After months of preparation, weeks of information gathering, and more weeks of incredibly hard work, day and night, the time finally came to push into the wilderness and start our journey home. The tough choices had been made for the 2013 International Horseback Adventure. Tough choices for tough men and women.
Knowing the conditions we were entering were beyond the normal difficult, dangerous and challenging, we were all ready to be home. Knowing that the possibility of this Adventure could have become disastrous for any one of us as easily as for us all changed nothing. There was only one way to go home to Alaska and we were all of a single mindset. Go.
The wildfires in Alaska had flared back up and the unprecedented heat being endured in the Yukon and Alaska this year has other repercussions as well. Not only was the eons-old glacial ice melting before our eyes, flooding the creeks and rivers, destroying the age-old trails, wiping out trail head markers, but also the ice caps in the high mountain passes, were melting fast, creating new dangers that would have to be navigated to reach our destination. The ice caps were also adding to the mess that the heating of the permafrost under the tundra, turning the bogs and valley floors from normally and accepted dangerous terrain into almost certain death traps, if not only for the 17 horses we were responsible to and for but also for the Team of eight riders delivering them into Chisana. There was no going around it. It had to be crossed to reach our destination, 85-miles away in Alaska.
The most unsettling part of it all was the silence, the deep lines of concern and thoughtfulness, the frustration that was there to see, etched in lines on the old-timer’s faces.
I have been part of Pioneer Outfitters for over 20 years. I have listened and learned from countless stories of dozens recounting of the exact nature and route taken on this Adventure awaiting us. This was my fourth.
It is, as it always has been incredibly hard, utterly exhausting, wet-your-pants-scary (at times) and it ends, as it always does for me, with an unbelievable sense of accomplishment.
Master Guide Terry Overly, myself (your very own Alaska Chick) two of Pioneer Outfitters Alaska Guide Trainees, Wesley Koch and Kaleb Kiper, Yukon Doug Twiss, Alaska icon, horsewoman and artist Cara Cobb, as well as two good friends of Pioneer Outfitters, Kerry-Rose Maher and Margi Warr are the eight riders and Team that carried out this monumental 2013 International Horseback Adventure to bring the 17 new horses into Chisana to add to the range horse herd that Pioneer Outfitters has always maintained for guests and clients to experience the Alaska wilderness with.
Horse traders are notorious for stretching the truth into unimaginable nightmares and utter b.s. but nothing I have experienced tops, for me, being brutally attacked by the horse (sold as very gentle and well trained in riding and packing) bought specifically for the grandchildren of Master Guide Terry Overly. The danger that the group of horses bought from one horse trader put my Team in, was inexcusable at best.
The heat was unprecedented. Would it be too much for the humans or the horses, first?
The fires and smoke were dangerous and debilitating. Would we face the fires or the flooding ice-cold waters?
Would we attempt the sinking-sucking bogs with the untrained and unprepared horses or would we attempt to find a trail once used by the prospectors and trappers of a time long gone?
Could we trust that what we have taught the two very young and inexperienced Alaska Guide Trainees was enough? With the lives of the humans and the horses in the balance, on such a potentially unforgiving journey, would what we have instilled and given them be enough?
There are certain jobs we do, as Professional Guides, that have no margin for foolish mistakes, hesitation and have no second chances. There was no room for arrogance or petty childish dramas. This is the winner’s circle. This Adventure takes and uses everything we each have stored inside ourselves. Every lesson learned, every bit of skill we have each developed and every ounce of luck we each have stored or were born with; it is all needed and used to assure the horses and the humans all, arrive safely at the destination we rode towards. Chisana, Alaska.
There is so much to share with you about the 2013 International Horseback Adventure and I have barely begun! Below is, in chronological order, the posts already written and shared with you and others, to bring you along on this ultimate Adventure with us.
- The International Horseback Adventure
- The International Horseback Adventure, Part 1
- The 2013 International Horseback Adventure, Home At Last
- The International Horseback Adventure, New Horses
- The 2013 International Horseback Adventure, The Yukon
- The 2013 IHA, The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
- Chisana News Wire, August – September 2013, Bittersweet Success
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