Pink Saddles, Ed’s a Vegetarian, and Fishing for Ellie
by Robert Eversole
The first pack trip of the year is always interesting, especially when it’s also your first one in a couple of years. For my reintroduction into packing I cajoled the Pacific Northwest’s very own Ed Haefliger, acclaimed national park packer, into taking a trip with me into the Olympic Mountains for a few days.
Pretty in Pink
Because a pack trip isn’t interesting enough on its own, I thought it would be a fine time to try out a new riding saddle. Ruger’s been wearing a hand-me-down saddle since he came to me. It almost fits, but I figured his back and my butt would appreciate a new rig.
Saddles (like cars, boats, and houses) need to be personalized. So immediately upon opening the shipping box we dove into the saddle. Extra rings, dees, and footman loops were the first additions. The new sparkly steel tie-down spots will ensure that I can carry as much stuff as possible. We then addressed the very serious issue of color.
The standard brown and black saddle is refined—even elegant, so we added to that as we replaced the billets with pink latigos. Using latigos instead of billets is one of many tricks Ed has taught me over the years. All around latigos allow for unlimited degrees of adjustment and the ability to tighten either side easily and quickly.
Ed might refer to his unique strapping color as magenta, but I think we owe it to ourselves (and the world) to claim this bold statement as pink. It’s a great color that Ruger and I wear proudly. Besides, pink makes it easy to pick out my gear from others.
The eastern side of Olympic National Park is the lesser-visited, and the Dosewallips River corridor is even less familiar to the equine set. That’s a shame.
The ride into the Dosewallips Campground is relatively benign with few obstacles other than the lack of designated parking. The road into the campground washed out over 17 years ago and hasn’t been rebuilt. The trailhead is simply the end of the road.
As you might expect of a trail that was once a road, most of the six miles in is a wide smooth path that’s slowly being filled in by moss and trees. Expect to encounter a few washouts where the mountains are gradually reclaiming the roadway.
The campground is what you would expect if a full-service campground, complete with shower house, were suddenly closed. Layers of moss cover the picnic tables; paths are indistinct at best; few people venture here and fewer yet stay overnight. It’s fabulous.
Before you load the trailer, remember that this is the Olympic National Park so weed-free feed is required and dogs are not allowed. Grazing is extremely limited so plan on packing in feed. A single vault toilet remains in the campground and water is available from the river which runs alongside the camp.
Ed’s a Vegetarian
I volunteered to do the dinner cooking for our trip but neglected to tell Ed that he was going to be a guinea pig for some new camp recipes. One of those was a vegetarian dish — “Texican Rice and Beans.” The grimace on Ed’s face when I told him it was a veggie meal was only equaled by the expression when he asked for seconds then thirds.
Texican Rice and Beans
3/4 cup instant dehydrated beans
1/4 cup instant rice
1 1/2 teaspoons taco seasoning mix
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1 cheese stick
Fritos corn chips
- At home: Combine the beans, rice, taco seasoning mix, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes in a sealable bag. In another bag combine the Fritos and cheese.
- At camp: In your cook pot add about 1 1/2 cups of water and all ingredients except for cheese and Fritos.
- Bring mixture to a boil. Stir often so the bottom doesn’t burn.
- Once your mixture begins to boil reduce heat to a simmer until the rice is soft.
- Add the cheese stick and continue stirring until melted.
- Add Fritos chips, stir and serve.
On our final day, as the sun slowly crept over the ridges surrounding camp, I considered letting Rugger and Ellie graze while I broke camp. Letting the critters wrangle a meal of fresh green grass while I packed my temporary home seemed like a good way to multi-task. Then the little Ed who occasionally perches on my shoulder murmured against it. I’m glad I listened.
Before my breakfast I hand grazed the kiddos while holding their leads and we slowly meandered across the meadow to the base of a substantial scree field covered in loose rocks the size of your head, just waiting for a reason to bounce, roll and slide down the slope. I thought Ellie wanted to drink from a trickling stream at the base. I was wrong.
In an instant Ellie leapt across the rivulet and was bounding uphill with her lead streaming through my hand like a 1,000-pound trout on the run.
Thank heavens for the excessively long lead that Ed made me some years ago. That first blistering run used all of the line save for the bulky back braid at the very end. With that tenuous hold I was able to reel the big girl in and back to camp before she made good her escape.
I hope you enjoyed this tale from the trails. For more info on the Dosewallips and thousands of other horse camps and trailheads visit www.TrailMeister.com