Bliss Creek Outfitters Cody Wyoming Wyoming Horse Trips Pack Trips

Farm Family America Magazine

Each summer, western outfitters pack clients
and necessities into remote parts of the wilderness for
fun, relaxation and adventure in the great outdoors.

Article and Photos by Donna Ikenberry

As a string of pack mules and horses saunter by with several cowboys planted atop some of the horses, two young 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 straight 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 horseback 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 asked 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 than 20 years.

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 for sleeping. 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), gobble 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 Wall Mountain.

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 elude 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 to leave!

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. Rates vary depending on trip length.

For more information contact Tim Doud, Bliss Creek Outfitters, PO Box 2776., Cody, WY 82414; (307) 527-6103; FAX (307) 527-6523; email:



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Rusty & Rhonda Sanderson, Owners ~ Bliss Creek Outfitters ~ PO Box 2776 ~ Cody, WY 82414 ~ 307-764-2363
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