"Fly fishing is my passion, hunting is my weakness, and mules are a perplexing addiction."

Thursday, October 10, 2013



Saddles.... check.  Rifle, license, ammo.... check.  Bedroll.… check.  Cold weather gear.… check.   Groceries.… check.  Toilet paper.... check and double check!

As I ready preparations for this year’s deer hunting pack trip into the Golden Trout Wilderness in the Sierras, nearly everything is ready.  I say nearly everything because one, minor detail is missing.  That, of course, would be Jason’s gear.  Of the six panniers we’ll be taking on our eight-day hunt, the bear panniers are packed. The hard boxes containing camp gear and odds and ends is packed, the saddles, pads, bridals, manties and all the horse and mule tack is packed.  Even one of the leather ends with my clothes, fly rod, boots and such is packed.  All are weighed, packed and loaded into the stock trailer except for one.  

As usual, waiting until the mules are in the trailer and I’m ready to pull out of the gate, I can’t help but wonder what Jase will bring me at the last minute?  What surprise awaits me as he tosses his pile of schtuff in the tack room, crawls in the truck, reclines his seat with a pillow behind his head and says, “Okay; I’m ready.”  

Will his load be too heavy, too light, or will it be just right?  Will I have to rearrange all the panniers to make room for his alligator Gucci hunting boots, Fabio, designer hair-grooming products, or his half-gallon bottle of “Unforgivable” eau de toilette, by Jean John?  Will he remember his tooth brush this year?  Of course this is absurd; absolutely will his load be anything but exact!

Most folks think that what I get to do is fun, relaxing, and easy.  Actually, it’s about as easy as bucking moldy hay and about as relaxing as trying to tie up a bobcat with a six-inch piece of string. The truth be told, it’s a wonder I still have any hair?  If you think I’m exaggerating, consider this.
Organization is key to any pack trip.  Assign this task to an individual, (let’s call him Tom,) who historically is about as organized as a coffee can full of treble hooks and has the attention span of a monkey chewing on a fly swatter.  Then add to this a taskmaster spouse with a question list longer than Schindler’s that she’ll insist upon my answering five minutes before liftoff. 

Following my bride’s Spanish Inquisition that will include an endless list of questions such as, “Did you pack your underwear this time?  Did you check the spare tire?” And my favorite, “First aid and vet medical; you packed it, right?”  After I race back to the house to grab the first-aid kit and vet medical bag I’ll climb back into the truck and race the engine a few dozen times in an attempt to get her to quit with the questions, and following two more treks back to the house, I’ll finally pull out of the driveway at midnight and head down the road, as Jason drools on my pillow in the passenger seat sound asleep.

Then there is Ladd.  Ladd Stokes is a long-time friend of mine who makes this trip with us every year.  A horseshoer of questionable ancestry, Ladd is built like depot stove and nearly as intelligent.  He has the stare of a stalker, is as mild as sweet milk, and wears more do-dads on his hat than a Mexican general and I am often times quite amazed that he has opposable thumbs when I watch him set up a tent.  Then, imagine trying to get any sleep in a confined tent with a guy that all night long makes sounds similar to starting a chainsaw in a water trough.  And then there is his snoring!

At any rate, it will all have been worth it, though, when we finally arrive at our destination and at last get our camp set up.  I can see it now; our bedrolls are laid out, the food is put away for the night in the bear boxes and the campfire blazes away, and it’s then I rifle through the panniers in a panic for the seventeenth time, swearing like a combat marine, “I know damn good and well I packed it!  Has anyone seen the g*%-#^/$d toilet paper?”