Sunday, August 12, 2007

Facing reality.

Home again after a few days spent in the mountains. I picked the particular camp where I intended to stay because it is the coolest spot I know of during a heat spell. I had about all I wanted of near 100 degree temperature. There is this nice little camp in a shady spot next to a creek.......... But as it turned out we had a general cooling trend with average temps in the 80's. This made my camp by the creek a little cooler than I had intended, and actually chilly in the mornings, but all in all it was pretty nice. A sweat shirt was welcome even in the afternoon in the shade, and tee shirt weather out in the sun. Higher on the mountain at a lake the weather was just about perfect. The only fly in the ointment were the yellow jackets. Every meal was a battle with the little meat bees. Even the rattle snake that I killed as it crawled through camp paled by comparison.

As a contrast to earlier camps this year, where people were coming and going practically all the time, I had the country almost to myself. During the time I spent in camp there were only 1 or 2 vehicles going by every day. Only 1 stopped at my camp, and that was a Forest Service fire vehicle. The crew reminded me that camp fires and BBQ grills were banned. Only propane or liquid fuel camp stoves permitted. There was only 1 vehicle parked at the trailhead, about a quarter of a mile up the road from camp. It belonged to a couple of back packers that I met on their way out when I rode to a lake higher on the mountain. It was a welcome relief from the hustle and bustle around some of the busier camps and trailheads. It won’t be so once deer season opens. There will be a truck load of road hunters going by at least every half hour!

I set up a snug camp with a tarp stretched out from the horse trailer for shade, and shelter in case of rain. There are no facilities at this camp, basically just a place to park off the road. No horse corral, so I set up the portable hot wire corral that I carry with me. The photo that accompanies this post shows how I like to keep a horse in camp.

This is a simple little outfit that runs off a battery that is charged by a small solar panel. I much prefer it to high lines or picket lines. A horse can lay down or roll if it chooses to without becoming entangled in a rope and possibly rope burning itself. You can set up an enclosure for 1 horse or a dozen, being limited only by the amount of "electrical tape" on hand. There have been times when I have been out with several other people when we completely encircled a mountain meadow, with even a creek running through it for water, and easily had a mixed heard of over a dozen horses and mules happily grazing near camp. Once broke to a hot wire a horse or mule will not touch that white tape.

After a day of lounging around camp with my nose in a book, the next morning I saddled Sis and rode to a small mountain lake. I am becoming disappointed with this lake. It used to be known for large fat brook trout. A couple of years ago there was a rumor going around that the Dept of F & G in their wisdom had poisoned the lake to eliminate the big brookies. I’m inclined to believe it, as lately all I can catch there are pan sized rainbows. I caught a few for the frying pan, then started back down the mountain. Although I had felt good going up the mountain, it soon became apparent that I had bitten off a little more than I should have. Sad to say, my old knees and hips aren’t what they used to be. By the time I made it back to camp I thought I was going to need help getting off the mare. Getting old is the pits! That evening I melted some margarine in a skillet, coated the larger trout with corn meal seasoned with garlic salt, and fried them to a golden brown. Opened a jar of home canned chili and heated it to go with the fish. Life was good. I saved the smaller fish to go with bacon and eggs the next morning.

After my ride down the mountain, the next couple of days were spent in camp nursing sore knees and hips. Oh well, I had brought along a good book to pass the quiet times in camp. There being almost no one around I was able to turn old Kelly loose to shuffle around camp as he saw fit. The old dog is 13 now, and no longer able to make it out on the trails. He would wander down by the creek for awhile, then come back and lay down beside me where we could reminisce about days gone by.

Finally I felt like getting back on the horse again, but I didn’t really feel like a ride back up and down the mountain. I saddled Sis, turned the dogs loose, and took a little ride up a trail behind camp. I tied Sis in a little grove of trees and set up a calling stand. A raven sailed in almost immediately, and a few minutes later something moved on the hill across the creek. Probably a deer. I heard it rather than saw it, and the dogs heard it too but couldn’t locate it. They ran down by the creek, but unable to hear or wind what had moved there, they were soon back to me. A short ride back to camp and I called it good for the day.

This could very well be my last campout for the season. I have several chores to get done around home, and hunting season will be here before I know it. My days of long rides are over, but I plan to use the mare all I can. It will be a simple matter to load her already saddled into the trailer, haul her to where I want to use her, and save my walking legs (which aren’t much better than my riding legs) for when I need them. Short rides are better than no rides, and I still have plenty of use for a horse.

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