I don’t want to be a hater but … I’ve had good and bad luck with nearly every make of truck out there. And if you ride a four-wheeler enough, it’s going to flip over on you someday. I’ve flipped a couple of times and neither time was any fun. The best that it has ever been was broken ribs and a messed-up shoulder.
So why not skip all the drama and go back to the original four-wheel drive vehicle — a horse! The above modes of transportation can go from reliable one day to dysfunctional the next. At least a horse is consistent. They’re always unpredictable!
There’s no sense of freedom like jumping on a horse and dragging a pack horse into the backcountry. It’s for sure a lot better than backpacking. When backpacking you’re limited to the gear that you can carry. When packing in on horses, you’re only limited by how many pack horses you have.
And while riding a horse you’re free to look around at the country. Sure, you have to watch the trail but even so, you can observe your surroundings more than when huffing and puffing while hiking. For instance, the other day my buddies Shawn and Orin Lee were out North of Arrowrock exercising the horses. Off to their left they noticed an eagle flying low. What was going on? He was zooming down and drilled a coyote. It rolled down the hill and finally got back on his feet and took out scrambling to get away. In a minute they noticed the same eagle knock another coyote flat across the canyon. Same scenario.
That would have been cool to see, wouldn’t it? And what a great film that would have made. I can’t believe an eagle was picking on a coyote, much less two of them. I’m going to have to get with Terry Rich that writes the “Just for The Birds” column and have him film something like this. That’ll liven up his morning walk through the neighborhood bird watching/dog walk!
You may not see that kind of action every trip but you sure aren’t going to see it if you stay at home. So, when Shawn called me and told me that he and Orin were going to run up to the mountains and exercise the horses to get them in shape for elk hunting and wanted to know if I wanted to go along, I said sure.
We are super blessed to live in Idaho. Even if you live in the middle of town, you can be up in some good country in one hour. For this trip we just ran a little ways up Highway 21. I’ve been to this spot before. For the first four miles you’ll be riding up semi-steep bald hills before you get up high to the forest. But still, I think that it is pretty country.
We were on a mission on this trip to exercise the horses but in a couple of canyons there are two old gold mines. I always like to explore around old mines. You look at the old foundations and try to figure out the layout of the structures. Which one was the bunk house and so forth? Then it’s always fun to climb back into the old mines. But, on this trip I just observed the old mines from up on the ridges above as we passed.
We finally made it up to the timber and hopped off the horses to let them (and us) rest for a minute. This trip I wasn’t very organized. Usually I’ll throw a coffee pot and a few links of bear sausage in my saddle bags. When we get up top I’ll build a little fire and heat up a cup of coffee. This time, all I had was water and three snicker bars. Shawn may not ask me to come along anymore if I don’t get it in gear from now on.
We rested a bit and then jumped back on the horses to head down. Normally when hiking, you always make it down one-third faster than it took to get up but on horses it’s even less because the horses are ready to get back to camp. Today though the horses were really ready and we made it in about half the time it took to get up on top. Suddenly, the out-of-shape horses were Olympic track stars. Rooster, the horse I was riding, jumped from the slacker dragging up near the rear to wanting to lead the string and be a pace setter.
I don’t want to be a whiner but I guess I’m out of shape. After that 8-mile ride in steep country I was glad we didn’t have another mile to go. Great day. So trade in your gas-burning truck and buy a horse.
Suddenly, the price of feed looks cheap compared to gas. And while a truck just sets there at home, your horse will be mowing the yard for you!
Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana. He also writes for various outdoors magazines and teaches outdoors seminars at stores like Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse and Bass Pro Shop. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.