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Ten Reasons to Start Planning Your Own Backcountry Trip

WMJune2016-1 1Ten Reasons to Start Planning Your Own Backcountry Trip

As published in the June 2016 issue of Western Mule Magazine

June. It’s the halfway point through the year, home to the summer solstice, and a wonderful time to start heading further afield and enjoying our animals in the backcountry! If you haven’t yet started planning your own backcountry trip here are ten reasons to start.

The euphoria of beating back the cold night air with a cozy camp fire.

CampfireThere’s nothing like a good camp fire at the end of a long day on the trail. Even though a camp fire is almost completely unnecessary there’s no other feeling in the world quite like that of sitting around cozy flames as the night skies darken.  For eons humans have found warmth, comfort, and and friendship in the glow of camp fires. I’m glad that things haven’t changed much!  Watching the dancing flames is mesmerizing. I can sit and watch a campfire fire for hours and not be uninterested. The flickering display of a camp fire will put to shame anything that you may find on an electronic device.

Experiencing nature as untouched by humans.

trees reflected in river“God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone, but on trees and flowers and clouds and stars.” Martin Luther.

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of wilderness areas. Last year I spent 32 days within designated wilderness areas “where the earth and community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” I would have gladly extended my stays for much longer had I been able. With 765 separate wilderness areas totaling 170,515 square miles we have many wonderful rare and wild places to explore, retreat from civilization, and reconnect with the land. Visit a wilderness area this year if you can.

Waking up to fabulous views every morning.

high country lakeCamping morning are the best mornings. Waking up to birds chirping, a faint hint of early morning sunlight, the beasts calmly waiting to be fed, and a million-dollar view. That’s camping. Last year during one trip into the Bob Marshall Wilderness complex I hung my hammock in the trees next to a shallow lake. When morning came the shifting sunlight danced with the dark shadows in the cliffs a thousand feet above us. It was a fabulous performance!

Watching the spectacle of the sky as it turns into a million shades of glorious.

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 8.51.15 AMDawn and dusk are some of my favorite times when camping. I like to rise just before dawn and watch the sun crest in the east as I graze my animals. Experiencing the the shifting colors in the sky as the sun rises is a wonderful way to start the day. Likewise, watching the setting sun paint the sky in hues reminiscent of a Monet landscape is a delightful way to wrap up the day.

Star gazing

star gazingIf you live in the suburbs like I do, you’ll be lucky to see five stars on a good night. But when you’re camping on a clear summer night the stars will come out in full force. When not clouded by light pollution, the human eye can see across a distance of 2.5 million light years to gaze at the Andromeda Galaxy. Next month in August you’ll be able to watch the year’s most noted summertime display of meteor showers; the Perseids.

The times that you get incredibly close to wildlife

mooseSpotting the native wildlife is a big part of visiting remote areas. I’ll never forget the first times I spotted moose grazing, or a bear slowly ambling away as I rode past. By far the most common camp visitors are the magpies dancing and crying in the trees above while dressed in brilliant blue. These beautiful and inquisitive birds are far from shy and will encourage you to feed them but, as with any wild animal, please don’t.

coffeeCozy sweaters and coffee in the morning.
In the high country it gets chilly and frost is not uncommon in the early mornings. A warm camp sweater and a hot cup of coffee are welcome friends as you watch the steam rising into the fresh mountain air through tired eyes. You’ll never have a cup of joe that tastes as good as one enjoyed on crisp summer morning while the horses and mules graze nearby.

The way the sun sparkles and glimmers through the trees

trees reflected in riverSunlight beaming and streaming through the forest is magical. Curtains of light softly falling to earth from high above and mixing with the deep shadows of the trees. It’s fabulous.

Turning off your phone

Steady cellular reception just isn’t going to happen in many of the areas that we ride and camp. Learn to enjoy being disconnected. Trying to keep up with email, Facebook, Twitter, and the like can be exhausting, not to mention bad for our brains, and our relationships. Going off grid and unplugging from the siren song of our digital devices has been proven to help reduce stress and enhance creativity.

Eating food that you don’t allow yourself to otherwise enjoy

fresh camp breadEating well when camping is one of my biggest pleasures. Where else can chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallows be considered a vital food group? Just remembering the the crispy cracker oozing sweet marshmallow mixing with melted chocolate has me thinking about my next trip.

There are many more reasons for escaping the routines of our daily lives and these ten motivations are just a few. Everyone needs a break from our regular schedules every now and then.  Venturing into a remote area with my animals, gazing up into a clear sky and listening to the sounds of nature restores my spirits and pacifies my mind. I think you’ll find camping with your animals just as enjoyable!

As always for more info on places to ride and camp with livestock visit the largest guide to horse trails and camps.