In my last page I started telling you about some of my bunch riding horseback into the roadless Book Cliffs without knowing all we knew about what we were doing and that we were lucky to have ended up mostly unscathed.
Riding and hunting that country many times over a number of years was all a huge series of big and little adventures that I am so very glad I got to experience. I truly feel blessed when I think back on those times.
I was with my dad and brother on our first equine foray into the roadless country. It was 1972 and we made out OK, after a fashion. A couple of buddies and I had tried to get horses into that area a couple of years earlier to hunt bears. However, the horses got away from us noble nimrods during the first night when something scary came through our little sidehill camp. They didn’t stop till they were about 16 miles back home in Thompson Springs. Before that hunt was over a couple of us had hoofed a good portion of the roadless country, but it sure was not done horseback.
When Dad, Brother Dana, and I horsed into the Bogert, Buck, and She Canyon areas of the roadless country that first time it was with just what we could carry behind our saddles and in our personal saddlebags. It was a learning experience for sure. Mostly we learned how much we did not know, but we were so excited because we were scouting for elk in an area that was just opening for elk hunting after having been a backcountry deer hunting area only prior to that. We saw elk and tested our new elk calls. We got answers from some big old bulls that raised the hair on the back of our necks. It was a very new experience for the three of us. It was very exhilarating, all in all. I remember parts of it like it was yesterday.
I’ve already told you we ended up finding a very nice camp with a little seep of water and a meadow. There was plenty of feed for the horses and plenty of wood for the fire. We dug three holes in the swampy place from which the spring sprung. The first one was a few feet upstream of the other two. It was just a dozen feet from the cooking fire, and it was for the sole use of the human beings.
The next one a few feet farther south was smaller, and it was for the dogs. The last one was rather large and that is where we watered the horses. It would take a couple hours to fill and clear up. Of course, the dogs happily used whichever they wanted at first, but we taught them the error of their ways before too long.
The water was cool and wonderful and pretty safe since it didn’t run very far aboveground. Besides which, we had not yet ever heard of Giardia and were quite used to drinking out of most any cow track without worrying much about it.
Now days we don’t have that luxury because we know we might pay for it by spending three or four months glued to the john. Nothing is worth that, so I now pack a special water filter straw thing in my fanny pack. I sure do miss those good old days, though.
That spectacular scouting trip was a blast, but we headed home knowing that there was a lot of work and learning to do before we could actually head back in with our rifles. I suppose if the truth were told, my dad was stewing over everything a lot harder than Dana or me. We were in our teens and still pretty darn bulletproof. We didn’t mind sleeping on a rock, or eating our kibbles cold, but the old man liked his comforts.
He wanted to set up a nice camp and it was going to take some packhorses and a bunch of gear to allow for that. He immediately started shopping for good used tack and a bunch of packable camp gear. He put his hired hand, Uncle Kennis, to work fixing up old riding saddles that we bought or borrowed. Dad splurged on a new pair of packsaddles and four panniers. He had Kennis put long leather strings on the riding saddles for tying on sleeping bags and stuff. We all got involved in oiling leather, changing out cinches, latigos, and so forth. There was a lot to do to get ready.
We had about five horses and had borrowed another. We were taking Uncle Kennis along to teach us the ropes of horse packing. He had a pretty good old horse of his own in those days. None of us were going to have a lot of time to spend on the big elk hunt because of school, jobs, and so forth but we intended to make good use of every minute. We were pretty darned giddy when we finally loaded all our gear onto the horses and headed out from the Sego Trailhead for Totem Pole Pass, which was the border of the roadless country. From there we followed the north-south drainage divide to our new hunting camp. That trip did not go what you would call “real smooth.”