Snow White and the 7 Dorks, IHA

Or, the Princess and her Seven Dwarfs (except…they are ALL taller than I am!). As happens on many intense, high stress …Adventures, the humor of the whole series of dramas and events becomes a little twisted.  Bonds are formed that will never be broken by these shared moments. The 2013 International Horseback Adventure (IHA) is exactly that kind of Adventure!

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Campfire talks revealed a shared enjoyment of movies with a special fondness for children’s movies in particular. A character from this movie or that fit each of our own characters like a glove but there were eight of us and the characters just didn’t stick.

Until: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

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As we are laughing and trying not to think too hard about what the day had done to each of us and what horrors might just be waiting when we saddled up again the next morning, first we had to remember the names to all seven dwarfs.

It is funny now, transcribing my notes to share this chapter with you, the names we one by one remembered and assigned to each of our Team on the International Horseback Adventure were from the 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs version. The only version (and there are 14 versions!) to have had these particular (and only) seven names!

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We have in our Team bringing in the new 17 horses to add to the range horse herd in Chisana: Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy and Dopey.

“Hey! There are eight of us!” I yelled at them over the flicker and snap of our nightly dinner fire. As one, they turned to look at me and each gave me the identical look. Yukon Doug looked over at me and said, “Well, that would make YOU the Princess, now wouldn’t it?”

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Well. Ok. Princess, eh? Well, I suppose the boot fits. (oops, wrong fairy tale!)

Ok, back to the story line. We have Princess (yes, I like it) Snow White and her band of seven loyal friends to guide, protect and teach her, all working together to accomplish a goal.

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The goal? Our goal is to bring home fresh and young horses into Chisana to add to our herd. This international cross-country 85–mile (IHA) trip is the most hard core, challenging, difficult adventure we (Pioneer Outfitters) have historically undertaken.

As Snow White, I am complete with my band of seven minions (good word use, by the way).  I tend to be optimistic in that I know what can happen, but I am not going to suck the joy out of a moment worrying about it once I have prepared. Kindness is a gift we are given to pass along throughout the world and I share it whenever, where ever and with whomever I can. I have always loved to work hard and to do a good job but my children (and a few of the trainees!) might share with you I can also be very stern. I have always followed my own heart, making many mistakes and even getting myself into difficult situations, trying to do and be what I feel is right.

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Starting with the Boss, Master Guide Terry Overly, we have Bashful. Although he’ll never be particularly nervous, I have made a career out of flustering him with my own tendency to be impetuous.  He has a wonderful sense of humor and worked hard through childhood and into his young adult years to conquer his own shyness. No matter what else, Terry has always been gentle and he is the true leader of our fearless band.

Boss fixes stuff. Gear, horses and people. Being on the trail with green horses, crossing the untamed North wilderness, guarantees all sorts of breakage. Terry can make anything, from anything, anytime and anywhere.

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Yukon Doug Twiss is my Dopey. (Yeah, yeah, but there’s more.) A real life horse-whisperer (yes, like magic) and a gifted artist, Yukon-Doug is a contradiction. Childlike, yet wise beyond so much that can be absorbed and understood in so little time. Playful and cheerful, yet he is also hard and basic in so many ways. A mountain-man, a hermit even, but everywhere we go, people greet him with smiles and by name.

Yukon-Doug takes over the horses and my young Alaska Guide Trainees’ horse and pack training. Both horses and young men show remarkable confidence and skills that were before Doug, only glimpsed.

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Cara Cobb was labeled Grumpy not because she’s grumpy, but because under all the camaraderie, teamwork and skill, she is one intimidating lady. Grumpy is, as in the story of Snow White, perhaps the most capable and confident of the Team and often becomes annoyed with the others.

Someone I feel blessed to have met, come to know and call a friend this year. Cara is an absolute example of what a human being can do, overcome and become by pure will. She is a very special woman with a many gifts and talents, but the one that shines beautifully around her is her giving heart.

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Cara Cobb, Grumpy, is an amazing friend, mentor, bush-woman, mechanic, horsewoman with a touch of magic, hunting guide, miner, a phenomenal artist and basically a walking encyclopedia with five college degrees as well as being a published writer. She is a woman who inspires me to be more and better and boy, can she motivate!

Sneezy is Kerry-Rose Maher, our own lil’ Rose-Bud. Sneezy has been part of the Team at Pioneer Outfitters since she was just a little thing, years ago. An Alaska Native Athabascan, Early Education and Special Needs teacher; Rose-Bud is honestly our very own comic relief with her razor sharp wit and powers of observation. ~ I always warn the newbies not to even attempt to banter insults with her because without fail, they will loose.

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Margi Warr, from a galaxy far-far away is also Doc in this band of slightly demented by this time, riders. Most recently from the town closest to Chisana, 110-miles by aircraft, in Tok, Margi answered our call for another rider when it became obvious we would need one more. A 22 year old, free spirit, with enough riding experience to keep her butt in the saddle and make all of our lives a bit easier with one less horse to tail-tie and keep out of trouble.

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Doc was an easy choice for Margi because she was always picking weeds, boiling them and trying to get us all to self-medicate. She sings to herself (and all of us) as she rides along and as she gathers firewood and water each evening.

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Wes, a Pioneer Outfitters Alaska Guide Trainee, is Sleepy, because really ~ If he isn’t actually doing something… he’s asleep. Wes tends to be a little bit sensitive (makes him an easy target!) and still pouts now and then, but he’s also quick to laugh and get right back at whatever it was that put him off a moment before.

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Kaleb, also known as KiKi, is now Happy too. The Boss calls him Hyper-Kiper because he is high-speed-low-drag and that’s great. But. You have to keep a close eye on Happy for his and our own good. He’s the kind that takes a penny, learns what it can do and tries to run the national budget. (Oh wait… )

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Both of our Alaska Guide Trainees have changed and grown on this Adventure. With one year in an operational Big Game Hunting Camp each and two years of year-round training, including riding horses both with me and gradually being given the responsibility of children out and away on horses (including my own little Alaska Chick-let). This monumental job was a major even, life changing, career enlightening and it took their Professional Training to a whole new level.

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So that is our merry bunch, briefly highlighted to introduce the amazing Team on an Adventure of a lifetime.

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The 2013 International Horseback Adventure (IHA) stretched out over 7-weeks. A lot happened in those weeks, moments that will never be forgotten. Below are the previous chapters to this Adventure of a lifetime, if you’d like to experience them with us. The book, 2013 International Horseback Adventure will be available soon, a photo journal taking you from the Yukon to Alaska on this 85-mile journey across some of the most beautiful country the North has to offer.

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