What I know from a lifetime of travel is— not only is the world shrinking in size, it seems to be spinning ever faster. Seconds of a lifetime rapidly disappear to the point that Andy Warhol’s “15-minutes of fame” per person have shrunk to a “one-minute movie” briefly describing how one group of people, as the Chinook, were overtaken by the English , and then Americans. Today the name describes a salmon, and a wind.
I am not being melodramatic in stating I am too am an endangered “frontier person.” I am one of the last of the horse packers who used to wander the West.
I was fortunate enough in my childhood to experience the wilds of Southwest Washington long before “my home” was declared an official Wilderness Area. I too loved backpacking into the the chain of lakes beyond Mount Margaret, as Meta, destroyed May 18th, 1980 by the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. I too supported “saving” the race track from logging in what is now called the Indian Heaven Wilderness.
An “Oragun” resident of before, as Native Americans who raced “the track” while taking a break from gathering huckleberries, I guess I too have to accept that the “Great White Father” in the other Washington has the PAC support of so-called conservationists that live in big houses, in big cities, and travel in big cars, and pay big salaries to support the growth industry of environmental lawyers— may be right. My day of setting tall on Charlie Horse, topping a ridge, gazing down Creation, is really over.
There is a group of supposedly backpacker conservationists in California currently suing the U.S. Forest Service to keep all horses out of official Wilderness Areas. I had a contact once to write a brochure for the USFS, where I used the phrase, “saved to be shared with a grandchild,” but thanks to a series of regulations that don’t make much sense to me, the expedition excerpted here in following pages will be the first, and probably the last horse trek through the mountains of the Far West, covering 2,500 miles from Mexico to Canada searching for a Shadow of the Past.
Why? Too many people. To try an regulate the numbers, there is a heartbeat rule that no party allowed on the trail can be bigger than six heart beats. This works out to a couple, on two horses, would only be allowed two pack horses to carry in sterilized hay replacer pellets to feed stock tied for the night far away from water. What a big city person might not know is that the math works out as this:
I am not complaining for myself, for as you will read our pioneering the Pacific Crest Trail System —before Congress came along with expensive “turnpike trail” construction— was a connection with mountain men as Jed Smith, trailblazers as Peter Hardiman Burnett, and even George B. McClellan who was a better cavalry saddle designer than a soldier. As horsemen we also developed a nomadic bond with our “ten horsepower, four-hoofed drive, time machine,” that few that sleep inside a ranch-house have ever experienced.
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