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6-17-09 004_edited-1-2
Horsepacking With Sandy


8/8/11, La Garita Creek, CO - The past few days have been fun, with a bit of adventure thrown in for good measure.  I managed to squeeze in several horseback rides, including one above the mesa that overlooks the ranch.  This past weekend, Sandy and I took off on a 35 mile horsepacking trip to the mountains high up La Garita Creek.

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Doc, ready to go exploring on the mesa above the ranch.

This past weekend, Sandy and I saddled up the horses, threw a packsaddle on B.O.B., and headed up into the mountains for two days.  This was the first in a series of pack trips.  Next week, my brother Jim, nephew Preston, my friend Jerry and I are packing into the mountains for four days.  The following week, my daughter Lisa and I should be taking a combined wagon and horsepacking trip.


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Surveying the view above the ranch.

To get ready for the horsepacking trips, I had to reset the shoes on both Doc and Bob. I also put some front shoes on Jerryís mare. She was a little kicky in the rear, so that task will wait until this week, when Iíll also reshoe Bill.

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Doc/Sandyís view of us starting down the road at the start of our trip.  Bobís pannier bags and top pack werenít full, so he was only packing about 150 pounds.

The horsepacking trip this past weekend was a good time, with only a few little mishaps. The lads were generally well behaved, B.O.B. took real well to the packsaddle and we saw some really great country.

Some lesson to be learned from the adventure included, a sore Sandy, skinny little trails donít work well for traveling with a wide horse with a big pack, and if I really donít want to chase horses, only let one loose at a time to free graze.

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As we just started out, this was my view looking back.

It was 10 am on Saturday before we got underway. Our destination was ĎLa Garita Parkí, a large meadow that was located about 16 miles upstream from the ranch. We left roads and civilization behind after about two miles of travel. Most of this time, I was busy teaching B.O.B. to walk behind Bill, instead of alongside him, as he would do if he was pulling the wagon. By the time we hit the two-track at the start of the National forest, he learned his second lesson - the noise caused by canvass pannier bags brushing against rabbit brush is not really that scary. 

After traveling four miles, the trail split into parallel routes.  Instead of taking the high trail, we chose the lower path, alongside the banks of La Garita Creek.  This worked well for the first few miles, but as the path narrowed, it became increasingly difficult to get large horses through.  In the future, I think Iíll try and stick to trails that are marked for ATV travel.  In spite of the difficulties, the horses did great. When we were moving alongside a fairly steep hill, one of B.O.B.ís pie-tin sized rear hooves slipped off the foot wide trail, but he recovered quickly, almost without losing a step. (I never knew it happened, but Sandy told me about it later.)

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B.O.B. grazing by the fire as the other two lads are on some sliding-type picket lines that I rigged for them.  These didnít work so well, so in the future I think Iíll bring the portable electric fence.

We ended up camping on the edge of a large meadow at 10,000 feet of above sea level. Five feet to the side of the tent was a small spring that was putting out about five gallons per minute of good, clean water.  From past experience, I knew it was best to only let one horse free at a time to graze.  The following morning, I decided that since they were acting so good, I could let two graze at a time.  After my free-grazers crossed the stream and moved about 1/4 mile away, I saddled up Bill and went out to round them up. 2 1/2 miles later, I finally caught up with them.  The moral of the story is - Ďunless you want a five mile ride early in the morning, listen to your gut feelings and donít let two horses at a time loose to grazeí.

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The three lads on their picket lines at first light. Note the cattle grazing in the meadow.  The horse didnít pay them the slightest mind, even when the calves brushed up against them.

Sunday morning we started back.  To avoid the narrow trail alongside the creek, we detoured a couple of miles to the north and took the old ĎLa Garita Stock Driveway Trailí. Shortly after leaving camp, we climbed to 11,000 feet, then it was a gradual downhill for the remainder of the day.

By this time, Sandy was discovering some muscle groups that she didnít know she had and was getting pretty sore. By the time we got back to the ranch, around 6 pm, she was on her last legs.  A day later. sheís hobbling a little, but says she had a wonderful time.

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Sandy and Doc in a high mountain meadow. The valley and the Sangre De Cristo mountain are in the far background.

Overall, this was a heck of a trip.  Sunday morning, Iím headed out with my brother, nephew and friend Jerry on a four day horsepacking trip.

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This is the ruins of an old rock and adobe house on the road to Del Norte.

I do enjoy wildlife photography. In the future I plan on getting a good motion-type camera and putting together a film on the area wildlife. Hereís a couple of shots for your enjoyment.

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I call this buck antelope ďBruceís BuckĒ, because he lives just down the road from my friend Bruce.  Heís kind of a loner and doesnít like to hang around with others of his kind.  I imagine that will change a few weeks from now, when breeding season starts.


I forgot to post this picture of the Bighorn Sheep.  While driving alongside the Arkansas River, I had to brake quickly to avoid hitting a small herd with a ram, three ewes and a lamb. They then moseyed off the road and started munching on same grass.  Sandy took this shot of a ram (head down and feeding) and two ewes.  The amazing thing was that she didnít use any zoom and there is no digital enlargement.