Monday, February 7, 2011

ROCKY TRAINING in the Gros Ventre

Friday afternoon J2 gets out of school, pack up every ounce of warm clothing we own and head towards Jackson pass. Pick up our cool cousins Hadley & Jake in Victor. Jake is over 6 foot tall now (age 15). Let’s just say that…IF you are over 6 foot tall….I would not recommend a Pontiac G6, just sayin.

HOGGAN Kids loaded up and heading in to the Gros Ventre! Well….eventually we got there! The eldest Hoggan kid and driver of the car….might have got lost, drove to the end of a dead end road, drove to the end of another sketchy snow covered road…..and finally after an extra 30 minute drive through snow tunneled roads higher than the car….we find the road. (Yes, J2, age 11, Did tell me that I needed to turn somewhere….I just didn’t listen….J2 , You were RIGHT!)

Dad is waiting at the trail head and has been there for 30 minutes while we drove around in the dark. (for those of you who have read this blog before…YES, I have drove there….many many many times before….lol….one wrong turn)

Load up the snow machine sleds and we start out on the 17 some mile trek into camp. Jake & Hadley take a sled. Dad has a sled. J2 and I have a sled to ride in. I have Woodrow (my Shaggy/Corgi dog) with me so J2 drives. That is right….the 11 year old is driving. About a mile into the trek, he tells me….this is the sled I ran into the fence last year…..great! He did such a good job! Leaving everyone in the powder, he drove us in safe and sound! J2 rocks! (I was only scared for my life…once or twice!

Even the SOUR CREAM APPLE PIE made it in one piece. (For recipe, check earlier blogs)

THANK YOU to Mike for letting us stay at his home while we were there. That is an adventure in itself. Foxes that get within 10 feet of you, wolves howling in the back yard, and a colorful pack of dogs in the house! Woodrow made some new friends for sure!


Saturday morning, geared up and ready to go. Trevor and Emily make a delicious hearty breakfast! THANK YOU for fuel to get us through the day!

Let the games begin! Layer on 50 layers of clothes….seriously; I look like the kid on a Christmas story! Load up on the snow machines and head out! Take off a few layers, catch horses, try to remember how to harness the horses, stumble all over the horses trying to get the harnesses on them, and remember why the horses are so broke by the end of the winter....because we’ve clambered all over them.

We are going to run two teams. The sleigh I’m going to use is over by the hay shed. By the time I drive the team over to the sleigh…across the yard…. In the deep snow….I’m all ready out of breathe...and I HAVEN’T EVEN TOUCHED A HAY BALE YET!!!

This would be the beginning of our ROCKY training!

Horses hooked and off we go. I haven’t even been behind the reigns 1 minute before I’ve make a corner in the stack yard and whack a pole in the fence. We just glanced it and kept rolling through the deep snow. Get down to the end….and Trevor informs me I need to go to the other side. Down the middle of the stack and around to the RIGHT this time! Much easier corner and I don’t even hit anything this time! Progress! : )

Our sleigh consists of Jake, Hadley, and I. Team horses are Tiny Charger and Tammy, a cute lil blonde pair. Sweat rolling off our cheeks, we get our sleigh loaded and I are ready to go feed. I don’t have a hold of my horses like I should when we go to leave and just about run them in between the beams holding up the hay shed. (Crisis averted …..only because my guardian angels were working as bumper cars for me. The older I get, the more I respect my Dad’s patience for putting up with kids….and I never grew out of that)

Out of the stack yard and on our way to the feed ground. We are the first team out of the stack so I’m just winging it. Last time I was in the Gros Ventre was last spring and we had very little snow left at so we had to do things a little differently. Well, now there is LOTS of SNOW! It is deep and if you are not paying attention you could get your team stuck pretty easily! Heading out where I think the trail is, out through the snow we go to the feed ground. The feed ground is full of thousands of hungry elk anxiously anticipating breakfast.

Hadley and Jake go to feeding. I have both hands on the reigns trying to keep the horses geared down to a nice steady feeding speed. The feed grounds are like a land mine with snow covered springs EVERYWHERE! I’m trying to fall the feed paths but sometime you get on en elk trail and aren’t sure how you are going to get turned around. Passing by openings in the snow that show flowing water 3 feet below and a hole you do not want to get your team into. Coming back to the hay shed, I took the wrong loop. Snow was really really deep and the mare came close to giving out on us. We did make it through and back to load again. I think we made 4 loads all together. Hadley and Jake were awesome! TEAM HOGGAN, rocked. Between both teams, 334 bales were fed at the cabin feed ground Saturday.

Tasty lunch at the cabin, everyone re-fueled with some hot cocoa. There are two other feed grounds they are responsible for so Jake, Trevor, J2, and Kevin headed to the Alkali feed grounds. Dad, Hadley and I headed to Fish Creek. Water the team that is at the feed ground and depending on how many elk are at there, feed some hay if need be.


I’ve only been to the Fish Creek feed ground a few times and I haven’t been there in over two years. Needless to say, I didn’t remember how to get there. Dad lead the way on his sled. Hadley, Woodrow & I followed behind on our sled. It is BEAUTIFUL up there! There was only 17 elk up above the feed ground. You could see the tracks on the mountain where the wolves had been running the elk around. Hay still on the ground so we didn’t need to feed. Dad caught the Big Blue horse & headed out leading the team down to the creek to water. The creek is froze over….except for a Watering Hole that the boys have kept knocked open.

IT WAS BEAUTIFUL!!!! A day that looked like it was straight out of a movie! Perfect lighting, a light mist of snow surrounding Dad and the team as they made their way back from water. It was gorgeous! When I get better at driving the snow machine and taking pictures maybe one day I’ll be able to show you but until then it will remain trapped in my memory as a beautiful blessing from the day.

Here are a few pictures I did managed to get while the horses watered.

Watering hole on the frozen creek. It has a big wooden cover over it to keep it insulated.
A shovel and bar are on the bank to break it open if it freezes over.
I was impressed :)

As we climbed out of Fish Creek, I felt like we were tipping on the sled. I holler back at Hadley to lean with me. Not 2 seconds later, we are tipping over! I throw Hadley & Woodrow flying through the air! Just about to the top of a steep slope, I keep going so we don’t get stuck and everyone re-groups on top. Hadley is ok and Woodrow is ready to go again too. (However, this time he jumps in front and just stands by himself….he’s pretty sure that he wants control of his own destiny) J2 might have ran into a fence but at least he hasn’t wrecked anyone….not positive….but I think I might have thrown Jana off last year.

Done for the day, and headed home. Dad has to run back to get some laundry he left. Hadley & I head back home. In the process, I get us stuck on a blowed in trail….and the sled stops running. It takes 6 people to get us out and they end up just pulling the sled to the shop. (Poor Dad, even if we did feed some hay….I probably created more work in wrecks)

Home at last! THANK YOU to Hadley for making delicious Hamburgers for dinner! They were outstanding! Emily finished off the perfect meal with some sugar cookies! Livin the high life now!

Big day of feeding behind us, hit the hay and get rested up for another day.


Trevor whipped up another breakfast of champions. THANK YOU! Pile on the clothes and head out to face the day! Since I broke our sled, Hadley and I caught rides to the elk cabin. This morning it was just Hadley, Jake, Dad, and I. Hook our little team and head to the hay shed.

We knocked out 130 bales that morning…or at least I think it was morning because I have no concept of time in there. Dad came out with us and drove a few times so I did some feeding. While breaking a new feed trail, one of the horses dropped down about a foot lower that the other horse. “I’m scared!” was repeated about 10 times in a very short amount of time. Luckily it was the stronger horse and we got worked through it. I’m glad I wasn’t a pioneer. I don’t like blazing new trails!

I took a few pictures on the way to and from the shed.

Tiny Charger & Tammy


Dad driving to the feed ground

Elk in the Gros Ventre

Tiny Charger & Tammy at work

I broke a piece off the bottom of the sleigh….or re-broke it…or the twine string they used to fix it broke. Regardless, Dad left when to go weld it. Trevor was back now so he hooked the big team and we got ready to finish feeding.

TEAM HOGGAN was loosing steam by the last 50 bales and Trevor was wishing he had tougher help. We finished up with 250 bales fed at the cabin on Sunday. Great weekend in the Gros Ventre! Thank You to Dad, Mike, and Trevor for letting us come!

Pack of Coyotes as we were leaving the trail head

Love ya,
Mindy & Woodrow

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