The Northwest Outdoor Writers Association recently met in Choteau, Montana and there were several activities lined up to experience the area. As signups for an afternoon trail ride with A Lazy H Outfitters filled quickly, my heart began to sink. I didn’t think I’d get a chance to ride. To my delight though, a second ride was scheduled and my excitement began to build.
I don’t own a horse, I wouldn’t have anywhere to keep it, nor would I know how, or want, to care for one. But the joy of having a trained trail horse appear, saddled and ready to go is the way I like it!
My ride for the day was named Harley. I had shared with Joe Haas at A Lazy H Outfitters that I was particularly fond of horses named Slow-Go or Old Plug. I like to ride but have never aspired to participate in a rodeo!
Harley seemed quite tall and all business. As I scratched his forehead he simply stood there – no gazes that said, oh, that feels good. He had just left winter pasture where each day was like a vacation – plenty of grass, no dudes to transport, no early work days. As I settled into the saddle after a struggling attempt to get my leg over this tall steed, I wondered what Harley was thinking. Does this gal know what she is doing? Was I too much weight for him?
As the other riders started on the trail Harley just stood there. Words of encouragement landed on his perky, but obviously deaf, ears. I didn’t want to apply any pressure to his flanks. After all, I really wanted him to like me. A few minutes later, Harley finally decided it was time to go back to work and take this gal across the rolling plains and buttes along the Rocky Mountain Front.
Harley and I settled in to a steady walk and out came my camera. Afternoon temperatures were warm, creating our first 80 degree day of the year. The mountain tops were still white with snow-cover, mountain meadows were starting to green, and cold clear water was trickling down from the lower level melting snow. Photos simply couldn’t capture the mesmerizing atmosphere as we zigzagged through short pines with the ever-present Rocky Mountains forming a gorgeous backdrop. My stress level was melting like the snow and the lists of things I needed to do that day began to fade.
As I watched Joe Haas at the front of our ride I wondered if he ever grew tired of seeing these majestic views. Although, he seemed to draw inspiration from the views, just like I was doing. He pointed out different mountain peaks – Ear Mountain, Choteau Mountain and more that I can’t remember. The
terrain here is unique and Joe explained that the area was transformed by a terminal moraine. I googled terminal moraine and found out that it happens when a glacier slides along and takes rocks, trees, anything in its way, then finally stops. In addition to learning geography we also learned history. Joe took us by tipi rings placed by Native Americans as they traveled through this rugged area.
A Lazy H Outfitters does multi-day scenic pack trips into the Bob Marshall Wilderness and also fall hunting trips in the wilderness. Fishing in the cool mountain streams of “The Bob” would certainly cap off a day of scenic views, only to be topped by an evening of stargazing at Montana’s endless night sky. This vast wilderness, designated in 1964, is a bucket list item for many people.
As our trail ride progressed I grew quite fond of Harley. With the sunlight bouncing off his black silky mane I decided he is so beautiful he could do a hair conditioner commercial. His coat, still thick from winter
climate changes, looked lush and in excellent condition. His steady pace gave me confidence that I was doing an OK job of riding and I think he was glad to be back to work again.
Harley and his co-worker horses could be waiting to take you for several days and nights into the Bob Marshall Wilderness. If you get the opportunity, take it.
And give my love to Harley.