There have always been women in the hunting camps were I grew up.
Cooks, helpers, friends, wives. Endless. Camp, hunting and the outdoors would not have been the same without them. Although one special woman comes to mind--my wife, Wende.
Sometime around 1983, Wende asked if she could come into camp with me. We weren't married, but had been going together for a year or so. It happened to be Thanksgiving Week. The Bob Marshall Wilderness Area can be--and was--quite cold at the end of November. I said great, come along, and I took her in on a meat run. On meat runs, I traveled with my horses, mules, a bunch of meat and horns, and my trusty blue heeler "Star." (Previous posts have a dog named, "Tippy," that is another dog.) Anyway it was just her and me and seven mules. (Camp was filled with hunters, guides, cooks, woodcutters, about 15 in all.)
Thanksgiving-style meat run, circa 1982-4.
We didn't have lots of cash at the time, so we skipped buying another sleeping bag. I took her to camp, and IT WAS COLD. The trip is 19 miles. The first six are exposed rock face around Gibson Reservoir. And here on the Rocky Mountain Front wind is our constant companion.
For our first night, I had built a nest on the hay stack in the saddle tent. Put down a tarp over the hay, then some foam pads, then a wool blanket, top it off with the sleeping bag and another tarp. Ummm. Heaven.
We finished the night, but it was below zero and not all that cozy. We (someone) decided to sleep on the floor of the cook tent until we left on the next meat run.
Somewhere after Thanksiving we had more elk. Another meat run was needed.
Temperature was still below frigid.
At about the halfway point of the 19 miles is a place named, "The Bars." It isn't there anymore. It got its name from the cowboys that trailed cattle into what is now wilderness and before Gibson Dam was built. The Bars was just a gate at a narrow point in the canyon. When there were cows, it kept the cows from coming out of the mountains. Until the Forest Service removed it in the 1990, it kept loose horses from causing chaos along the exposed (read, cliff) along Gibson Reservoir. Originally, the gate was a simple arrangement of sliding pine poles that closed the gate--The Bars.
Sorry. As we last left them, Dennis and Wende had just arrived at The Bars during a typical below frigid Montana day. Normally, they would have a sandwich, water, pop, something to eat, Dennis would adjust the mules loads and cinches, and both would make their necessary calls with nature. Cold made efficiency and speed the key. Check the mules, make the call and keep riding.
Wende was bundled up. Two pairs of long johns. One pair of jeans. One pair of wool pants. One set of heavy leather bat-wing chaps. For her call to nature, she asked if I would help her with the Michelin gear. I undid her chaps and helped as best I could. She waddled off to the brush along the river. Seconds later, her and Star came waddle-running yelling, "There's something out there. There's something out there."
It was still cold. I said, "There's nothing out there. Quit dicking around and lets go."
"No. See. Star's barking. Something is out there."
I slipped my bullet-launcher from its scabbard and slid into the brush. It was twisted and matted snow brush higher than your head. Something was pissed and rooting around in it. The snow brush concealed undulating ground. Unknown to me what ever it was was in a depression making it look only a couple feet tall. It was chocolate brown and had a hump in its back. The only thing we have in these parts that has that description is grizzly. But, not at this time of year. The guy made a bluffing charge and turned out to be a yearling bull moose--I had never seen a moose in that area--ever.
His legs and belly were covered with ice. Apparently he had come from somewhere and was going somewhere, but The Bars and the rapids of the river kept him from going there.
When we left, The Bars were open, and I didn't see him when I return the next day.
A pretty simple story. Here is the sort of "Paul Harvey 'Rest of the Story.'"
The top photo is (l to r), Arlene Troy- cook, Wende, Dennis, and Robbie Balek has the jug of Schnapps. The photo was taken during that trip described in the previous story. It was probably 1983-ish. The center photo is another Thanksgiving time meat run. The rider isn't Wende. The next picture--bottom--is Wende and Dennis in the exact same cook tent as the first photo. This time, we owned the place and the date was about 2000. In between those dates, there are many fine memories.
Wende and Dennis in same Lynx Creek cook tent, just 20 years later.