Saturday, September 14
Saturday, September 14, 2002. 5:00 p.m. KOA Campground, Teton Village.
Teton County Fairgrounds in Jackson was the site of today’s Adopt-A-Horse-or-Burro Program, sponsored by the Bureau of Land management (BLM). Several hundred horses and about 20 burros were offered to the highest bidders; the minimum price for adoption is $125 for horses, $25 for burros. Animals were chuted from corrals to the show ring in lots of two to four, and the auctioneer asked for bids on any horse in the lot. The winning bidder then selected the horse he would take home for a year and then own, subject to BLM approval. If no one bid on the horses in the show ring, then they were returned to the corral. They were offered again on a “first come, first served” basis after the bidding was completed. Those who adopt horses or burros are expected to meet BLM requirements for space, feeding, and care.
The program is a necessary part of BLM’s charge to manage and protect wild horses and burros on public lands. Balancing the number of animals with available resources means that excess numbers must be removed, so some 170,000 animals have been offered for adoption since 1973. BLM also attempts to balance the herds, so animals of both sexes and a wide range of ages are offered.
Prior to the bidding, the show ring was a stage for Steve Mantle and one of the wild horses with which he worked. Mantle is a horseshoer and trainer. His methods are gentle and logical, and he demonstrated just how effectively his approach works. () It struck me that new school teachers should watch him at work, because the same procedures should be used with children.
I was very surprised that so few animals received bids, despite the attractiveness of many of the horses. “Why aren’t people buying?” I asked a cowboy-type, dressed in appropriate Western wear. “Feed costs too much,” he replied. In our discussion, I found that he and his family have five horses and a burro, all adopted through the BLM program. The area drought has caused hay prices to soar. “Costs me about $500 a month to keep them,” he said. Were prospective buyers afraid of the quality of wild horses? No. Properly trained, they are as dependable as any others, and they are especially prized by trail outfitters because of their surefootedness. Are they harder to train? Not necessarily-some are easier to train. I surveyed the crowd of people sitting in the stands and standing along the corral. “So it just comes down to a matter of whether one can afford to keep them,” I suggested as a summary.
“We-l-l-l. This is Jackson. There’s money here. A lot of these people are just here to see the show. They’re lookers,” he said with a grin. “Like you.”
I nodded, surveying the crowd again, pleased that I had selected a real cowboy who knew his stuff. When I commented on his knowledge about horses, the cowboy laughed. He pointed to his wife, wranging the next batch of wild horses into the chute leading to the show ring. “She’s the horse person in my family,” he said. “I just report what she tells me about horses. I moved out here from Cleveland, and I’m still learning. I’m not a cowboy--I’m a CPA.”
Saturday, September 14
Field Report, Day 46
Today we went to the Teton County Fair Grounds to watch the Bureau of Land Management’s “Wild Horse and Burro Adoption” auction. We met with John, Don, Janet, and Rey from the BLM who explained how the adoption program works. The program’s purpose is to place, at a nominal cost, wild horses and burros into good homes (stables) where they will be cared for as pets or riding stock. I took lots of pictures of the beautiful animals.
Kevin, the National Geographic Society’s videographer, did his final interviews of the trek team and some of the support staff. Tomorrow he leaves to go back to work and home in Washington, D.C.
Saturday, September 14
Oh Rhythm My Rhythm
It's amazing how so-called days off can get busy. We turned three days of backpacking into one by dayhiking ten miles yesterday. So here we are, being "lazy," by splitting off and doing as we wish. This is the first of two such days. Many of the team drive to Escalante to do laundry and eat lunch in a "real" restaurant. Ron goes for a ride on his motorcycle. Bob and I get caught up in camp duties, namely emptying holding tanks and cleaning vehicles. Our tech trailer is up and running, and Marlene, our techie du jour, is gearing up to get busy with mapping. That means once I finish scooping out the gray water that has filled the shower basin, I'll be sitting with Marlene working on maps and GPS routes for the upcoming trek legs.
Hours pass by, and slow progress on the maps is our reward for slaving away in heat and pesky flies. But I don't really mind the work, just that I am missing out on play time. The absence of the others wears heavy on me because I know there's a lot of laughing and cajoling going on that I'm missing.
The day wears on and the other team members have trickled back into camp. It's 5:15 p.m. when Marlene and I finish our work on the map -- and I'm ancy. Up the canyon 3 miles from our campsite is Upper Falls, where many from the team has headed after arriving back from doing laundry.
Dinner preparations are just getting started -- it's gonna be a steak night! Before dinner I decide to a hike up the trail toward Upper Falls but plan to be back by 6 p.m., which is usually when dinner is ready.
Rather than hiking I decide to jog. Passing numbered posts positioned in places of natural and native history i.e. pictographs, I feel something coming on. I take off my T-shirt and tuck it flag-like in the back of my shorts. I'm going for Upper Falls! The sandy trail rolls up the canyon, mostly flat, but occasionally crossing shallow ravines and climbing the bottom of a ridge. I encounter Richard and Julie who encourage me on to keep my pace, saying I'm about halfway. Five minutes or so pass when I encounter Cathie and Kay, who point out a pictograph of three figures holding hands across the canyon. A woman hiker arrives to see Cathie pointing at the pictograph. Cathie says I have twice the distance to go. Huh?
The sandals on my feet have been loose, and by the time I notice the painful rubbing it is too late. I'll have sore spots, maybe open sores. I slow to a hop to cinch my sandals tight to my feet, and carry on.
Jake and I pass each other. He is also running, and a minute behind him is Jessica, also running. They'll likely make it in time for dinner, but if I keep going I'll be late. Should I turn around? Of course not, I keep going, now in a rhythm from which I'd rather not break.
Running, running, running -- two wild turkeys catch my attention to the right. Did the others see them as well?
Then, behold! from above a single pourover splashes into the pool below. A sandy beach borders the pool. I walk into the pool to my knees for a cooldown. I wash the sweat off my neck and face, and abruptly turn around to begin the second half of my run.
Running into camp at 6:25 p.m., Sam, our cook, has a steak waiting for me. The others are in the middle of the meal, and I am reminded that my schedule is flexible. I could have stuck around to be one of the first in line for dinner but I'd have missed out on one of my favorite things in the world to do: have a marvelous time matching the rhythm of the land to my rhythm. You gotta try it!
Saturday, September 14
Hole in the Rock
250 Mormon Pioneers and 80 wagons went through this notch onto the Colorado River
Courtesy Lorie McGraw
Today an individual was asking me about our trek and how it was going for us. I explained that the last two days had been really pretty easy and straightforward for us.
I told him that we left Lake Powell at about 9:00am and had climbed about a thousand feet up to the canyon rim via the pioneer route Hole in the Rock, did about 60 miles of cross country 4 wheel driving, and then got out to hike 6 or 7 miles down into a canyon with a swollen river running though it that we needed to cross 8 or 9 times, and we got to camp in plenty of time for dinner. The next day we met up with two BLM officers who wanted to join us on our day hike of 10 miles into an area that see little visitation. We dropped into the canyon at about 9:00am and spent the day completing our trek, which included a ¼ mile of walking up stream in the river to access the other bank so we could exit the canyon still on public land. The gentleman I was speaking with gave me a sort of funny look and said…(and you call that a couple of easy days). When he said it I realized that we as a team, and individually have become much stronger. Both physically and mentally. We have spent as much as 12 to 14 hours hiking in desert heat with packs and gallons of water and our muscles no longer cramp on us, we longer drag ourselves into camp. We still have GO left at the end of day, and the humor to clown around in camp. Today was probably a good example of that , it was a rest day for the trekkers, so what did we do. Why we all went for a 6-mile hike of course.
Saturday, September 14
Day 46- Calf Creek
Today is a rest day. Our morning camp and evening camps are the same; BLM's Calf Creek Campground. We got up late, ate breakfast, and we go to town to do our laundry. It doesn't sound too thrilling but it is fun to have clean clothes after about 10 days. And the bonus was the $4 showers. How long did I stay in the shower? And the next bonus was the soy latte at the coffee shop/outfitters in Escalante. We stopped at the BLM Office and checked out the bookstore. We made a big splurge and stopped at Cowboy Blues Café for lunch and had a great time. The food was so good I ordered two entrees and an appetizer. And then we stopped in the local art gallery, where we had a lovely time visiting with the locals. We got back to camp and my first thought was to make a break for it and take a break. I tried to, but the campground was very noisy and soon I set off for a hike down Calf Creek trail to the lower waterfall. It was absolutely beautiful. The water cascaded down a long way before it hit the pool beneath. The mist in the air was cool. The walk back was just as enjoyable, as the sun was changing and the colors of the sandstone cliffs also changed. A beautiful hike. Richard treated us to a steak for dinner tonight and it was absolutely delicious. The wildlife report for today included mule deer citing in the Calf Creek wetlands, chipmunks, and bluebirds.
Saturday, September 14
I only have a few minutes to write tonight but I had the most incredible experience today. It starts several years ago when I was flying from California to New York, and spent the entire six hours reading "The Man Who Listens to Horses" by Monty Roberts. I've always had a great love for horses, but was always dismayed at the idea of "breaking" them. Of basically using force until their spirits were broken. Well, today we went to the Wyoming Wild Horse and Burro adoption, and the morning began with a demonstration of "Natural Horsemanship". This sounded appealing to me, although it didn't start ringing bells until I was seated on a bleacher, mesmerized with the man and wild Mustang in the round corral in front of me. The man's name was Wayne Bergerling, or "Bergie", and there in front of me I got to witness the natural horsemanship that Monty Roberts described to me years ago as I read on that long plane flight. I’m certainly no expert, but the idea behind this new way to train horses is to respect their place in the natural world, specifically as flight creatures in the fight-or-flight ideology. Bergie used body language and touch rather than whips and force to slowly gain the animal’s trust. In this method, there are seven steps to training a horse, called “games”, starting with the “Friendly Game”. In this game, all the trainer does is gently and lovingly caress the horse, as if the trainer has his “heart in (his) hand”. He speaks to the animal, rubbing rather than petting, using non-threatening body language. It’s one of the first steps to letting the horse know that the trainer is not a predator, one of the first steps towards trust.
The other steps have to be seen to be believed. One of Bergie’s, and Monty’s, sayings is that “the training happens in the release”. He demonstrated what that meant as he worked towards picking up the horse’s feet, one at a time. He used a rope, which he gently worked around each leg and then hooked just below the ankle. He would then use gentle upward force until the horse would lift the leg. This is crucial in the horse’s training, obviously, if the horse if ever going to wear shoes. The horse has to learn to patiently stand with one leg curled underneath him for as long as it takes to nail on each shoe. We are all so used to being around trained horses, and mostly “broken” horses, that it’s easy to forget how wild these animals really are. Particularly a mustang who a month ago was running free on the hills of Wyoming. But back to the “release”. Bergie would gently coax the leg up, at which point the horse would start to wiggle and fight, and Bergie would resist. He had the rope tied around his waist, and he would use all of his strength to keep the leg up, even jumping around as the horse tried to hop and kick away. But the minute the horse acquiesced, the very second the animal stopped fighting and held his foot up on his own, Bergie would release the rope and rub the horse. It was a reward, saying, you’re good- you did it right. It was also saying, on behalf of Bergie, “I am a competent leader. I can be trusted”.
The whole process is so detailed, and requires ultimate patience, but it can actually only take a matter of hours before a horse is giving you his hind legs without any anxiety. That’s what I love about this whole process: it takes into account the emotional state of the animal. If the horse does not do what you want him to do, he is not wrong. He just had not been taught yet. And the only way to teach him (or her) is to work through his emotions, to respect that he is fearful and anxious rather than stubborn or stupid. And to gain the respect and the trust of the animal rather than abusing him into submission. Incredible.
My favorite thing about Bergie was his humility, and his self-deprecation as a means to illustrate how important Natural Horsemanship is. He said he had bad horsemanship for twenty-five years before learning this new technique. He was unabashed in describing the foolish ways he’d tried to get horses to behave, and the bad job he did as a horse shoer. He even explained the emotions the horses must have felt while he was trying to manipulate them. In short, he was my hero. And he was practicing this technique right in front of us, on a wild mustang, with a hands-free microphone strapped around his head, proof positive that what he did worked.
The adoption followed, and we watched as horses and burros, in twos and threes, were brought into the corral. Two spotters were working the crowd, and a BLM guy was the auctioneer. He was the real deal, a certified auctioneer, and his patter was almost a song as he encouraged the audience to bid higher and higher. This was the first time this set of animals had been auctioned; they had only been caught in July. The ones who didn’t get sold here would travel to the East Coast for an auction the following weekend. I have to admit I had conflicting feelings about the auction. These animals, less than two months ago, were wild and free. Now they would be carted around the country until they were sold, and if no one wanted them, they would forever live in holding pens in other parts of Wyoming and Oklahoma. But here’s the thing: this auction saves the wild mustangs. The land can only handle so many horses, and the herds in Wyoming are about twice the sustainable size. The people who catch the horses for the auction are careful to thin the herds in a way that leaves a strong gene pool while also choosing good horses to sell. These horses have less foot and leg disease than domestics, have incredibly stable feet, and, according to Bergie, create an even stronger bond of trust with their owners.
So my problem of deciding how to buy my horse is solved. Now I just have to get a job and a home and some money and build a stable with at least 400 square feet of land and a six-foot fence. And then I’ll come back to Wyoming to the Wild Horse and Burro Adoption and bid for a beautiful wild mustang.
I guess I had more than a few minutes to write...
Saturday, September 14
The Free Day
The original plan for this part of the Trek was to do a three-day backpacking trip covering 10 miles. But of course we have the Super trek Team, able to leap tall buildings with a single bound, and they did the 10 miles in one day. Since we had no scheduled program for today we actually had a free day. So the first thing we did was head to town for laundry and showers. I don’t even blink and eye at paying $4.00 for a shower now. Then we went back to the Escalante Interagency Office to shop at the 50% off book sale. Julie headed straight to a telephone to call her boys. I think she’s worse than me at always checking for cell phone service. The most fun of the morning was lunch at Cowboy Blues Restaurant in Escalante. They have the best burgers I’ve ever tasted. We all had burgers and beer (I had root beer). Richard’s burger had bacon and polish sausage on it. I had spicy cheese fries that burned my throat all the way down. Richard bought a t-shirt with the restaurant logo on it and paid for everyone’s lunch. We stopped at the grocery store next. Whenever I visit a new place I always like to explore their grocery stores, particularly in a foreign country. We bought steaks and soft drinks and discussed having a campfire in the evening. Last night it was so cold I didn’t want to get out of my sleeping bag this morning. We made a short visit to a gallery and gifts store. We found out that everybody in this small town already knew about us. Earlier in the day some fifth grade girls stopped by our campsite to pet Ron’s dogs. Cathy and I talked to them about the Trek and gave them books and globes. Later in town their teacher tracked us down to ask for books and globes for the rest of her class. She had taken her six girl students hiking this weekend, and was planning on taking the six boys next weekend. What a great idea, and a good way to get to know your students. There’s another neat place in Escalante that’s a coffee shop/deli/outfitter/Internet café. We had latte and pastries while waiting for the laundry to finish. Back at camp I read about an hour, then decided to walk to the waterfall again. This time I took my time and took a trail guide. In my training with NGS I learned to use the OSAE method on field trips (Observe, Speculate, Analyze, Evaluate). So even when I took my first graders on field trips, they each carried a clipboard with questions to answer. So today I observed a deer, , and the pictographs painted on the cliff walls. I walked on orange, then white sand which mirrored the rock walls towering above me. Jake, then Jessica, then Jan jogged past me. They were all running the trail today. Jake swam in the icy cold water under the falls. I met Cathy coming back and we leisurely strolled back chipmunk, squirrel, lots of birds, at least 25 different plants discussing plans for future hikes and stopping occasionally to admire the purple flowers or the unusual rock shapes. We all arrived back just in time for steaks, baked potatoes, and Rice Krispy treats. What a great day.
Saturday, September 14
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2002
I am sitting in a patch of shade under a pure blue sky looking up at the jagged crags of the Grand Tetons. Kevin is doing his final video interviews for National Geographic and as we wait our turns, Rob, Charlotte, Mike, Cheryl, Michelle and our new Support Photographer, Kimberly, get to enjoy this incredible scenery and a drowsy afternoon.
This morning we spent at the Jackson fairgrounds to experience the Bureau of Land Management “Catch the Spirit Wild Horse and Burro Program.” The national program administered by the BLM manages the Western states feral horse and burro herds. Currently about 6,500 animals roam public lands. To maintain healthy herds and natural wildlife populations the BLM collects excess animals and adopts them out to the public. The horses general go for $175 while the burros for $75. Ownership of the animals however, does not become final for one year. During that time and at time of title transfer adoptees must demonstrate proper care and use for the animals that they have adopted. Many of the horses were absolutely gorgeous and the burros terribly cute. One group of three came into the ring and immediately started braying. Prior to the beginning of the auction there was a demonstration by Wayne Bungerling, “Bergie” on “natural” training and horseshoeing. During the presentation they also rounded up the four Trekkers for a short ride around town in an old covered wagon (minus the cover canvas) pulled by two matching gray mustangs. It was a fun ride but I think that we all would have preferred to stay and listen to Bergie. As soon as we returned to the fairgrounds we all promptly returned to the demonstration.
This is our last day in Jackson. Tomorrow we depart for the Green River and canoe adventures. When we get back to camp I’ll have to go back through my stuff and sort out what will be needed and what can be packed up in my large duffle bag that is stored in our Supply Trailer. It’s sort of nice to be able to live just out of a back and daypack with only three sets of clothes to keep clean. For our typical two or three-day backpacks I wear my boots, a pair of convertible pants, a long sleeved polyester/lycra shirt (when it’s hot the sleeves simply get pushed up) and take my rain jacket and pants (they weight nothing and roll into tight little balls), one or two pair of underwear, 4 pairs of Tholo (sp?) socks and silk long johns (that stay in my sleeping bag.) Besides clothes, I only carry a toothbrush, tiny tube of paste, comb, moisturizer, Chapstick, a spoon, plastic mug, a Leki trekking pole, sleeping bag (good down to 0 degrees, pad, and tent. The last three items, part of the incredible array of camping gear provided by Coleman, compose most of the weight of the pack.
As you might have noticed I’ve included several of our sponsors. Our sponsors include
American Honda, Coleman, National Geographic, Leki, Fox Racing, Tony Lama and numerous others.
In addition to financially assisting the Journey the sponsor equipment has made my life over the past 6 weeks far more comfortable and safe. Some may question the use or credit to sponsors thinking that such assistance is obligation or undesirable commercialism. While I do believe that companies that benefit from the sale of their products for recreational use do have a responsibility to assist in some way with natural and social resource management I believe that those that do should receive credit for meeting their responsibilities. As to the commercialism I do not see us renaming parks, rivers and beaches after companies nor plastering our public lands with billboards and banners. Subtle credit on area information and materials or advertising can provide recognition without detracting from an areas natural setting. Since a perfect world, where local, state or national tax dollars provide all needed funds, does not exist (but, I harped enough on that subject throughout this journal) creative partnerships are critical.
After our video session with Kevin we returned to camp for an evening of catching up on Journals, laundry, phone calls home, and a good-by party for Kevin. From the Journey, dana
You Are Here
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