I switch the coffee pot on, in the Lodge as I walked in later than normal. 5:20 am, I am late, dock my pay. ☺
I enjoy the early time of the mornings. I enjoy having the silence surround me as I ready everything to make breakfast.
When the first guest comes in, coffee is ready and the Lodge smells like home. Fresh bread and moose steak and eggs. Pears and juice are already on the tables.
Terry walks into the kitchen and I jerked myself around to look at the clock. (Was I later than I thought?!) “Why are you up so early?” I asked, dang near accusingly.
“Wade’s horses are in the corral.” Shit. “Will you take them back to him? Now?” Shit. Terry just stands there, sipping his coffee, waiting for my reply, of which many were running through my mind.
“Of course I will.” “Can you reach him on the radio?” Terry assured me he would continue to try to reach Wade and let him know his horses were being ponied back to camp and would be there mid-afternoon.
“Do I come right back or stay the night with them?” I asked Terry. Losing a day of hunting due to the horses running all the way home was not going to make for a happy camp.
“Plan on staying, I’ll fly out and bring you back so Thunder can rest. Ride Teak back out, lead the rest.” (Sigh.)
The horses we use are amazing. Proud, wild range horses that do so much, again and again, are who they are. Draft cross, Percheron descent, mixed with just about anything, they are the toughest horses I have ever been near.
Pioneer Outfitters have used horses in business and pleasure since the beginning in 1924. Horses originally bought from gold miners giving up, after the last historic gold rush faded.
They run free and range on the tundra, meadows and through the timber with the Alaska-Yukon Moose and Mountain Caribou. They share their home with Grizzly Bears and fight off wolves in the wintertime.
They carry our camps, they carry our gear and groceries and not least of all, they carry us. Across the rivers and tundra, through bogs and muck over mountains and rocks. They carry our hunter’s trophies and hundreds of pounds of meat.
The range horses are the reason our camps are so nice, our meals are varied, almost-home cooked meals and not freeze dried food, due to weight.
However. They are horses. Even hobbled, belled and exhausted from the day or days work, the little devils can vanish on you, while you sleep.
They are not pets or what we call, “barn horses.” Some of them are partners, to some of us. Some of them are amazingly intuitive and trust worthy. They are horses. More, they are range horses and for the majority of the year, they are free to roam and run.
When choosing a Horseback Adventure, be it a Summer Pack Trip or Big Game Hunt, keep in mind, that this is like the weather; horses running off is something that just sometimes happens.
They will be captured as soon as possible, without fail. It may take an hour, it may take a day, but one way or another, they will be there, and you’ll be on your way.
The horses can be frustrating, but they are not going to spoil your trip. Think of it as part of the day’s story. (That’s what I do when I feel like screaming!)
The only thing that could spoil your trip is you. YOU are the reason WE are here. YOU. Your Outfitter, your guide (s), your wrangler, are all here, for you.
There isn’t much we, here at Pioneer Outfitters don’t have at least some sort of control over, and we do everything in our power to make each guest’s and every client’s dream come true. But. There are a few things all we can do with all our experience, all our planning cannot touch.
“It’s another day in the Park.” I say to myself. I wonder how this will play out, I wonder. It is usually the measure of a man (or a woman) what will rattle him (or her). This isn’t, or shouldn’t be one of the things that could.
Horses are horses, the weather is the weather, wild critters are wild critters. Horses, at least, are controllable to a degree. The other two? Count on the patterns (to a degree) and pray for luck!
Master Guide Terry Overly met me just as I was tightening my cinch and walking to the four horses I would be ferrying back to camp. He checked the ropes and gave each a pat. “I’ll see you tonight. Keep everyone chilled.”
With a wave I headed out of the yard, leading the runaways behind me. The ride is a beautiful one and one I have made often, over the years. At a slow jog, I had the horses lined out behind me with all ears forward.
Sand bar to sand bar, crisscrossing the creek, keeping an eye both in front and behind me. Making sure the horses stay focused on me and keeping an eye out for whatever critters I may get to see.
Just under four hours later, I see the smoke from the camp’s fire. The horses snorting behind me, we hit the trail that leads straight to the cook-cabin and hitching rails.
I could see Wade, still in wet clothes from searching for horses, standing in the door of the cook cabin. “Did Terry reach you on the radio?” “Yeah, as I was up on the flat top for a better view. He said he’d been trying to reach us for awhile, but with me down in the trees, I just never heard him call.” Wade explained. “I’ve only been back here for about 20 minutes.”
“How are our guests?” I asked as I dismounted and rubbed Teak’s neck then gave him a human post to rub his forehead up and down my back after taking his bridle off.
“They are asleep. Decided to take a nap, said it was part of their Adventure.” Wade said with a lop-sided grin on his face. I laughed and felt relief at knowing this wouldn’t spoil the mood of anticipation and excitement for them.
“Terry says he’ll come spend the night tonight, hang out a bit with all of you. I’ll fly home with him in the morning.” I said. Then, “what do you have out for dinner?” Wade just shook his head and laughed at me, saying, “Nobody does that but you, Amber. We just figure it out at dinner time.”
Oh boy. I just tried to glare at Wade, and ended up laughing at myself, because I know I am a little compulsive. “Ok, I’ll go figure it out. Take a break, get dry why don’t you. The horses are home.”
I pulled my saddle down off of all 16.5 hands of Teak and handed it to Wade to put on the rail and turned to walk around to the the cooler on the side of the cabin. Wade called out, “Hey!” I turned to look back at him and he said, “Thanks, Amber, for bringing them back.”
I just grinned and continued around the corner. We are a team, it is as simple as that.