If you love our photos and want to enjoy them during your 2018 year then this calendar is for you! We are currently selling one that is full of some of our favorite photos from some of our best rides. Enjoy this sneak peak of some of the photos you will find in our Wilderness Horseback Journey”s 2018 calendar. If you are intested in purchasing, click our paypal link. We will be selling these through the month of December.
We have been truly blessed with adventures we get to go on while on horseback. However, with that blessing comes the responsibility that we owe to ourselves to complete our rides in the most safe way possible. We are fortunate enough to encounter quite a few wildlife sightings while out on the trail. These can include moose, deer, elk, wolves, and of course bear. We have encountered bears on the trail and have been lucky that they were more afraid of us and have run off. While it is an amazing site to get to see these animals and of course get that picture of these beautiful creatures, we also need to be safe in doing so. That is why we attended a few Bear Aware presentations that have been quite educational. Our local Fish and Game organization puts together an awesome free presentation that is full of great information. In this post we will share with you the most valuable information that we took away from these presentations. However, if this is something you want to know more about after reading our blog, then we highly encourage you to contact Fish and Game in your area to see if they too hold the Bear Aware presentations.
Sociology of a Bear
Bears are programmed to survive. There are things they do automatically in regards to food and mating. A female’s job is to mate and reproduce. A female will mate with as many males that are around as long as she doesn’t have a cub or yearling. If she does, a male will come around to kill the cub to get the female bear to go into heat. This can happen in one day because the female will want to replace that cub. Once a female is impregnated she will go into the den and the gestation period is 2 months. When a female gets pregnant, she could have 4-5 cubs inside of her, all from different fathers. At birth, a black bear is about half a pound and a grizzly will be about a pound. Bears can be cannibalistic and a female will eat the cub, if the cub is in bad shape before winter. The female makes the choice to eat her cub so that she can survive and keep the species going. Bears tend to be solitary animals. The moms will hang out with their cubs or hang out with their daughter’s cubs, or they will share cubs.
Bears only hibernate if there isn’t enough food. If the food is plentiful,they may not hibernate. Hibernation is a form of shutting down when there isn’t enough food. If you take away a bear’s food they will hibernate. Hibernation has nothing to do with the time of year or temperature. When bears do hibernate, males and females will den separately. A grizzly bears might just lay down and let the snow cover them. Grizzly bears drop their heart rate and body temperature a bit, but can turn everything back on in a quick second. If a grizzly feels threatened they will immediately wake up. If a grizzly bear is hibernating, it might wake up in the middle of winter to walk around a bit. However, once their body is in hibernation mode they won’t eat, hydrate, or defecate. When black bears hibernate they will actually go into a den. If a black bear is hibernating you can crawl in a den and check them out because they can’t wake up immediately like a grizzly bear can.
Physical Difference Between Black Bears and Grizzly Bears
Color is the last thing to look at when telling the difference between a black bear and a grizzly bear. Not all black bears are black. Actually, in Idaho only 19% of the black bears are black. The size of a bear is also not a good indication because bear size is a function of food. There might be a small grizzly bear or a large black bear. There are about 20,000 black bears in Idaho. Black bears are not on the endangered list and 2000 black bears are harvested a year in Idaho. Grizzly bears however, are on the endangered species list in Idaho. Black bears are found almost everywhere except for the high desert. The front claws of a grizzly bear are much larger than a black bears. Grizzly claws are meant to dig so they aren’t sharp, whereas a black bears claws are sharp because they climb trees to get away from problems. If a bear looks like a teddy bear with a big, round snout and round ears, it is a grizzly bear. If you see a bear with a long snout, longer ears, and looks more like a dog, that is a black bear. When looking at a black bears they will not have a hump on their back and their rump is higher than their head. A grizzly bear will have a distinct hump on their backs. When looking at tracks, a grizzly bear’s tracks will have a clear definite line between the toes and the paw whereas a black bear will not have that. It is difficult to find a good track that you can analyze and see the differences, so it’s not recommended to rely on tracks. There is a test you can take for free in Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho on the Fish and Game website that will tell you how great you are at telling the difference between the black and grizzly bears.
Signs That a Bear is in the Area
You will see a black bear or grizzly bear any where in Idaho even in the sage brush areas. Many people think if you are in sage brush you are safe. Some people also think if they see a black bear then they won’t be able to see a grizzly bear in the same area. It is thought that a grizzly bear will kill the black bear. Truth is they will often share territories. There are a few things you can look for that lets you know a bear is in the area. One of them is down logs that have been tore open. Bears do this to look for bugs. Bears also tend to follow trails so check for foot prints. Scat is a sign that there is a bear around. It is wise to make noise if you see signs so you don’t surprise the bear. Some people do this by carrying a bear bell or a horn.
How to Avoid Problems With a Bear
In Idaho we have been fortunate in the fact that we can say there have been no bear fatalities. Our neighboring states cannot say the same thing . There are a few steps you can take to avoid having an encounter with a bear. Bears usually think we are bad news so they will avoid us unless we surprise them or have something like garbage that they want to get into. 90% of bear attacks are caused because the bear was surprised. If you clean up after yourself and use a bear approved food storage box you are less likely to be bothered by bears. Also if you are out hunting and you want to protect your kill, bears don’t like electricity so a portable electric fence would be a good tool to keep your stuff safe. Also, don’t hike alone, it is good to hike in parties of three or more. If you do happen to come across a bear, don’t run. If you run their preditorial instincts will kick in. Your chances of outrunning a bear is zero. Bears are also excellent climbers, so if you climb up a tree both a grizzly bear and a black bear will be able to get you . You can also not out swim a bear.
What to Do if a Bear Attacks
If a bear stands up on its hind legs, that doesn’t always mean they are going to attack. Bears rely a lot on their smell so they are just getting a better smell of the area. However, if a bear doesn’t like what they smell then they may shake their head, slap their jaw, or slobber. Then you may have problems. A grizzly bear will do a bluff charge because they want to see what you will do. The reason for doing this is to let you know that they are tougher than you. Whatever you do, don’t run or shoot cause you will just anger them. If a grizzly bear comes after you, know that he can kill you, and he knows he can kill you. If a grizzly bear comes at you and he isn’t doing a bluff charge, you are going to drop to the ground on your stomach and put your hands over your neck. The bear may toss you around and hopefully walk away. If a black bear is charging you; yell, throw sticks, or even punch the bear. You can intimidate a black bear. Do not lay down and play dead for a black bear. If you play dead for a black bear then he thinks he has won and he will eat you. If you are in your tent and a grizzly or black bear comes after you and you have done everything right, meaning you don’t have any food in the tent with you, then the bear has gone preditorial. He has decided that he wants you. At that point do whatever you need to do to get the bear away. The chances of a bear coming into your tent is slim but it has happened.
Bear spray is the best tool to keep you safe in an attack. A gun is not the right tool, it has killed more people in an attack than a bear. Bear spray has to be accessible and it is a good idea to wear it in a holster. It can’t be in a backpack because you won’t have enough time to get to it there. Bear spray works instantly and creates a pain in the bear’s brain that is unlike anything they have ever dealt with before. Horses are a good thing round bears because bears will generally not attack a person when on a horse. We create too big of a picture, however we still carry bear spray on us while horseback riding.
Maggie’s fanny pack has gotten progressively bigger and bigger over the years as she tries to cram more and more stuff into it. It started out as a place to carry just her camera but has evolved to so much more. When riding horseback it is important to keep your most prized possessions on the rider in case of emergencies. Such things like getting bucked off from your horse and then having your horse take off can result in a loss of essential items, items that can help you in case of an emergency.
Maggie currently uses a larger fanny pak by Outdoor Products. This pack was gift and Maggie joked that it was way too big and she thought she wouldn’t need one this large. WELL, it is now filled up and has become very useful. It has three compartments and a secure place for keys and the a hook for the GoPro. If you are looking for a smaller pack she previously used one by Kelty.
Gorilla Tripod: This is a necessity for us out on the trail. We just fix this to the bottom of our camera and it will either wrap around a tree, post, or stand on a rock so that we can get those important group photos and get everyone in the picture.
The weather throughout our whole summer in Idaho and Wyoming can often be very unpredictable. We can start out a riding day being very sunny with blue skies and in a flash the weather can change to a downpour thunderstorm. We have been caught in many rainstorms, but we don’t let them keep us from riding. Rain or shine, we are out on the trail searching for those amazing views.
We’ve even been known to saddle up right in the middle of big rainstorms.
One of our most memorable downpours was a ride through Yellowstone Park. We were taking an out-of-town friend on a tour of our trails when the storm hit. As we were sitting having our lunch, we had a flash flood actually carry our food away. The storm hit so hard and fast we didn’t have time to take cover or grab our things. We got pelted with hail and some serious downpour all the way back to the truck for 9 miles.
With our friend Jimmy
Soggy food alright.
Smiling through the HAIL.
So how do we keep dry during these downpours? One of the major lifesavers is our Outback Rain Slickers. This is a full length waterproof, unisex duster. It has a detachable cape, rear saddle gusset, adjustable leg straps, dual snap closure, and an adjustable drawstring waistband. Because of these features it keeps us and our saddle dry. The only downside to this coat is that it is a larger coat and can take up room in your saddlebag. Even on the bluest of days we always pack this coat along for the ride. The Outback Rain Slicker has the slick oil exterior and after going through many downpours this tends to wear off. You can buy a Duck Back Dressing through Outback and follow the instructions to help keep your rain slicker waterproof.
If you are looking for more of a lightweight portable duster, we also pack the Outback Park-A-Roo Duster. It is a very convenient duster that has the ability to roll into its own built-in pack. This coat will protect you from the cooler temperatures, wind, and light rain showers. They come in short and long and a variety of colors.
There are also a few other items you may want to consider packing along for the ride in case you get caught in a storm. These are a hat cover, cowboy hats can often get ruined in the rain or lose their shape, waterproof pants, or rain ponchos. No matter what the weather is like, Maggie is always taking pictures. The Olympus Tough Camera is waterproof and has gone through many of our torrential downpours and is still taking its amazing photos. This camera really does stand up to its “Tough” name. In some of our rain pictures, you will see water spots from the rain, which would ruin most cameras. The Tough camera keeps on kicking and after drying out it’s like brand new.
Scratches has been a chronic problem for Maggie’s horse Gracie. Scratches can also go by the name of pastern dermatitis, mud fever, or greasy heal. It is a problem that is a bacterial or fungal infection that is found on the horse’s lower limbs. Scratches is more commonly found on lighter colored horses. It is caused by a constant moisture penetrating delicate skin. In Gracie’s case, she often gets scratches when she has a cut on her lower leg. Moisture and bacteria then penetrates the wound. Our weather in Idaho usually leads to a lot of rain during the early summer months which can turn parts of her corral to mud. The mud contains the bacteria or fungus, which is a factor in your horse contracting scratches. Scratches can also be extremely contagious so if another one of your horses has an open wound you might end up with more than one horse having scratches at a time.
Scratches can be very painful for your horse. As the condition progresses, hair is lost, the area becomes thickened and crusted over, and scabs of a yellow watery serum form. This condition is painful to the touch and can often result in it being difficult to treat your horse as your horse may try to kick. So exactly how do you treat your horse if they develop scratches? Like we mentioned Gracie has been a repeated offender of scratches. We have tried many methods to rid her of this skin condition when it arises. Some of the methods were reasonably priced while others can be quite spendy. People have tried many kinds of remedies to get rid of this such as cellophane encased with sauerkraut or athletes foot cream. Even veterinarians have their own concoction of medications they use. If any of you would like to share what methods you find most helpful please do.
One of the main things to keep in mind when treating a horse with scratches is to keep the area as clean and dry as possible. Any added moisture can result in keeping the area from healing. One of the first things we tried when Gracie would get scratches was cleaning the affected area first with Povidone-Iodine Surgical Scrub and patting the area dry. We would then cover the area in Shapley’s M-T-G and follow up by covering it with Corona. Sometimes this process would be affective in curing the scratches, but it took a lot of dedication. One of the problems with this method was the Corona, because it is a major dirt collector. The more dirt drawn to this area the harder it is to cure. Also getting the area clear of the scabs is a big step in curing this condition. By using these products it didn’t soften the scabs enough, which caused us to do a lot of picking which can make the infection worse. We have also tried using just Vetericyn on the area which can soften the scabs but still wasn’t getting rid of them like we had hoped.
While the two methods above can get rid of the scratches with little cost on your end, Gracie ended up getting a case of scratches at one point that we could not get rid of with the above methods. So Maggie tried the more expensive route since it seemed like the condition was getting out of hand. Maggie decided it was time for her to take a trip to the vet. Gracie ended up spending two weeks at the vet. During this time they shaved the hair surrounding the infected area. She got intravenous steroids, was scrubbed and cleaned daily, and then vet wrapped to keep any dirt or moisture out. While this was an extreme case, it was also a very expensive solution costing over a thousand dollars.
Since then Gracie suffered from scratches again. We took all the things we have learned over her past cases and found a new product that worked really well and was also way less expensive then a trip to the vet. The product is called Fungasol, which is made with tea tree oil. It comes in three different products, a shampoo, ointment, and spray. We have only tried the shampoo and ointment, but have had such success with those two products we are sure the spray wouldn’t disappoint. Fungasol can also be known to treat other skin conditions such as rain rot, girth itch, or ringworm. When treating scratches, shaving the affected area is something that isn’t a must but it really can help in speeding up the healing. The first thing we did with this product was clean the area with the Fungasol Shampoo. We let that sit and soak into the area for about 5-10 minutes before we washed it off. We then patted the area dry or let it air dry before slathering it with the Fungasol Ointment. This ointment is better than Corona in the fact that it doesn’t attract as much dirt and it really helps to soften the scabs which makes for a less painful and much easier removal. We repeated this process once a day. After cleaning the area we found that this was the best time to remove any of the scabs that are now not attached after being treated with the ointment. After removing any of the scabs that we no longer attached we again covered her in the ointment. We repeated this process until she was cured. I believe it took Gracie about a week to completely heal.
Whether we are riding for a few hours or riding for a full day, being prepared is our top priority.We have been known to put quite a few miles on our horses. During the summer months we ride anywhere from 50-100 miles a week. With this high amount of mileage, mishaps out on the trail can happen that could ruin our wilderness journey. Unfortunately riding on horseback always poses a certain amount of risk and although serious accidents on a trail are rare they can and have happened to us.
We are often questioned as to what we put in our saddlebag and sometimes even ridiculed for putting such large packs on our horses for a day ride. There are so many factors that can turn a pleasurable ride into a miserable one if not prepared. Things such as a change in weather, faulty tack, or pesky insects are just some of the few minor things that can happen. What about the more major things such as meeting unexpected wildlife, getting injured, or getting lost? While none of us really want to think about any of these things happening, the reality is they can and most probably will happen if you are spending as much time in the saddle as we are.
We recently read an article in EQQUS magazine that said you should create a “kit” that reflects the kind of riding you do. Our “kit” is definitely made for the more adventurous, rugged backcountry rider. From our personal experience things can happen on even the shortest of rides, so we always just pack our saddlebag and leave them that way throughout the season.
Here is a combined list of everything we carry between the two of us. We know some of your are interested in the different brands of things we carry so some of the things on our list also have a link included that will take you to the option of buying if you are interested.
Cellphone: While most of the rides we go on are very remote, we take it as a precaution. When we get up in elevation, we sometimes can get a signal. We would love to look into getting a satellite phone.
Flashlight & Headlamp: We carry both and each have our own set. We seem to end up riding out in the dark quite often and you never know when one of your devices will die. It’s always good to have a back up.
Wire Cutters: Some of the trails we ride have a lot of down fencing and while we watch for wire sometimes we miss it.
Saw: Sometimes the trail takes us in places that are just too overgrown with trees. We have had to cut branches more than once to make it through.
Gun: We once ran across some ladies on the trail who mentioned they carry the bear spray for protection against animals and the gun they carried was for protection against humans because you will never know who you will run into when out in the wilderness. 🙂
Gloves: We carry riding gloves and warmer winter gloves just in case we were to get stranded on a cold night.
Extra Clothing: sweatshirts, extra jackets, riding vests.
Once you get your gear together finding packs that are big enough to carry it all can be a challenge. We each have our own brands that we like. While red is Maggie’s signature color her saddlebags were made by the Amish and given to her as a gift. Amy uses the TrailMax brand for both the hornbag and the saddlebag. Both are quite roomy and we are able to fit all of our gear and then some. Also, Maggie wears a fanny pack which holds her cellphone, Chapstick, camera and Go Pro. Always make a plan and plan for the unexpected. You never know where the day will take you.
Our last two rides featured trails out of the northwest region of Yellowstone Park. We mentioned that these were just two loop trails among an infinate amount of trails within that region. We thought it might be helpful for you all, to include a map that we found necessary in planning these routes. Not only will this map cover all of Yellowstone National Park, but it will also cover areas in Bozeman/Big Sky/Gallatin Range/Madison Range and West Yellowstone.
People are constantly asking us what kind of camera we use in all of our adventures. Maggie is kind of a photographer fanatic and through the years has owned more cameras than she can count. Some of them have been high dollar cameras. When riding our horses, Maggie has always had a camera with her and has probably broken a dozen or more of them. Even a speck of sand destroyed a really nice brand new camera because it got in the lense. Then there was the dropped camera! So we searched for a TOUGHER camera that happens to be appropriately named, “Tough”. When we ride, Maggie has the camera in her hand no matter what kind of scary, tough trail we are on. The camera never leaves her hand, even when her horse fell on her pinning Maggie beneath. We know a lot of people might not think this is the safe way to ride, but Maggie never misses that perfect shot. This camera has been on every journey with us, whether it is hiking, skiing, or riding. However, because of where we live and ride and the high altitude, mountain riding we experience drastic changes in weather. You can go from 90 degrees to a snow storm before you know it. You name it, we have been hit with it. This includes torrential downpours, hail, high wind, and snow. This camera is still kicking and still taking all of the fabulous pictures you have seen of Facebook.
That is why we have decided to share this with you all. We have already had people buy this exact camera due to our recommendation and they love it too. Believe us, this camera gets USED. In a short ride we are taking about 500 pictures believe it or not and it isn’t uncommon to take around 900 on our big rides. This camera is like half the price these days Highly recommend!
Before we had a high tech watch to help us find our way out on a trail we used a trusty good old fashioned trail book. And what do you do when you are lost while in the saddle? Well you pull it out and read it on the back of your horse!
Even though we have this fancy watch now. We still use this guide book of the Tetons to help us find trails that we have not yet explored. It is a hiking book, but most of the trails that are listed in this book are trails we have done and are horse approved.
This book gives great description and details. It is divided by regions and there are also some maps included. It has details for over 80 hikes and excursions on Caribou-Targhee National Forest, including the spectacular Jedediah Smith Wilderness on the west slope of the Teton Range. Forest regulations, safety precautions, camping and visitor services are outlined in this informative guidebook.
This book has definitely served us well and if it is something that interests you, click the link below to purchase it on Amazon.
One of the questions it seems like we often get is how do two girls go to all these amazing places, most of them places we have never been before, and keep from getting lost??? Well let us tell you it isn’t easy. We have definitely had our fair share of times where we have ridden out in the dark, gotten home at 2:00 in the morning and then have to go to work and educate those cute little six year olds 🙂
One of the most memorable times we got lost was at a place called Kilgore. We were riding with a group of people who decided to turn back because the weather was starting to get nasty. However being the SUPER brave and FEARLESS riders that we are… we decided to continue on and make a loop that seemed all too easy. Well turns out it wasn’t. We got all sorts of turned around and ended up back tracking and finding our way out many hours later.
We vowed never to do this trail again… but we didn’t listen to ourselves, it’s hard to keep us off the trail. We also vowed never to get lost again…but of course that happened again on other trails.
So we got smart and found this amazing invention called a GPS. But we couldn’t just get any ordinary GPS, we had to get something special. So we introduce to you the Suunto Ambit2 watch.
It is a pretty amazing little invention and it has definately kept us from getting lost. We just plug the watch into our computer, and it links to its own app called Moveslink. Moveslink links with Google maps. So we just type in the trail that we want to go to and find it on the map. However the best part is, we can plan our route. We mark the parking spot, mark all of our turns and stops along the trail, and then load it onto the watch. While we are out on the trail, we just pull up our map on the watch and it highlights our route. We just follow the little arrow on the watch as it tells us where to go. This watch has a million other features too, however this is our primary function and it has definately saved us a time or two when the trail becomes lost or there aren’t any signs.
Sometimes the trails are branded into our heads because we have been on them so many times, but we still bring the watch. The watch will also track where we are going and then when we get home we can pull up the map on the Moveslink account and save it for later or share it with others. At the end of each ride we also get a stats update. It tells us how many miles we rode, our elevation, and our top speeds.
So there is our trick, a tiny little watch that takes us on some crazy adventures and brings us home at the end of them.