packing, well, we had beer, wine, and a bottle of Laphroaig! And none of this "freeze-dried" food. Charlene cooked treats like blueberry cobbler in her Dutch Oven.)

Me, on a hill above Deer Lake

Good: Wildflowers and alpine plants were exploding into their brief growing season.
Bad: Worst hay-fever I've ever had.

Posted by John Weidner at August 1, 2005 10:34 PM
Weblog by John Weidner