Multi-species pack trip: Day 1

I’ve had a rough time with Jet’s unexpected death almost two weeks ago. I marked my calendar ages ago for a goat packing trip the first week of August, and when Jet died I felt like canceling. But I’d been looking forward to this trip for months and I had other people counting on me to be there. So although I didn’t feel like going, I decided that it would be good for me to get out and have a few days away from home doing something completely different. I’m so glad I went…

Last fall, Alexa Metrick of Pack Animal Magazine contacted me and several other women to propose an “all-animal pack trip” for summer 2018. The original idea was to have packgoats, llamas, alpacas, a yak, and possibly a burro on the trip. In the end, only the packgoats and llamas represented, which turned out for the best because of the limited parking available at the trailhead.

Our crew was scheduled to meet at 10:30 Tuesday morning, July 31st at the North Fork Lake Creek Trailhead (there’s a mouthful!) on the edge of the Mount Massive Wilderness Area, situated between Twin Lakes and Aspen, Colorado. I arrived exactly on schedule and Alexa showed up a short time later. Our llama buddy, Gayle, however, was delayed several hours so Alexa and I ate lunch and spent time exploring the trailhead area.

Gayle showed up around 2:00 and it took her almost two hours to unload the llamas and gear and get packed up, so we were fortunate that Alexa’s plan for our first campsite was only about two miles in. Alexa had no pack animals, so Gayle and I divided her gear among the two llamas and my two packgoats. Finn carried Alexa’s clothes and Sputnik got the tent.

Finn and Sputnik to carried the gear, but Petunia came along to provide fresh milk on the trail so we could dine in luxury. She carried a small pack containing her milking things, which included a couple of empty bottles, milk strainer and filters, disinfectant wipes, disinfectant spray, clean cloths, and an inflatable cushion for me to sit on while milking.

Sputnik was so boss on this trip! His panniers weren’t huge, but they were heavy because they contained the food, first aid and survival kits, and other assorted dense and oddly-shaped items. I slipped a couple of lightweight plastic trash cans inside his panniers to protect his ribs from the hard-sided things in his pack.

Flower child.

This is Gayle with her llama, “Spot”. This was Spot’s first experience on the trail. She’d been saddled at home and given very light weights to carry, but she’d never actually been packed and she took a bit of persuading to stand for being loaded. She also needed a good bit of encouragement to keep moving along the trail the first couple of days.

My crew had never really packed either for that matter. Finn and Sputnik have always had it easy. Our packs have never weighed more than about 30 lbs. tops, and I’ve nearly always traded the pack between them since we’ve rarely needed two full loads of gear. This time they had to carry full loads of about 50 lbs. each and they didn’t get a break. I have to say, they really stepped up to the task. They never acted like it bothered them or slowed them down.

Finn’s pack weighed about the same as Sputnik’s but it was much bulkier since he carried the sleeping bag, clothes, and other fluffy items. I brought winter gear since we planned to be near timberline for most of the trip, and I was glad to have it at night!

Left to right: Alexa, Spot, Tuvok, Gayle, Me, Petunia, Sputnik, and Finn.

There was quite a lot of thick brush on the lower part of the trail and I was thankful we weren’t tackling it at the height of tick season. The goats didn’t mind their panniers scraping between bushes.

The first day was the hottest, and my goats had spent most of it sitting in the sun while we waited for Gayle so they were quite thirsty despite the easy work load.

You know you’ve found the perfect campsite when beams glow down on it from heaven.

“Well, hello Spot!”

I worked out a pretty good system for milking on the trail. I’d tie Petunia to a bush so she could eat, plop my inflatable cushion on the ground next to her, set my milk strainer in an empty bottle, then milk straight into it.

I chilled the milk overnight by placing it in a creek. I don’t drink coffee but I love my milk in the morning. It’s filling and it gives me energy to last for several hours, which is good for someone who isn’t much of a breakfast eater.

In the blink of an eye…

I lost my good friend Jet last week. We’ve been so worried all summer about fire, but it was during the rain that tragedy struck–literally. We had a tremendous lightning storm around dinner time and when it was over, Jet was gone. The tree he was under had been hit and he was gone in an instant. My only consolation is that he did not suffer even the tiniest bit. He fell exactly as he’d been standing. I have a long and wonderful history with that horse. Jet was 16 years old last month. I helped his mother bring him into the world–a gangly rambunctious little colt with a bold, adventuresome attitude. He grew into a fantastic all-around horse who did a little of everything and excelled at much of it.

Jet and I had a wonderful “last hoorah” the night before he died. I took him to Salida for the “Gambler’s Choice” obstacle challenge. Jet won first place in the jackpot. I drove home at a snail’s pace through thick fog in the wee hours of the morning and Jet, as always, was quiet and patient in the trailer over those winding mountain passes. Little could I know that less than 24 hours later he would be gone.

My nephews and niece came to watch the competition and they got to ride Jet around the warm-up arena. He was so good with kids.

This is me and Jet’s last photo together.

This may be the hardest loss I’ve ever experienced because it was so unexpected.My neighbor buried Jet the next morning. I was worried that scavengers might bother Jet’s body before we could get it underground, but Skokie stood near him all night. The only trauma to Jet was the ear that Skokie pulled on, trying revive his friend.

Hug your loved ones. You never know when they may be gone.

Budding packgoats

I still have a backlog of photos from early July. Max is really coming into his own these days and I think he’s going to make a marvelous packgoat when he grows up. I’ve only taken him out on a few hikes, but he acts like he was born to do this. He’s adventurous, he loves people, and he’s got the gung-ho attitude that every packgoat prospect should have. And did I mention he’s also handsome? Max is one of those goats who looks good and knows it!

Yep, there it is–The Pose!

First water crossing. He barely hesitated and managed to keep his feet dry. He splashed into the water on subsequent crossings and didn’t seem to think it was a big deal.

I went hiking with a couple of friends and Max quickly became good friends with Johanna. He decided she was “his person” and followed behind her on the trail instead of me. She fell in love with him too and wished she could take him back to college with her.

Phil and I decided to take both Max and little Sarge with us a couple days later and see what Sarge was made of. They are quite good friends despite the age difference and significant size discrepancy.

Yep, there’s that pose again!

“Are you spoiled rotten, Max?”

This was Sarge’s first time away from his mom and he didn’t seem to miss her at all–no crying or fussing. He was ready for adventure!

Sarge is almost too cute to be allowed. He’s like a fluffy little stuffed toy. But don’t tell him that! He’s every bit as rough-and-tumble as Max and wants everyone to take him seriously. Small and cuddly as he is, he wants to be treated like a big boy!

Sarge was a little trepidatious about his first water encounter. But Max showed him how it was done and he soon followed.

I’m not sure what happened with that ear, but it amused Phil and I for almost five minutes before Sarge finally shook it down off his horn.

The ones I never posted

I can’t believe it’s already been a month since we took these photos, shortly after we got home from the Rendy. The baby goats are starting to skip the “baby goat rock” now. I guess they’re getting too grown up for these kinds of antics, and the baby goat rock seems small and mundane to them now that they’re “mature”. Smile

Brother-sister rivalry.

A few days later we were smelling smoke from the “Spring Fire” on our daily walks. I was originally thinking about joining my family for a big 4th of July get-together down in Texas this year, but the extremely dry conditions had me too nervous to leave home. I notified my relatives that I would not be attending, and the very next day we saw flames and smoke from the Spring Fire, which exploded in size over the following week of hot, dry, windy conditions. Several other small fires started in our vicinity during that week, and though they were promptly extinguished, I felt like we could easily be under evacuation orders at a moment’s notice. It was a good year to stick close to the critters.

Dear Prudence… she certainly did “come out to play” starting in early July. She and Honey Pie are my shy girls. I hadn’t spent enough time socializing them, and then we left for a solid week in June so they were not quite as outgoing as most of our kids. But we came home from Rendy and suddenly she decided that the best game in the world was to jump her front feet on a person’s backside. For about two weeks, Phil and I spent each walk getting pummeled from behind by her little front hooves. She would also walk and leap along on her hind legs behind either Phil or I, not quite touching us but keeping very close and perfectly upright. It was hilarious! And then the phase passed as suddenly as it began. .

The wildfire made the sky strange and the light eerie on July 3rd. The air had a pungent tang and black and white ashes fluttered around us as we walked. But the goats didn’t seem to mind.

I caught Prudie in the act of jumping up on my bottom so I turned around and grabbed those naughty little front feet. She knew she wasn’t in trouble. She’s way to cute to be in trouble!

Then everyone else wanted up, but little Sarge was the only one small enough for me to still hold.

Sexy Sadie.

Max and Sgt. Pepper have become great little buddies. Max towers over little Sarge, but Sarge doesn’t seem to realize he’s tiny, and Max never uses his size advantage to push the little guy around. Max is a rough-and-tumble goat who plays hard and irritates all the adult goats, but he’s got a heart of gold and is very gentle with all the babies that are smaller than him.

Sarge is a total fuzz-bomb! His coat is as fine and soft as dandelion fluff, and sticks up about the same way.

Wild Honey Pie.

My herd sires. These guys are such good buddies.

“Working goat” week

I’ve been busy, busy, busy lately! Monday I drove up to Longmont (about 4 hours) to teach a harness goat class to the 4-H utility goat group up there. It was a lot of fun and a great turnout. I took Finn, Sputnik, and Tigerlily. Before the harness class, we also did a little obstacle course practice. I gave Tigerlily to a couple of young girls while Finn took turns first going with a grown woman and then a man. He was quite good and did all the obstacles with nonchalant ease. Tigerlily took a bit more convincing. She was a little spooked by the crowd, but she managed to do most of the obstacles. I took Sputnik around. He was also spooked by the crowd and wasn’t too sure he wanted to cooperate on the obstacles, but he did most of them eventually.

After dinner I taught the harness class. I used Tigerlily to demonstrate how to train a goat to drive who has never been driven (by cuing from behind with a whip instead of just pulling on the halter to move forward). I’d never done that with her before and she picked it up very quickly so I felt it was a good demo.

Next, I used Sputnik to demonstrate how the harness works, how it should be adjusted, and how to hitch to a cart. I drove him around the horse arena as a little demonstration. He did very well, and I planned to harness Finn next and let folks get a feel for driving, but plans changed when several people decided they were ready to bring their own goats in for driving practice. They were all dry does, and the kids had fun teaching them to respond to a whip tap as their “walk on” cue. Then we tried on harnesses and adjusted cart shafts and got a couple of them going with their carts. I spent a lot of time teaching kids how to hold the reins and whip properly together. The goats had been handled a lot so the kids were able to start driving their goats around the arena with the carts that night, which was very rewarding.

One lady brought a miniature horse cart that she wanted me to look at. She thought it would be too big for goats, but Sputnik proved her wrong. The highlight of the evening was after everyone else had left, and I took this lady’s miniature horse cart and hitched it to Sputnik. We went out to the paved road so we could have a smooth ride and I drove Sputnik up and down the road, first with each of the lady’s daughters and finally with her. I let her take the reins and we trotted up and down and turned this way and that. Sputnik was a model citizen–quick to respond to voice commands and light whip cues, and feather light on the reins. What a good boy! It was fun to be able to drive him in a cart made for two. The one-seater goat carts we have are actually a little small for him at this point and the shafts tip too far up even with the shaft loops on the bottom hole. Sputnik pulled two adults easily. Unfortunately, I was unable to get photos of that event.

I got home on Tuesday and packed the truck and trailer for the annual Pueblo County Fair packgoat class. Phil and I set up a course in the indoor horse arena and we brought Finn, Sputnik, and Tigerlily. We got photos, but unfortunately not many folks showed up this year. I’m not sure why because I was under the impression that this year’s event was better planned out and advertised than in previous years.

Sputnik and I tested out the course before people showed up. Sputnik did great on most of the course, but I’m always especially pleased when a goat ground ties nicely. He stood beautifully without being held while I donned the raincoat, then took it off and slung it over his back, and finally walked back to the fence to put it away.

We also had a series of walk-under poles. This obstacle was challenging for Finn. He was wearing his crossbuck saddle and kept getting himself stuck, first on the front crossbuck and then on the second one. This is something he really needs to work on for the trail because ducking under things is not his strong suit.

This was probably my favorite obstacle. We used a big tarp to make a “river” complete with driftwood step-overs which flowed into a “pond” with real water at the end. All of our goats actually did this obstacle remarkably well.

We had a low plank bridge. This one was very easy and fun for all our goats.

Then they had to step their front feet on this high log. Sputnik didn’t particularly like this obstacle.

A few folks showed up and I did a brief saddle fitting class to start.

Sputnik wasn’t convinced that this jump was worth the effort.

I had to do a bit of encouragement from behind to get Sputnik to trot the cones for his enthusiastic young handler.

I love how the boy holding Sputnik’s lead is almost through third pole and has no idea that his goat is still standing at the second one saying, “Do I really have to do this again?”

“Steer him straight!”

The little girl in pink “led” Finn around the course. He did a lovely, enthusiastic jump for her.

This was a funny obstacle–the kid had to straddle the barrel and wave the orange noise-maker with one hand while holding the goat’s leash in the other. It makes a loud whistle when you spin it, so the idea was that the goat has to trust you and stand there while you wildly wave a loud, whistling object nearby. The goats were a bit befuddled, but not frightened.

Finn did great with the water crossing, the bridge, and the log. I love how his very young handler is so attentive. She was totally convinced that she had full control over Finn all by herself.

One of the funniest episodes during this event was when the little boy in the green shirt got to the end of the course. The final “obstacle” was they had to run up to a barrel and “ding” the service bell on top. He was so eager to ring the bell that he dropped the leash and left Sputnik standing by the final obstacle while he took off at top speed for that finish bell. I was standing right there and almost grabbed the leash but instead I decided to see what would happen if I didn’t. (I was pretty sure I already knew, but I wanted the kids to see.)

I hollered, “Hey, who’s holding the goat?”

The kids turned around and realized that Sputnik was loose and was already sauntering off to join the goats at the other end of the arena. All three kids turned and chased after Sputnik at top speed and top volume. Naturally Sputnik took off in a panicked run, kicking dirt up behind and gracefully clearing the jump which he had refused to leap over before. He stopped near Tigerlily, but when the kids kept coming he nearly took off again. I hollered at them to hold up and we had a little discussion about not dropping the leash when you need to hold onto your goat, not running after loose animals, and not screaming. I felt it was a pretty good object lesson, and hopefully it sticks because not all environments are safe like this one.

July 4th in Westcliffe

I spent the afternoon of July 3rd primping and polishing Finn and Sputnik to a high shine. The smoke from a nearby wildfire dimmed the sun and prevented the camera from catching the gloss in their coats and on their horns. I used hoof polish on their horns to darken them and give them a glossy sheen. 

Sputnik sure knows how to rock those spots! When he’s freshly bathed they  really “pop”!

Sputnik is funny. He’s the only goat I know who LOVES to be bathed. Petted, brushed, scratched? No. But sprayed with water and shampooed? YES! He especially loves to be sprayed in the face. He also likes to eat the shampoo and the suds off the surface of the wash water. He’s a weird goat.

What a lovely turnout!


NAPgA Rendezvous 2018

The 2018 North American Packgoat Rendezvous in Island Park, Idaho was a great success and it was the biggest one ever!

Phil and I arrived around 2:30 Thursday afternoon with low, threatening clouds looming over us. We decided that since we were tent camping, a sheltered location would be ideal. We found a suitable little spot, and no sooner had we pulled into it than the rain began to spatter down. I hustled to rig up a high line so we could hang our tarp and perhaps get our tent up before the real rain started, but it was hopeless. I threw the tarp over the line, but before I could get the corners tied off, the heavens opened and Phil and I were forced to retreat. We sat in the truck for a good half hour and more while rain and then hail pelted our foggy windshield and created ever-widening lakes around our tires. I was thankful that I’d packed my rubber muck boots with my raincoat. When the deluge slowed to a trickle, we slogged through the mud and hung our rain tarp, and then put two tarps on the ground under our tent. We’d read the weekend’s forecast and we were determined to stay dry.

Once it stopped raining I put Finn and Sputnik out on a picket line to eat grass. We’ve been in terrible drought in Colorado, so these boys hadn’t seen grass like this since last year! You can see our little tent in the background. And it did stay nice and dry all weekend even though we had several inches of very heavy rain Friday night.

The first thing Phil did after setting up our tent was to scope out the thunderboxes. Dwite Sharp is in the background with the kids he brought.

Phil and a few other folks got the tents up. It was cold, wet work. It was too damp that night to start a campfire, so it was a rather cheerless start to the Rendy. We were supposed to hold a NAPgA board meeting Thursday night, but the rain delayed setting up camp, and everyone was too cold, wet, and hungry to face down such formidable topics as amending by-laws and scheduling meetings with the Wild Sheep Foundation.

Friday morning we set up the Rendy store. The shelves are a bit bare here, but things got added as the day progressed. It was a very successful store this year and ended up raising around $3500!

The army tent was so long it wound up encroaching on Finn and Sputnik’s tethering area. It turned out very well for them. Since it was a high traffic area, they got loads of attention from everybody who walked by. Finn especially lapped it up.

We had a board meeting Friday morning. Can you sense the thrill in the air?

After lunch, everyone gathered round to hear Marc Warnke from www.gothunts.com talk about hunting with goats, transporting goats, keeping them fit, etc.

Marc and Matt Lyons also talked about the various saddles they’ve used, and showcased their own design.

The sun finally made an appearance later in the afternoon, so Phil and I took Finn and Sputnik for a walk on one of the trails outside of camp. Kate from Australia came with us and we all had a great time stretching our legs and enjoying the scenery and sunshine.

The boys were really digging the grass in this place! They hardly had to drink all weekend because there was so much moisture in the browse. That’s a far cry from Colorado this year! Our grass never exceeded three inches, and now it’s all brown and burnt to a crisp, so this Rendy trip was a real treat for these fellas.

“Don’t get your toes wet, Finn!”

By Saturday morning, Finn and Sputnik had eaten and trampled their area down to the dirt. Compare this photo to the ones Thursday and Friday!

The day was clear but chilly. As per tradition, Clay Zimmerman kicked off the festivities with sourdough pancakes. We were grateful for the big army tent which provided a dry place out of the wind for cooking and buffet tables.

Immediately after breakfast, Clay and I jumped straight into our talk about saddling and saddle fitting. Clay spoke about saddle placement and the particulars of how to properly cinch up and adjust breastcollars and britchen straps.

I focused not only on saddle placement but on fit. Here I am showing people how to look down the channel for spinal clearance and how to see the angle of the tree vs. the angle of their goat’s back.

It was fun to have two vastly different goats to compare/contrast saddle fit. This saddle was on Finn in the previous photo and it more or less fits with a few issues (which would be largely resolved if Finn lost weight). Sputnik, on the other hand, is a saddle fitting nightmare so it was fun to demonstrate the differences. Here we’re looking at how the rear of the saddle perches up higher than the front.

Marc demonstrated his new saddle design on Finn. This saddle fit Finn like a glove.

After lunch, a huge crowd gathered to hear Dwite speak about goat nutrition and parasites. There were many good questions and a lot of good advice.

Sunday morning we packed everything up and headed out around noon. We met a lot of new folks and reconnected with many that we’d met before. We met some folks face-to-face for the first time who we knew online. It’s always fun to put a face to a name at these events. We saw many beautiful packgoats and packgoat prospects as well. Soon it will be time to start planning for Rendy 2019!

Clamber up Calf Canyon

For our second day in Utah, Herb took us to Calf Canyon. It is a beautiful area of sandstone rock and boulders, and more “classic Utah” scenery.

I loved this giant split rock. Looks like it got struck by a lightning bolt.

This old dead cottonwood tree had a lot of character.

Shade was a scarce commodity so we generally took advantage of it whenever we found some.

I love this double arch. Well, they aren’t exactly arches. They’re actually shelter caves. But they looked pretty neat, and rock’s got a great two-tone thing going on.

These guys look ready to tackle the canyon!

This was one of the more interesting bits of the hike, although difficult to capture in pictures. I suggested we leave the trail and hike up a dry creek bed. It turned out to be a fascinating detour. Herb found a softball-sized chunk of fossilized dinosaur bone that was good enough to rival anything found in a shop, and we all found unique rocks to take home. At this point, the gravelly creek bed became a narrow chute of smooth sandstone that required some climbing. I was able to shimmy up by placing my hands and feet on either side of the chute and spidering up. I knew Finn and Herb’s young goat, Barry, could jump high enough, but I wasn’t sure about the dog or the other two goats who were carrying packs.

Here I’m looking down at them while Phil scales the crack. The photo is deceptive. The notch was deeper than it appears.

Finn originally jumped up after me, but then he went back and explored the far side of the notch and created a false path for Sputnik.

Finn leaped across the canyon when Sputnik came up his path. The dog was able to scramble up with a boost from Herb, and Herb’s goat Shelby made a valiant attempt to scale the wall. But the weight of the pack pulled him back down and Herb had to take him back and find a detour.

Sputnik scaled this wall and then got stuck. He wasn’t sure where to go. Finn had leaped across the notch with no problem, but Sputnik is not as athletic as Finn and was wearing the packsaddle. The walls of the notch sloped back as they got higher, making it a much wider jump than I was comfortable with. I’m not sure Sputnik was comfortable with it either, but he also didn’t seem comfortable with the idea of hiking back down the canyon and finding a way around.

Sputnik had to land where Finn is standing, which is probably a good 10-12 feet across. He contemplated his next move for quite a long time while we waited for Herb and Shelby to take their detour.

I thought Sputnik would choose to go back down and take the detour as well, and I was about to hike down myself and encourage him in that direction, but he suddenly took flight and leaped across. I wish I’d gotten a photo of it! He sauntered up to me afterward like it was no big deal.

I love Sputnik’s expression: “Do you mean we have to climb up there?”

*Sigh*

By noon, shade was in very scant supply, but we spotted an overhang high above us on the canyon wall. We climbed up to it and picnicked there and removed the goats’ packs. The canyon ahead of us was choked with large boulders and we weren’t sure how narrow it might get, so we stashed the packs under a rock and continued our hike without them.

Look closely under Sputnik’s boulder and you’ll see Luna panting in the shade. She got a little hot that day and took advantage of every spot of shade she could find.

We all took advantage of the shade under this large overhang. The thing about narrow rock canyons is that they reflect the heat back at you all day, so these shady bits are like little pieces of paradise.

I love the rich, deep red walls with the white band running through.

The walls narrowed almost to a slot canyon near the end.

Something about the light and shadow makes me love this photo. And I love the myriad holes in the rock behind Finn’s head.

The end of the canyon! This was a very rewarding hike because we were able to reach the final destination. Too often these canyons get choked by boulders and/or brush to the point where you can’t continue and you are left wondering how much further it runs on and where it goes. This one ended in a tall, vertical stone wall.

A straight-up view from the bottom.

The view back down to where we came from.

Phil isn’t a silly guy at all. No indeed.

Emerging from the narrows.

Sputnik almost matches the jumbled rocks behind him.

Back to our shady overhang for another quick break to cool off.

Herb scoots down the steep slickrock boulder while Finn looks on.

Finn scoffs at human incompetence as he trips lightly down the rock face on his agile, grippy goat toes.

The light was strange as we emerged from the canyon, and we could smell smoke in the air. The Trail Mountain Fire was blazing just north of us. It had been started intentionally by the government as a “controlled burn” two weeks earlier, but had immediately gone out of control because of the drought. The fire was still raging when Phil and I returned a few days later from Idaho and I hear it’s only just now winding down nearly a month after it started. Our taxpayer dollars at work, folks!

Yarrr!

Love the little peek-a-boo hole.

The view behind us.

Phil Hassey: Goat Guru.

We brought water with us for the goats, but they finished it off before the day was done, so they were delighted when we came across this trickle of water near the trailhead. Goats don’t generally like to get their feet wet in a natural creek bank, but if they’re thirsty enough they’ll brave the mud.

Exploring the Morrison Formation

Okay, get ready for a boatload of photos! Our first full day in Utah, Herb took us to explore some of the Morrison Formation. This type of desert landscape is all over Utah and consists of mostly purple and white banded hills with rocky outcroppings. Herb informed us that here be dinosaur fossils!

The steeper bits made us thankful we had goats to carry our water and gear!

I was also thankful I had a goat on the downhill side to steady me as we hiked along this precarious hillside. The rocks were very unstable and one slip could have caused a sprained angle or even a long, painful tumble.

What’s Sputnik doing, posing like that? He must be learning from Finn!

This is one of those “almost-worked-out” photos that Finn and I managed to botch. See Herb and Woodstock framed in the archway? They are the intended subject matter. When Phil told me to call Finn, I thought he meant he wanted Finn to look through the rocks. But Phil actually wanted me to call Finn away so he could get a nice shot of Herb. Now we’ve got Finn’s throat in the shot. Oh well. Not every artistic endeavor is destined to succeed.

Classic banded hills.

Herb and Bacchus.

This is not the most interesting photo in the world, but it reminds me of something that greatly affected our hike but which can’t be seen in the photos: Gnats! Yes, we were endlessly gnettled by an ignfestation of gnasty, gnefarious gnats which gnawed on our gnoggins and our poor goats’ gnethers. (According to Herb, every word that began with the letter “N” must be preceded by the letter “G” (pronounced) to emphasize that fact that the word “gnat” is ridiculous.) The people wore “gnat gnets,” but there was gnothing to protect the goats. We were surprised to see Finn suddenly lie down with his load mid-morning on this dirt pile. At first I thought maybe he was sick, but it turned out he was trying to scratch his belly on the ground.

I think Wile E. Coyote is hiding behind that rock with a stick. “Be careful, Sputnik!”

“Don’t push, Sputnik!”

That’s a B-I-I-I-I-G rock.

Stripey mushroom rocks! Are there any Smurfs hiding back there?

What are they all looking at?

Noble goats.

Herb and his goats blend in very well with this landscape.

I prefer red packs to help my boys stand out.

“Water! Water! I need water!”

A handsome trio.

We took a break in the shade of an overhanging rock. Everyone was glad to get out of the sun for a while.

An altercation occurred when Finn finally ran out of patience with Herb’s dog, Luna. She teased and pestered Finn and Sputnik every time they stopped, and both goats kept warning her off with their horns. Finn finally snapped and rammed her in the ribs. She howled as if every bone on that side was broken, but I think she mostly just wanted Herb to acknowledge her suffering because she stopped crying as soon as Herb checked our her “injuries”. She was fine five minutes later, silly dog!

I’m not sure what’s going on here, but it’s funny.

Bacchus enjoyed posing before the various Hues of Utah.

I love the rocks in this dry riverbed. They look like paving stones in an ancient roadway.

These rocks were my absolute favorite. I couldn’t get enough of them. They are hard to capture in photos. The brightness of the gold and the depth of the purple are usually lost.

Phil poses on the colors of his Alma Mater. Houghton College used purple and gold.

Herb photographs Bacchus’ best side. Tongue

If it weren’t for the tuft of grass in the foreground, this might look like a full-sized tree growing down in a rock canyon.

Personal portraits:
Boss photo of Herb and Bacchus.

Boss photo of Phil and Finn.

Wimpy photo of Nan and Sputnik.

In photos, the only thing that really brought out the purple in the rocks was Sputnik’s halter.

Woodstock’s coat blends in perfectly with the color of the rock. It’s a good thing he’s wearing a green pack to contrast!

I loved these little “goblins” down in the valley.

Little did I know that a few minutes later we would walk right past them.

Check out those colors!

In this landscape, I felt we might fit in better if we were using camels.

It looks like we’re in the middle of nowhere in a trackless desert, but believe it or not, we’re almost back to the truck. It was a great day of hiking. We found many interesting rocks and fossils, including a few that were worth bringing home to my curio cabinet. What a wonderful excursion!