Monday, December 15, 2008

Fall 2007, Pack trip to the Cascades

I was supposed to finish my research and defend my M.S thesis by the end of summer 2007, so I had planned a big trip to celebrate finishing. Unfortunately, I did not finish that summer, and had to reschedule my defense for the end of November 2007. However, since I already had planned this big trip, and I was so looking forward to it, we went anyway. In the beginning of September, we took a week long pack trip to the Cascades near Mt. Rainier. A very good friend of mine came along, and Todd’s mom and her brother came along as well. I’d never been on a pack trip before, ever, so Todd’s mom and her brother planned the trip out. They tried to go on a trip every year, so they had all the gear already.

My friend flew in from Texas and I picked her up from the airport on the way to the Cascades. Unfortunately, the airline lost her luggage, so we didn’t arrive until a day later. Todd’s mom and her brother had gone ahead with the truck and trailer and met us at the campsite. We borrowed a horse for my friend (a big roan quarter horse named Pepper), Todd’s mom rode her mare, Jasmine, her bother rode Pepsi, and I brought along Cody and Chico. Chico was to be my riding horse, and Cody would be our pack horse when we packed in for a few days.

The first day, we just did a trail ride up the Pacific Crest trail and saw some great views. This was Chico's first time wearing a riding breeching. I love this picture of him checking it out. He was fine with it though, once he had a chance to get used to it.

All of these photos are courtesy of my friend. I didn't own a digital camera at this time, so didn't even bring one along. Here's a great shot of Mt. Rainier.

Here we are resting at the top before heading back down.

We had a great first day ride, unfortunately, the trail was also home to ground bees that were disturbed when 5 horses rode over them. On the way back down, we got into a particularly bad nest. I lost a hold of Cody while we were getting out of there, and Todd’s mom lost a hold of Pepsi while Jasmine bucked to get rid of the bees (her brother stayed behind on this ride, so we led the two mares). Together, Cody and Pepsi decided that they were getting the heck off the mountain, and so took off down the trail. This was a very bad thing, because if they made it all the way to the bottom, they’d have to cross a major highway (frequented by huge speeding logging trucks) to get back to our campsite. Once they had their horses under control, Todd’s mom and my friend took off after Cody and Pepsi. I followed too, but did not feel comfortable galloping Chico down the mountain trail, so I kept him slower and got left behind. Todd’s mom did catch up eventually and caught Pepsi. I got caught back up and got Cody and all was well. My friend and Todd’s mom were exhilarated from their wild chase of the two down the hill and said that was one of the best parts of their trip.

The next day, we moved to a new campsite, closer to an area where we’d pack in and set up camp for a few days. That afternoon, we did a half day ride to Shoe Lake.

This is my friend and I taking a break with our horses.

Heading back down from Shoe Lake. What a great view.

The next day, we packed up all our gear, loaded Cody up with the pack saddle, and took off for our new campsite in the mountains.

The horses all packed up and ready to go.

Here is Cody starting to get antsy because Pepsi is being led away to get a drink of water, and Cody is still tied up. Chico could care less as he scratches his nose on his leg.

Our camp was in the middle of this beautiful valley.

The next day, we did a day ride out toward Elk pass and got great views of Mt. Rainier.

We had a great time on our trip. Chico did awesome on his first mountain pack trip.

Cody did good on her first time as a pack horse. Unfortunately, she had the same problem as she did on the trail ride in Ellensburg. She attached her safety to Pepsi, so if Pepsi was not in her immediate vicinity, she would be come worried, pace and scream for Pepsi to come back. This was particularly annoying when we were camped in the valley and Todd’s mom would lead her horses down to the creek for a drink, and I’d lead Cody and Chico, with Cody only concerned about where Pepsi went. I did lots of ground work and lunging with her to get her to pay attention to me. It worked, but it was a constant battle with her and she never felt good without Pepsi. Todd’s mom and my friend were amused with all the trouble and frustration I had with Cody. Amazingly, Cody was actually better behaved when I rode her than when I just led her.

My friend eating dinner in camp.

When we weren’t out riding, we were letting the horses hang out grazing in the valley where we camped. If I led Cody away from the other horses, she was anxious and concerned about where they went. If I hopped on her bareback and rode her away, she was much more tuned in to my cues and didn’t get as anxious. Strange, eh? Chico was completely relaxed unless all 4 off the other horses left him alone tied to a tree. Then he’d pace and whinny. We let the horses loose to graze in the field, but we’d never let Pepsi and Cody loose together. One of them always had to be under control, to avoid them deciding to head down off the mountain again and take the entire herd with them. We weren’t taking any chances with getting left up there without any horses. I also couldn’t let Chico loose to graze in the field with the roan gelding, Pepper, because he would try to chase Pepper away from “his”mares. Pepper was borrowed from one of Todd’s mom’s friends, so he was not part of the herd. Chico reminded him of it whenever he got a chance.

The first time we discovered that it would not be possible to let Chico and Pepper loose together, it was interesting to watch. Pepper just gave in and got out of Chico’s way, meanwhile, Chico was strutting, arching his neck, and just floating across the ground as he tried to keep Pepper away from his mares. He was beautiful. I’d have liked to watch more, but poor Pepper was in no condition to be chased. His owner said he did not need shoes, so we took Pepper up the mountain completely barefoot. After just the second day, his feet were so sore that he refused to walk down the center of the trail where it was hard packed, and would instead walk on the soft crumbly edge (which if gave away, would have sent them sliding down the mountain side). His feet were probably not helped by the first day where my friend rode him at a gallop down the trail to catch our run away mares. My friend eventually switched to riding Cody, and we pony’d Pepper, when we went out on our day rides. She did ride him back to the trailer on the way out, though, because she weighs less than the pack did.

A picture of my friend and I at the end of our trip. She's riding Pepper, I'm riding Chico, and Cody is our pack horse. Note poor Pepper's sour face. He was not happy about being made to stand in the rocks for a picture. But that's one happy dog in the background (my dog, Jasper).

It was a great trip, but was my last relaxing time until the end of the year. After that, I really buckled down and got my thesis project done. I only rode my horses a few times that Fall 2007. The most time I spent with them was when Cody colicked and needed doctoring and emergency vet care. Other than that, they were on their own. I graduated in December 2007, and then went home for 3 weeks to spend Christmas with my family in Wisconsin. When I came back in January 2008, I started working full-time for my advisor in the genetics lab. I’ve been doing that ever since (but am now moving onto something new).


Jessie said...

That looks like a lot of fun! I like to camp with my horses, but we don't do it like that.

Tracey said...

So pretty up there. I've never ridden the PCT; maybe I ought to do that, you think?

Kara said...

Yes! It is really pretty up there! Except for the bees. I wonder if they wouldn't be as easily irritated at a different time of the year. We went in September.