Trailhead Supply Blog / Coffee with Andy

Bed in the Backcountry

As the day comes to an end, you’re sitting by the fire looking up at all those stars, and taking in all the back country has to offer. Finishing off that last cold one, recapping all the miles you covered in the saddle today. One last trip over to check the stock before hitting the hay for an early start in the morning.  But its not the bed you have become accustom to, its not the bed your still making payments on to the bank. You won’t be curled up in some soft 1800 thread count Egyptian sheets, this is the wilderness many, many miles from that soft bed.  This is a very common topic around the coffee pot at Trailhead Supply. What do you sleep on, when your over nighting in the hills?  I think I’ve heard just about every option there is…More times than not it’s a weight issue. One pack animal, you’re not packing in a king size mattress.  If you drank the kool-aid like I have, and have more animals than since, well the sky is the limit, how creative do you want to get?  So let’s skip the LQ’s, we all know they come as a pre-equipped palace on wheels.

Now, what I normally sleep on changes if the wife tags along, and why not, if camp is nicer, more comfortable, she just may hang out with this dusty old packer even more!!! For the record I rarely pack in a tent its pretty much 4 pack pads in between a folded over mantie, then my overpriced sleeping bag on top of that then covered up with another mantie, that’s camp.  Chuck thinks that my rolled-up coat for a pillow is too primitive so he packs in a big fluffy pillow with a satin pillow case. (Don’t tell him I told you) I’m happy with that set up no fuss… but that’s out the window at elk camp (due to weather concerns) or if my wife is with us!!! Then its wall tents and wood stoves, cots, tables and chairs we look like a cover picture of an outdoor magazine.  Chuck has been known to set up 2 cots then lay 2 pieces of plywood perpendicular to the cots, top that with an inflating queen size mattress with sheets and blankets if his wife comes along…I think that’s over kill, but what the heck they have a good time and that’s what it is all about.  At this point someone is reading this and thinking to their self, I thought a hammock was styling, remember I sleep under a mantie 85 nights of the year.  If you’ve got room enjoy your trip. Don’t use “well my husband needs this because of his back.” Tell the truth life is short and I want to be comfortable!!! The snow is still melting, get those cots ready….

See you on the trail.

Andy

Read more →

Spring Tune Up

Who’s got a trip or trips on the calendar for this coming summer? Or should I ask who doesn’t have a pack trip planned? There still might be a lot of snow on the trails but folks are already planning their summer adventures. The phone at Trailhead Supply rings all day long with folks from around the country asking questions about trails, trail heads, feed requirements, the must see’s in the Bob Marshall, gear needed, and outfitters in given areas. And the all important question…what do I do with my stock at night while I’m packing in? The answers all become part of planning their trip. We are always glad to help out, and share as much information that we can.  I can always tell when spring is in full swing by the amount of pack saddle replacement straps we start shipping out. Everyone is digging out those pack saddles and remembering just what happened while making those memories last fall, and maybe bailing twine isn’t the permanent answer for saddle repair…Sometimes it’s just easier and cheaper to buy a new decker…Another spring time question in the store, I’m asked when do I deworm my mules? I start when I have them all caught up for their first shoeing of the year. Shoeing, worming, vaccinations, roaching of the manes and of course the first de-burring of the tails…Good times by the end of the day!!!

Just as a reminder your riding horse or mule isn’t the only animal that needs conditioning. One of my pet peeves is going out on a spring ride for the day or one of the social things I get talked into, you know any of those head to tail ride outings where you pay to ride a public trail and there is more people than stock. Most folks only take their saddle stock, never their pack animals. Take an extra along and pony one, let them get exercise as well it will pay off in the long run.

As you plan your summer adventure remember the paperwork, this is becoming a big deal…So, much so Trailhead Supply is planning a brand inspection day. If you live local call up and make an appointment time (what works best for you) May 10th is the day.

The days are getting warmer and long!

See you on the trail.

Andy

Read more →

When it Pours

I know very few people who don’t check the weather forecast before they head out for a ride, let it be for the afternoon or an extended trip deep into the back country. Everyone loves to ride in the warm sun, even light snow attracts a lot of folks, but rain not so much.  You look at that phone and the weather app says 100% chance of rain, most of us just stay home. Sometimes you don’t have that option, say you have packed in on that bucket list trip, took time off to do a little fishing in the back country, or there is a group of us that just work out there, going up and down those trails, rain or shine. The only thing worse than hard rain while sitting in that saddle for 10 hours is wind and rain for 10 hours. We all should be carrying some sort of rain gear, let it be a full-blown rain suit or a duster; but the best can only hold back Mother Nature for so long. The cold water slowly starts leaking in. It starts as a damp spot eventually you are totally drenched. Now you’re cold and wet, how do you get warm and dry?

In the fall I normally have a wall tent set up with a wood stove and can warm up and start drying out wet clothes, but in the summer standing under a blue tarp, things don’t dry out as fast. I always carry a change of clothes; that will help me to start warming up, but how does one dry out wet clothes and coats miles from the horse trailer when the rain just won’t stop? I always, no matter the length of the trip/ride have an extra pair of wool socks in a ziplock bag in one saddle bag and an extra pair of gloves packed in the other saddle bag dry socks and gloves go a long way!!! On a summer roving trip, where you have to get up early break camp and move on, that wet tent, even though it kept you dry last night, now that it is getting rolled up tight and stuffed into a stuff sack will be wet inside and out at the next camp. I shake that fly good and hard shedding most of the water and then wipe it down with a shami type towel to help absorb as much moisture as possible. Then, it’s the first thing I set up at the next camp hoping for as much dry time as possible.   Wet and cold is a bad combo, and of course never leave home without matches and your favorite fire starter. This is a topic that come up over and over again, feel free to leave your tips from the trail that have helped you.

Stay warm and dry!

See You on the trail...

Andy

Read more →

Sold!!

Going once, going twice, and I sold it to you...Tis the season, either at some livestock sale or a deal between two private parties, horses and mules are selling and the pace is really just picking up. As fast as someone staples a for sale flyer up on Trailhead Supply’s info board, someone else pulls it down and says “I bought that one.” What I’m excited about is how many people are buying more than one…They are building a pack string and getting ready to cover some trail miles.  All of us who have already drank the kool-aid, already knows what comes next, a bigger trailer, then a larger truck to pull the bigger trailer. I had a guy in the store yesterday buying a bucket load of new brushes and a new saddle pad.  As he was paying, he said is there a cure for this packing disease? I said “yes, buy more mules.” Just be cautious when buy new stock. Good deals are not always good deals.  Remember you can’t ride color, just because it’s the prettiest animal you have ever laid eyes on you may never be able to ride it. Don’t be afraid to ask to have it vet checked before handing over the cash. And don’t leave with your new mount without all the proper paperwork. This is a growing problem with most of the states requiring different forms of bill of sales, brand inspections, and health requirements to transfer ownership. If unsure of what you need or should be receiving at the time of sale contact your states department of livestock, a brand inspector, even your veterinarian can be of help in this area. A receipt hand written on a paper plate isn’t really working as well as it did in the past.  On May 10th we are hosting a brand inspection day here at Trailhead Supply. If you live locally around Kalispell and need to get your animal brand inspected May 10th is the day!!!  Give us a call and we will set a time that works best for you. Brand Inspections are for branded and non-branded animals and is requirement when crossing county lines in Montana.  For more information or to set an appointment time give us a call 406-752-4437. This day always fills up really fast, so call early.

See you on the trail!

Andy

Read more →

The Pack Saddle

Well its time, time to think about getting a new or another pack saddle.  Everyone is calling the store with questions or chatting on any one of a number of Facebook pages. What do you think about this saddle or that saddle?  Do I need this or that? So, at this point I thought I would throw my two cents in. 

There are two types of pack saddles; Sawbucks and Deckers. Today we are talking deckers…The Decker brothers were miners in Kooskia, ID. and needed a stronger pack saddle than a sawbuck to pack the steel rails into the silver mines for the oar cars. They had a local saddle maker, OP Robinett replace the wood crossbucks with steel hoops. That’s a 100 years of history in a few words!!! In time a new style of steel hoop hit the market. This hoop had been modified into a more square style allowing the ease of pannier straps to be thrown over the hoop to hang much in the same manner as with the sawbuck. Prior to the modified hoop, packers were welding a knob or tab off the top of the original round hoops for this purpose.  The problem with this addition was if you were manty packing and had your load tied on proper (good and tight, resting against the hoop) Those newly added extensions would and will rub a hole in your canvas and/or load. Deckers also have a halfbreed, an extra layer of padding, carried in a canvas cover, on the exterior of the halfbreed are sideboards this board distributes the weight of the load across the ribs of the animal.  A big advantage with a decker over a sawbuck is the adjustable rigging, unlike the sawbucks fixed rigging.  When I’m asked which is better traditional or modified hoops? I answer I run both in my string. But I can tell you what I sell…To my age and older I sell the traditional round style, because that’s what they have always used, my age and younger, the modified style. You can get deckers made with both conway and roller buckles. The buckle choice is up to you. It comes down to do you want to get all pissed off fitting the saddle or do you want to get it adjusted and hit the trail in a timely fashion. We are here to answer all you saddle questions, and get you the setup that works best for you. Feel free to give us a call or shoot us an email before you make that major purchase.

Till next week.

See you on the trail,

Andy

Read more →