Sunday, July 1, 2012

Clarks Fork Horse Camping .. Day Two!

Ready to go ... Ollie's beautiful yellow eyes can be seen here.  She is just the sweetest dog ever!  I'd take her home in a minute!!  A little distracted ... SQUIRREL!!! ... occasionally, she's a great watch dog, growling when anyone came around, but never barking ... not once!!
Today will be our long hard ride to Jenkins Canyon, approximately 8 miles with a 1200 foot elevation rise.  I see switchbacks in our future ..... this country is pretty rugged, and all trails leading out, go UP!  Having been warned of the bears, I kept a wary eye out constantly.  In fact, as you go up the switchbacks where you can't see ahead, you whistle and talk loudly hoping if they are there, they will quickly leave.  The last thing you want to run into face to face on a steep narrow rocky switchback, is a bear!!!

Once out of camp, we followed a logging road to the trailhead.  The first few miles of the trail were pretty nice.  I suspect most people only go a couple miles and turn back, because the further up we got, the less used the trail was.  There were lots of huge granite rocks and fallen trees that we had to skirt around or crawl over.  In a couple of places it was so bad we got off and walked.  Without our weight on their backs (I don't want to hear any snickering here!!) it's easier for the horses to navigate the rough spots. The image below is about half way ... these mountains are called the Dardanelles.  High above the tree line, they resemble Grand Canyon rocks.
Along the way we saw lots of wildflowers including this Indian Paint Brush.  Even the skunk weed was in bloom!!
We finally made it to Jenkins Canyon ... anyone want to climb up this mountain??  Yes, it is as steep as it looks.  We stopped here and tied the horses to trees so they could rest while we ate lunch.
The trail at this point wasn't good at all, so Sandy checked out her Forest Service Topographical maps to see what it looked like ahead.  These maps are invaluable and you shouldn't be out here without them.  The trails are not well marked any more nor cleared like the highways you find in Yosemite.  It has been the National Parks agenda to go "back to nature" and let the wilderness be just that, including not replacing any directional trail signs.  As a result, very few people utilize the area or travel the trails.  Without these maps showing the mountain streams, trails and contours, you could easily get lost.
We walked ahead on the trail for maybe half a mile and decided it was just too rough for the horses.  Safety first is Sandy's motto ... and a horse with a broken leg out here is bad news!!  On the way back we stopped at this little meadow to let them eat.  The more grass they eat out here, the better for them and the cheaper Sandy's feed bill!!  The red bags on my saddle horn hold lunch, water, a poncho, side cutters (in case your horse gets into wire), hoof pick, kleenex, pocket knife, camera and gloves.  You can't see them, but I have large saddle bags behind my saddle that hold first aid kits for humans and horses, two large bags of feed for the horses (they get lunch too ... it provides them with much needed energy), and miscellaneous emergency supplies.  Like the Boy Scouts, be Prepared!!!!!
On the way back, we noticed the moon had come up before the sun went down.  I think it was about 4:00 when I took this image.
After seven hours of riding, we returned to camp.  The horses were tired, we were tired, and Ollie sacked out immediately.  I think for every mile we traveled, she went two!!
No rest for us however ... horses have to be washed and brushed to get the sweat off.  They are first fed a few chunks of watermelon ... their favorite!! ... then hay and special "senior" grain.  Hard to believe, but both these guys are about 18 years old.  Once dry, they are blanketed for the night.  THEN we get to relax and clean up a little.  After chili beans and corn cakes we sat around the fire planning the next days trip!!!

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