It is harvest time for the famous Idaho Russet Potatoes, by means of a very complicated and sophisticated piece of machinery which I could see as I drove past the fields of workers, working with urgency as the weather now bears down on them – on all farmers. This is it, harvest time.
Kalispell, Montana was our first stop as we journeyed south. We had a comfortable camp at the Kalispell Fairgrounds and presented for the local Northwest Montana Back Country Horsemen. I learned for the first time about their 4-H Trail and Packing Class/Club. Following, is information from club president Rick Mathies.
We have just completed our fifth year of doing this with the kids of Flathead County 4-H. We started with just teaching Packing, and have added Trail – getting your horse ready for the trail. We found that many of the horses involved in 4-H have only been used in the arena or on roads, and we all know if they haven’t been on a trail, they can be very dangerous… so that is why we feel they need to work on some basics to get their horse ready to be on a trail.
We also take the kids that can go on a overnight trailhead camp-out at the end of the season. Our Level 4 and 5 kids get to do actual packing projects with our BCH chapter. Last year they did over $35,000.00 in volunteer contributions.
Next we moved south to Missoula and were the guests of Meredith and Dean Hoistad, members of the Missoula Back Country Horseman. Big turnout for the event thanks in part to the nice article and photos done by photographer Ben Allan Smith and veteran journalist Kim Briggeman. One hundred and thirty four people attended! Several people I’d met on past rides and even Smoke Elser was in attendance. Smoke is a legendary packer and the documentary, “3 Miles an Hour”, tells his story. I met Smoke years ago on one of my rides in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. The following is from his website. Now, I find THIS man inspiring!! What a gentleman.
Smoke Elser, The Instructor
After graduating from the University of Montana, Smoke spent the next forty-five years as a wilderness outfitter in the Bob Marshall Wilderness and has spent more than 55 years as an instructor in packing, horsemanship, and minimum impact camping. Smoke is past President of the Montana Outfitter & Guides Association, founding member (1974) of the Professional Wilderness Guide’s Association, past President of Back Country Horsemen of Missoula, serves on the Advisory Council of Elders for MWA, and is currently active on the USFS Region I Pack Train Board. He is an instructor at the Nine Mile Wildlands Training Center, Region I, USFS. He has missed only one or two years of traveling in the Bob Marshall Wilderness each and every year for the past 56 years.
It might be noted that he failed miserably at “retirement”.
Smoke is a recognized leader in practicing the art of Alight on the land horse use, designing and building new light-weight horse and packing/camping equipment, and in educating the public in these areas. Well over 5,000 students have taken his classes during the last 55 years and well over that number of guests have experienced his hands-on use of such techniques. He is the co-author of the book, “Packin’ in on Mules and Horses”, a well-known how-to book on packing and horsemanship. Learn more about Smoke in the National Geographic article.
Also, learn more about Smoke in “3 Miles an Hour”, a documentary from MontanaPBS which takes viewers into the Bob Marshall Wilderness. 3 Miles An Hour – A PBS Documentary – Bob Marshall …
Now, a rest stop in Montpelier, Idaho visiting Elaine Zeyer whom I met in 2009 on a 6000-mile ride. Back then, I rode into Soda Springs (north of here). She was there visiting the springs with a friend of hers when I rode up. I had cracked my ribs about a week earlier and looked, I suppose, a bit rough. Well, she helped make arrangements for my stop in Montpelier and then fed me and fed and fed me!!