Saturday, August 8, 2020


Moab, UT

89.3 F

    A Page Out of the Book Cliffs: Page 70 — Horsing the Books, Part 3

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    AJ Rogers
    AJ Rogers
    Times-Independent Columnist

    I’ve most recently been telling you folks about how my folks got started horse packing into the roadless area of the Book Cliffs mountains.

    AJ Rogers poses in the Book Cliffs

    The last page ended where my dad, brother Dana, and I were headed into the Buck and She Canyon area along with our wrangler, Uncle Kennis Davis. I mentioned we were very excited to be on our way and that things didn’t go real smoothly.

    A big part of the problem was that too much of our gear was too new and too much of it was too old. The new stuff required some use to be properly usable, and some of the old stuff turned out to be worthless even though we had it all oiled and patched to the best of our abilities. Important straps and stuff kept breaking, causing a lot of jury rigging to keep going.

    Two of our pack saddles were brand new and plenty strong. But, the brand spanking new lash ropes for the pack saddles started stretching a lot right away. That meant the packs wanted to fall off the horse on whichever side was the heaviest. We were apparently not as good as we should have been when it came to judging the weight of the panniers while we were busily packing them to the hilt with bulky items and the creature comforts dear old dad wanted to have along.

    Now we knew why Kennis had been shaking his head when the packs were getting over-stuffed back at the trailhead. It seemed like we had to stop, untie, re-set, and re-tie each pack saddle about four times before we made the five miles or so to our new camp. At the same time, we were really getting to know our horses and they were really getting to know us. It soon became apparent that none of the above seemed to appreciate absolutely everything about all the rest of the above.

    There was plenty of grumbling and tooth grinding and some serious cussing and horse snorting before we finally rolled into our quaking aspen grove. We had all learned a lot about working together along the way and were certainly better for it in the future. That includes the four-legged critters, of course.

    It turns out there were quite a few Utah horsemen who all had the same idea about elk hunting this new unit in 1972. Brother Dana says it was 1973. It was one or the other. There had been no elk hunting allowed there for many years and it was now open to anyone who had the wherewithal to get in with a rifle and out with an elk. Things were kind of crazy all over that range as many of us learned where and how to best hunt the country.

    Some folks were well seasoned and good at it and some of us were newbies. My group did not get to hunt too many days and we did not fill a tag. Boy, what I’d give to have that chance once again knowing what I know now. As we rode out of the roadless country and back to the real world around the end of September we were bummed about no elk, but were sure looking forward to the end of October and the big buck deer we had been seeing.

    I guess I have to admit to a less-than-perfect memory once again. It has been too many years since the ’70s and too many horseback trips took place into our fine hunting camp throughout that decade and the next one. I remember many such adventures pretty clearly that took place while horse hunting that country. The problem is, I’m sitting here at my computer right now scratching my head trying to remember exactly which year and in which order everything took place. I’ve decided I can’t do it perfectly so I will just tell you some of the stories and you will have to understand that one may have happened before or after the other, but they all happened!

    I think it was the first time we went back into camp after the elk hunt, for the deer hunt, that this next story happened. For some reason some of us went in earlier than the rest of us. I remember I went in ahead of my dad and Kennis. I just took what I could tie on my saddle. The old boys got a late start because of unforeseen circumstances. They left the trailhead close to dark with two pack horses.

    One was loaded with grub and other camp supplies while the other was loaded with about 200 pounds of oats for the horses themselves. The lash ropes were still too new and stretching. Re-rigging in the dark was not fun and wasted a lot of time. About midnight, after taking a wrong turn, the packs of grain slid under Scarlet’s belly and a black rodeo was held.

    When it was over things were strewn and broken. Dad and Kennis gave up, unsaddled all, and camped right in the trail. Uncle Kennis said he had to tie his lariat around his neck and secure it to an uphill tree to keep from rolling off into the steep nasties in his sleep. They finally made it into camp the next morning but were missing one sack of grain.

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