July 3 and 4.
The fourth of July weekend can be such a nuisance, so many people, so much noise, so on impulse, we hustled to the grocery store, loaded up the horses and headed up over Galena Summit to the Stanley Basin once again. There were plenty of people camping here and there, but here in Idaho there are so many single camp sites, and sure enough, we found one right on a stream with a place to high line the horses and a flat spot to park the trailer. This would only be an overnight. I thought this would look really good on Commotion's resume.
The high line, when done right, allows a horse to walk around in a circle, eat off the ground, and even lie down to rest. We carefully set the ropes high on two trees, using protection to not scar the bark, set the swivel ties high over their heads and tied them to it. After setting our bottle of wine in the creek to chill and laying out our rug by the trailer and our camp chairs by the fire, we congratulated ourselves for being so dang smart. After a while we saddled up and went exploring.
One our earlier years living up here, we came up to this same area for another overnight, with our two horses, and a third, which we loaded up with all our gear for a mini pack trip. What we'd failed to do was to check with the forest service about the trails, after all, it was the last weekend in June. After a lovely ride and a night somewhere deep in the Smokey Mountains, found ourselves on our return trip in a bit of trouble. Snow blocked our trail and after a few bushwhacks, we could not turn around. It turned out to be quite rowdy, slipping and sliding down steep soft slopes through the trees, but we did pop out right at the trailhead not long before dark. This time we meandered around the trailhead trying to revisit where we'd been. Commotion, by now, had become pretty confident. We looked around a bit, scrambling around some rough country and hopping over big logs, then returning to camp.
It's so delightful up north in the summer, the sun doesn't set till around 9 or 9:30. We finished our steaks and took the horses off the highline, walking them to the creek for a drink, then out into the wild grass to graze for a bit while the last light of day faded from pink to purple to black. Everyone was in the same peaceful mood. We put them to bed with a big pile of weed free alfalfa, and then with Lily, climbed into the trailer for the night.
I know what you're thinking. Did I worry about Commotion during the night? Well, to be honest, yes. I did go check on him once in the night, his big dark eyes looked at me, questioning. I gave him and Roy both some petting and went back to bed.
The morning was clear and cold. David cooked up some bacon and french toast for us, the smoke from the fire going straight up through the trees. Our trip today would be to retrace the first part of our trip and then see if we could ride the section we'd missed the previous year. The trail follows the Salmon River to it's source. We climbed the steep canyon up to a large meadow literally filled with purple flowers. At the intersection we took a right turn, heading toward Mule Creek, and rode the section that had been completely buried in snow that first year. No wonder we couldn't make it through. It wasn't long before we found the area where we'd abandoned the trail and shook our heads over our innocence. The loop would have taken two days, so we turned around and went back to the meadow. As we came down the last of the steep hill toward the purple meadow, I noticed that Commotion seemed to be a little cranky. His body was tight and he seemed to be stomping his feet, shaking his head. What was this? He's never acted this way before. Maybe he didn't sleep well his first night camping. I told Dave that this would be a good place for our picnic. In the meadow, we got off, loosened our cinches and tied the horses to some trees. We had our BLTs right there, on the top of the world. Looking back over my shoulder, I could see the horses resting there in the shade. Looking closer, I could see Commotion was sound asleep, his head dropped low and his eyes closed, one foot cocked. He just needed a good time out. Taking the horses, we led them around, letting them eat the sweet spring grasses and drinking that cold water. The meadow is a puzzle of waterways but we did find the one SPOT where the Salmon runs one way, and the Big Smokey river runs the other.
We got on and started our trip back down the trail where we'd come up. Commotion was his normal happy self. Most of the trails up here are non-motorized trails and since there are about a billion miles of trails and so few people, this is not normally an issue at all. As we were riding down the canyon, we started hearing motors. Loud revving motors. Motors coming our way. As they got closer, David walked on ahead, waving his arms. "HEY! HEY!" The guy in front of course could not hear him, but stopped the moment he saw us. The three behind him came up and stopped on the trail as well, their motors all idling. Horses have the right of way in the mountains, over hikers and bikers, but we are also much more agile, and this was a kind of tight spot, so we tucked in to the side of the trail in the trees and told them to go ahead. Commotion watched, alert but standing still as they revved up and jammed their bikes up the trail, right beside us. Good boy.
He didn't hold on to any nervousness after they'd gone, just fell right in behind Roy for a bit, then we got in front and led the way back to the trailer.
He seems to have turned a corner. No longer does he seem like a baby, he is beginning to feel a little bit worldly.