September 2015–It is a classic September morning in the Wind River Range. Orange, yellow, and reds splash across the frost covered meadows framing the meandering, slow moving Fall Creek. Upstream, to the north and east, craggy, grey, mountains rise into a pale blue sky. In the meadow, horses graze in newly arrived patches of sun. Steam rises from the creek, from water that is warmer than the air, and paints a picture that is the quintessential Wind River Range.
I watch it all from the edge of a stand of conifers, diligently counting the horses. I can see the ones contained by the electric fence but my eyes strain in the search to count ten more. Today we will ride and we have some rough terrain in store as we make our way towards Monument Creek. It is our last full day out here, though tomorrow will not be a give me. I see a few horses out across the creek, in a draw between two small hills. I wander that direction, trying to capture the scene in my mind. I walk out further, my galoshes protecting my feet from the wetness of the frost on the meadow and creek crossing as well as the cool morning temperatures. I count a handful more before turning back towards camp and spying a large contingent of ponies to the east, near a small pond. More satisfied, I walk, back, check the boiling water and set to making tea, in an attempt to “enjoy the goddamn morning.”
The trail lends itself to many challenges this day. Steep, rocky terrain, both ascending and descending; a thrown horseshoe; guiding a string of three pack horses; a few muddy and boggy spots that need to be worked around and of course an ill fitting pack saddle or two. In the other group the Mike/Jim combo slide down a slabby rock, resulting in some near miss paperwork and some tense moments.
It is almost dusk as my group makes it into the camp at the head of Monument Creek. In light of the early morning start, we will high-line the horses this evening; there will be less chance of them wandering off in the middle of the night. We tie up, de-bridal, unsaddle, curry, vet, and then hobble the horses before turning them loose for a couple hours of grazing. Somehow in the midst of all of this, and despite the late hour, Bonnie has conncocted a dinner of pizza. Which in conjunction with the remaining Coors and a Diet Pepsi found in a creek, is filling and delicious. It all goes down pretty well, kind of like the beautiful sunset reflection we watch on the hills to the east.
A bit later we gather in the horses, at least those that will go in the fence and those that will be high-lined. The rest, we figure, won’t go very far. Just before bed though, we end up doing the bedtime search for the Notch and Cummins combo. A half hour or forty-five minutes goes by before we locate them down a hill east of camp.
We close the evening sitting in a headlamp lit circle talking of highlights, learnings, and things to come. Tomorrow we pack up and head out of the mountains. We will all make it back in one piece, except maybe my heart, which as usual, is left all over the mountains, this time dragged away with the horses.