Monday, October 22, 2012

Wrangling Up Bliss Creek!

I was doing irrigation one day, and it was a baaad day for it. The mud was a mess, and I had to carry half a fields worth of pipes to the other side of the field. And...our cousins just got back from hunting and were telling stories and such. Along with doing irrigation though, I was thinking how the summer just flew by and-like I think every year--How I had all these plans to do more things this summer, but still didn't do as much as I wanted to do. "Da -dink dalafa daaaa, bah ling!!"  "Da-dink dalafa daaa, bah ling!" "Oh great." I thought "My hands are muddy and I really don't feel like answering the phone. I should just not answer it. Well, maybe I should...who cares about a little bit of mud anyway?" Little did I know that that phone call would brighten my whole end-of-summer blues!

Turns out that the phone call was from my good friend and riding buddy, Tiffany. Our neighbor whom we both know is an outfitter had one of his guides quite on him, so his old wrangler got promoted as guide...leaving him with no wrangler. His girlfriend had asked Tiffany if she would be interested in the job, and Tiffany-being a gal who'd never done anything like that before but always thought it would be fun wasn't so sure she wanted to go up by herself. After she thought about it though, she thought about me :-) So, she said she'd go up if I could go along with her. (Yeah, I guess I have to admit that it DOES take two girls to equal one least in this case! Shhh, it's a secret though. Don't tell them that!) Apparently they talked it over and it was okay with them because I was asked to go along and help them for the week.

Although I'd gone hunting with my dad and brothers quite a bit I was really nervous about this. Not because of bears and such, but that I wouldn't be as much of a help to them as someone a little more experienced. Everybody has their own style of packing and such. Plus I knew the saddles would be heavy! (heehee) Never-the-less I was super stoked about this trip!

We went the day before to meet the other guides and get a little run-through on what we would be doing for the week. I was thinking of big bearded, rough, nasty-mouthed men with cold hard eyes that would expect me to know exactly what I was supposed to I meet the other guides and all my nervousness disappeared. Here were two other smiling guys close to my age that were like super nice and polite. You know, the kind of guys that offered me a chair and called Tiff and I ma'am (Wow, culture shock! I don't know if I've ever been called ma'am before that!) Not only that, but I could tell that Tim, the owner/boss was going to be a great guy to work for. He was very helpful in patiently explaining everything, not to mention his outstanding sense of humor!

I spent the night before at Tiffany's house. We got up at three in the morning to meet Tim and head on up to the trail head. Once there we saddled up the clients horses whilst Tim and the guides did all the pack saddles. Yeah, it took us ridiculously long because we had to fit each saddle and britchen to the mules and such, plus we didn't know the mules/horses names yet, so they had to tell us each saddle that went on each horse. Never-the-less we did end up getting it done and the clients showed up. After giving a 'bear spray' lecture, fitting them with a scabbard and saddle we were on our merry way!

The beginning of the ride I rode behind Ken who quickly became my favorite client because he reminded me so much of my favorite guy I used to work for.

It was a 22 mile ride back into the campsite, so it took us a good 10-12 hours to get there with two small breaks, but the ride was absolutely BEAUTIFUL! I fell in love with the trail right away. Our job on the way up was to help the clients off and on their HUGE mules, tighten cinches, etc. Basically doing whatever common sense stuff there was to do. :-)

Tim leading his string across the river

Tim lead the way with his string of ten pack mules. Following that was Tiff or I, a couple clients, Patricia-the camp cook, couple clients, the other of Tiff or I, and then Travis and Andrew-the guides both leading strings of pack mules.

Riding to find the 'pocket'

The first day up we got up at three o'clock to saddle the clients mules. At breakfast we got to go back to bed and sleep till 10:30! After that we would get up and do some chores around camp. Fill water buckets, pick up trash, clean the cache, water the mares that stayed in the corral, clean the tents, fill water and wood etc. Then we rode up the trail a ways to find one of the 'pockets' that the horses would wander to at night. It was a totally gorgeous day, and perfect for a short little ride. (a short ride this day was good, because I was starting to feel a little stiff from riding the two days before!)


Because there were two of us it didn't take very long to get our 'chores' done. Although we were always able to find something to do, most of the time we got our main chores done by noon, ate a relaxing lunch, then if the horses/mules didn't come in on their own we would ride out and bring them in. After that maybe start a fire in the shower tent for water to starting heating up, do misc stuff until four and then grain and salt the livestock. That took a little longer than I expected because we had to catch and tie up all thirty horses and use grain bags (Because of bear safety) But, like I said, there were two of us so it made it easy on both of us :D

The 'potty' tent
 I totally LOVED the camp and set up. It was the cutest little village you ever did see! There were two hunters tents, the girls tent, the guides tent, Tims tent, a tack tent, a cook/dining tent, a shower tent (Yes, we had heated showers up there!) And the cutest but not necessarily my favorite one was the 'potty' tent. As you can see in the picture above, we had a little 'flag' that would be up if available and down if in use. Maybe I should mention that the zipper to this particular tent didn't work, so I flag was a necessary part for my own sense of security :-p It was cute!

Horses coming in with Tiff and Blackie-the bear dog.

Most days Tiff and I split up to wrangle the horses, she went down the trail and I went up. Only one day we had plenty of time so she decided to show me some the places they liked to go to, and thus far they'd always been on her side so we headed out, and then we got word that they came in on their own from 'my' direction. Since Patricia put them in while we were out we decided to take another trail on the other side of the meadows back, and off on the wrong trail and and to make our own way back to camp. Yup, we're the trailblazers :) Poor Tim, he was so good about all our 'dumb' stuff we did! In fact, he was a hoot! His hunter got his sheep the first day, so he hung around camp the rest of the week. 

Tiff bringing in the horses/mules
 Two of the hunters had good luck the first day, so on the second day Tiff went with Tim and his hunter to pack out the sheep, and I went with Andrew and Ken to help pack out the elk. That was also a lot of fun. At this point I started to realize that the fairly quiet Andrew I knew could be quite the talker! He and I packed and lead the mules out while Ken came behind (At least while we had to walk downhill) Boy, his personality started to  come out! I had to shake my head and wonder if it was the same guy I helped pack on the first day. :-) He was a hoot and it was fun to see him open up a little...uh, I mean a LOT!

The "cook" tent

I think my favorite part of the day was after all the hunters came in and we unsaddled the horses we would go in for some of Patricia's fine cooking. The hunters would all tell their stories and joke around. They were all very nice guys and so much fun! I think they kinda liked to pick on Tiffany and I because we were new and did some crazy stuff. So, we got blame for doing things that we didn't really hanging a bell outside the hunters tent and ringing it anytime Herb fell asleep. (The real culprit was my favorite mule, Reba, who although she always hung around camp had a bell on her.) The hunters were all so good to us. I loved them!

Patricia the camp cook
 Like I said before, the food was amazing! We're talking about fresh home-made bread and delicious steaks and chicken and spaghetti and cakes, and BBQ ribs, and dessert every night...

Patricia with Blackie
 Patricia was a lot of fun too! She was a lot like Tiff and I...really laid back and willing to do whatever needed done. She was great at talking and entertaining, so whenever Tiff or I didn't need to do anything we'd go in the cook tent and hang out with her. Hopefully we'll get to see her down the road in life fact, Tiff and I still owe her a cooking and doing dishes sometime for that time she put the horses away while we were swimming through the willows trying to get back to camp. :-)

Ol' Corral

Every night we would pick out which rider was going to take which mule, then we'd tie them up and let the rest out for the night. After the whole week was over I FINALLY learned almost all of the names. Wait, let me take that back, I knew the names after about two was being able to tell the difference between which mule had which name! Maybe I should mention that Tims whole string of ten mules looked exactly alike! We had to go by tiny little things like 'pointed hips,' 'a little more white hair on the nose,' 'pointed v on the tail' 'a little cloudy in the eye,' and 'if it isn't Rooster, Rusty, or Baxter, then it must be----' But, I did learn them all...I think! Of course, after I got them all sorted out Tim would come out and say "Oh, you have Rooster, you're supposed to get Baxter" After scratching my head and wondering how I could get so mixed up I'd start turning around and he's say "What are you doing? You HAVE Baxter :-p" 

The 'tack' tent
 On the third day camp became a little more populated. Those that had luck got to stay in camp and fish or relax. We had ribs, fish, and sheep steaks for supper that night. :D


The days were perfect, because even though we didn't have to 'run' to keep up with the work, we were still able to keep busy enough, but still in a very relaxed way. It was so rejuvenating! 

Before dark we would go through the tents and light everybody's fires and turn the lanterns on, and check the water in the shower tent.

The corral and bear cache

Every night after dinner and catching, belling, and turning the horses out we would 'bear proof' the camp. Take the trash to the cache, check everybodys saddlebags for food, take the cache ladder down, etc. etc.

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On the fourth night we, or at least I, suspect a bear came through camp. All of a sudden I heard a horse running full speed through camp, knocking logs off and what-not. We got up and my horse which had been picketed had pulled out her entire two foot steak out of the ground and was snorting enough clouds to make it rain the rest of the week! She was shaking all over. Although I didn't find any bear tracks the next morning it sure makes me wonder because she's normally so careful when being picketed that she barely moves. Maybe I should note that this is big time bear country and a bear had been hanging out right where she was picketed a week before. To bad it had to be on the first night it snowed, because we FROZE being in just our night clothes wandering around camp during the middle of the night! Poor Tiffany, she stayed out and helped me build a rope corral for my cloud-making dragon!

The 'girls' tent

It warmed up some the next morning, and although it was pretty much cold from then on out the sun did shine that day. Tiffany and I had some time that day to talk and both of us felt the same way...we were having such a good time, and the people we were with felt like family to us. We didn't want to leave our 'new family' and never see them again! A good long hot shower at home did sound tempting though. By this time the black around and under our fingernails and hands looked like we were professional mechanics!

Our water source

Because of the dry weather this year they had a fire ban up. So even though 'up there' was plenty moist apparently other places were dry and the guys in offices didn't lift the ban, so on the last day Tiffany and I decided that it just wouldn't be right to leave without having one roasted marshmallow! So, we spent an hour in our tent with the wood stove door open roasting marshmallows and partying before our nightly chores. Hooray for roasted marshmallows!



Bear track

First day of hunters luck

Guides: Andrew, Travis, and Eli

I started thinking of the guides according to their personalities. So, Andrew...keeps his name, but he was an exciting fun-loving guy. He loved his chewing tobacco, so every time I think of him I think of him with tobacco :p Travis became Billy Goat Gruff after the first day because his hunter said as soon as they got off the horses the first day he took off straight up the mountain like a billy goat...and that he almost killed them. haha And although Eli doesn't know it, I dubbed him Mountain Man, because he'd been back in for like a month straight before we got there, and loved it up there. He had a deep voice, a beard, and...just seemed like a Mountain Man. :D

After it snowed

What I really thought was cool was that the two hunters that were everybodys 'favorites' were Christians. It was so neat to have them come back every night and talk about the wonderful world that God created! They  talked about God a LOT, but because they were just so cool and nice and friendly they became everybodys favorite, and they didn't seem to mind the 'God talk'. They had the love and respect of the other hunters, and guides, to be 'cool' and yet 'set apart' enough to be amazing witnesses to Him!  It was so good for me to witness that, because they were so BOLD in their witness for the Lord! They literally talked about God, His creation, His love, and everything else about Him every time I seen them. It was good for me too, I loved having fellow Christians to fellowship with. Between them, Tiffany and I,  I felt a strong bond that we had something mighty in common. Although I know it's not possible, I sure do wish I could see them again! Maybe that's why it was so hard for me to want to leave my 'family.' There was just something about knowing you'll never see these people again, and I wanted to hug them all to my chest and have them forever!

Every turn you took had a full 'new' view

I think this trip was really the BEST thing God has ever done for me! Somehow I think he heard my hearts cry this past summer. With all the deaths of the people I've worked for my heart was just crying for a break, yet there wasn't time to grieve, because there was always someone else that I needed to give my heart to. And that was great, but after my job ended I just felt dead. I wasn't sure I wanted to stay in the same line of work, but at the same time didn't think I could ever do anything else. The month and half break I've had to 'grieve' and pull it back together, think, relax, do camping and things that I've been wishing I could do, along with make a little money on this trip, getting in a little more horse time in, meeting awesome and fun people, having a guy that reminded me SO MUCH of my favorite 'guy/client' along, spending time with other Christians, and watching God work through other people, doing things I's all sort of brought back my zeal to live, and not just live, but to live as part of God's creation-living for Him and having that awesomeness of being in the greatest kind of a relationship He created us to have that only His children can know about. I somehow feel closer to He planned this whole thing out just for me, because He knew that this would be the best thing for me and loves me enough to lovingly give it to me!

Hup hup! C'mon guys, time to head to camp!

I loved bringing in the mules/horses!

Taking out bones
 Another job we  had was to take out 'bones.' After de-boning the meat from the hunters luck we had to pack them far enough away from camp so the bears would hang out 'over there' instead of getting food by camp. It was fun to go for a sweet little ride. Again, both Tiffany and I didn't need to go, but hey, we were only ONE person, right? 

Dropping off bones

Tiffany and her horse Arlie Byrd

After dropping off the bones

'Shower tent'

The shower tent was really neat! As you can see in the picture above, there was a wood stove to the left with a pannier on top full of water and a spigot. The other pannier was the bear proof box for everybodys toiletries required for everything to 'bear proof.' You can see the bucket with a shower head up top, we'd fill it with hot water, then pull it up with the little pulley-thing and hook the rope on a nail. We even had a shower mat shaped like a foot to stand on :) And rugs on the floor. You can't see it in the picture, but there was a chair made out of a log I was standing on. And, because of the fire being started early to get and keep the water hot it was always warm in there!

My trusty girl! 

Beautiful sight!

Blackie the bear dog

Heading out

Going home was COLD! That morning the guides wrangled (Maybe it's because Tim was afraid we'd get lost in the willows again and he wanted to get home?) so we saddled and packed. We couldn't hardly used gloves because it was hard to adjust straps and yeah, I froze pretty much the whole way home! Not only that, but my mare was being a pickle on the way out...luckily the clients had been on horses all week and got lots of practice getting on and off a lot, so I didn't need to help them much, I don't know how I would've handled her otherwise!

I love pack strings!

Think the clients are thinking of 'home sweet home?'

Peaceful and serene

  I never really did get a good picture of Tim. But oh what a character! Although I knew him before, I know him so much better now. Everything we said or did he would say "Why?" I'll have to admit, it left me blank most of the time. Maybe I think and say things before thinking why to much :p
He had a cool hat that had bear teeth around it. I don't know why I had to mention that. It was just cool and characteristic to me I guess...


Goodness! What a long post! I know it's probably really boring, and going through it to me just doesn't do justice. There were so many memories and little things that just can't be said or explained. In reality I got very little pictures, and the ones I did get just don't seem the same! In fact, in looking over this I just feel like deleting the whole thing, but it took so long...

Happy Trails!!