Monday, October 31, 2011

Another One Off the Bucket List

Since my blogging has been rather non-existent lame as of late,  I haven't shared my latest "new adventure while riding a horse", which occurred while packing gear into elk camp.

After the first trip in, unloading the gear, lunch, beer, and other appropriate lollygagging at camp, my nephew and I made the two hour ride back to the trailers to pick up the rest of the gear.  After more beer, chocolate chip cookies from the folks semi-permanently camped at the trailhead, and loading up the panniers, we mounted up and headed out, pack horses in tow.  Departure time may have been on the wrong side of 6pm.  No worries, we should make it to camp before dark.

I wasn't wearing a timepiece, so I don't have any reference times, but it did not seem all that long before the light began to fail.  And I do mean fail.  The moon was out, but it rarely penetrated the canopy of the heavy timber.  Soon, it looked like something like this:

I exaggerate only slightly.  The only things I could make out in the dark were Smokey's neck (there's something to be said for a Buttermilk Buckskin), and the occasional cross-section of fallen trees which had been cut from the trail, which provided the only assurance that we were still on the trail. I was riding lead, ponying the Appaloosa (Jack) pictured in a previous post, and, as I saw it, I had two choices:

                 1.  Trust my horse, or
                 2.  Trust my horse

I opted to trust my horse.  For all his antics in the arena, Smokey has long since proven himself to be the wise old trail horse, who is no slouch in the wilderness.  We weren't about to break out flashlights, as that would only serve to ruin the night vision of our trusted steeds.  On we rode.

I'm not big on talking when riding the trail. For me, quiet is a key component of the wilderness experience.  The solitude this night was amplified by the complete darkness, the quiet broken only by the soft sound of hooves on the trail, and the occasional snort of equine nostrils.  At the risk of sounding dramatic, I found that, with nothing to concentrate on, save my own thoughts, I reveled in the feeling of senses stripped bare.

All good things come to an end, and before long the raw glow of a lantern appeared through the trees, snapping me out of my reverie.  The horses, not surprisingly, had found camp.  Soon, the gear was unloaded, horses settled, watered, and fed, and we settled in to a warm dinner ourselves, this new experience behind me.

On a side note, an old packer once told me that when riding at night, hanging a glow stick from your neck would light the trail ahead of you.  I can attest, from experience this night, that the claim is pure horse puckey.  I gave this a try, and the only noticeable effect was total loss of what little night vision I had.  Within two minutes, I shoved it in a pocket, never to be tried again.


Bag Blog said...

The quiet and solitude sound lovely, but riding in the pitch black - not so lovely. Give Smokey extra feed for that one.

Deb said...

1. Trust my horse, or
2. Trust my horse
Good decision. And that sounds simply lovely. Thanks for sharing.

jill said...

I've ridden a few "moonlight" rides, on purpose though. When some people find out that I've ridden at night, on purpose, they always ask how can the horse see? I say the horse can see just fine in the dark. they usually think I'm nuts. I haven't ridden in true blackness since I was really young on an overnight mountain camp trip. At dusk a storm moved in, and we an hours ride yet to shelter. Out there it was truly dark! I was 9 maybe, so I held the horn and trusted the horse too!

Buck said...

I don't do well in the dark. I'd do LESS well in the dark in the forest on a horse. As a matter of fact I have a great deal o' difficulty even imagining me in those combined circumstances! Mainly coz o' the lions and tigers and bears aspect... ;-)

wv: flock. As in "I'd get the flock outta there!"

Dave (aka Buckskins Rule) said...

Lou, Deb, & Jill: I'm not in a rush to repeat the experience, but it was a positive experience, and I wouldn't trade it.

Buck: The dark doesn't bother me (although I'm starting to dislike driving at night). As to the lions, tigers, and bears aspect, I view at an occupation hazard. o_O

Fredd said...

Not to be a wet blanket when it comes to horses, but I prefer a dirt bike to a horse, anyday.

Horses are big, dumb and dangerous, and will cripple you real smartly and think nothing of it if you aren't careful.

A dirt bike can go anywhere a horse can, practically. A dirtbike doesn leave horse hockey behind, and when you're done riding the dirt bike, you can stick it in the garage and not even think about it for a few months and it'll be fine.

With a horse, they never take time off being horses. They need food, and lots of it all the time. And excercise, and lots of other things that dirtbikes don't.

Except gas.

Dave (aka Buckskins Rule) said...

Sorry, Fredd, I'm not going to take the bait. If my chosen activity isn't your cup of tea, you are welcome to go read elsewhere.

Rude1 said...

On dark night rides, I usually just trust my horse to get me there. All I do is hold a hand in front of my face to deflect the occasional low hanging branch hiding in the dark.

And Fredd, sorry to say but horses are anything but dumb; they're probably one of the smartest animals out there. I've been injured more often and worse on a dirtbike than I've ever been on a horse. You can have your bike, I'll keep my horses.

Mary said...

Wow, I bet that was a trip! I've riden in the "almost" dark, back in the day, but never dark, dark like that. I can only imagine how acute the hearing senses were.

To bad Fredd's having such a bad day. hmmm

Cory said...

Trust your many times have we heard that! I had a similar experience in SE Colorado on a colt, with a friend of mine. Hmm...I might have to write about that one sometime...Keep up the good writing!