Our summer has been pretty busy, and except for our three-day "ride 'n hike" with Ram, Dawn, Uri and Kelsy, we hadn't had a chance to get up into the high country on a pack trip. In particular, I wanted to get Sambo usable as a back-country horse, and that included overnight trips. He wasn't used to spending the night on a picket line, and he wasn't used to having to stop in the trail while I readjusted panniers, cut out trees, and did things like that. We finally got a couple of free days in late August and decided to take a "training" pack trip. I'd never visited some high lakes up near the headwaters of Monture Creek, and wanted to check them out. So we packed up Sambo, Sky and Scheba and left my faithful companion of many years, Poppie, at home. It was a short trailer ride to the Monture Creek trailhead, just a few miles west of the house. We didn't have much stuff, so it didn't take us long to get packed. It was about the lightest load I've ever had. I hope Scheba appreciated it!
|Ready to Go!|
About six miles up, the creek emerges from a small canyon and the trail follows above it, a narrow path cut out of the steep hillside. We stopped and tied the horses part way through, then went over to the edge to have a snack. We had barely sat down when we saw something moving along the creek below, and an otter emerged. I thought of digging my camera out of my pack, where I had stashed in to keep both hands free and not have it banging around if I had trouble with the horses, but decided it would be too late by the time I got it out and I should just enjoy being there with the otter. As luck would have it, the little guy played around and wandered on up the creek. And I didn't get a picture. Phooey! But what a treat, I haven't seen an otter for a long time.
We continued on up to Burnt Cabin, about eight miles up the creek, where we stopped for a rest and to let the horses eat a little. We met two guys doing trail work there, and when we asked they said there was good feed up the East Fork of Monture where we were going. They also informed us the trail over Center Ridge hadn't been cut out, and had quite a bit of down timber on it. We had been thinking of coming out that way, and decided it probably wasn't a good idea. We thanked the trail crew and headed on up the creek.
| Heading upriver from Burnt Cabin
When we got to Monture Falls, we stopped for another break. This area was all burned a few years ago, and there was dead and down timber everywhere. There wasn't a very good place to tie the horses, but it was good practice for them. We scrambled through and over the timber to get to the falls.
| Horses tied above Monture Falls
||Dona negotiating down timber|
|Above Monture Falls||Dona above Monture Falls|
|Monture Falls||Dona, Monture Falls||Above Monture Falls|
Then we headed on up the creek, and after about three miles turned off onto the spur trail up the East Fork.
|Dona Riding Sky|
There wasn't much in the way of feed, it was getting late in the day, and I was wondering where all the feed was the trail guys had talked about. There was lots of beargrass, but that doesn't count as feed. Nothing eats it except pikas and other rodents that I know of, and they only cut off the seed heads. We finally broke out of the trees where there were a couple of small open hillsides with grass. It was getting late, but I kept thinking there would be something better "just around the corner." We took note and continued up the creek for another ten minutes. It soon became clear we had exitted the last of the good spots, so we turned around and went back and set up camp. The horses were happy to stop and put their heads down to graze.
|Horses grazing in Camp||Camp, Middle Fk Monture Cr||
After a quiet night listening to the horse bells when we stirred, we woke up to another gorgeous day.
| Camp, Middle Fk Monture Cr
We decided to leave the horses in camp for the day and hike up to the lakes. The huckleberries were ripe. There weren't a lot of them, but the ones there were were yummy! The hillsides were showing late summer, but the creek bottom where the outlet from the lakes drained was still wet and full of flowers.
|Huckleberries||Trail to Foolhen Lakes||Middle Fk Monture||Asters|
|Creek Bottom on Trail to Foolhen Lakes||Dona|
| Monkey Flower
||Dona||Snag in Rocks|
We made it up to the lower lake and stopped for lunch. Max enjoyed cooling off in the lake, and I caught a boatload of small fish, literally one on every cast. They were hardly big enough to take back for supper, so I turned them all back. The lake needs an osprey or an eagle to thin down the population so there's enough food the rest can grow larger.
|Max, Lower Foolhen Lake|| Gary, Lower Foolhen Lake
After resting up, we bushwacked up to the upper lake. The trail goes all the way to the lower lake, but ends there. The hillside below the upper lake is boggy, with springs all the way down. You have to pick your way on the adjacent hillsides to stay out of the sponge. Just before the upper lake, Dona found two really cool rocks that still had sand ripples in their surface.
|Lower Foolhen Lake|| Wavy Rocks near Upper Foolhen Lake
I tried fishing in the upper lake but didn't see anything. The lake was cloudy, not super clear the way the lower lake is. It didn't look like there were any fish in it at all.
|Approach to Upper Foolhen Lake||Upper Foolhen Lake|| Gary at Upper Foolhen Lake
Then we headed back down.
|Lower Foolhen Lake|| Leaving Upper Foolhen Lake
|| Gary near Upper Foolhen Lake
|Dona on way down from Foolhen Lakes|| On way down from Foolhen Lakes
When we got back to camp we turned the horses out to feed. I turned Sky and Scheba loose and kept Sambo on a lead rope. They were all steadily munching, intent on filling their bellies. After about an hour I did something I shouldn't have, something I've sworn I would never do again... I turned Sambo loose too, and started walking back up the hill to camp to get their grain.
Before I had gone 50 yards I hurd a galumping, the sound of horses hurrying someplace. I turned around in time to see Scheba scooting under the rope I had put across the trail, with Sambo close behind. I yelled to try to disuade them as I crashed back down to try to cut them off. I almost got to Sambo in time, but almost doesn't count. All three of them were off down the trail, headed back the way we had come.
I had my longish rope with me and my boots on, so I just started down the trail after them. They were on their way with a purpose, or at least Sky was, and the other two were following like they didn't want to be left behind. The valley bottom is narrow, so the trail is pretty much in the bottom of a vee and there's not much opportunity to get around them. I ran after them when they were out of sight, then slowed to a walk to catch my breath and not spook them further when I could see them. I started mulling over how and where I might get ahead of them. The first opportunity I could think of was an outfitter camp two miles away, empty now but Sky had wanted to go visiting there on the way up. If I was lucky she would turn in there to snoop around for a bit, and I might be able to grab one of them. After that the next place was probably Burnt Cabin, and if I was lucky the trail crew would still be there with their stock and mine would stop to say hi. If they didn't stop there, I probably wouldn't catch them until they got to the truck, 14 miles away. As I jogged down the trail I kept reminding myself, "don't hurry, just be steady, watch your feet, don't do something stupid like turn your ankle."
I almost caught up to them a couple of times, but never could take a short-cut across the trail to cut them off. Just before the outfitter camp the trail switch-backed down a hillside, and I was able to head straight down and then circle around and get in front of them. As they came arond the last switch-back I greeted Sambo, who was calmed down some. I spoke to him gently, scratched his head, and I caught him. Then Scheba came up to say hi and I caught her. Sky got off the trail and went around, starting to continue on down. But when the others didn't follow she turned around and came back to see what was up, and I caught her too. Whew! Now all I had to do was get back to camp before dark. Sky still had her halter on with her lead rope tied up, so I rigged it like reins around her neck and got on bareback. I used the long rope I had for a lead rope on Sambo, and let Scheba follow along. It was great to be able to ride back; I was pooped! About half way back I met Dona coming down the trail with more lead ropes. The horses didn't really want to go back, so we had a slower return trip. I kept hoping they would learn that it was more work than it was worth, but I doubt it. It took Poppie and Daiquiri a long time to get to where they considered camp as home...
So, once again, kiddies, repeat after me... "Never turn all the horses loose at the same time! And only the lead mare by herself." Sometimes we have to relearn the lessons we already know.
| E. Fork Monture from Camp
|| View from Camp
|| View from Camp
The next day we packed up and headed back home.
| On the way out
| Gary and the Pack "String"
We stopped for lunch at a narrow place where the creek goes through a canyon. Max was pretty pooped -- he'd spent three days running all over, traveling about four times as far as we did.
We got back in time for a prime rib dinner at Trixi's, then home and tumbled into bed. The next morning we had wild turkeys wandering around in the yard, pecking at grasshoppers (I hope) and some of the wild berries.
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