Rock Lake Fishing Derby

We planned an overnight canoe camping trip for 4; with Eric inviting his buddy Trevor.  The last minute Trevor bailed on the trip, so we unloaded one of the canoes, cut down on our food and decided to continue. The weather was perfect.

Kathryn and Eric had a two day fishing contest while we were canoe camping. Eric won Day 1 by virtue of the shear number of Sunfish he caught. Kathryn clearly won Day 2 by catching 3 bass; a nice small mouth bass and two large mouth bass; one of which was a hefty 18″. Kathryn mistook it for being caught in the weeds at first.

We fished at night with a bright half moon, beaver swimming and splashing around us.  Eric had a strike on the lure he found at one of the campsites, but wasn’t able to catch anything.

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Volley Llamas Season Wrap Up

I didn’t play much as a Volley Llamas this summer; ~3 nights and not at all as a Sand Flea.  However, two of those nights Eric played on our team and did well.  He was on our roster and by virtue of those games he was ‘qualified’ to play in the playoffs.  We had lots of substitutes help out during the summer and everyone contributed during the season.  This was a fun group of people to play with and I appreciated everyone’s positive attitude and support of one another.  I know for me, it was fun being able to play games not only with Kathryn, but with  BillieJo and Eric.  I anticipate Rich / Jason and Ron / Andy had similar appreciation of their experience.

We entered the playoffs as the 2nd seeded team about 6 games behind Dig Pink and 8 games ahead of The Scrappers (Jack, John, Andy, Jess, Billy and Cathy).  Volley Llamas took two quick games from The Minions – the 7th ranked team who won their opening round game vs. 10th ranked Balls Deep.  Our 2nd match was versus 3rd ranked The Scrappers who vanquished 5th ranked Finndale Farms in their earlier playoff match.  Game 1 we jumped out to an over powering lead and coasted to a win.  Game 2 was close through the mid-teens before gaining our 2nd win. In the championship game we faced Dig Pink losing a close game 1 and not close game 2.

I anticipate changes for next season as regulars Rich indicated he would like to be a sub and Jason likely moving to the Syracuse area.  So we will be looking for full time replacements, as well as, individuals willing to help as subs.  I am proud of our accomplishment as a team and very thankful to have had the opportunity for a fun season of volleyball.

A Visit From The Sisters

Jeanne and Barbara came to visit for a weekend.  Kathryn picked them up and returned them. We had some nice meals and visits.

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Spanish River

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During our 5 day trip down the Spanish River Skip had several ‘songs’ composed in his honor.  It gave Jim something to do while paddling and proved mildly entertaining to the rest of the group.  There were variations of Canoeing in the Rain, and 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall (became 30km to Paddle Today) and this summary of the trip.

Spanish River 2015 (with apologies to New Riders “Henry”)

Every year about this time we plan a canoeing trip,
bringing all our canoeing buddies the group is led by Skip.
Heading north to Spanish River, there are sights to see,
paddling down those Spanish rapids, classes II and III.

The Spanish landscape is beautiful and a wondrous sight,
we saw ducks, ospreys, moose and the full moon at night.
But the lure of the river was running down those waves,
we ran all the rapids except those named as graves.

Now we’re paddling the Spanish River going fast splash, splash;
if we dump at this one it will be our last.
Paddling Spanish rapids, classes II and III;
help me keep this canoe straight through these rapids if you please.

Paddling down Spanish River for all of five days
Skip consulted all the maps we thought he knew the way.
Lakes and swifts and rapids, the water ran downstream
We paddled 30 kilometers every day ‘cause Skip was mean.

Bouncing off the rocks and boulders paddle Steve and Ski,
Following right behind them paddle Tim and me.
Jack is ruddering, Skip is prying, trying to keep them straight.
At the bottom of the rapids we will quietly wait.

Now we’re paddling the Spanish River going fast splash, splash;
if we dump at this one it will be our last.
Paddling Spanish rapids, classes II and III;
help me keep this canoe straight through these rapids if you please.

Now it’s looking dire for our boys and their sideways canoe,
They are floating towards the rocks and we don’t know what they’ll do.
Watching beers and chocolates floating down the waves.
Leaving Jack and Skip alone, it’s snacks and beers we’ll save.

Friday before departure Eric and I assembled the Yakima racks for my truck; a vex some process, but it enabled us to carry most of the gear, two canoes (Wenonah Cascade & Old Town Camper) and three passengers.  Tim drove his Jeep with his gear, Steve’s Mad River canoe and three passengers.

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We met at my house at 7am and were on the road by 7:30am – headed to Buffalo, Toronto and NW to Agnew Lake Lodge.  Toronto was hosting the Pan American games and traffic was unbelievable.  We lost 1 hour in heavy stop and go traffic and almost got rear ended.  We stopped in Perry Sound (home of Bobby Hull) due to a traffic accident that killed 2 and left 4 others injured.  We call Agnew Lake Lodge and informed them we would arrive the next morning instead.  We rented a campsite and turned in at 9pm.  We arose Sunday at 5:30am, packed up and drove to Agnew Lake Lodge.

Google Directions to Lake Agnew

At Agnew Lake Lodge we got our shuttle drivers, fishing licenses, camping and parking permits and headed to Duke Lake – a three hour drive.  We were on the water at 1:30pm and headed out looking for an early campsite.

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We camped on a sandy point after paddling on 9th Lake for a little over 2 hours.  We were hopeful the exposure on the sand spit would provide a breeze and keep the bugs away.  It did, occasionally.  We had some mosquitoes, but mainly biting flies – stable flies / ankle biters.  We all took a quick swim to clean up but didn’t stay in long due to the leeches.  We agreed that each of us would be responsible for our own breakfast and lunch but we took turns making dinner.  For the 1st night Steve made turkey meat burritos for dinner.

I slept OK – not great.  I overfilled my NEOS air mattress and it was hard,  my pillow was off, we had mosquitoes in the tent and I had to get up to pee.  We got up at 6pm.  Skip made coffee and eggs.  We packed up our tents, damp with condensation and were paddling by 8am.

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Our routine was to paddle for 60-90 minutes and then stop for a drink and snack.  Skip’s plan was to get us to the head of Agnew Lake on Thursday night so the paddle across the lake could be done early Friday morning while the lake was calm.  To achieve this he set paddling goals of 10km on Sunday and 30km every day thereafter.  We paddled from 8am – 3pm – all lake paddling with a couple of little swifts in between. Leaving 1st Lake we followed a series of swifts and easy rapids.  Time and I put our canoe cover on as we left our lunch site anticipating rapids.  Tim and I went 1st through the first rapids we encountered.  Skip and Jack went next; followed by Steve and Ski.  There was a large rock towards the bottom of the rapids.  Skip and Jack tried to cross to the right side of the stream and broadsided the rock and dumped.  They used the home made bailer I issued to each canoe to empty the water from their boat – it would be used again.  Tim and I saved the beer and chocolate which escaped their canoe.  We took pictures at one of our break points that coincided with a campsite that Skip, Steve, Bob and I had used as our day 1 campsite on our trip 12 years prior.  It was more overgrown by bushes.   We fell just short of Skip’s goal for the day when we decided to stay on a point in Expansia Lake.  Skip and Jack made dinner: steaks, potatoes and fried squash.

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Our water filter got clogged despite our pre-filtering of the lake water.  We back flushed multiple times and got minimal improvement.  Tim declared out Expansia Lake campsite to be ‘Squatchy” and claimed to hear several Sasquatch noises.

Our 3rd day was a marathon day of paddling from 8:30am – 6:30 pm with a one hour break to portage around Upper Albion Rapids.  We ran the Lower Albion Rapids, Railroad Rapids, Bridge Rapids and Cliff Rapids.  We were going to stay at Cliff Rapids but the 1st site was too muddy and dark.  We ran the rapids (past the nude sunbather) and found the lower two sites were taken.  About 3pm we stopped at an old campsite and Jack, Tim and I went for a swim to cool off.  I felt like I was overheating and needed to cool down.  About 4km below Cliff Rapids we found an island campsite where we stayed for the night. It was buggy, but home for the night. Tim and I made carrot sticks and celery sticks stuffed with peanut butter or cheese spread as our snack and cooked hot dogs and beans for our dinner.  Jack & I took a swim off a nearby sand bar after dinner but the hordes of large horse flies were a menace and kept us from being out long.

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We were on the water at 7:30am and paddled Zig Zag and Little Graveyard rapids.  We emptied the boats and carried around Graveyard Rapids.  At Agnes Rapids, Skip & Jack carried, Tim & I lined and Steve and Ski ran.  We played leap frog with a family group who stopped to swim at the Elbow.  One of the swimmers lost their Croc while swimming.  Tim and I managed to retrieve it from the fast moving water and toss it up on shore for them to retrieve.  We saw two moose swimming across the river and they stood on the shore and watched us approach for a long time.  We stopped to camp for the night on top of a very large rock with an outstanding view although it was a pain to haul our gear from the canoes up the slope.

Our water filter has failed.  It has gradually slowed down to the past few days we have had to back flush every 16-32 oz.  We finally got enough water by letting it drip all night long into the big collapsible water bucket and by using the water from the 1/2 gallon ice blocks which melted.  I also had 2 dromedary bags filled with water from melted ice.  It was nice drinking clean water that we didn’t have to add Crystal Light flavoring.

Wednesday night I made Spanish rice  using Kathryn’s recipe and preparations.  It came out great and everyone had 2nds and 3rds.

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Thursday morning we were on the water at 8:15am, ran a couple of swifts and then ran the Cascade Rapids.  Cascade Rapids were a series of ‘cascades’ with the last of the rapids being large standing waves.  Tim got a chestful of water, but little made it’s way into the canoe.  The canoe cover worked well.  It was easy to access the snaps stayed on and it shaded our lower legs and feet.  It saved us on at least two occasions from getting serious water in the canoe. We paddled until 2pm and camped at the head of Agnew Lake.  There was a lot of wind and white caps as we set up camp.  We staked our tents down securely and enjoyed some camp time.  Skip and Jack made dinner from freeze dried vegetables and rice.  Bored by 6pm we turned in early at night. We were once again blessed with a full moon at night.  We got up early, had coffee and granola bars and packed up for our paddle across Agnew Lake.  The lake was dead calm to start, but we ended up paddling into waves on our return.

Spanish River Last Day Collage

On our return ride home (13 hours !!) we had plenty of time for trip assessment discussions.

  • The Spanish River was a good choice for our skill levels.  The Class II & III rapids were challenging but not threatening.  Both Tim and Jack, as well as the rest of the group, gained more confidence in running rapids and maneuvering the canoes around obstacles as the trip progressed.
  • Traveling with 6 people / 3 canoes was ideal.  The group fit the available campsites and we all traveled at a similar pace.
  • The truck and Jeep were ideal for transporting 3 canoes, gear for six people and six passengers.
  • The Mad River and Wenonah Cascade canoes were well suited for the trip.  The canoe cover was a nice feature.  The 16′ Old Town Camper canoe lacked a little freeboard in the middle and that’s where Skip & Jack shipped most of their water.  Bailers for each canoe were useful.
  • Despite planning a 6 day trip the group decided to try and return on Saturday.  We spent 1/2 day on the water Sunday; Monday-Thursday as full days on the water and 1/2 day out on Friday.  While a little more “down time” would have been appreciated on a couple of the long days paddling when given the extra time on the last day we got bored.
  • Despite planning to fish the group didn’t invest as much time in fishing as perhaps planned.  Even with a license and bringing fishing equipment Jim never fished at all.  Steve and Ski did the most fishing, but much of that was trolling while paddling.
  • The next trip should have a ‘transportation officer’ responsible for road maps and alternative routing to/from our destination.  We relied too heavily on our GPS which routed us through Toronto and heavy traffic.    The drive to/from Agnew Lake Lodge was excessive.
  • Our water filter issues were troublesome.  We had another Basecamp filter and a small emergency Sawyer water filter if needed.  We did multi-layered pre-filtering of our water, but probably should have let our water settle in the camp bucket for 10-15 minutes before pre-filtering.
  • Our meals worked out great and we had an abundance of food and snacks. The two burner propane stove worked out well.  We agreed next time that the cooks shouldn’t also be responsible for washing dishes.  We should have squeezed our food supplies to reduce  from 4 to just 3 coolers.

Plans for a summer 2016 trip are being considered.

Installing the Cooke’s Custom Sewing Canoe Cover on Wenonah Cascade

After a 2008 canoe trip down the Delaware River with Steve B., Skip and Bob Y. I bought a Cooke’s Custom Sewing canoe cover for my Wenonah Cascade.  I had researched the value of canoe covers after our 2003 Spanish River canoe trip, but one rapid on the Delaware convince me to buy.  At the end of the trip we paddled to the  Delaware River Family Campground.  Just before the campground we went under a railroad bridge which had some largish standing waves.  We all took on water over the sides of the boat – not bad, but it was sloshing around as we pulled the last few hundred yards to the Campground.  While some of the waves broke over Steve’s lap, the majority of the water came in just behind the front seat. A canoe cover would have prevented this.  I anticipated many more white water trips and bought a canoe cover.

The canoe cover languished in it’s box for several years, until this winter as Skip and his brother-in-law Steve began to make plans for another Spanish River canoe trip.  I dragged my canoe into the basement with the intentions of installing it during a winter weekend.  That didn’t happen.  So this weekend I once again moved the canoe and set up in the shade under the shed.

Dan Cooke’s instructions called for taping the cover in place using duct tape, but over the winter I had sprayed the canoe with 303 vinyl protection, which made it difficult for the tape to stick. After some trial and error Kathryn and I settled on using clamps to hold the cover in place.  We located the snap locations by a combination of measurements and direct transfer of marking the cover snap with a Sharpie and then pressing the cover snap onto the boat.  Contrary to the instructions we started at the canoe ends and worked to the middle of the boat.  It was definitely a two person process.  Once we installed the front section and got over the terror that comes with drilling holes in one’s canoe, the project flowed smoothly.   There were two sets of snaps that couldn’t be fastened due to the metal plate seat hangers.  Most of the snaps were installed 3/4″ -1″ below the gunnel plate.

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The finished product.

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Glacier National Park

2015-06-30 Glacier

On  the 29th we arrived at the west entrance to Glacier National Park in the afternoon.  After a stop at the visitor center we proceeded to hike the John’s Lake Loop and into Avalanche Lake, which was rimmed by 6-8 waterfalls.  We stayed at the Square Peg Hostel, a $120 / night cabin with no power and cold running water.  The next day we drove up the Road to The Sun and over to the east side of the park.  We hiked the trail to the Grinnell Glacier.  We had to once again drive back to the west side to our hostel accommodations.  The last day we went to Bowman Lake before departing the park.

National Bison Range

The National Bison Range is a National Wildlife Refuge located in western Montana established in 1908 to provide a sanctuary for the American bison. The range is one of the oldest National Wildlife Refuges in the US. The size of the bison herd numbers about 500 individuals. The range consists of approximately 18,800 acres with a visitor center, and two scenic roads that allow vehicular access. The refuge is approximately one hour north of Missoula at Moiese, Montana.

Range elevation varies from 2,585 feet at headquarters to 4,885 feet at High Point on Red Sleep Mountain, the highest point on the Range. Much of the National Bison Range was once under prehistoric Glacial Lake Missoula, which was formed by a glacial ice dam on the Clark Fork River about 13,000 to 18,000 years ago. The lake attained a maximum elevation of 4,200 feet, so the upper part of the Refuge was above water. Old beach lines are still evident on north-facing slopes.

It was stiflingly hot as we drove around the range and spotted single bison, bison in pairs and finally, a large group.  One smart bison cooled off in the river.

2015-06-28 Bison National Range

Big Sky Mountain Zipline

Leaving West Yellowstone we drove to Big Sky Mountain Resort.  At Big Sky Resort you can soar past expansive views of Lone Mountain and the Spanish Peaks of the Madison mountain range on ziplines 30 to 60 feet in the air. USA Today ranks Big Sky Mountain as one of the top 10 zip line adventures in the USA.  The nine person group was given helmets, harnesses and instructions.  Then it was onto the ski lift and up the mountain side.

Eric

The Adventure zip is designed for speed.  The zipline provides expansive views of Lone Mountain (elevation 11,166 feet) and the Spanish Peaks of the Madison Range. The zipline spanned 1,500 feet long and was 150 feet above the forest floor.

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Kathryn had a hang up on one section.  Going down backwards she missed grabbing her brake rope, slid back the zipline and had to be retrieved to the platform.

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Yellowstone National Park

Following our horse packing trip we toured Yellowstone National Park.  We entered the park from the east entrance (Cody). We drove through lots of the 1988 burned / regenerating forest.  Throughout the park the regrowth was uneven; in some places the regrowth was 25-30 high and very thick.  Coming from the east access the regrowth was much spottier and only a few feet tall.

Yellowstone is the largest high-altitude lake in the lower 48 states, and it is breathtaking; to the south we could see the Tetons.

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From Yellowstone Lake we drove to the Lower Falls of the Grand Canyon. At 308 feet high the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is the primary geologic feature in the Canyon District. It is roughly 20 miles long, measured from the Upper Falls to the Tower Fall area. Depth is 800 to 1,200 ft.; width is 1,500 to 4,000 ft. The canyon as we know it today is a very recent geologic feature. The present canyon is no more than 10,000 to 14,000 years old, although there has probably been a canyon in this location for a much longer period. The exact sequence of events in the formation of the canyon is not well understood.  We do know that the canyon was formed by erosion rather than by glaciation.  After the caldera eruption of about 600,000 years ago, the area was covered by a series of lava flows. The area was also faulted by the doming action of the caldera before the eruption. The site of the present canyon was probably the result of this faulting, which allowed erosion to proceed at an accelerated rate. The area was also covered by the glaciers that followed the volcanic activity. Glacial deposits probably filled the canyon at one time, but have since been eroded away, leaving little or no evidence of their presence.

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From there we drove to Mammoth Hot Springs a surficial expression of the deep volcanic forces at work in Yellowstone. Although these springs lie outside the caldera boundary, their energy is attributed to the same system that fuels other Yellowstone thermal areas. Hot water flows from Norris to Mammoth along a fault line roughly associated with the Norris to Mammoth road. Shallow circulation along this corridor allows Norris’ super-heated water to cool somewhat before surfacing at Mammoth, generally at about 170° F.  Kathryn and I had toured Yellowstone in 1977 as we drove to Seattle to attend graduate school.  As we approached Mammoth Hot Springs I said to Kathryn, “I remember these as being much wetter and prettier.”  Nearby on the boardwalk was a placard describing the changes to Mammoth Hot Springs over time and gave an example of the formation under wetter conditions in 1977 .

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We exited the park at the northern entrance and spent the night at Gardner.  We stayed at a nice long-stay complex.  We ordered pizza, watched the NBA draft on TV and then most of the group took off for the Boiling River. The Boiling River is located approximately 2 miles north of Mammoth and 2.9 miles south of the park’s North gate. The Boiling River is created where a large hot spring enters the Gardner River, allowing the hot and cool waters to mix into a temperature comfortable enough to bathe in. Moving just a few inches greatly changed one’s exposure to hot or cold water.

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About 50% of the tourist crowd were Oriental, German and some Australians.   Due to the crowds we decided to arise earlier and visit our Day 2 destinations in the morning before the crowds assembled.  We also felt we would have a better chance of seeing wildlife.  Skip, Eric and Jim took 1 car and Pam, Jim and Kathryn rode in the other.  We agreed to rendezvous at the Obsidian Cliffs.   We visited the Norris Geyser Basin, the Upper Geyser Basin and the Fountain Paint Pot.   Going out early meant there were fewer crowds to contend with.

Norris Geyser Basin is the the hottest geyser basin in Yellowstone. The basin is comprised of two distinct sections: The Back Basin is in a forest setting. It contains geysers and hot springs tucked among the trees. The Porcelain Basin is characterized by a lack of vegetation. No plants can live in the hot, acidic, water emitted from the numerous thermal features in the basin. Porcelain Basin presents a beautiful but desolate visage which is unlike any of the other geyser basins in Yellowstone.

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The Obsidian cliff was made famous by Jim Bridger’s stories and tall tales.  The obsidian from this cliff was used in spear and arrow heads and traded by Native American tribes distributed as far as Ohio.  In reality it is visually less than impressive.  We moved on, but lacking cell phone coverage our message(s) to the other car went unheard until later in the morning.

We drove on to Old Faithful geyser.  Old Faithful erupts more frequently than any of the other big geysers, although it is not the largest or most regular geyser in the park. Its average interval between eruptions varies from 65 – 92 minutes. An eruption lasts 1.5 to 5 minutes, expels 3,700 – 8,400 gallons of boiling water, and reaches heights of 106 – 184 feet. Although its average interval has lengthened through the years (due to earthquakes and vandalism), Old Faithful is still as spectacular and predictable as it was a century ago.

While awaiting Old Faithful we were informed that the adjoining Beehive Geyser was preparing to erupt as well.  The Beehive Geyser is larger and more powerful than Old Faithful, but also not as predictable – erupting every 9-15 hours.  There is a ‘indicator geyser’ right next to the Beehive Geyser that precedes the Beehive eruption.  We were able to witness both geysers erupting simultaneously.  Afterwards we hung out in the lodge and waited for car 2 to arrive.

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We saw wildlife through out the park; mule deer, elk, black bear and bison.  Usually the wildlife were preceded by scores of vehicles in various stages of off-road parking as everyone vied for a picture.  A couple of the larger bison groups had tourists walking up to dangerous distances for pictures, despite ranger’s warnings and two reported bison gorings earlier this year.

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Yellowstone was nice to see, but there were always crowds to contend with.  We agreed we were thankful that we visited before the big summer crowds post-4th of July.

Horse Packing in the Shoshone National Forest

Our discussion with Helmers was to tour back country Yellowstone National Park via a horse packing trip.  We decided on a four day/three night pack trip and I began contacting 20+ outfitters in the fall of 2014.  Our plans shifted as we learned

  • Yellowstone Park didn’t issue horse packing trips until after 4th of July
  • Continuously moving our camp would be cumbersome and a lot of work for the outfitters

We settled into discussions with 7D Ranch and horse packing into the Shoshone National Forest just east of the Yellowstone Park.  Prior to our trip we shipped two boxes containing our boots and horse packing clothes to the ranch via UPS.

Our trip out to the 7D Ranch was uneventful.  We got up at 4am, met the Helmers at the Syracuse Airport for our 7:01am flight to Minneapolis – a larger airport than we anticipated.  We had a 30 minute lay-over to Billings, MT where we met Skip (wearing a conspicuous Syracuse t-shirt).  Skip preceded us by a week, having flown into Salt Lake City and rented a Dodge Caravan for a month.  This turned out to be the perfect vehicle for our trip as it offered Skip shelter while he was camping alone and plenty of gear space when the four of us were traveling together.

We grabbed lunch at a little Mexican place in Billings and then drove 2.5 hours to the 7D Ranch. From Route 212 we took the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway crossing the Shoshone National Forest through the Absaroka Mountains to the Clarks Fork Valley.  The trailhead for our subsequent pack trip was located at the bottom of the valley. Directly across from the Dead Indian Campground.

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7D Ranch Map

We arrived at the 7D Ranch at 3pm, located our boxes and unpacked them, transferring items to our duffel bags for the horse packing trip.  We ate a steak dinner with the other guests (i.e. dudes) and met Andrea (manager) and Chris (our head guide).  After dinner Skip, Eric and I walked down to see our horses which were kept up next to the barns for morning’s departure.  We turned in early and slept 11 hours from 8:30pm – 7:30am.  The next morning we ate breakfast with Andrea, her son Lash and baby girl Zoey.  Marshall Dominick and his wife Betty were at the table as well.  The 7D Ranch got it’s name from the founder who had 5 kids; the parents and 5 kids were the 7 Dominicks (7D); Marshall was one of the children.  We told Marshall we were riding to Trout Peak and he said we would see some beautiful country.

We left with three trucks and trailers hauling two guides (Chris and Josh) and a cook (Andrea); 5 pack mules and 15 horses – 9 saddle horses and 6 pack horses.  We drove the short distance to the trail head.  The panniers were loaded onto the pack string and we were on the trail by 10:40am.  Below the gentle giant, Marcus, awaits his load.

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Located in NW Wyoming, the Shoshone National Forest is the first federally protected National Forest in the United States and covers nearly 2,500,000 acres; making it the seventh-largest national forest in the continental United States.. Named after the Shoshone Indians and originally a part of the Yellowstone Timberland Reserve, the forest is managed by the United States Forest Service and was created by an act of Congress and signed into law by U.S. President Benjamin Harrison in 1891. Never heavily settled or exploited, the forest has retained most of its wildness. Shoshone National Forest is a part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, a nearly unbroken expanse of federally protected lands encompassing an estimated 20,000,000 acres. Shoshone National Forest has virtually all the original animal and plant species that were there when white explorers first visited the region. The forest is home to the Grizzly bear, cougar, moose, tens of thousands of elk as well as the largest herd of bighorn sheep in the U.S.  The altitude in the forest ranges from 4,600 feet to 13,804 ft (4,207 m) at the top of Gannett Peak. Due to the altitude and dryness of the atmosphere, vigorous radiative cooling occurs throughout the year, and exceptional daily temperature variances are not uncommon

Our trail led 8 miles along Dead Indian Creek which got it’s name from an incident in the 1878 Indian wars.  A small Bannocks war party were attacked by General Miles’ troops just south of Clark,  shortly after the Nez Perce outbreak. The Indians retreated over what is now known as Dead Indian Hill leaving one of their wounded behind. The following day the Bannock was found by some of the Crow Indian Army scouts, who promptly killed and scalped him. From this episode Dead Indian Hill and Dead Indian Creek got their names.

  • Eric – Native, a black BLM mustang about 20 years old that used to be ridden by Marshall Dominick
  • Kathryn – Red, a chestnut who would threaten and sometime kick if pressed from behind
  • Jim – Tipi, dark brown with a small blaze and two white hind feet; he was sturdy and deliberate crossing obstacles
  • Skip – Hoodoo, a paint with a habit of over-jumping obstacles
  • Pam – Cinnamon, a bay that gave threatening looks when crowded from behind, but never kicked
  • Jim – Ponch (AKA Death Trap) a sweet chestnut

The ride in had lots of down timber which required the horses to step or jump over the logs. Eric has some issues with Native not wanting to jump obstacles that were chest high.

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We took a short lunch break on the way in where Jim entertained us with demonstrations of his bronc riding style.

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We got to camp at 3pm and we heard a horse whinny as we arrived at the meadow which was to become our camp, but we could not locate the horse.  Our saddle and pack horses were tied to trees unpacked and unsaddled with the tack arranged along downed logs.

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We set up our tents and sleeping systems as the guides set up a kitchen, toilet and an electric fence corral for some of the horses.

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After dinner 6 of the leader / bunch quitter horses were led to the electric fence area while the remaining dozen were hobbled and turned out.  Some horses – like Chris’s buckskin mare were nimble and adept with the hobbles; almost attaining a slow lope, while others, like Native, needed to re-learn their hobbling gait.

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We again heard a horse whinny;  the guides took off up the hill returning leading a dark brown mud covered horse.  They claimed someone had a wreck, left garbage all around the site and the horse half buried in the mud and left for dead.  The horse had struggled free and they brought it back down along with a foam pad and a partial case of mini-beers.  The horse was set free with the thought it would hang around the herd, but after a few nuzzles and squeals it took off headed back to the trail head.  We never saw the horse again, although upon our return to the trailhead there was a note on each truck that someone had picked up the horse and who to contact for its return.

Despite turning in early we slept in until 7am – Eric until 8am.  It was cold at night.  The temperature reacted greatly to the sun; when the sun went down in the evening the temperatures plunged, when the sun came up in the morning the temperature climbed quickly.  We ate breakfast, packed our own lunches and were on the trail up by 10am.  We went up Morning Creek to Trout Creek.

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We were told the 7D Ranch was ~6,000′, our camp was at ~7,500′ and the we topped Trout Peak at about 10,000′.  Trout Peak Lat/Lon: 44.60120°N / 109.5253°W  Elevation: 12244 ft,  The summit of Trout Peak is at the apex of three ridges; the north and east ridges form a bowl, where the headwaters of an unnamed creek are located;  the north ridge drops four miles into the Dead Indian Creek drainage.  We stopped for a break on an overlook and then rode to another overlook for lunch.

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We saw one spectacular scenery.  We spotted one elk and two big horn sheep.  There were snow banks on the sheltered north facing faces.  After lunch I picked up a snow ball on my walk back to the horses and was met by Eric who also had a snow ball creating a Mexican Standoff.  While Tipi wouldn’t eat apple core or snow, Eric’s mount, Native, happy munched on a snow ball.

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The ride back we rode down stretches so steep we led the horses.  Eric’s horse, Native, was slow.  My saddle slipped forward twice to the point I was riding Tipi’s neck.  When we returned to camp we put a crupper on the saddle to keep it in place.  We returned to camp at 4pm after 6 hours of saddle time. After our day’s trail ride we would water the horses in Dead Indian Creek then tie them to trees for the remainder of the day.

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The horses that didn’t go out during the day stayed tied all day.  About 6:30pm the horses would be hobbled and released and/or turned out in the electric corral with halters and lead ropes dragging.  After a couple of hours we would retrieve the horses from the corral for another watering before returning them to the corral for the night.

We had tacos for dinner.  We slept warmer at night by closing up the tent, using our sleeping bag liners and sleeping in our long underwear.

Tuesday morning we had eggs, sausage and fixings.  Eric swapped horses and rode Hoodoo and Skip rode a tall sorrel.  Chris rode a mule and Andrea rode Barron, a Clydesdale cross.  We, again, made our lunches and were on the trail by 10am.  We went up Dead Indian Creek to Damnation Basin,  it was a rough trail; there was lots of blow-down to jump or go around. The pine bark beetle has killed large portions of forest; with 50-50% of the trees girdled and dead.  In places one could envision dead trees burning like large torches.

We did several stream crossings with fast moving water running over fist sized cobblestones.  It was a 3 hour ride to a spectacular basin surrounded by cliffs.  We had lunch and hung out for 1.5 hours.  We saw large raptors and scanned for sheep, but didn’t see any. On our way back we saw big horn sheep on the cliffs and two grizzly bears.  Chris’s mule smelled the bear and stampeded for 20 yards.  Eric, Josh and Andrea also got to see the bear. On trail we passed a small shelter used by a fur trapper to overnight at the end of their trap line.

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We had steak and corn for dinner and played pitch with Josh and Chris.  One of the camp chairs broke and we made a quick patch and switch while Andrea was retrieving something from the kitchen.  While Chris is stoking the fire in preparation for cooking dinner he is noticeably grinning through-out and almost gave it away, waiting for the failure of the chair.

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The fourth and final day we packed up our tents, sleeping systems and clothes while the guides broke down the kitchen and packed up the panniers.  It was a bittersweet ride out to the trail head where we transferred our gear from the pack string to the trucks.  We all said an appreciative goodbye to our mounts and rode back to the 7D Ranch.

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Back at the 7D Ranch we unloaded the pack and saddle horses, retrieved our duffel bags and retrieved our clothes left at the ranch.  We said thanks to our guides and Andrea Meade, the manager and left for the hotels, laundry and restaurants of Cody.  Our horse packing trip was one of the best adventure vacations we have done.  Eric declared it “Amazing and fun!” and I believe we heartily agree.