Well, I think I've delayed the final part of the tale long enough. The work party was, well, a work party. A lot of trail clearing and rerouting. Two bridges were rebuilt, and some logs were cut out of the trail.
One of the highlights was the christening of the Waterpark on Thursday morning. The group I was in was headed to work on the lower part of the Arch Rock Trail. Our crew was headed up by RD. RD has been riding and packing for more years than I've been standing on the earth. He's been there, done that, and has the worn out cowboy hat to prove it.
To reach the trail, we had to ride over a puncheon bridge which crosses the Greenwater River where it feeds into Echo Lake. RD was riding in the lead, with two pack horses in tow. His saddle horse started across the bridge, and the first pack horse followed. The second pack horse, however, decided that it would be easier to bypass the bridge and ford the river. As the bridge is low, and the water shallow, this wouldn't have been a problem, except for one thing. There was a log in the river, which caused the horse to stop.
When pack horses are tied to each other, the lead rope of the following animal is tied to the pack saddle of the one in front via a "pigging string". This is nothing more than a few light strands of bailing twine. The idea being that should any pressure be placed against it, it will break.
Well, bailing twine must be of stronger stuff these days, because the pigging string didn't break. As the horse in the water pulled back, the horse on the bridge pulled forward and to the left.
Then the pigging string broke, and the crash unfolded before our eyes.
With the sudden release of pressure, the pack horse on the bridge crashed sideways into RD's saddle horse. Two horses and one rider tumbled sideways off the bridge, and into the water. The horses were thrashing around in the river, and RD was no where to be seen. The horses were struggling to get their feet underneath them when RD's head popped up out of the churning water.
There was no doubt in my mind that he and at least one horse must be seriously injured.
Incredulously, RD came out with a scrape on his nose. One horse had a minor scratch on one leg. Beyond that, the worst problem was that the pack bags were full of water. To RD, it was all in a days work, and hardly the worst wreck he'd every experienced.
As for me, I don't ever want to experience anything approaching it.
When we arrived back at camp that night, I unsaddled Smokey, and, to my dismay, he had a nasty saddle sore on his back.
There was no question that he was now unrideable. While he had not given any indication of a problem, I was not going to risk further injury. He would spend the rest of the week resting and eating. I'm going to visit this injury in a later post.
My friend Mark had brought extra stock animals with him, so, for the rest of the weekend, I rode a Mule. Well, a horse named Mule, anyway.
Mule is a 7 year old Saddlebred mare. She's a big, stout horse, and was an absolute pleasure to ride. She looks good in my saddle doesn't she?
Your's truly after cutting this log out of the trail. Chainsaws are strictly forbidden in the wilderness, so it has to be done the old fashioned way. That saw is amazingly sharp, and it took me less than ten minutes to make both cuts.
Oh, by the way, Mule is for sale. Did I mention how much I enjoyed riding her, and that she looks really good in my saddle?