24. March 2015 · Comments Off on SBBCHI Succor Creek Annual Fun Ride and Public Outreach · Categories: Around The Campfire, Fun Rides · Tags: , , , ,

Get Your Backside in the Saddle

The Outfitter

The Outfitter

If this keeps up we might need a bigger parking area. New faces, including the two legged and four legged kind, participated in the SBBCHI annual Succor Creek fun ride. In an attempt to stimulate interest in new membership, the fun ride has been opened up to the public. Over 20 riders managed to get their butts in the saddle on an early Sunday morning for a stunning ride through the Owyhee desert.

Amongst the riders were a few members who had recently undergone joint surgery of one kind or another; myself included. I’d had a total knee replacement, Bill Conger had a double total knee replacement and Phil was recovering from shoulder surgery. I figured between the three of us, we had enough artificial parts to build one outstanding bionic Squaw Butte member!

RearViewWe split the large group into several smaller groups. Smaller groups are often more manageable with less impact on the terrain. The natural varied paces of the horses usually determine the groups traveling dynamic; the Passo’s, Walkers and Rob’s mustang taking the lead. My horse will walk at whatever pace I ask him too and that is normally in the back of the herd. I can better keep an eye on everyone (not that anyone needs keeping an eye on – but it makes me feel better) and snap pictures without interrupting the flow.

We left the trailers at approximately 10:30 AM. Light jackets against the morning spring breeze were sufficient for comfort.  Several of the members were well on their way as I waited for the last foot to stick a stirrup. I resisted the urge to call out: “Move ‘em up….head ‘em out!”

If it weren’t for Lou Ann – I’d be the most directionally challenged of the bunch. Lou makes me look like an orienteering master! Less than a mile up the road we met Lou Ann coming in from the wrong direction. Well…it wasn’t wrong, exactly, even if it was not the ideal way to enter Succor Creek from Meridian. The important thing was she got there, not how she got there.

A young cowboy, a guest of a member, bailed off his horse, slid into Lou’s driver’s seat and backed her rig off the road. He jumped out, dashed to the back of the trailer, unloaded Lou’s gelding and saddled him before the rest of us could say “Bob’s your uncle.” Turns out 25 year-old Warren works for a Montana outfitter. He all but threw Lou into the saddle and we were off once again. Sort of like an equine pit-stop.

The Chick's

The Chick’s

My small group caught up with the Chicks at the gate leading to what I call the “On Top:” an ATV road running north and south above the campground and below the old Indian Cave.  Chick and Lorraine lost Sammy, Chick’s beautiful Arabian grey of natural causes earlier in the month. Lorraine was riding an up and coming bay Arab/Quarter cross, Casanova. This was Casanova’s first ride outside the training arena. Casanova was a bit nervous. Not uncommon for a young horse amongst a large group of riders. Chick and Lorraine would switch saddles and do a little Pirelli while the rest of us went on. It is against my nature to leave a member behind, but Chick felt Casanova needed some alone time to get beyond the skittishness magnified by the group.

Dripping sweat and labored lungs brought us to the apex of the first of several steep climbs encountered on the ride. I barely got out the words, “Everyone check your cinches,” when I caught sight of Warren methodically going from rider to rider checking cinches and tightening as needed. This must be what it’s like in the days of Lord’s and Ladies of the manner. “Oh, George…I wish to ride today. Prepare the Black for western discipline.” A meticulously groomed and gleaming black stallion magically appears in the outer courtyard awaiting your riding pleasure. Upon returning home, you toss the reins to the always dutiful George and your horse is miraculously returned to his paddock, freeing you to enjoy mint julips on the terrace with Captain Butler and….

I glanced back often hoping to catch sight of the Chick’s. I reached a vantage point that allowed a glimpse of two tiny riders in the bottom of the canyon. Both riders aboard and clipping along at a good pace. No need to fret any longer.

A string of bandits

We followed the trail across the On Top to a gate leading down to the “Hole in the Wall.” Roger dismounts to open the gate. All riders get through ahead of a barrage of ATV’s; one after another filtered through the gate – 14 in all. I thought this might be where we’d lose our young Cowboy. A curvy girl peering from behind goggles did a double take from the back passenger seat of a Yamaha four wheeler. Warren damn near lost his seat as he pushed the front of his felt hat off his forehead. “Well hello! Looks to me like that little gal ‘d be a site happier on the back of this horse than the back o’ that four whiller!”  From the sheer velocity of her head whipping around and lingering glance, I believe he might be right. The boy was not lacking in confidence.

We met the larger group on their way back to camp. Janine and Lou Ann turned back with the others. I wanted to show Marina, Rogers’s granddaughter, the Hole in the Wall. Linda, Devon, Mildred, Roger, Marina and Warren and I continued to the Hole in the Wall. In a normal water year, a waterfall pours over the top of the rim rock pooling in the center of the crescent shaped rock formation. It was not a normal water year. The Hole in the Wall was bone dry; as dry as I’d ever seen it.



We rested the horses, snapped a few pictures and mounted for the ride back to camp. I marveled as Mildred popped into the saddle. I remarked to Warren, “I sure hope at 80 some years old I can still get my butt into the saddle like that.” While secretly thinking: Who am I kidding – I wish I could get my butt into the saddle like that today! Mildred is my idol and inspiration. I handed her a can of Beanee Weenee’s.  She scrunched up her nose. “You expect me to eat these nasty things?” No Mildred, I’m pretty sure those things would kill you – that can is at least 15 years old. We’ll be lucky if it doesn’t explode before I snap a picture.

Marina put her horse’s feet to work as he danced and fought the bit. This was one 10 year old who wasn’t letting her horse get away with bad habits. The horse jigged to be up with his buddy, Rogers big bay gelding. I stopped asking Marina if she was doing ok when I watched her collect the horse and make him do everything but what he wanted until he stopped misbehaving. Well done, Marina.

We arrived back at camp just as Rob took the last of the burgers and hotdogs off the grill. Some might call it late – I call it perfect timing. As always, the spread of food was impressive.Potluck

I passed Bill coming back from watering his horse. The conversation went something like this:

Bill: Does your knee pop when you ride?

Me: Not when I ride – but when I walk sometimes. It doesn’t hurt, just feels weird.

Bill: Mine feel like they are loose and shifting around, especially when I’m on the tractor.

Me: Come to think of it, mine do that when I’m on the tractor too. And it did start to do it about the last ½ mile of our ride today.

Bill: I don’t like it. It bugs me.

Me: Do you think it’s normal? *Please tell me you think it’s         normal.*

Bill: God, I hope so.


The haul back home over one of the roughest, tire popping, gravel roads in Oregon affords ample time to contemplate on the success of another Backcountry Horseman outing. We met some wonderful prospective new members we hope to see more of in the future. We reflect on the sadness of our four legged partners we have lost and look forward with hope in the new mounts that will fill the empty hoof prints they left behind. We glean inspiration from Mildred’s agile horsemanship.  Determination from the likes of Phil and Bill’s tenacity; Hope in the future from Marina’s youth.

No matter the age of the rider or the number of plastic parts they might boast, you just can’t keep a good Backcountry Horseman’s butt out of the saddle.

BootsClick for full set of Pictures on Picasa


13. June 2014 · Comments Off on National Trails Day 2014 – Steck Park Trash Pick Up · Categories: Work Parties and Projects · Tags: , , ,
The gang picking up trash

The gang picking up trash


National Trails Day 2014

What: Trash pickup

Where:  Steck Park to Crazy Lady Gate

When: June 7th – National Trails Day 10:30 AM – completion

Potluck at my place after the project

Latex gloves = highly recommended

BYOB (bring your own bags)

  View more pictures

This was our second year spending National Trails day picking up trash along the Snake River from Steck Park to the red gate – or as I now call it: “Crazy Lady Gate.”  It would be hard to top last year’s adventure and frankly, that would be perfectly fine with me. If you would like to know why – follow this link to last years story of “The Crazy Lady of Steck Park”

Janine, Lou Ann and Nancy trailer-pooled to my house Saturday morning. I had spotted Rob’s trailer heading for the park at 8:00 AM while on the ditch setting my irrigation water. He was either real excited to start this project or he miscalculated the traveling time. Either way, he took advantage of his early arrival by napping.

The girls and I were a little late in leaving my place.  A cool breeze billowed through the open windows – the fridge jammed full of delectable food temped all to skip the project and head straight into the pot-luck. Surely we could come up with some excuse as to why we didn’t show up on the river. Conscious got the better of us, however, and the girls followed me to the park on a road made of washboards and dust.

There was a slight failure in communication at the trail-head. Rob and Bob parked at the old Dutchmen’s corrals on the hill before the boat-dock. I figured since we weren’t camping- I‘d park at the boat-dock to avoid the cattle guard.  Janine parked somewhere in the middle for the sake of democracy. I think she might be running for office in the near future.

It’s about 5 miles from the boat-dock to Crazy Lady Gate. The sun was high over-head and hot. Hotter than last year at this time for sure or maybe it was the long sleeve shirt I wore. I still had a few spots of poison ivy on my forearms that flare up when exposed to the sun. Whichever it was – I was crankier than Lou Ann’s palomino mare, Brandi.

Bob, Rob and Nancy walked most of the five miles to Crazy Lady Gate. Lou, Janine and I rode into coves before dismounting to pick up trash. This year’s winning trash items were plastic water bottles,  bait containers and used toilet paper (hence the highly recommended latex glove).

Stinking catfish carcasses – cans of stale Keystone doubling as spittoons and the ever popular streams of toilet paper were about all this germ-a-phobe could handle for one hot, poison ivy covered day.  “This is just stupid. Whose idea was this anyway? This is a dumb project.  Littering should be a hanging offence right up there with horse thieving.” If the others had known what a bad mood I was in, they would have pinned a red ribbon to the back of my pants as a warning like they do horses that kick. I felt like kicking something!

It’s hard to stay in a bad mood for long with Janine and Lou for company. “Hey Laurie, your hat matches Lou Ann’s shirt,” Said Janine. “It does, and my hat matches Janine’s shirt!” Said Lou Ann. “Hey… and my hat matches your shirt, Laurie.” Janine says. “I know, let’s all trade hat’s and swap horses and see how long it takes the rest of them to notice!” Seriously…next ride – we are doing it.

We stopped to chase a herd of cattle before turning into the next cove. Correction, we would never chase those cows (in case there are any ranchers reading this). We merely moved them to the opposite side of the road from the cove so they didn’t come after me and kill me as soon as I dismounted. I’m telling you – it can happen. Actually, Janine and Kiger moved the cows. Lou and I hung back and watched from afar. Both of our horses understand the imminent danger lurking within a bovine herd.

Janine moving cows

Janine moving cows

We somehow picked up Bob in the second to last cove. Nancy and Rob had gone on ahead to the last cove at Crazy Lady Gate.  Lou and I rode on to meet Rob and Nancy while Bob and Janine turned back to spare Kigers’ hooves. The road is five miles of sharp rock that can cause even a shod horse to gimp a little.

Rob and Nancy had taken care of Crazy Lady Cove by the time Lou and I got there. We rode back toward the park, picking up Janine and Bob on the way. Rob said he would let the park host know where we had left the garbage bags. Last year, the camp hosts were grateful that we had spent the day picking up trash and happily went back after the bags. This year’s camp host was not at all impressed. He let Rob know that it was not part of his host duties and under no circumstances was he taking his four-wheeler out of official park boundaries. Funny, he looked like he could use the exercise. I’d go after the garbage later that evening.

We made it back to my place just in time to watch California Chrome almost become the first horse in 36 years to win the Triple Crown…almost. I sympathized with owner Steve Coburn’s emotional outburst. A Triple Crown winner would have been a huge shot in the arm for a sport that has lost popularity over the last 40 years.

After everyone left, I hooked my small utility trailer to my four-wheeler and Shade and I drove the 25 miles to Crazy Lazy gate. The trailer bounced and rattled over every wash-board and pot-hole on the planet. Fishermen and campers stopped to stare: “Nothing to see here folks – move along…move along.”

Several times the jarring bounced the back rail off the trailer and I had to go back for it. One such time I looked back and a group of cows had gathered around it as it lay in the dirt. I suppose they were curious. A big momma cow pawed and gave it a rough nudge. “Hey – I need that ….SHOOO!” Not one of them cows “SHOOO’d” an inch. Now what? I had to have that back rail or all the garbage would bounce out before I got home.  “Shade – get them cows out of here!” Shade lunged for the cows. Most of them moved. The big momma cow ducked her head and chased Shade back toward the four-wheeler. Here she comes, shaking her head with fire and smoke billowing out of her nostrils. You are on your own dog – I jumped on the Honda and sped up the hill as Shade clamored onto the seat behind me. Momma cow gave up the chase and meandered back to her mob. Shade and I warily coasted back down the hill to retrieve the rail.

Shade on her Four-Wheeler

Shade on her Four-Wheeler


The trailer wasn’t as bouncy or noisy with the weight of the trash bags in it but that didn’t stop the fishermen and campers from staring as we rambled by the various campgrounds.  I secretly hoped I’d meet the camp host when I drove through the park. I had concocted a story to tell him about how, while picking up the bags, I found a duffle bag full of drug money. I sure was glad he wasn’t allowed to take his four-wheeler out of the camp or he would have found it instead!

Shade and I made it home before dark – a good thing since the trailer doesn’t have lights. I parked the stinking pile of trash far from my front door where it would sit until the dump opened on Tuesday. I counted the number of bags we’d picked up; 13 bags – less than half of what we picked up last year. Maybe that was a good thing – maybe we made a dent in it last year or people were littering less.

A contest was in order. There would be a major REWARD for the first person to guess the correct number of large black plastic trash bags I’d put in my trailer. Luckily for me – nobody won the contest…I had no idea what the major REWARD would have been. However, if it wouldn’t have been major – it most certainly would have been unique. I’m thinking a box of latex gloves and a quart of hand sanitizer.