Whelp, we did it again... rode 17 miles into and out of the Minam River Valley in the heart of the Eagle Cap Wilderness Area on horseback and returned safe and sound this past weekend. Saturday 5 a.m. we arose, coffee made and our house/trail guest Carrie, Bobbi and Becky all preparing to make the trek to spend their first night at Minam River Lodge. After breakfast and getting the horses loaded into trailers we left the ranch 40 minutes behind schedule. Not a problem... we will use the interstate speed to make up some of the time and hopefully meeting our trail partners, Dick, Penny and Mel at the Moss Spring Trail head in good time. Getting on the interstate and climbing Cabbage Hill we were able to make some good time until we got to the Meacham area and then we heard a very loud "POP". A trailer tire had blown. So much for our day's planned schedule. Having changed the tire we had to pull into La Grande and purchase another tire and then on to Moss Springs. We arrived there about two hours later than planned and there was Dick and the wrangler that had brought him a horse from the lodge. They were ready to head out so we told them of our morning events, and said go ahead and we will meet you at the lodge when we get there. Shortly thereafter we were saddled-up and headed down the trail. Let me say here, "Dale does not like heights", more than sitting in his saddle. I have made this trip before so I know what it is like... steep mountain side trekking. This Moss Spring Trail into Minam River Valley is suppose to be the easiest and shortest of all trails to get there, but there ain't nothing easy about it; this is the "real west"! This year has also been warm and dry, so the dust was fairly thick along most the trail, helps one to realize what it was like when the emigrants came into this country 150 years ago. This trail ride is 4+ hours of traversing rocky and forested hillsides and ridge tops that are just wide enough for a horse to pass. Yes, a horse to pass, NOT two horses to pass... without one standing on a slope that looks down 200-400-600 feet into a ravine.Likewise looking up from the trail in many places it is straight up to the sky, above the near vertical mountain slope.
This is part of the trail into Minam River Valley
This is part of the trail into Minam River Valley
A rocky portion of the trail
This is looking down from the saddle... yep, that's Little Minam River in the bottom of this ravine
...this is looking up from the horse's back
Quite a backwoods experience on horseback. Fortunately the Great Spirit made horses with enough horse sense that in many tight spots a rider can drop the reins and the horse will just follow the one track trail through the brush, across the ridge back, over the rock face safely. After about a 4 hour ride we come into the Historic "Red Horse Ranch" neighborhood in the Minam River Valley. Here our friends Bill and Michelle had just spent the last week as USFS caretakers for that historic homesite. We were too late to catchup with them there, so we ambled on down to the Minam River Lodge to ease our tired backs with a bit of backwoods libation and a Shelly Steen lunch.
At the lodge Shelly greeted us in her most friendly way, making everyone feel at home. Again this year Kittee and I settled into our teepee for the stay. After offloading our duds we headed for the lunch table and begin our weekend relaxation and libation. Due to the injury I received the week before (from my bucky gelding) we did not bring our fly rods or plan to get into any fishing. Hopefully next year.
After lunch we just relaxed on the lodge's front deck and visited with the 12 to 20 lodge/ Red's Ranch neighborhood guest that came and went through the afternoon. Kittee went to shower off the trail dust and I just sit in the butterfly chair and snooooozed for a spell. Canadian whiskey with aspirin worked quite well on the broken ribs repair for this weekend's R&R and horseback ride.
After the light refreshment and relaxing break, Kittee and I when down to the horse paddock to check on our horses, making sure they were happy with their situation. All was well.
Saturday evening Shelly prepared another delicious dinner of BBQ pork with all the trimmings and a carrot cake with a pot of coffee. What a treat... in the middle of the wilderness.
After dinner the party broke up into their individual family groups, some folks going back to their cabins, some playing cards on the front deck, some playing games at the lodge's indoor dinning room tables, the rest of us having drinks and visit chatting on the lodge's front deck.
After sunset, Kittee and I stayed up to spend some time swinging in the double lawn swing overlooking the Minam River Valley, and thereafter we watched the full moon rising over the high eastern ridge. Quite a sight, the silhouette of the tall pines in the face of the very full moon.
We retreated to our teepee for a great nights rest. Very comfortable, very quite, only moon light, lit our world. No city lights is a nice life.
Sunday morning we awoke to a very beautiful and mild day. Last year there was an early morning frost, this year there was none. We milled around the lodge drinking coffee, visiting with the other lodge guest, and eating a bit of leftover carrot cake before breakfast. Again this year as was last year's... the breakfast was all anyone could ask for. Served at about 7 a.m., all you can eat and good. Our next meal after climbing mountains, riding mountain ridge tops, crossing rivers, sliding on rocky ledge trails was at home 7 pm. Quite a breakfast, quite a day.
Everyone returned safe and sound. Now biting at the bit to do this again next year. Can't get enough of that adrenaline rush.
Here again we have to say, Thank you, Shelly and Shawn for another wonderful trip and stay at the Minam River Lodge.One last word... FLYING, if you didn't enjoy the horseback ride in...
you might want to think about flying next time.
Dale --- a day in the life at Minam River Valley