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Cherry Creek Packtrip

Adventure and misadventure in pursuit of the wily wapiti

I.gif (879 bytes)n September of 1995, a friend and I embarked on a ten day wilderness pack-in bowhunt. Before we were through, we had experienced more adventure, or perhaps I should say misadventure, than any trip I have been on before or since. Most of the articles in the Adventure section tend to be how-to or where-to articles, but this one is more of a how-not-to story, at least parts of it. Still, it was a successful trip, and no permanent injuries resulted to any of the humans or horses involved.

Our destination was the Cherry Creek area. Cherry Creek is part of the Madison River drainage, lying east of the Madison. It heads high in theCherryElk.jpg (14373 bytes) Madison Range, near Red Knob mountain northeast of Ennis. The upper reaches flow generally northeast through a broad mountain valley on the western end of the Spanish Peaks. The upper reaches of this drainage are public land, but from the point where it exits the foothills of the Spanish Peaks to its mouth it flows through Ted Turner’s Flying D ranch. After Turner purchased this ranch, he replaced the cattle that used to range its 100,000 plus acres with around 3500 bison. Vitually all of the Flying D is fabulous wildlife habitat, and with the cattle gone, the elk population exploded. By the mid-’90s, nearly 4000 elk were wintering on the ranch. A large percentage of these elk summer on the adjacent Gallatin National Forest, providing some fabulous hunting opportunities, at least at times.   I should quickly add that elk hunting on public land is never a sure thing, particularly with bow and arrow. Before visions of giant antlers compel you to plan a trip into this area, you should be aware that much of it is not easy to reach, and the elk have a tendency to depart for the relative safety of the Flying D once hunting season is underway. For those with the necessary equipment and experience, though, it can be hard to beat. Alternatively, we can book you a trip with one of the two outfitters who operate in this area.

I started hunting in this area in 1993, and for the first couple of years concentrated on the North Fork Spanish/ Willow Swamp/ Sweden Creek area. This area lies between five and ten miles west of the Spanish Creek trailhead, on trail #401. Like all of the northern part of the Spanish Peaks area, it is fabulous elk habitat, but there were a couple of things I didn’t like about it. The land ownership is in a checkerboard pattern, with alternating sections of Forest Service and Flying D land, requiring careful map study to avoid trespassing. Also, since many of the better hunting areas are only a mile or so from the ranch boundary, the elk tend to move onto the ranch quite rapidly. At the time, my primary livelihood was wheat farming, and harvest usually prevented me from leaving on my annual bowhunting trip until around mid-September. By that point, archery season had already been open for a week or two, and many of the elk had already moved onto the ranch. Also, it seemed this area was frequented primarily by bull elk. That’s certainly not an altogether bad situation, but we thought if we could find the areas where the cow elk were during that time of the year, it stood to reason that the bull elk would also be there and less inclined to leave. I had heard good things about the Cherry Creek area farther to the west, and decided to check it out. I had scouted that country once before, during the first trip I ever made into the area, a solo packtrip during the summer of 1993. On that trip I had seen more elk sign in the Sweden Creek area, though, so that’s where we first concentrated our efforts. It was toward the end of the 1994 archery season before I made it back to Cherry Creek.

During the 1994 season, I placed my camp near the head of Willow Swamp Creek. A friend, Ed, who was 63 years old at the time, and I spent a week there. We had a great time, got into elk fairly regularly, but things never quite came together for a shot at one. People who think elk hunting is easy have never tried to get within bow range, a maximum of thirty yards in my case, of a mature elk. They are masters of their domain, superbly equipped with warning systems of smell, sight, and hearing that in most cases warn them of an approaching threat well in advance. Fortunately, I do not include a kill as one of my criteria for an enjoyable hunt (if I did, I wouldn’t have had much fun over the years). I normally wind up with an elk every year, usually during rifle season, but successful or not I love spending time in elk country and pursuing them is close to, if not at the top of my list of favorite activities. Anyway, Ed and I had our shareWinterkill.jpg (27908 bytes) of adventures, particularly Ed who took a wrong turn on an evening hunt and wound up taking a fifteen mile, all-night hike. He is a tough old guy, though, and kept his wits about him, making it back to camp around noon the next day only a little worse for wear. A week or so after Ed and I came out, I returned by myself to hunt a little more and retrieve my camp. The elk had departed the Sweden Creek area, so I decided to take a couple of horses and go investigate the situation in Carpenter Creek, which lay about five miles further west, on the other side of Cherry Creek. As I mentioned previously, the northern boundary of the Forest Service land consists of a checkerboard pattern of public and private land. The Carpenter Creek area, section 8, is an isolated Forest Service section, surrounded on all four sides by Flying D land. It is joined on two corners by public sections, though, and finding the routes into it (and hopefully, large bull elk) was my primary objective. I didn’t find the elk, but I did find the routes I sought, scouted the area and located a good spot to put a camp the following year.

Once again, harvest prevented me from hunting during the first days of archery season, but my friend Duane and I were packed up and ready to hit the trail on September 15, 1995. Our misadventures began almost immediately. I had decided to pack one of my horses, Saudi by name, that I normally rode, in spite of the fact that he was then twenty years old and had never packed. He is a quite small horse, a kid horse deluxe with plenty of spunk, but since he was getting up in years I thought it would be easier on him to pack him fairly lightly instead of riding him. He is a hard horse to fault, except for his habit of pulling back. This is not an uncommon trait with horses, in fact most of them if startled while tied to something will pull back. Their brain seems to short-circuit and they normally keep pulling until something breaks, or they finally realize that they can’t get loose. I had done a reasonable amount of packing at that point, but was still on the upward slope of the learning curve. I was well aware of his pulling tendencies, and should have put him in the front of theOnThe_Trail.jpg (34346 bytes) packstring where I would have been holding his lead rope and could have given him slack or let go, if necessary. Instead, I tied him on behind another packhorse. I secure my packhorses to each other using a pigtail, which is a loop of " manila rope secured to the rigging of the packsaddle. The lead rope of a packhorse is tied to this loop on the horse in front of him. The theory is that this provides a weak link, strong enough to keep the horses tied together in most situations, but weak enough to give way if you get into a wreck. Well, we weren’t over fifty yards up the trail when we had to pass through a rocky area where the horses have to step over and between large rocks in the trail. This presents a problem for packhorses, since they are following closely behind another and can’t see what’s coming up. Saudi didn’t like this situation and tried to slow down. Not surprisingly, when his lead rope tightened, he pulled back, resulting in his breaking the pigtail. The sudden release of tension resulted in his going over backward, actually more to the side, and he wound up upside down wedged between a log and a boulder. Anybody who has used horses in the mountains knows that this is not a desirable situation, one that usually results in high stress levels and profanity. Saudi was unable to get out of this predicament on his own, so we had to unsaddle him where he lay. As I mentioned, he is not very large and we were able to get one of us on each end of him and roll him over to where he could stand up, after which we had the joy of re-saddling and packing him on the trail, while the rest of our horses fidgeted about and tried to cause mischief. This was not the first or last time I have had a wreck at the start of a packtrip, in fact it’s not an uncommon occurrence, especially with novice packers. It’s always discouraging, though, and I have since developed a mental checklist I go through before hitting the trail, and it’s been a couple of years since I have had a wreck. Anyway, we got things put back together and were underway again. The rest of our trip was uneventful, until we were within sight of the campsite I had chosen the previous fall.

I had decided to take a shortcut, quite often a dubious course of action with a packstring. It’s thirteen miles from the trailhead to Cherry Creek. The route I had found into Carpenter Creek in ‘94 involved making half circle of close to three additional miles, but I had been studying another possibility on the maps. The point where trail #401 hits Cherry Creek is in a section of State land, which happens to be one of the public sections that joins a corner of section 8, Carpenter Creek. Cherry Creek is in a deep canyon at that point, but the west side of it is a largely open slope, although steep. If we could climb this slope, we could cut a couple of miles off our route. With the time we had lost due to our first wreck, it was getting well on in the afternoon, which made a shortcut seem even more attractive. We studied the slope above us, and decided it was do-able, which it turned out to be. The horses were less enamored with the idea than I was, though, and I had to get off and lead them partway up. We made it, though, and were soon within sight of our prospective camp, which lay along Carpenter Creek, near where the two sections joined. Unfortunately, a boggy area was between us and camp. I have since found a way around this spot, but I had walked through it on my previous scouting trip and didn’t think it was all that bad. It really wasn’t, but horses don’t like deep mud and mine were lunging and struggling more than they would have had to. Naturally, when the packhorse ahead of him lunged ahead, Saudi’s lead rope tightened again and he pulled back, broke the pigtail and tipped himself over again. This time, when Saudi pulled back he not only upset himself, but before the pigtail broke he pulled the other horses packsaddle off center and his packs slipped, so now we had two horses to repack while floundering about in knee-deep mud. Simultaneously, Duane was having his own set of problems. He was leading his horse, who was also floundering about. He was carrying his bow, a beautiful custom longbow given to him by his wife. While struggling through the mud, his horse lunged into him, knocking him over, resulting in his dropping his bow which the horse promptly stepped on. It didn’t break, but it received a large chip out of the fiberglass coating. Fortunately, Duane is a bowmaker, and we had a couple of extra bows along, takedown recurves which were safely stowed away in a protective case. Overall, it was a most aggravating situation, but we got things put back together and made it to our campsite.

We were using a canvas wall tent, standard equipment for a hunting camp. Since no one had set one up in this site before, we had to cut our own lodgepoles for a tent frame, just one of the many time consuming chores involved in setting up a camp. Setting up a camp like this with a wall tent and horse facilities is considerably more time consuming than popping up a nylon backpack tent, and by the time we got everything in place and cooked dinner it was close to midnight. The next morning we still had a few things to do before everything was shipshape, so we spent theCarpenterCamp.jpg (27243 bytes) morning tending to them and laying in a stock of firewood. Around 11:00 AM, we headed out on what was to be a short hunt, mainly a loop around the Carpenter Creek section following the same route I had used on my scouting trip. It had been cloudy when we woke up, and the cloud levels steadily lowered throughout the morning. It looked like we were probably going to get some rain or snow, which could only help the hunting, and since we were only going out for an afternoon hunt, all within a mile of camp, we weren’t too concerned. We headed out in high spirits, slowly stalking through the timber and glassing the meadows of this beautiful area. We had made our way nearly to the opposite corner of the section, and stopped in a point of timber to eat lunch. It was at that point I realized I hadn’t put my topographical map of the area in my pack, but again, we weren’t that far from camp and I wasn’t concerned. The clouds had continued to lower until at times, they were right on the ground. Fog banks were occasionally drifting through, but the increased humidity was just quieting everything in the woods, which increased our chances for hunting success. After we had had something to eat, we continued on our way, and although we didn’t realize it for a while, from that moment on we were lost.

Normally I have a good sense of direction, but to this day I find the Cherry Creek area confusing. It consists of many small rolling hills with small drainages fanning out in all directions. It also is mostly timbered and the few distinguishing landmarks are often not visible. A lot of mining went on in this area in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, and I have often joked that the mineral deposits must affect my internal compass. They don’t affect the compass in my pack, though, and I have since learned to consult it religiously. I had my compass with me that day, and knew generally the lay of the land, but unfortunately I couldn’t remember exactly how it lay in relation to the points of the compass and my best guess turned out to be off by about 45 degrees. None of that concerned us for a while, though, but as the afternoon wore on I had an increasingly disconcerting feeling that things weren’t right. Nothing seemed to be sloping the right direction, and while I kept expecting to come into a clearing and see a familiar landmark, we didn’t. The fog kept swirling through, which didn’t make it any easier to get our bearings, and the high humidity had turned into a light rain. By late afternoon I had to admit that I was lost, completely bamboozled. Duane, naturally, wasn’t impressed with this bit of information, although he had been suspecting as much for some time. To paraphrase frontiersman Jim Bridger, I had been mighty confused a few times in the past, but this was the first time I had been honestly lost, and I didn’t like it. I now have a slightly higher degree of sympathy for people who panic when they realize they are lost and go running blindly through the woods. Panic doesn’t accurately describe our state of mind as darkness was approaching, but we weren’t exactly calm, either. Neither of us were thinking very clearly, it seemed.

By late afternoon, the drizzling rain had turned to snow, and we were the proverbial unhappy campers. We knew we didn’t have a lot of time to find our way back to camp or we would be faced with spending the night out in a snowstorm. We were frantically searching for some recognizable landmark, and at one point found ourselves standing above a fairly large canyon. We just about headed down it, but thankfully came slightly to our senses and realized it had to be Beartrap Creek, the only large canyon in the vicinity other than Cherry Creek. I knew generally which direction Beartrap Creek ran, and we were able to construct a mental map with that information. Unfortunately, as it turned out our map was slightly flawed. At that point, we had about a half hour of daylight left and it was snowing hard. One amusing point, in retrospect, is that from about the time the rain turned to snow, we were into elk like crazy. Shooting an elk was the least of our concern at that point, though, and when one of us pointed out yet another bull elk, the other’s reaction was invariably "so what, let’s get the heck out of here". We decided on a compass bearing that we thought would lead us back to Carpenter Creek and headed out on it. In fairly short order, we struck a creek and were feeling pretty good about our navigating skills. We were following this creek when darkness fell, and the further we went down it the more convinced we became that it wasn’t Carpenter. So, we took the same compass bearing and headed across country again. While crossing some open hillsides, the wind came up and since we were both soaking wet, things started looking kind of grim. We had adequate clothing to stay warm if there had only been one of us, but we were both lacking on different parts of our anatomy. I had on wool pants and long underwear, but only a cotton shirt and fleece jacket. Duane was dressed just opposite and had adequate clothing on his torso, but only cotton pants. As you may know, when it gets wet cotton is almost worse than nothing as far as insulation, and we both started getting quite chilled. We were well aware the situation we were in was potentially very dangerous, and were relieved when we hit another timbered creek bottom and could get out of the wind. In fairly short order it became apparent that this wasn’t Carpenter Creek either, but it was obvious that going back out into the wind would be foolish, possibly fatal, so we started looking for somewhere to spend the night. It seemed that all the wood around was soaked, creating the obvious complications in building a fire, but luck or providence smiled on us and we shortly found large dead shrub that was sheltered by a large pine tree. This provided us with abundant dry, small diameter wood as well as a dry place to sit, an extremely rare combination at that point. Getting a fire going still presented some complications, though. I had plenty of wooden kitchen matches along in a waterproof container, but we couldn’t get one lit. They were Diamond matches, the kind that come in a red and blue box that says "strike anywhere" on it. I have noticed they have since changed that to "strike on box". If I may throw a product endorsement in here, since that time I only take Ohio Blue Tip matches camping, they will strike anywhere. We had put quite a dent in our supply of matches unsuccessfully trying to get one lit by striking them on rocks. Personally, that was probably the low point of the whole experience for me. We were both cold and getting a little desperate. If we couldn’t get a fire lit, it was going to be a long, cold night and people don’t always survive situations like we were in. Duane was similarly discouraged, and said "if we only had a lighter". Eureka!! I suddenly remembered that I had a lighter somewhere in my pack, an unused leftover from some previous expedition. Within moments we had a fire going, which we rapidly built into an inferno, and things were looking up. We had plenty of food in our packs, and in short order we were full, warm, dry, and massively thankful. We took turns staying awake to keep the fire going, and listening to elk bugling around us in the darkness.

When dawn came, the snow had let up and I could see that we seemed to be near the edge of some timbered foothills, and I suspected we were out on the Flying D. We knew camp had to be somewhere off to the southwest, and so headed off that direction. In comparison to most ranches, parts of the Flying D are for all practical purposes ungrazed, and we were in one of them. We seemed to be in a sea of timothy and other tall grasses, somewhat matted down with about eight inches of wet snow. It made for tough, as well as wet hiking and within a hundred yards or so our legs were as wet as if we had waded into a lake. We shortly reached a ridgetop where we could see landmarks and get a firm fix on our location, and ascertained that we were above Pole Creek, well out on the ranch. I am acquainted with Bud Hubbard, Turner’s chief of security, and if you happen to read this, Bud, I hope the statute of limitations has expired on our trespassing. It was inadvertent, and something we would have gladly done without.

I now knew for certain where camp was, although I think Duane, understandably, was still viewing my navigational skills with suspicion and wasn’t totally convinced until he saw the tent. A few miles of exhausting hiking due to the aforementioned tangle of tall, matted, wet grass, and we were closing in on our campsite. I was concerned about my horses, and when we started getting close to camp I went on ahead. All during our hike that morning we had been seeing elk everywhere, but hunting was still a low priority with us at that point, not to mention the fact for part of the morning the elk were off-limits since we were still on the ranch. Just above camp, though, I saw a huge bull elk, a trophy-class 7 X 7, with drop tines about a foot long off each antler. The sight of him rejuvenated me somewhat, and I hunkered down in the sagebrush and tried to cow-call him into range. He apparently had other things on his mind, though, and ignored me, never coming closer than about sixty yards. He was a most impressive sight, though, and reminded me why we were there.

I dropped down into camp, and found my horses to be all right, although hungry and glad to be let loose so they could forage. Unfortunately however, our tent was flat as a pancake. I had a small wall tent at the time, an 8’ X 10’, but had plans for a bigger one and so cut our tent poles extra long. This resulted in the crossbucks that support the ridgepole extending outward at a quite shallow angle, and when the ground got muddy, they slipped outward and the whole works came down. I couldn’t get the tent back up by myself, but Duane arrived shortly and we both went at it. In spite of our best efforts, we couldn’t get the poles to hold in the mud. We were both exhausted, wet, and not a little frazzled from our experience and this final inconvenience was just too much. With the prospect of getting warm, dry, fed, and rested so close yet maddeningly difficult we were both shortly in a rage, and the whole situation was only funny in retrospect. We finally cut a couple more poles to use as uprights under the ridgepole, got the tent back up and shortly a fire was crackling in the woodstove. Some dry clothes and a hot meal did wonders for our attitude, and we crawled into our sleeping bags, hugely thankful and relieved to be home.

The next day dawned sunny and beautiful, as it stayed for the rest of our trip, but we were still so worn out from our ordeal that we didn’t get much hunting done. So, due to the simple oversight of forgetting to put a topo map in my pack, we essentially lost the first three days of our trip. I haven’t made that mistake again since, and view going out without map and compass with the same feeling of insecurity I get when I realize I have forgotten to fasten my seat belt in a vehicle.

By the following day we were back in action, and spent the next few days in a bowhunting wonderland, getting into elk on a regular basis. As is so often the case, though, they were staying just out of bow range. Unlike many other areas, it has been my experience that calling is of limited usefulness in the areas adjacent to the Flying D. Elk will answer a bugle from a distance, but they will rarely come in to either a bugle or cow call. I still don’t have the answers to this, but my theory is that the percentage of bulls is so high, that the bulls just aren’t interested in fighting everyone that bugles. Also, if a bull is lucky or big enough to have a few cows, he is not interested in fighting off every challenger, an endless task, and a nearby challenging bugle usually results in the herd’s departure. My tactic, and those of several other successful bowhunters I know that hunt this area, is to attempt an ambush.

To that end, several days later I was slowly drifting through some timber. I came over a small rise and saw a cow elk trotting straight at me, with a dandy bull in pursuit. The cow saw me, and rapidly swapped directions. The bull hadn’t seen me, but followed the cow, no doubt pondering feminine inconsistency. I followed them a short way, but the cow was clearly spooked and wasn’t stopping soon, so I returned to the ridgetop. I crossed it and immediately saw patches of tan hair through the timber, always a most welcome sight. It turned out there was a group of about a dozen elk feeding just up the ridge from me. They hadn’t seen me, the wind wasn’t blowing my scent toward them, and things looked favorable. The closest, a small bull, was only about twenty five yards away, and the curve of the hill was such that when his head was down feeding he couldn’t see me, but I had a clear view of his body. Since we only had a couple of days left to hunt, I rapidly decided he would do, and launched an arrow. I hit him a little high, he jumped downhill a few yards, and stood there for a moment with a confused expression. If I had been quick enough, I probably could have gotten another arrow into him at that point, but fortunately that turned out to be unnecessary. The rest of the bunch knew something was amiss, and took off, with the one I had shot following. Just after he went out of sight I heard a crash. Bowhunters aren’t supposed to pursue animals they have hit too rapidly, since they will usually lay down and bleed out nearby if not pushed. I was pretty sure he was down, though, and after a few minutes I cautiously followed, scanningCampmeat.jpg (19687 bytes) the timber ahead of me through my binoculars. In just a few yards I saw a foot sticking up below me, and there was my elk. As it turned out, my arrow had sliced through his aorta, the large artery that runs under the spine, and he had died just forty yards from where I had hit him. This was my first archery kill, and while I had often heard how lethal arrows can be, I was flabbergasted that primitive hunting equipment could put down a large animal so quickly, not to mention hugely grateful for not only the chance to spend time in some of my favorite country, but to provide meat for my family in a manner largely unchanged from what our primitive ancestors experienced. To further compound my blessings, I had taken an elk in a spot relatively easy to reach with our packhorses, and by late that evening we had fresh meat in camp.

Another day of hunting failed to produce an elk for Duane, and we got ready for our departure. We agreed that except for the harm it would cause in domestic relations, we both could have gladly spent another ten days. With the exception of meat, however, our supplies of food and drink were fairly depleted. It appeared that if we boned my elk out, he would fit into the boxes we had packed food in, enabling us to get both camp and elk out in one trip. On our final morning in camp, we boned the elk out, and got packed up. This took some time, and it was nearly 2:00 PM before we were underway. We took the same shortcut we had taken on the way in, not suspecting that our adventure quota was still not filled.

It was necessary to cross a ravine which bisected the steep mountainside above Cherry Creek, and I had to pick a bad spot to cross it. We got down into it OK, but there was a bit of a washout on the far side. It appeared going above the wash was the best choice, but when my saddle horse hopped up there he started spinning out in the mud left over from the snowstorm. The lead packhorse jumped up next to us, and things were starting to get tense, appearing that we were going to be pushed down into the washout. Saudi was next in line, didn’t like the looks of what was going on above him, and pulled back. Probably because the lead packhorse, Bo, didn’t have much traction the pigtail didn’t break resulting in Bo being pulled over back down into the ravine, right on top of Saudi. This resulted in the most spectacular packhorse wreck I have ever had the misfortune to witness. They both went cartwheeling down the ravine, taking turns rolling over each other, packs and all. I was sure we were going to be looking at broken legs and who knew what else, and let me tell you, it was a God-awful thing to watch, which was all I could do. After a few somersaults, they finally hit a bit of a flat (or just less steep) spot and stopped rolling. At that point Saudi was upside down, with Bo standing straddle of him, both still miraculously wearing their packs. Bo took off, the pigtail finally broke at that point, and he went thundering across the mountainside. His packs finally slipped and he was dragging them behind, kicking the stuffings out of them until they finally came loose. Amazingly, he stopped, and since he can be hard to catch, I sprinted after him and caught him. I got him back over to the ravine and tied him up as quick as I could and turned my attention to Saudi. He was still upside down, head downhill and not doing too good. He was groaning, his breast collar was cutting off his wind, and I thought he was a goner. I couldn’t get his breast collar loose, pulled a knife and cut it and he was able to get some air. I undid his cinches, but he still couldn’t get up. Duane and I tried to roll him over as we had done previously, but this time Saudi was thrashing around and managed to nail Duane square in the head with a shod rear hoof. Duane didn’t go down, but I’m sure he got a concussion, and wasn’t real conversational for a while.

Saudi had gotten sideways to the hill by then and was able to get up, and we took stock of our situation. Miraculously, neither horse was injured, only some minor scratches. Duane was coming around, but my packing equipment was in serious disrepair. Saudi’s packsaddle, a sawbuck (the style with wooden crossbucks) was smashed to kindling. Bo’s saddle, a Decker (has steel hoops on top, as opposed to the wooden ones on a sawbuck) had the rigging all tore up. What to do? Duane was scheduled to catch a plane home the next morning, and he didn’t figure his wife would view any delays kindly, so we had to figure out a way to put things back together and get out of there. I always keep a supply of twine handy for on-trail repairs, and we were able to lace the rigging of Bo’s saddle back together. My riding saddle has slots in the cantle and some other features which enable packing on it in a pinch, which this certainly was. So, we slung Saudi’s packs on my saddle horse, repacked Bo, I jumped on Saudi bareback and we were once again functional and underway, if slightly worse off for our mishap. We made it the rest of the way down to Cherry Creek, and for that matter the rest of the trip without further mishap. I can attest, though, that a thirteen mile bareback ride while leading a packstring will cause your thighs to ache like you can’t believe. After a few miles I knew if I got off I probably wasn’t going to be able to get back on again, so I stuck it out and we got back to the trailhead about midnight, half giddy with relief and elation that we had pulled it off and added considerably to our stock of experiences.

I am not trying to glorify our experiences, although I feel they do have a certain amount of entertainment value. On the contrary, I have since taken pains to see that they are not repeated. Foremost, I never head out on any kind of backcountry venture without maps and compass in my pack, not to mention adequate food, matches, flashlight, and clothing to facilitate an overnight stay if necessary. My horse packing skills have also reached a comfortable plateau, not only in the mechanics of packing but perhaps most importantly in my ability to apply some horse psychology, and I haven’t had a serious wreck in a number of years. I am glad to report that as I type this, in February 1999, I can still look out my window and see Saudi in the pasture, now 25 years old but still going strong. He and I, as well as the rest of my horses and a variety of friends have returned to the Cherry Creek area annually since, taking more elk and having a grand time in the process. My 1995 trip still stands out as packing more adventure and misadventure into a ten day period than any other, though.

See you on the trail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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