a string of pack mules and horses saunter by with several cowboys
planted atop some of the horses,
bull moose lift their heads
to watch the procession. What are they thinking? Perhaps nothing.
Perhaps something. Can they be thinking that the sight is something
out of the Old West? Of course not, but if they were people nearby
seeing the same sight & they might.
My recent adventure
began in Cody, Wyoming, where outfitter Tim Doud met me the night
before my five-day
riding trip into the
Washakie Wilderness. While gathering up most of my gear, he smiled
through his beard, "See you tomorrow."
Breakfast came with the chance to meet the other clients; Illinois
residents Terry and John drove west with their 18-year-old son Chuck.
Tom and 13-year-old Justin flew out from Florida to do some father/son
bonding. We'd meet the rest of the crew at the trailhead, about 44
miles south of town.
As Tim and wranglers
Butch and Breg continue to load several strings of pack mules and
horses, the teens
the usual questions. "How
much can a mule pack?" About 150 pounds. "How many years
have the mules and horses been walking the trail?" Many of
the animals have been packing in and out of Bliss Creek for more
Two hours later everyone is sitting atop a horse picked especially
for them, ready to hit the trail. Most of the group has had little
horseback riding experience so these are horses that are almost guaranteed
not to spook. Tim supplies seasoned horses that are mellow, mature,
and definitely surefooted. And for those who know horses, the pair
will supply some of their personal favorites.
Ear-to-ear grins are common as the horses march up the trail, although
Terry confesses that she is scared. Minutes later, though, she beams
a wide smile. As we head on out, Tim and his horse Jake leading the
pack, a fox quietly scampers up the ridge. Soon after, some of us focus
on the native wildlife as we cross the boot-high, kind-of-scary, South
Fork Shoshone River. Riding up into the Absaroka Range, we gaze at
the glacier-carved scenes, and share the sight of three moose feeding
along the river, pikas gathering grass along many a rock slide, and
turkey vultures dancing in the intense blue sky.
Stops are few the first day; we have 22 miles ahead of us. Except
for a few breaks and a sack lunch at Needle Creek - where there's an
old miner's cabin - we keep on moving, crossing one creek or river
after another. Don't ask how many. We lost count.
The ride through the glacier-carved valley raises more than just the
heart rates of the horses, who are doing all of the work. Some of the
clients feel as though they're climbing Mt. Everest as well, hearts
racing as they peer hundreds of feet down to the river below. There's
no need to worry though. Just think about the people who traveled the
trail prior to you, traversing the same open slopes of scree and loose
rock. Think of the Shoshone Indians, and men like John Colter, mountain
man and meat hunter for the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Most of all,
trust your horse. Yes, the horses know the trail; why they can even
do it in the dark.
Still, if you don't like the steep sections, there are plenty of forest
and open meadows to enjoy. In fact, camp is in the trees at 8,400 feet
in the heart of four-mile Bliss Creek Meadow.
The first night we reach camp by early evening and slide off the horses.
A howdy and a few barks greet us. The howdy comes from Brad, a wrangler,
the barks come from two loveable dogs, Shadow, a Newfoundland/lab mix,
and Yanni, a great dane.
The wranglers show
us around, introducing us to our "homes" for
the next few days. Each canvas tent comes equipped with a wood
stove, a propane lantern and wooden cots with thick Styrofoam pads
A hot shower tent and pit toilets are nearby. The camp cook starts
dinner in the big main tent where all the cooking and most of the
socializing goes on. We gulp down our meals (every meal was delicious),
up the last bit of cherry cheesecake around midnight, and bid each
other a goodnight.
The next morning, as every morning, there are scenes worthy of dew-soaked
jeans and wet, soggy boots. Rainbows of lichen blanket meadow rocks,
adding to the potpourri of wildflower color. Two cow moose chase each
other through camp while some of us eat a leisurely breakfast, and
others take off to do some fishing in Bliss Creek. Come afternoon,
several of us ride through dense lodgepole pine woods, past musical
streams, traversing lupine-covered meadows en route to a ridge near
The third morning finds all of us (save two wranglers), riding six
miles up to the head of the South Fork Shoshone. Occasionally, we traverse
steep open slopes and meadows where the views are terrific, the wildflowers
prolific; we see purple bull elephant's head, red Indian paintbrush,
white columbine, powder blue forget-me-nots, and purple larkspur.
Standing atop 10,200-foot
Shoshone Pass, nearly surrounded by granite mountains, Tom claims, "This is just like a postcard." And
so it is. From our vantage point, East Dunoir Creek Meadow stretches
to the west toward the town of Dubois (Du-boys). We can see forever!
While we look, the boys head up a nearby slope to play in the snow.
We search for grizzlies on the fourth day. The Clark Creek drainage
and 10,290-foot Pierpoint Pass provide access to a view of Hidden
Basin where we see several dozen elk. Unfortunately, the grizzlies
us, but we have never-ending views just the same.
Our fifth and final day rouses a combination of feelings. Chuck promises
to return someday, but right now he is anxious to get to a telephone
so he can call his girlfriend. Justin wants to get home to do whatever.
The adults are all unanimous in their desire to stay. We do not want
But we have to, and we do, and we all vow to come back again. Fortunately,
the memories of moose, mountains, and much more will tie us over until
the next time.
Fifty miles east of Yellowstone, Cody, Wyoming, is an excellent place
to begin and end any adventure. Cody attractions include the Buffalo
Bill Historical Center, Historic Trail Town, Old West Miniature Village,
and free Friday night concerts in the park. I highly recommend two
scenic drives, U.S. Highway 14A, where you'll see the Medicine Wheel,
Shell Falls, etc., and Beartooth Highway 212 with its spectacular alpine
scenes, see-forever views, and tremendous wildflower display. Campgrounds
and other services are many. Contact Park County Travel Council, P.O.
Box 2454, Cody, WY 82414; (307) 587-2297, for additional information.
Length of trips
offered by Bliss Creek Outfitters vary from one day to seven or
more. Tim will work out a trip for any size group for any
number of days. Summer pack trips are usually held in July and
August. Children are welcome, but a minimum age of 6 or 8 is encouraged.
vary depending on trip length.
For more information
contact Tim Doud, Bliss Creek Outfitters, PO Box 2776.,
Cody, WY 82414;
527-6103; FAX (307) 527-6523; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.