Celebrating the Trip of a Lifetime on Horseback
by Karen Pickering, NWHS Publisher
I anticipated this trip for nearly a year. Ken Solem of Stonewater Ranch in Plain, WA offered a weeklong trip through Yellowstone to a leadership team I’m involved with through our church. It was a generous offer we just couldn’t refuse.
It’s funny what you worry about when you’re going to be gone for a week: no cell reception, all the catch-up when you get back, arrangements for animals and work while gone, the list goes on. Regardless, it was the opportunity of a lifetime and a dream come true. The following is from my trip journal:
Friday, August 22nd: Wendy, Nicole, Linda and I met up at Starbuck’s at Cook Road, Burlington, WA at 4:30 AM. We loaded up on caffeine and headed for Stonewater Ranch. The next morning, we packed up and were off about 10:00 AM. Our goal for the first day was to make it half way, to The Silver Dollar Casino in Haugen, MT.
Sunday, August 24th: We awoke to the smell of hot coffee and breakfast. Our guide, Ken, had gotten up and prepared us a wonderful breakfast. I felt so spoiled! We were excited to start our final trek to Yellowstone. Our destination was Red Canyon located just outside of West Yellowstone. It was a trailhead with an outhouse and lots of lush grass for the horses. After about 6 or 7 hours of travel we arrived and got everything unloaded, tent up, horses situated and dinner made.
Monday, August 25th: We ate breakfast then packed up camp (everything from food to cosmetics) had to be packed away in the truck or cargo trailer. I’m so used to checking emails in the morning and being on the phone all day it felt strange to literally be unplugged. It was so exciting to leave for our first trail ride in Yellowstone! We saw plenty of wildlife and stunning views that first day, along with the adventure of getting all the horses to ford a river. We had lunch by the riverside; the grass was incredibly lush so the horses were perfectly happy. It was great to not have to worry about taking feed with us on this trip since there was so much forage available. The horses seemed to really enjoy the day’s ride as well.
Tuesday, August 26th: This was a long ride of nearly 11 miles. We started on the Fawn Pass Trail and ended up on the Big Horn Pass Trail. I was thankful I had taken the time to condition April before this ride. While we didn’t do much climbing to speak of we were still at nearly 8,000 feet above sea level making it a little more difficult to breathe if we exerted the horses too much. The scenery was vast and beautiful.
Wednesday, August 27th: Shower and laundry day! We tied all but two of the horses to the trailer and headed to town. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a shower so much. We spent the afternoon sightseeing around Yellowstone and took in one of the smaller falls at Yellowstone, Old Faithful and the steaming pools at Midway Basin. What unusual beauty! Wendy, Nicole and I pulled over as we neared Red Canyon to photograph a small herd of dude horses. We even saw some pretty odd colored mules. What a great end to a perfect day.
Thursday, August 28th: This was the trip we’d all been looking forward to: Hayden Valley is a known hangout for buffalo. We were hoping to see a big herd and get close enough for some pictures. From that point we still had a good hour and half drive to Hayden Valley. As we pulled off into the turnout we saw a large herd of buffalo in the distance. Because of the marshy ground we really had to stick on or near the trail and it took us away from the main herd. Still, we were close again to a few of the old lone bulls that’d gone off by themselves. We came across quite a few lone buffalo and were careful to keep a safe distance.
Friday, August 29th: Wow, our final day of riding. We planned a closer, shorter ride to a location just outside of Yellowstone call the Gneiss Trail. We eventually crossed into Yellowstone, again turning our attention to the bear warning signs. We tied up for lunch just savoring the experience. We had crossed quite a bit of sagebrush and the scenery was a bit different than the previous rides. What an adventure. It was sad to unsaddle for the last time in Yellowstone. It’s a trip I will remember forever.
Originally Published November 2014 Issue