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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.

Hibernation

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.

Wilderness Journeys

South Boone Creek is one of those must do rides. This ride is located just across the border for us in the fabulous state of  Wyoming. The South Boone Creek trail is a 15.5 mile loop. It is a very scenic trail that offers views of the Grand Tetons, pretty rocky cliff areas, and green grassy  meadows with wildflowers at the right time of the year. You will also spend a lot of time in the forest on this trail and since we visited this a little earlier in the year, not many people had been on the trail yet and there was quite a bit of downed timber. We were lucky and most of it was in spots that made it easy to find an alternate route. However, there were a few spots that we had to take out the saw and cut our way through it. We also saw a little bit of snow on the trail but it wasn’t bad at all.

This ride is a day ride for us and we are fortunate that it is only about an hour and a half from our home. However, if you are not that lucky there is camping available at the trailhead. The trailhead is located in Jackass Meadows and there is a big camping area available complete with bear box, fire pit, and a creek nearby for your horses.

Finding the South Boone Creek Trailhead

From Idaho Falls, ID: Head down HWY 20 towards Ashton, ID. Just before coming into Ashton you will see a blue sign for squirrel Creek. You will turn right onto 1200N. At about a mile you will come to a stop sign, continue straight through it. You will get a nice view of the Tetons on this road. At about 13 miles into this road, it turns to gravel. It is a pretty wide gravel road and in good shape with few potholes. At about 21 miles into this road there will be a little lookout point to the left. It looks out onto a pond with pretty lily pads and yellow flowers. We have stopped here before and taken some pictures. It’s particularly pretty at sunset. At 23.5 miles you will pass a bridge over South Boone Creek. Shortly after the bridge you will come to a sign that points to Jackass Meadows. Turn right here and follow the narrow dirt road. Follow this road for about 3 miles and you will come to the trailhead sign on the right. Pull into the road at your first left and you will park in a big camp spot.

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South Boone Creek Trail Description

Once you are saddled and ready to go, head down the road that you drove in on for about 1.3 miles. We actually start the trail down the road and then come out at the trailhead sign that is across from where we parked. As you head down the road you will see a forest service road maker 264. The trail starts right at this sign. The trail takes you through the forest where you will steadily gain elevation. Like we mentioned above there is a lot of down timber at this point.

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In 4 miles the view will open up and you will get a pretty overlook with snow-capped mountains. You will also notice the Grand Teton making its appearance. This is perfect spot to pull over and get some awesome shots. We took ours with the Olympus Tough Camera.

The trail will continue on this hillside for a bit with your views continuing. At about 5 miles that trail will go downhill for a bit before it climbs back up. The trail goes down through a little drainage where you will see a sign and we took the small trail to the left.

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At 6.2 miles you will come to a sign, head left on the Teton Crest Trail 008. This trail takes you to South Boone Creek and Jackass Road. Jackass road is the road we drove in on. Shortly after turning onto this trail you will come to an amazing cliff view where you are riding on the edge. Yes sounds scary but it is actually a really wide path. This has an amazing over view of rolling mountains and is the perfect spot to stop for lunch. We tie our horses up to one of the many trees and grab a seat on the cliff edge to enjoy our lunch. Here you are about 8400 feet in elevation.

After lunch continue on down the trail. Shortly it will take you into a green grassy meadow where you will be for about 2 miles. At 8.3 miles you will come to a sign. We veered of trail at this point to the left. If you follow the rocky, boulders that line a creek bed you will come to another amazing overview. There was actually water in this creek bed which is a rarity. We usually do this trail much later in the season when the water is all dried up. Water in this area just added to the beauty and it looked like a totally different area this trip. We tied the horses up in some trees as we got off and explored the rocky cliff ban and off course got some of those cool shots.

Once you are ready and back on your horse follow the rock bed back to where you saw that trail sign and continue on towards Jackass Road. The trail will take you back into the forest and in about a mile you will come to a lake. The trail will then go up a short hill where you will get a nice overview of a second lake. At this point the trail kind of fades for a second but just head up to the left towards the lake. You will see a sign in a minute that will point you in the right direction.

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At 10 miles into your journey, the trail will start to descend through some thick Aspen trees. This is where we pulled out the saw and cut our way through. The trail will also be taking you through a thick rooted forest area and you will be climbing over some big roots in the trail. This trail used to have a bit of a tough spot on it where there was a tree root and a big rock that was somewhat of a challenge to ride up or down. We have ridden this trail many times and have had to do this.  Well to our delight, someone fixed that spot!   Whomever this great group or person was, a big thank you to you!

At 11 miles you will come to a creek crossing. We stopped here to let the horses get a drink. You are going to follow down the creek to the right for a second before you see the trail reconnecting on the other side. The trail continues through the forest and South Boone Creek will be running on your left all the way through to the end of the trail. When you come out at the end of the trail cross the road and you will find your vehicle in the big camp spot.

Trail Map: (Made with the Suunto Ambit 2 Watch)

Wilderness Journeys

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Hidden Lake is located within Coyote Meadows which is found between Ashton and Tetonia Idaho. There are several trails located within this trailhead and they all lead to some pretty amazing views. A person could spend weeks at Coyote Meadows and see a new view each time. We frequent this area quite often. We have camped at the trailhead before which is a big turnaround that has several camp spots with fire pits and tie racks. There is even a small corral located on site and there is also a bathroom. There is a limit to 3 day camping at the trailhead. We have also done some pack trips into this area. This ride that we did though was only a day ride for us. The Hidden Lake to Conant Basin trail is about a 15 mile loop that can be done in either direction. We prefer to go to the lake first to eat lunch. The lake can be a popular spot so you often end up sharing it with other folks. It is also a popular fishing spot, so if that is your thing bring your fishing pole. Besides seeing a beautiful lake on this view you also get the pleasure of getting up high and reaching an elevation of about 8,100 feet with some spectacular views.

Finding Coyote Meadows 

From Idaho Falls, ID:  Follow US 20 for about 30 miles to exit 339 toward ID-33 E/Driggs/Jackson. Continue on Idaho 33 towards Driggs for 31 miles. You will see a sign pointing to Idaho 32 that heads towards Ashton, turn left on this road. You will drive on this road for approximately 12 miles. Then turn right onto the road marked N 4700 E. Drive

for one mile on this road  with the Tetons in view and then turn right onto 700 North.

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 700 N turns into a gravel road.  You will travel on 700 N for about three miles and  you will cross a cattle guard and come to a sign that says you are entering the Targhee National Forest. You will then turn right onto Forest Road 265 and follow this all the way to the end where you will see the big turn around called Coyote Meadows. You will be on 265 for about 8 miles. 

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Hidden Lake to Conant Basin Trail Description

Once you are saddled and ready to go head towards the trailhead sign for Coyote Meadows.

Just in case you didn’t see it as you drove in it is to the right of the bathroom. The trail is mostly a hard dirt packed trail. With our horses being barefoot they are able to do this trail without putting boots on. The trail starts in the forest but brings you out into a meadow for a short bit and at .12 miles you will see a sign for Bitch Creek. Continue straight on the trail. There are plenty of opportunities for your horses to get drinks on this trip including the first one as you cross Bitch Creek. From here Hidden Lake is 4.1 miles. Some people just make a ride out of going to the lake and back which we have done before. However,  the loop around into Conant Basin is definitely worth it if you have the time. When you are about a third of the way into the trail you will come to an intersection. This is where we will be starting our loop. We headed to the left first so we can reach Hidden Lake and then we will be coming back on the trail to the right as we finish our loop. Hidden Lake is 4.1 miles from here.

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The trail continues to meander through the forest all the way to the lake. At 2.4 miles you will come to a big mud hole that you have to cross. It seems like this mud hole is always here no matter how dry it gets. Gracie stops to get a drink here.

Shortly after this mud hole you will come to a sign that says you are in the Jedediah Smith Wilderness-Caribou/Targhee National Forest sign.

At 4 miles you are nearly to the lake and have gained some elevation. The view opens up a bit to your right and if you pull of the trail you can get a good lookout. We have also stopped here to get some shots with the Olympus Tough Camera.

Shortly after this you will begin to catch your first glimpse of Hidden Lake through the trees. It is a pretty blueish green color. Here is will begin your decent as the trail starts to switch back down into the lake. Hidden Lake is a good spot to stop for lunch. The calm and serenity of the lake is amazing. Like we mentioned at the beginning the lake is often a popular spot. We spent our lunch watching a couple of guys fish off the back of their horses and another couple having lunch with their dogs.

Hidden Lake can also be a fun spot to go for a swim on a nice warm day.

Make sure you bring lots of bug spray both for yourself and the horses, because the bugs can be quite grueling at all times of the year.

When you are finished with lunch head back up to the trail and continue to the right around the lake. The trail will continue through some thick forest. Make sure you have your bear spray, this is bear country and we have seen some black bears on this trail before. At 4.8 miles the trail will split and go through a camping spot. We stayed on the trail that goes to the left and goes around the camp. In about two miles from here the trail will open up to a grassy meadow with footbridges that will take you over some boggy areas.

At 6.4 miles you will come to another split in the trail. This time there is a sign on the trail that goes to the left, but we are going to head up the trail to the right to continue our loop. Shortly after getting on this trail you will come to a little pond on your left. We saw a few ducks swimming in it. There is also a camp spot by this pond with a bear box. Perfect place to camp with horses. After this camp spot the trail started to get a little muddy.

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As you continue on you will be doing some switchbacks up the mountain and will gain a pretty view of some mountains to you right you will also be getting a pretty view behind you. There is still some climb after this as the trail continues to switch back up an open hillside. At 7.6 miles you will finish your climb up to the top where you get a pretty overlook. The higher elevation mountains are still filled with snow, which adds to the beauty of this scenic overlook. This is a perfect spot to stop, let your horses catch their breath while you get some of those pretty pictures.

The trail will continue on for a little while and at about 8 miles you will come to a junction in the trail. At this junction you will be just coming off the Conant Basin Trail and there will be a sign here telling you which direction to go. We are going to head to the right and the sign states that it is about 5.4 miles back to Coyote Meadows from this point. In about a mile you will be climbing through some Aspen trees with an amazing view to your left. Some time after this point the trail will start to descend through the forest. As you get down towards the end of your decent you will be coming off of a y-intersection. Continue straight the other trail will lead you back into Hidden Corral. Shortly after this point you will be completing your loop and coming to the sign you saw earlier in your trek that led you up to the lake. From here you have less than a mile back to the truck.

Trail Map: (Made with the Suunto Ambit 2 Watch)

Wilderness Journeys

The Dead Horse Ridge Trail is out of Fall Creek near Swan Valley, Idaho. This trail is in the same area as our Rash Canyon article we posted previously.  Dead Horse Ridge is one of the prettier rides out of this area. Several different views encompass this ride. It is about a 16 mile loop that takes you through lush forests, fields of wildflowers, a high ridge with a beautiful 360 degree overlook, and creek crossings. When you get to the ridge there will be plenty of photo opportunities. We got a lot of great shots with the Olympus Tough Camera and even got some videos with the Go Pro.

The Dead Horse Ridge trail to South Fork Fall Creek is an easy trail to follow and is well-marked. It starts off as a two-track trail that is opened to ATV’s and dirt bikes. At about 4 miles into the trail a little gate will prevent ATV’s from entering. The trail here turns into a single track where dirt bikes are still allowed. This loop has a lot of climb which is great for getting horses in shape, but can also be tough on them if they are still coming back from their winter vacation. There are also spots as the trail winds through the forest where it becomes very rutty from the dirt bikes and can also be very muddy and slick. When we did this trail it had just rained the night before so the inclines through the forest were quite slick and the horses had to really power up it and at times they would lose their footing and their feet would slip out from underneath. Be careful heading through these parts, we sometimes got off the horses because it was easier and safer to just walk up the muddy parts.

Finding the Dead Horse Ridge Trailhead

From Idaho Falls, ID:  Follow US 26 towards Swan Valley for about 30 miles. Just before you cross the bridge over the Snake River, you will see a road to the right titled NF-058 this is a paved road for about a mile and will take you past a boat ramp. This part of the road is relatively wide, but be careful as you will most likely encounter a few big rigs on this road. In a little over a mile you will come to a fork in the road, continue right onto Fall Creek road. This turns into a narrow dirt road with some turn outs along the way in case you run into a larger vehicle. Sometimes cattle semis are seen on this road. There are also plenty of camping spots along this road.  Follow this dirt road for about 5 miles until you see what is called the rock quarry on your right. It is basically just a lot of white boulders lined on the hillside. There will be a camping turnout across the road from the rock quarry on the left. You will also see a small wooden bridge that goes across Horse Creek with a trail marker sign 140.  This is where we parked.

Dead Horse Ridge Trail Description

Once you are saddled, ride across the bridge with the trail marker sign 140. This will take you across Horse Creek. This trail is a two-track trail that will bring you to a metal gate in about half a mile.

Open the gate and continue through to the trail that will meander though the forest with some creek crossings. Make sure you stop to get your horses hydrated now because once you are up on the ridge you won’t find any water until you come back down onto South Fork Creek Trail. At two miles into the trail we came across a yearling moose. He was off the trail hanging out in the trees. We all just stared at one another for a moment before he took off. A little further up the trail, a deer ran out in front of us and watched us ride by. It is always great to come across wildlife when out and about.

At 2.7 miles into the trail you are going to come to what looks like a junction. It is actually just a trail that leads to an overlook. We took a right up that trail and headed to the overlook. It was a pretty good spot to take a break for lunch and get a good view of the green rolling hills. It is also one of those good photo opportunities. Once you have taken in the view go back down the overlook trail and continue straight along the trail. The trail takes you up through the forest where it starts to get muddy here, so be careful the horses were sliding out.

At 4 miles into the trail you will come to a narrow brown gate that closes out the ATV’s. Only horses and dirt bikes are allowed through this part of the trail and it now turns into a single track. From here the trail starts its climb through the forests. The trail can get pretty rutty here from the dirt bikes. Anytime we saw trails veering off we took them. They were better and most likely created by other horse riders that weren’t as slick. They all lead to the same place and join back up with the main trail.

At 5 miles the trail splits, we took the main trail that goes up the steep hill. This won’t be your only steep climb for the day. There will be plenty more to come. However as you start your climb on Dead Horse Ridge, there are some horse trails that go around the bigger climbs and sometimes we just made our own trails through the forest. After some climb you will be at about 7,600 feet in elevation and the view is pretty. We saw some patches of snow off in the distance and pretty rolling green mountains. There is plenty of climb left in the trek. You will be on the ridge for about 2-3 miles with a lot of rollercoaster hills. It is an amazing 360 degree view. Sometimes it can get windy up top, we lucked out this day as the weather was pretty good. At times you think you will be descending off the ridge, as it goes through some Aspen trees, but it will only meander through the forests for a minute until you are exposed on the ridge again with the view. Like we mentioned it looks like there are a bunch of different trails on the ridge, but they all loop back into one another. Whenever given the chance we avoided the steep hills and took the little trails that went around them.

At 7.5 miles the trail comes to a little camp site in the forest. It was a cute set up with a flat rock table build between two trees,  a fire ring, and a tie rack that is also built between two trees. Perfect area to camp if you are wanting to pack in with horses. Only drawback is that there wasn’t a water source at this point for your horses. As the trail continues past this campsite you hit  yet another climb and get to catch another glimpse of the view.

At 8.4 miles you will come to a sign on a tree to the left of the trail. The trail splits here giving you the option of going up to Red Ridge to the left, we cut down to the right staying on Dead Horse Ridge Trail, 267. You could make your ride a little longer and go up Red Ridge, it will loop around and eventually intersect back into Dead Horse Ridge, however we have heard that is not the best trail and not very well maintained. Once you make this turn onto trail number 267 the trail starts to descend into a forest of Aspen trees. It switch back down through the forest and you will be going over some bridges.

At 8.7 miles you finish the switchbacks through the forest and come to a big four-way intersection with a big sign on a tree telling you your options. We turned right onto trail #30 which is the South Fork Fall Creek Trail. You will also see the trail where Red Ridge intersects back with The Horse Ridge Trail. Once on the South Fork trail, the trail meanders through the lush green forest with wildflowers and there are now plenty of opportunities for you horses to drink as the South Fork Creek is trickling to your left. You will be crossing over some bridges at this point too.

At 11.5 miles you will be approaching another small gate where you will be entering the land where ATV’s are allowed. Shortly after this gate the trail turns from a single track back into a two-track trail. You will also come to a junction. We continued on to the right to head back to the trailhead, but the trail also goes to the left heading towards Rash Canyon which is the trail we came out on in our last article. You have about 3.5 miles left on this trail before you come to another metal gate that needs opening. Once you head through this gate before long  you will be approaching the South Fork Fall Creek Trailhead. Once you reach the trailhead continue on down the road and you will reach the main gravel road you drove in on. Turn right and you will travel along this road for about 3/4 of a mile before you reach your vehicle.


Trail Map: Made with the Suunto Ambit 2 Watch

Products We Use

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.

Items Carried in the Fanny Pack

Olympus Tough Camera

Go Pro

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.

 Bear Spray

Riding Gloves

Truck & Trailer Keys

Cellphone

Sunglasses

Chapstick

Hair Pick

Kleenex

Sunscreen

Aloe Vera lotion

Hair Ties

Gum

Protein Bars

 

 

 

Wilderness Journeys

Rash Canyon is out of the Fall Creek area just before Swan Valley, Idaho. There are numerous trail heads out of this area and some trails are better than others. This trail which starts out at Rash Canyon and loops around into South Fork Fall Creek, isn’t one of our most favorite rides because you are basically stuck on a two-track dirt road the entire way and also stuck in a canyon so you don’t get much of that high view overlook. We did still manage to get some good photos with the Olympus Tough.

It is a good trail however for getting your horses in shape and conditioned. The whole area of Fall Creek is very populated mostly by motorized vehicles. We definitely don’t recommend coming here on a weekend, as you will run into more motorized vehicles than you wish. There is also a lot of opportunity to camp along the way. There are several spots just off the dirt road where you can pull over and camp. There are also a few spots off by some of the trailheads if you want more of a secluded camping experience. We also ran into a few camping spots along the trail so if you want to pack in and camp that is also a possibility.

Finding the Rash Canyon Trailhead

From Idaho Falls, ID:  Follow US 26 towards Swan Valley for about 30 miles. Just before you cross the bridge over the Snake River, you will see a road to the right titled NF-058 this is a paved road for about a mile and will take you past a boat ramp. This part of the road is relatively wide, but be careful as you will most likely encounter a few big rigs on this road. In a little over a mile you will come to a fork in the road, continue right onto Fall Creek road. This turns into a narrow dirt road with some turn outs along the way in case you run into a larger vehicle. Sometimes cattle semis are seen on this road. Follow this dirt road for about 5-6 miles until you come to a sign on your left that says Rash Canyon.

As you pull onto this short road be careful it is steep, rutty, and rocky. We went over the cattle guard and parked in the grassy area on the right.  If you would prefer, you can find a place to park off the road on the other side, but you will have to ride across the road and then open a gate.

Rash Canyon Trail Description

Follow the two-track dirt trail. In about 3 miles into the trail you will come to a junction with a possibility of continuing straight or going to the right or to the left. If you continue straight you will be on the road that will loop you into South Fork Fall Creek.

We decided to take a little back country way because that is the way that Amy programmed it on the Suunto Ambit 2 Watch. So we headed to the right up trail 262 even though there is a sign in a tree once you turn onto this trail pointing the way to South Fork Fall Creek. In less than a mile you will come to another junction and turn on the road to the left. Shortly you will see an unmarked trail to your right that doesn’t look very well-kept, you need to take this trail. We ended up missing this and taking a trail just down the road that had a marker on it that says no motorized vehicles. This trail is a dead-end and we advise you not to take it. If you take the correct trail, you will immediately find a little cow trail to the right.  Take this and you will intersect with the South Fork Trail. Take a right once the trail intersects. We saw deer on this trail.

Once  you are on the South Fork trail, you will hear and see the creek to your right. There were some mallard ducks resting in this creek and also some big fish swimming past.

As you continue on this trail, you will see a sign that points to Lightning Ridge. It was pretty fitting at this time as we started to hear thunder at this moment. Luckily we didn’t get rained on. Keep on the road, and soon you will come to a junction where the South Fork trail splits. Turn left and you will be on your final leg back to the truck. We crossed the creek several times here and there were many opportunities for the horses to get drinks.

When you reach the end of the South Fork trail you will come to a giant turn around parking area. You will be coming out on trail marker 30. The truck is not parked here so follow your way out on the road and turn left on the gravel road you drove in from. Follow the gravel road for about 1.5 miles until you see that sign again for Rash Canyon.  The down fall here is, this road can be busy with traffic so be careful .

Once you turn down the road to Rash Canyon you will come to that cattle guard you drove over. There is very tight barbed wire gate around the fence corner to the right, but we decided to just go grab the truck and drive it over the cattle guard and unsaddled there. It was a lot easier than messing with that gate.

Trail Map

**Reminder: If you have the Suunto Ambit watch you can import all of the maps we provide of our journeys onto the watch and have your own personal guide telling you where to head on the trail 🙂

Wilderness Journeys

Let the fun begin! This was our first ride of our 2016 summer! We started this ride with every intention of doing a loop. However, things didn’t go exactly according to plan and we ended up exploring the area instead. Sometimes it is just fun to roam around  and see what’s out there.


The Rainy Creek trail is located in Swan Valley, Idaho. For those of you who are out-of-town and interested in this ride, there are several camp spots available along the dirt road that leads to the trailhead. All of these sites are first come first serve. It can be a busy area, as the trail services horses and motorized vehicles. Camping is prohibited at the trailhead, however there is a porta potty available and a nice large parking area. There is also easy access to the creek, so there is plenty of water for your horses to drink.

Once you are saddled, head through the gate that leads to a two-track road. The track was a little rocky but not too bad. If you are riding barefoot as our horses are, you might want to bring along some boots.

In just under a mile you will come to your first creek crossing. There is a watch for bear sign at the start of the trail and just before this crossing Maggie heard something crashing through the trees, but nothing was seen.

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In 1.25 miles you will come to a sign called Corral Canyon. We plan to go back and do this trail at some point. So we will be reporting back.

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We decided to go straight through on the trail and bypassed Corral Canyon. Just past that we came to our second water crossing. At 1.5 miles into the trail we came to another sign called Spring Canyon. We also crossed our third creek at this point and continued on.

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Spring Canyon was a neat little canyon with loose boulders lining the hillside to the right and several burnt trees lining the hillside to the left. Straight ahead we had a pretty view of a snow-capped mountain. We captured its beauty with our Olympus Tough camera.

At 2.4 miles we came to a trail marker sign, Tr. 92. We rode past that at this point and went on up Spring Canyon. We did encounter some 4 wheelers and motor cycles near the end of this trail and they could not continue because the trail wasn’t very well maintained and came to an end.  We rode up it a few miles until we could not go any further and ate lunch here before turning around.

As we back tracked our trail we decided to explore Tr. 92 that we passed before.

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It brought us through a narrow canyon called Water Canyon, where we passed some very angry hummingbirds before switch backing up a hillside. We gained some elevation here and got a pretty view at the top. The trail did continue on from the top and we were pretty sure it would have looped back into one of the other trails we passed earlier. However, because we weren’t completely sure, we decided to turn around and head back out the same way we came in. Better to play it safe than to get lost.  We went back down Water Canyon and back across the creek.

As we continued back toward the trailhead, we decided to ride up the trail that we had actually planned to take before we got a bit distracted. We didn’t go very far on this trail because it was getting late. We will come back and make the original loop we had planned another time.  We came across some timber on this trail that we helped make horse safe with our little hand saw.   When we got back to the trailhead we looked at the map located on the sign and found that this trail did loop back into S. Fork Rainy Creek Trail.  So until next time!

Getting to the Trailhead

From Swan Valley, Idaho: Follow HWY 26 into Swan Valley Idaho. Once in Swan Valley, turn left onto Rainy Creek Road. Follow this road until you come to a T in the road. Turn left to continue onto Rainy Creek Road. Follow that dirt road all the way to the end, where you will come to a large turn around. The dirt road in was a good road, pretty wide and smooth so it is easy to get a bigger rig to the trailhead. There were some beautiful longhorn cattle in a pasture to the right as we headed up the road.


Trail Map: Created using the Suunto watch

Wilderness Journeys

One day and counting until our school year ends and we are officially out on the trail for the summer. We have a lot of fun planned for this summer and thought with it being such a beautiful day today that we would take the horses out for a ride. We went to Stinking Springs, which is a trail not far from where we live in Idaho. It is a great trail to get the horses muscled up for the long hard rides we will soon be doing. The elevation on this ride is also lower putting us at about 6,800 feet when we reach the top, which means we won’t run into any snow packs. Right now that is the one thing keeping us from those high mountain rides. The snow in the higher elevations won’t melt until mid to late June. This restricts our riding a bit, however we won’t let it stop us.

The Stinking Springs trail is located on the way to Kelly Canyon Ski Resort near Ririe, Idaho. We went on an 8 mile ride today, however the trail offers options to make this a shorter or longer ride depending on your needs. This trail is heavily populated by motorbikes and four wheelers. Since it was Memorial Day weekend there were a lot of these motorized vehicles out and about which can get in the way of riding especially when you are having to pull off the trail every so often to let them by.

The parking lot for Stinking Springs is a nice size, that makes it easy for parking a trailer. From the parking lot, cross the road where you will find a cattle guard and gate. Once through the gate there is one main trail that takes you to the top, or you can take a trail to the right. We will do a write-up on that trail on another post.   There are also several cow trails, since cattle often roam the area. Sometimes we go off and explore these trails, however today we stuck to the main one. The main trail we took this day is a two-track trail all the way. It is basically a steady incline to the top getting steeper the higher you go. Also towards the top you will find a lot of rocky switchbacks. There were also spots where the trail was rutty and washed away.  We have seen, snakes here a few times including Rattle Snakes, so if you ride this trail, just beware.

 

Once at the top  of the switch backs, you get a pretty good view of the town of Ririe Idaho, beautiful farm land and the Snake River.   You  can see quite a ways off into the distance. The weather at the top can also change fairly quickly. It was warm and tank top weather on the journey up, then once we reached the top the wind kicked in and we threw on some coats. The weather in this area in general can change in an instance. We have done this trail numerous times and have started out with perfect weather only for it to change in an instant. We have gotten caught in some pretty bad rainstorms here.

After you take the time to enjoy the view here, there is still some more climb up on a very rocky trail.

Once at the top of this trail, carry on for a moment and you will come to an intersection with basically two different options. You can either go to the left or the right. There is a trail in the middle but it joins up with the trail to the right in a short while. Here is a chance for you to have some fun and explore. You can’t go wrong either way!

We chose the trail to the right. It takes you through a forest, Aspen filled area. Eventually you will come to a barbwire gate. This gate was tight and was quite difficult to get closed. However we persevered and between the two of us got it closed. There are cattle up there and so it is very important to get those gates closed.  Once through the gate the trail splits again and we ventured to the right for a bit before turning around and making our way back down.


How to Get to Stinking Springs

From Idaho Falls, ID:  Head east on US-26 for 19 miles. Then turn left onto N 160 E. You should see signs on the highway pointing you to Kelly Canyon Ski resort. Follow this road for about 1.3 miles then turn right onto E 100 N/Heise Rd. Then take slight left onto N 5050 E and then turn right onto E. Heise Road. Continue driving on this road for about 2.3 miles. You will see a split in the road and you will want to veer to the right to continue onto E. Heise Road. Follow this for about 2 miles where you will come to a parking lot on the right with a big red ramp. This is where we park. 

Wilderness Causes

The free roaming mustang population is managed and protected by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) There is a lot of controversy surrounding the methods the federal government uses to manage the wild population numbers. We recently watched the powerful movie titled “Unbranded”. It really is an eye-opening movie and addresses the fact that while the Mustang population is increasing there isn’t enough resources and land to support them. There are people who will argue that point.  The BLM has put many of the wild horses up for adoption  to help compensate for the land shortage. However, many horses are now living in temporary holding areas awaiting adoption. As we continue to get this blog up and running we would really like to begin doing some fundraisers for the wild horses.  Wild horses have been a passion of Maggie’s since she was a small child!

Riding with the wild horses was an amazing experience. We rode on BLM land near Challis, Idaho.

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Wild horses generally gather in groups of 3 to 20 animals. A stallion leads the group which consists of mares and young foals. When the young males become colts they are driven away by the stallions. The colts then roam with the other young males until they can gather their own group of females. Searching for these herds while on horseback is quite the adventure. All of our pictures are taken with the Olympus Tough camera. We also have some videos on our Facebook page using the Go Pro.

 

Challis is about a two and a half hour drive from where we live. To make the most out of our experience we camp at the trailhead and spend two days searching for and riding with the wild horses. Since this area is all owned by the BLM there aren’t actual trail signs or a specific plan we have for riding. We saddle up and just ride. We have been fortunate enough to visit this area a few times. However, our very first visit to this place was the most memorable.

 

You know its going to be a good ride when you see herds of wild horses on the drive in to the trailhead. We arrived later in the evening and after setting up camp we took a short evening ride. We saw several small herds of wild horses out grazing. Most of them were off in the distance. However there was one herd that ran out right in front of us on the trail and we rode along side them for a short while. It was so cool to get that close to a herd. The next day we did a lot more exploring and rode up high. The scenery here is beautiful as you get an overlook of the land. We saw herds of horses in the distance and also some deer and lots of antelope. There was one part of this adventure that will be forever branded into our memories.DSCN7069

As we were riding along, we noticed a dark mass off in the far distance. It was way up high and really stood out.  We decided to ride towards it to figure out what it was. It was a climb!  We stopped at one point and pulled out the binoculars. Through the binoculars we could tell it was a black horse standing alone. We thought this was odd since horses usually travel in groups. He was standing there very still, so we decided we needed to continue to investigate. As we approached the black mustang, we quickly discovered why he was alone and why he was standing so still. The poor horse had gotten his leg caught in the fence wire.    He had obviously been there for a while because his ribs were showing and there was definite signs of dehydration with his sides being sucked in. It really was a devastating site. While it’s amazing to ride with horses that are solely on their own, taking care of themselves, and living a free life, it is sad when you come to a horse that is in this condition. We knew we couldn’t leave him in this state. One of the riders we were with jumped off his horse with a pair of wire cutters and attempted to approach the black mustang. Since this  was a wild horse, this was a very difficult task. He immediately started rearing up, bearing his teeth and striking which was only getting him more tangled and hurt in the  wire. After several attempts, the rider we were with, got close enough to cut the wire. He only went in for a quick cut before the mustang started to rear and strike again. Unfortunately the wire cut wasn’t enough to free the horse, so he had to go back in for another cut.  He couldn’t get to the other side of the T-post to cut the wire there because the horse was crazy with fear .  He did manage to free the horse, however the wire, with a t-post still connected to his front left foot, was dragging about 10 feet or more behind this horse.   The horse took off with the t-post in tote.   DSCN7078 He stopped to graze and off he went!  It was heartbreaking to know he still had that wire and T-post on his foot, but at least he could get to water and food.   As soon as we got home from this trip we contacted the BLM and let them know about the situation, hoping that they would be able to find this poor horse before he got stuck again or something worse happened.  It has haunted us since!   We never did hear back from the BLM about this stallion.  Praying that the BLM went to help this horse!

Getting to the Trailhead

From Arco, Idaho: Travel North on Hwy 93 for approximately 60 miles. Turn left onto Spar Canyon Road and travel for approximately 15 miles to E. Fork Road. Turn left and travel about 3 miles. Make another left on Road Creek Rd. and travel 6 miles to Horse Basin Creek.

From Challis, Idaho: Travel approximately 18 miles on Hwy 75 and turn left on E. Fork Road. Travel about 6 miles and turn left onto Road Creek Rd. Follow this road for 6 miles to Horse Basin Creek.

Wilderness Journeys

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All photos taken with Olympus Tough Camera

Massacre Rocks is a state park located in American Falls, Idaho. It is a state park with a lot of history. Massacre Rocks is a famous spot along the Oregon Trail. Wagons in route of the Oregon Trail travelled over twelve-hundred miles from Missouri. It is said that many considered their trek through the Idaho desert as one of the most difficult parts of the journey. Unfortunately today, the interstate cuts through part of the Massacre Rocks State Park.  Massacre Rocks was given its names because there are large boulders in the area that created narrow passage ways through the rocks. Emigrants feared a possible ambush by Native Americans through these passageways because only one wagon could fit through at a time. These passageways were termed “Gate of Death” or “Devil’s Gate”. In 1862, five wagons clashed with Native Americans and ten emigrants died in the fight. If you want more of a historical background on Massacre Rocks State Park you may visit Pathways of Pioneers or Legends of America.

Given the historical significance of the area and the fact that we were looking for a new area to get our horses in shape for the riding season, we decided that riding Massacre Rocks State Park would be an interesting adventure. We did our research, found a park map that outlined the trails that were “horse accessible”, and we mapped out a route using the Suunto Watch. We traveled the hour and a half to the state park, paid our visitor fee and parked the horse trailer at a boat ramp. Yes it was a weird spot to park a horse trailer and the freeway was buzzing to our left. It wasn’t quite what we had in mind and definitely was too populated for our taste. We decided to make the best of it, saddled up and carried on our way. At about a mile into our trek we were stopped by a park ranger who told us that Massacre Rocks State Park does not allow horses in the park. There were no signs stating horses weren’t allowed. We pleaded our case, stating we found a state park map that reinforced we had every right to ride these trails. The park ranger reiterated that horses have been banned from the area for some time because they ruin the trails. We reluctantly obliged, turned around and headed back to the truck. It was our first time ever being kicked of a trail. We ate lunch at the boat ramp, knowing we needed to squeeze in a ride that day.

Maggie had fortunately ridden the area a while back and we ended up finding the place she had ridden. It was located on the other side of the Snake River that runs through Massacre Rocks State Park. It was a section of land not owned by the state park. This area offered many trails and services horses and unfortunately dirt bikes. We got back on our horses and picked a trail and just rode. There are many trails that wind through the desert and it is a sandy, hilly area. Be careful though because there are large sections of the land that are fenced in. Even though our day hadn’t gone as planned it was still an adventure and we got to do some exploring which is always fun. We actually went back to this spot the next weekend and explored even further. With the sand and hill climbing it is a good spot to get your horses in shape and surprisingly we didn’t come across any dirt bikers while we were on the trail. We only met them in the parking lot.

Directions to Massacre Rocks State Park (NO HORSES ALLOWED)

From Idaho Falls  head south on I-15 towards Pocatello, follow I-15 for about 45 miles. Take exit 72 for I-86 west toward Twin Falls.  Continue on I-86 W for 33 miles. Take exit 28 towards Massacre Rocks State Park. Turn right toward Park Ln. There is visitor station when you enter the park and the park fee is $5.

Directions to Horse Approved Riding Area

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From Idaho Falls  head south on I-15 towards Pocatello, follow I-15 for about 45 miles. Take exit 72 for I-86 west toward Twin Falls.  Continue on I-86 W for 22 miles. Take exit 40 for ID-39 toward American Falls/Aberdeen. Turn right onto ID-39 N stay on this road for about 3 miles. Then turn left onto W Lamb Weston Road, turn left onto Borah Rd, then turn left onto S. Lake Channel Rd. Follow this road for about 3 miles you will see two big turn outs on either side of the road. In these turnouts you will see some dirt bike trailers. We parked on the turnout to the left of the road and explored the trails on that side.

Trail Maps

1st Trip

2nd Trip