In which we girls head for the hills, and packing up is(n't) hard to do

As we have done for the past three years, Sky and I begin our Annual Adventure in her carport:

Every year we get a little better at packing stuff.

We add new gear, we take out stuff we didn't use last year, we strap everything together a little more efficiently, and we take notes along the way so that we'll remember what we've learned.

I've had those large black packs for yonks...I got them when I did a little packing with Story back in the Olden Days. They are great for trail repair work, because I can fit all kinds of tools and stuff in them. The purple packs are "new" -- I picked them up cheaply at a used tack sale last winter. And they are even purple!

Santa brought Sky some new teal packs last December, and this was her first opportunity to use them. I am deeply jealous. Look at all the room she has in those packs for her sleeping bag and stuff! I'm beginning to think that some larger packs might be needful before I head back out again.

Poor Fiddle looks like a bag lady, with all that gear tied onto her patient self. It worked fine this time, but on a rainy trip like we endured in 2008, all that stuff would get soaked. Hmmm. Something to consider.

Packing the gear onto the horses takes 60 to 90 minutes, starting with empty packs. The books I read about packing horses and mules recommend that the large bags in back be filled with bulky but not heavy items. That means clothing, sleeping bags, and the tent, as well as the freeze-dried and other lightweight foods we've packed for ourselves, like tea and coffee and snacks.
The front packs carry the horse's food (beet pulp, mostly, plus a small amount of grain), and little, heavier stuff like the stove's fuel, water bottles, and some books and maps.
We both brought canvas water scoops this year, which are useful as feed buckets as well as water buckets. Several of the lakes we visited didn't have safe access for the horses, so we carried water up to them, and they pretty quickly learned how to smash their dainty noses down inside to get what they wanted!The scoops are also exactly the right size for carrying an Easyboot--how convenient.

Into the corners and crannies of the packs, we cram the tent poles, the water filter (a new addition to the pile of gear this time, and it's a wonderful thing!)

and heaps of rope, which we use for tying the food above "bear height"
and for high-lining Fiddle at night.Cricket is a "puller-backer" so she gets tied to a tree at night, and spends time in a "fake hotwire" fence when it's time to graze. Cricket is perfectly happy to stay within the confines of the non-electrified tape, but Fiddle would bust through it in minutes. Instead, I put her on hobbles (which don't really work well for Cricket, as she proved last year)

Fiddle not only enjoys the freedom to wander around camp for hours, she enjoys the physical and mental challenge that the hobbles provide. She can do whatever she wants when she's hobbled...if she can only figure out how to do it. That's my mare's idea of a good time.

(I had seen her do this maneuver the previous night, but hadn't captured it with the camera. I was delighted to help her repeat the performance)
One of the essential skills of packing is making multiple use of stuff. Therefore, Fee's fleece blanket is a good backrest for me during the day, and keeps her warm and somewhat protected from mosquitos at night. Her saddle pad also serves as the pad under my sleeping bag (my Thermorest is off in the wilderness with Willy this summer!) and my sitting-on-the-beach pad. Sky brought a "navaho" saddle blanket this year, which was really handy as a sleeping pad as well as a saddle pad. That's something to remember for next year!

We're done packing up at's time to head down the trail. Coming soon:

Where We Went and What We Saw.

Life. It's good.


  1. I'm so impressed! I can't pack for more than 12 hours without my bodyweight in Stuff. I hope I get better as I do it more.

    I can't believe you walked into a lake holding a camera. I've been unbelievably paranoid since I flushed a phone 10 years ago. ;)

  2. I'm very jealous of the cool horse-camping trips you get to do! I wish you lived in my part of the country!

  3. Yowza! That's a lot of stuff packed on those horses! Looks like you could use a mule or pack horse to carry it all. Might be nice to travel lighter, too. I bet Fee and Cricket would sure be thankful. lol!

    Fee does pretty good with those hobbles. I was afraid she might fall over when she was coming down to the water....but her leap up away from the lake was very impressive. Wow!


  4. I was thinking "pack horse" too. Even if you just used those canvas pack bags that you throw over a regular [western] saddle. All those hours of trial maintenance certainly paid off in Fiddle's tolerance of all that STUFF!
    Love Fiddle's method with the hobbles. For a while I used burlap sack hobbles as the first lesson with young horses. I had one three year old Appy that figured out right away how to hop around in them, and lope away...

  5. We used to backpack quite a bit and learned to carry very little - which is such a good lesson in life too.

    Looking forward to hearing more about the trip. It looks so beautiful!

  6. By the way (she says, hogging the comments section) I would much prefer THIS type of riding to the speed demon endurance thing! It's getting a little late in the season for overnights, (and school starts depressingly soon) but I'd love to get together for a day ride. I'm just learning my way around the valley with the KVTRs but you might have a better idea. Half way in the middle?

  7. 2bornt2b
    By the way... many many years of back packing have trained me to bring only what I need and/or what I might be sorry I didn't bring! Our packs were fluffy with clothing and down sleeping bags, so it may have looked heavy, but it wasn't. It was bulky and stumps were employed to get on amongst the gear. But NOT bringing the extra horse is great. We can ride away unencumbered, and fly down the trails when we so desire!


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