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6-17-09 004_edited-1-2
An Incredible Trip

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8/17/11, La Garita Creek, CO - Every once in a while, plans come together to bring perfection.  The past four days of horsepacking in the mountains was all of that - a perfect trip.  My brother Jim, nephew Preston, and friend Jerry Nusbaum joined me on this adventure, in which we traveled 60 miles into the gorgeous mountains to the west of the ranch where Iím living.

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Packing above tree line near Mesa Mountain, Colorado.  I was mounted on Bill and leading B.O.B. with the packsaddle.  Preston was up on Doc while Jerry was riding his mare Conchita.  My brother Jim split his time between hiking and riding with his son.

Jim and Preston got in on Saturday morning and we spent much of the day getting them familiar with the lads.

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First riding lessons for my 10 year old Nephew.

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It didnít take Preston long to start getting the hang of things.

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After a good day of riding, thereís nothing Doc enjoys more that a good roll.

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This was a day of firsts for Preston.  Not only did he get to ride a horse, he also learned how to drive a truck.  Irresponsible uncles are good for teaching nephews things like that!

Our goal for the trip was to head west about 25 miles and climb up 13,000 foot, Mesa Mountain. Then we were going to traverse the ridge northward to Bowers Peak and turn west to Boot Mountain. On the way there and back we were going to camp in La Garita Park, a large meadow at the headwaters for La Garita Creek.

Sunday morning we saddled up, mounted are horses at the ranch and headed west to the National forest, three miles away. After 18 miles of travel with beautiful weather, we crossed the stream and set up next to a spring, at the same place that Sandy and I camped the week before.  

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Riding through the spruce and aspen on the way to La Garita Park.  There was a threat of an afternoon shower, but it didnít amount to much.

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Whle the adults were making camp, Preston was in charge of thanking the horses for the dayís work.

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One of the nice things about having a pack horse is that you donít have to live on freeze dried food!

The second day (Monday) was an easy one. We had to get as high as possible on Mesa Mountain and still have water to camp for the evening. The third day of our adventure was going to be a long one, and largely above treeline.  There wasnít any water or trees up that high, so we had to get as close as possible.

Monday morning we didnít break camp until noon and spent the time fishing and exploring the area.  When we did get underway, we only traveled about 4 or 5 miles before making camp on the edge of a large meadow with plenty of good grazing. There were several springs in the area and a small stream, full of trout.  Both the horses and humans enjoyed the afternoon.

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Camped in a meadow on Monday night.  The portable electric fence worked great and allowed the horses the chance to really pack away a lot of sweet mountain grass.

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The humans also enjoyed the time to unwind - Bloody Maryís anyone?

Tuesday morning (day 3) we pulled out early and started the 2000 foot climb to the top of Mesa Mountain, reaching the summit before noon. The view at the top was breathtaking.  To the east, most of the San Luis Valley was visible, to include the Sangre De Cristo Mountains on the east side of the valley. There was a 360 degree panorama of the San Juan Mountains, with narrow valleys between the bergs.

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My good friend Jerry Nusbaum, mounted on his mare Conchita.  Now 15 years old, this little mare has hardly been ridden in the previous 10 years. Tough and sweet, she was more than equal to the task.

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At the summit for lunch - 12,979 feet above sea level. This is a new altitude record for the lads.

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Leaving the summit of Mesa mountain for Bowers Peak. Look how beautiful the weather is.  You wouldnít guess that an hour and a half later we were caught in a heavy hail storm - all of which was only falling right on the peaks and ridges.  The mountains have a way of making there own local weather.

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Jim, hiking along in high country. Heís pretty rugged and could easily have walked any of the horses into the dirt.

With the weather looking like it was going to change, we decided to skip Boot Mountain and take the Perry Creek trail off of Bowers Peak on our way back to camp in La Garita Park.  Oh, the best laid plans of mice and men.  The trails are not very well marked in high country, and we were temporarily disorientated (not lost - we were all men). We ended up taking a mile and a half detour down a dead end trail (only to see the sights, of course).  After figuring things out, we readjusted our route to the correct one and proceed north to the proper trail. We saved about a mile of travel by leading the horses, then traversing down a rocky slope - they did great.

Once the team hit the Perry Creek Trail, they knew they were headed for some sweet grazing and really started moving out. We made the 8 miles back to the campsite in La Garita Park in record time!

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After a long day on the trail, thereís nothing like relaxing besides a good fire!

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Of course, when Jerry wandered off for a few minutes, someone had to borrow his sunglasses, hat and seat.

After a huge dinner of everything left in the packs we turned in for our last night in the mountains.

This morning (Wednesday, 8/17) we started out on our 18 mile return trip to the ranch. A few miles from home, we got caught in a couple of brief showers, but it was nothing like what we saw falling in the mountains behind us - thereís nothing like good timing.

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Packing up to leave camp this morning. I use the Dexter type pack saddle with oversize pannier bags. Because B.O.B. is so big, I had to have it custom made for him.

Overall, I have to score this trip a TEN on the 1 to 10 scale. Everything was perfect.