Trailhead Supply Blog / Coffee with Andy
The sun is just starting to rise. You’re the first one up, the fire is going and you turn the stock out to graze, you turn and pour that first awaited cup. As you turn back to enjoy the sunrise, that big hot cup of joe, and the beauty of grazing horses in that glorious meadow you picked to make camp in…you realize you’re all alone… Where did they go?, they couldn’t have left!!! They were just here. They couldn’t have disappeared that quick. I only poured coffee…one cup of coffee, just one cup!!! What the ……you’re yelling their names, you have now woken everyone up in camp. You retell the story and you keep saying I only poured one cup, just one cup.
So, what’s next? The search begins… Some folks go and become trackers some go back to the fire and pour another cup hoping their faithful steed will wonder back through camp. All I know is we at Trailhead Supply get multiple calls every packing season about lost stock. I myself have found, or I should say someone’s stock has found me numerous times in the back country. The Bob Marshall Wilderness is over a million and a half acres, that’s a lot of real-estate to look for a lost horse or mule. Most of the time they’ll wander back to camp or back down the trail to your horse trailer, but not always. One day I turned around in the saddle to check my pack string, about a mile from the trailhead, I had 3 extra horses in the string they stayed with me to my trailer. After I loaded I tied them to a hitch rail and as I drove by the forest service office I told them along with asking if they could put them in their corral. The next week on my way back I stopped and asked if they had found the owner of the horses. They did, the owners were looking for them 100 miles away from where they found me…
In the event you can’t find your lost horse or horses who do you tell? For starters the land manager of the land you’re riding on. Forest Service, BLM, State, etc. Live Stock or Brand Inspector, local tack shops, post on social media, and animal control, Yes! the dog catcher there is a good chance someone will see or find a lost horse that doesn’t know about horses so they call the folks they know. Lost horses just don’t get lost in the back-country. Gates get left open all the time and down the street they go. Do us all a favor and know what your animal looks like, it is not just brown. There is a lot to learn when traveling in the back country and if you are new to all this don’t be embarrassed to ask how to safely tie up your horse. Have a great summer!
See you on the trail.
PS- have you ever lost or found a horse or mule? Share your stories and tips in the comments!
The snow continues to melt. The trails are opening back up. The trail crews are back on payroll and earning every cent of that $10 an hour, running those crosscut saws from sunrise to sunset and then hiking to the next issue that needs addressed and cut out of the trail…Now that the trail conditions are improving the topic of conversation has changed around Trailhead Supply’s coffee pot. The hot topic of the week are farriers, shoeing the ponies. As the sun stays up longer and the trails are being cut open one of the big preparations we all have to do is get some steel nailed on the mules. Holy cow did the farriers union renegotiate??? I’m being attacked by every customer I have. What is your farrier charging this year? Who do you use? Is he any good? Is he taking new customers? But what does he charge? Its got so bad that I went in for my physical the other day and my doctor was quizzing me about farriers. Now, before you fill my inbox full of hate mail lets look at the big picture. The average rate in NW Montana is $90 to $100 per head. And some farriers charge mileage!!! Truthfully, that is what upsets me the most. I’m 57 years old and have been working since I was 11 years old, and I never got paid to drive to work…NEVER!!! So, now lets move past the mileage issue or I will be on that subject all day. I can only use myself as an example, and I know rates are different all over the country…so bare with me. The farrier comes to the house not to do just one…I have eleven and I help whoever the lucky one is. We can turn almost 2 and hour. That’s $200 an hour!! Well its not really $200 an hour they do have to spend $12 on shoes. At this point my doctor stops me and says, he doesn’t make $200 an hour and he has a decade of schooling and a lifetime of student loans to payback. So, as everyone continues to complain about the rates of shoeing this year and drinking my coffee…Remember they only get $100 a head because you're willing to pay $100 per head, don’t blame the farrier Its really all of our fault we hand him the cash. On a side note: maybe this is just a simple issue of supply and demand, and proof that the "trades" industry in the USA really does need some new blood willing to work hard and get their hands dirty. But now that you got new kicks on the horses lets hit the trail.
See you on the trail.
It is officially here. That time of year where all at once everyone loads the ponies and heads to the hills. It’s not a date on the calendar. There are no Hallmark cards to send out celebrating the start of packing season, it just happens. It’s more like a calling. I can’t explain it, and you won’t really understand unless you pack. For the last couple of weeks every morning my phone starts ringing at 5:30 am. It’s all my packer friends driving across this big country we live in. They aren’t just bored driving mile after mile pulling that trailer load of mules to some pack station somewhere; they are excited about the season ahead. They tell stories to me of past trips and visions of trips yet to come. I hear the woes of their journey so far; fighting with livestock inspectors while crossing state lines with stock. The joys of the new trail dog they picked up along the way, and trail conditions that are already filtering out of the hills back to civilization. It’s also that time of year when everyone drags out those beat up old pack saddles and hauls them into their local saddle shop with hopes they can be patched together for another season. There are some folks who finally do the math and put a pencil to it and realize it is cheaper to just buy a new saddle that dumping time and money into the saddle that has been with them for so many miles. I love seeing those old pack saddles come through the shop for repair. Those saddles have a list of mule names wrote on them and crossed off every time that animal is replaced. Miles of memories, man if those saddles could just talk. The wreck stories have already started… Trying to string a green string together, or just adding a new young mule changes the whole dynamic of the string, oh and they’ll let you know who they don’t like behind them….For those of you that stop by Trailhead Supply and tell me how you have always wanted to pack…Now is the time, saddle up, get out on the trail and make some dust while making memories, Its time.. All of us at Trailhead Supply want to thank all of you for letting us be part of your miles of memories.
See you on the trail!
If you have any questions feel free to reach out to us we are here to help you.
Photo credit: @2Bar6mulepacker
We all look back at when we started packing, and just laugh…We tell stories around the fire of where we packed in our first time. Who we went with, and how we built our loads and tied them on, not to mention the trouble we had along the way. If we are lucky, none of our friends that were with us had a camera to post pictures of our problems on Facebook. I’ve seen a guy at the trail head with a how to pack book propped up against his horse’s neck trying to follow the diagram on how to tie that knot that holds the load on. I’ve passed 3 gals on a hot summer day that were wearing string bikinis and cowboy boots pulling a welch pony loaded to the max with black hefty trash sacks full of their gear. I was told just this week about a friend of mine when she started packing she would fill her sleeping bag and then tie it across the horse and hang the Coleman lantern around the saddle horn and headed down the trail. Now, as the years pass, my string looks like something off a magazine cover. Every load wrapped in a tightly bound mantie, even my saddle bags are canvas so the saddle horse matches the canvas on the pack string. I get phone calls daily at our store, Trailhead Supply, and get asked questions on various topics, but mostly building and securing loads. As I travel around the Northwest doing pack clinics and seminars I get a lot of those questions “Don’t you think it would be better if ???” And on those packing forums on Facebook where everyone has to chime in on every question asked… I’ve gotten to the point in my life when asked is he or she doing that right? Is there a better way?? I reply, “If they got from point A to B and they along with their animals didn’t get hurt. If they had a great time and would love to go on another pack trip, then they did it right!!!” There is plenty of time to learn a new knot or some of the tricks other folks have learned along the way, but the real thing you need to learn is to make time and get out on the trail. If you need a hand getting started feel free to give us a call or shoot us an email we are here to help….
See you on the trail!
Today I was placed into an elite group…I was referred to as crotchety, (an old packer) Well if their Webster dictionary defines crotchety as “Been bucked off, stepped on, rolled a saddle, lost a horse in the middle of the night, but found him, built or repaired tack out of bailing twine, pulled a pack string all night in the driving rain to be on time to start in the morning, figured stuff out all by yourself, would rather ride by myself than a head to tail ride with lots of people, loves sitting by a campfire alone, has a more meaningful conversation with a mule than most folks you know.”…Well I guess I’m crotchety!!! It’s the little things that drives me nuts, like putting manty ropes away. I teach pack classes, from small groups at our store Trailhead Supply and to large groups with standing room only at sportsman expos. At some point during my demonstration I always show everyone how “I” put away my ropes. Then after I’m done and trying to pick up, to clear the stage for the next presenter people always offer to help…I say thanks but I got it. They insist, So I show them one more time how to put the ropes away. I even explain to them again the reason I want the ropes put away like this. And they still mess it up!!! Oh my God… I am crotchety!!! Take my son in law… Well before he was my son in law he tagged along on a trip. At the end of the trip he asked how I would like the pack saddles put away. That’s a great start, he asked!! So, I showed him, he went off and pulled saddles. Wow that was great, the kid may have found a keeper I thought, till I saddled the next time. He untied the latigos on the offside, opposite from me, so as I saddled the next time I had to walk around each and every horse to saddle it. He now does it right!!! My way… All old packers have been called more adjectives than just crotchety, but there is a reason they do what they do. Every time they pull a rope, fold a manty, or cuss a good mule there was a real-life lesson learned in the past that has brought them to the trail they are on today. If you want to learn, ask them. They will be happy to teach you, just remember all real packers are always right…
See you on the trail. Andy