2nd Pack Trip — Meet Loose Horses on Trail
Good re-start to summer’s 2nd trip. Had seen on map that fire was several drainages away, so felt safe going in as our area had burned before (see trees behind me in last post’s photo for that evidence.)
Headed to same lake visited 4 weeks ago on 1st pack trip, so again brought chainsaw, but no downed trees on road this time. Arrived at trailhead and saw four HUGE horse trailers. Looks like big outfitter has group up ahead; wonder what will do if reach river camp area and too crowded?
Decide that most likely this group will be taking a turnoff to go on a longer mountain loop, as our 6-mile destination would not be near enough mileage for people on horses. Feel some relief and start out.
We’re pleased again, to see the big white dog take up the drag position. About 3 miles along the gentle trail, after successfully crossing streams that were much lower than on previous trip, husband decides will drop down to river, about 100 yards below through much tangled brush, to fish. I tie the mules at trail and wait with big dog.
After a short time waiting on trail, the big dog jumps up and heads forward. I look up and see a very tall mule heading towards me, followed by two tall horses. All have halters, clearly escapees from the pack outfitter group. The mule’s halter has a stud-chain, so easy to grab. He clearly the leader with a mission to get back to the trailers. “Hold it,” I tell him, “someone must be coming after you guys.”
They’re very nice well-mannered animals. I grab the halter of a 2nd horse. Think will keep them here until whoever is looking for them catches up. I hear a dog barking in the distance, so expect that someone following will soon be here. “Hello, hello,” I call loudly. I whistle to get attention of the dog that was heard.
Twenty minutes pass. No one comes. “Hello, hello,” I call again loudly. No one comes. I decide will allow the mule and horses to continue on and wait at trailers. Is only 3 miles, whoever comes can easily walk that distance.
My dun little molly is standing off the trail, I lead the big mule to go past her and she suddenly raises head up, snorts, tells him in no-uncertain-terms that he will not be going past her. He jerks back, I let him go and all three head back the way they came. Good, I think, better this way, as they will run into whomever is coming along looking for them. No, is not to be, they do not want to go that way, they wanted to get back to their trailers and go home, so here they come again.
I stop them again, decide this time will drag trees across the path to make a fence. Gives me something to do while I’m waiting. Is enjoyable to make the barrier. Nice to have them waiting here with us until either their owner comes along or husband comes back from fishing, then will decide what to do.
Eventually, husband comes up from stream. Is happy, has some fish in bag. He loves seeing the big mule and horses. We decide we cannot take them with us, as don’t have extra leads. Decide will allow them to go on past and they can wait at their trailers. We move our mules way off the trail, and shoo the horses on past.
Continue the last 3 miles, cross another creek, again easier as much lower than last time. Trail gets steeper. My mules are steady, the dun molly seems finally to be learning not to be so pushy, to walk at my slow pace. (She was tied previously on a pack string behind big mules, so think she learned to walk very fast to keep up with them. Even though “retired” now, it has been hard to get her to slow to my pace. Friend came earlier this summer and helped me learn how to be firm with her. I’m grateful for that help, as think less dangerous now for the hiker leading.)
The last miles are enjoyable. I think about Outward Bound programs and camps to help girls gain confidence. Could do that, I think; would be so much fun. Many good ideas; so little time. I give husband phone and ask him to go ahead on trail and make video as we pass through a sunny spot. He gets about 30 seconds, will post it to the Healthy2aHundred YouTube channel.
We arrive at smaller river which runs into the larger one we’ve been following, are very happy to see it looking completely empty. Find our favorite campsite. Unload the mules. I put up high-line for grazing. Set up the kitchen, break out the Happy Hour supplies, notice the big white dog has gone down river, whistle and am happy to notice she’s coming right back.
Behind her is a man in cowboy hat. “Didn’t hear y’all come in,” he says, “but saw this big white dog and followed her up here.” Turns out he and wife are waiting for the pack outfitters to pick them up. They were dropped off a few days ago, hiked up the steep trail to the lake to fish. They came down last night. Tells us the mule and horses had come down the side trail, stayed with them last night; moved on this morning as if they knew right where they were going.
“Can’t believe it, though,” he says, “first time time in 30 years and no fish at all in the lake. Don’t know what could’ve happened.”
Very bad news. A mystery. We tell him that when we were here 4 weeks ago, it seemed very odd to have no fish at all in lake. None even noticed near the outlet, where it is generally a bit warmer; no dead fish on sides of lake. We had attributed it to the lake still being very cold, still having patches of ice and snow on it. Clearly that is not the case. The fish are gone.
At 6:00 we see 5 big mules and 3 riding horses come to pick the couple up; enjoyable to see a real pack operation. We enjoy the evening, eat fish caught that day, but decide will head back tomorrow. No need to climb steep trail to lake, over the 28 downfalls still crossing trail; will catch more fish in river on way out. Will try to figure out what has happened to fish in lake.