Yellowstone Bound

Slough Creek Pack Trip
By Bo Ranson

Slough Creek of the Lamar River in Yellowstone National Park is the setting for one of the greatest fishing adventures you can take in the lower 48 states. The first time we fished Slough Creek the trip started with a long, arduous walk seven miles into the second meadow and ended with an equally long walk back to the parking area while making fresh plans to return as soon as possible.

My fishing partner, Big Mike, and I took our first guided trip on this crystal clear and cold running stream and enjoyed ourselves immensely even though there wasn't enough time to fish considering it's a 14 mile round trip. What we needed was to be on horseback like those other dudes who passed us smiling, kind of smugly, as we sweated, scrambled and prayed for an oxygen tank to fall out of the sky. And time, we needed more than a day here. There was too much to be seen, smelled, pondered and too many beautiful and eager fish to cast to.

This gem, in a bag of gems known as Montana, Wyoming and Yellowstone National Park, pulls at the heart of any fly fisherman lucky enough to walk its well-worn trail and site cast to its wild and eager cutthroats. The scenery and bountiful population of fish are a combination found in only a few legendary places and we had been blessed with being here. Now, we aren't the only ones that have been blessed with being there. There have been droves of other fly fishermen and hikers of all kinds clambering along the path from the trail head parking area up the mountain, past the first, second and third meadows, over the park boundary and beyond Frenchy's Meadow. More then I'd like to count.

North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park
This can be a busy place, especially the first two meadows. After that things thin out considerably. Because of strict regulations there are only a couple of overnight campsites on Slough Creek and those require reservations. There are a limited number of outfitters licensed to provide day trip horseback rides and even fewer outfitters that can provide a base camp in close proximity to the upper reaches. That's what we needed, a base camp close to the third meadow we had heard so much about.

Big Mike got in touch with Chuck Patterson of Foot Hills Fly Fishing in Greenville, SC and asked for a recommendation on an outfitter who could fill the bill. Chuck was the Trip Leader on our first foray into the wild west. Chuck had used Tim Bowers of Bear Paw Outfitters for a single day, horseback trip the day after we walked to the second meadow the year before. Chuck knew Tim had a concession to operate a base camp in the Absaroka Wilderness Area that connected onto Yellowstone National Park's northern boundary. We checked with our other two adventurers, Rick Greene and L.L. "Tim" Tonkin, who were accompanying us on our inaugural trip as Fly Fishing tour guides on western waters, to see if they were interested.

What we said was "Do you guys want to take a 15 mile horseback ride, up in the mountains, along a stream full of fish and stay in a base camp where we've been promised to be well fed and cared for?" Neither one hesitated for a second to say yes and that they had always wanted to ride a horse out west. Done deal. Mike got on the horn to Tim Bowers, dates and deposits were set and sent and the trip was on.

We decided to take a three day, two night package that allowed us to schedule some other rivers we like to fish and a day checking out the park over a nine day excursion. The information provided said it was a base camp with everything provided except personal items, fishing gear, clothes, rain gear, bed roll and such . We knew we were to meet the Outfitter at 8:30 a.m. at the trail head parking area and we would go from there.

Sleep didn't come easy the night before even after a long day on the Bolder River followed by the best steak I've ever had, and I've had several, at the Grand Hotel in Big Timber MT. We were on the move by 6:00 a. m. which would give us plenty of time to get to our destination. The drive up the Paradise Valley was every bit as spectacular as the first time we saw it and our companions were in awe as well.

As we were loading up at that little Exxon/convenience store on the north side of Gardiner for needed supplies (you know the one) a truck and horse trailer pulls onto the lot beside us and low and behold its Tim Bowers and our trusty steeds. After a quick round of introductions, Tim advises us to make sure we've got our park fishing license and to meet him at the appointed parking area at Slough Creek.

Tim Bowers looks the part of an Outfitter. He's right around fifty years old (give or take 5 years either side), in good shape with a bit of weathering in the spots people get weathered. He dressed like a cowboy and showed a particular fondness for the clothes he was wearing because they looked like he had been wearing them for a while. Altogether a dependable no-nonsense-type of fellow. My companions and I are the dependably nonsensical type of fellows and we figured we needed a guy like this to keep some balance in the whole scheme of things.

So, we got our supplies, bought our licenses and drove on to Slough Creek. Tim's already there unloading the animals and saddling everything up. We get our gear out and some of us brought ground pads that Tim told us we wouldn't need, so we tossed them back in the truck. Clothes, fishing gear, sleeping bags and snake bite medicine was all we needed.

Rick, Bo and Mike at the Slough Creek Trailhead

Tim took our stuff, separated the fishing gear we would need for the day and put everything on canvas tarps which he then folded neatly and tied up with ropes using some really neat knots that suited his purposes perfectly. He tied these bundles to mules he had for the trip and made sure the loads were properly balanced. Next, he saddled our horses and we asked questions and joked around while he did all the work.

Tim Bowers Saddles the Horses Now riding a horse 15 miles into the wilderness may not be a big deal to a lot of folks but to all of us it was a big deal and a little scary too. My horse experience was limited to a few ponies we had on the farm when I was less than 14 years old and most of my rides ended up with me on the ground and the saddle hanging upside down. Me and horse don't mix well. Mike's experience was fairly limited and Tim Tonkin's was a little more up to date as he has an Aunt who raises horses and gets the chance to ride every once in a while.

Rick Green had ridden a few horses and was fairly experienced with animals. He was raised on a working farm and had been around horses and cattle all his life. His Dad, Milford, is fairly well known as a horse trader in our part of the world. So Rick was pretty comfortable around horses.

Rick no longer lives on the farm but once when he came home for a visit he saw that Milford had bought one of those border collies that herds cattle. Milford was happy to show Rick how he could tell the dog to go clear to the backside of their 100 acre farm and bring the cows to the barn which the dog dutifully did. Rick watched in amazement at the ease which the dog handled the cows and how Milford never had to walk any further then the gate in the fence to bring the cows in. "How come you didn't get one of those dogs when I lived here and had to chase the cows every day?" Rick asked. Milford said "Didn't need one, had you."

After the mules were packed and the horses and one mule were saddled, Tim Bowers laid down the law. Don't make a lot of sudden moves that might spook the horse, set up straight, stay in the middle of the saddle don't sit lopsided and hang over the side, hold the reigns in your left hand and the tail end in your right, give him a little kick to move faster, don't let them drop their heads to eat whenever they want to, don't get off without Tim being there to help, if you need something from the saddle bag tell Tim, he'll get it for you. Don't screw around. Tim runs a tight ship and a safe outfit.

It was time to mount up and Tim and all the other guys gave me a boost to the top of Ol' General. Ol' General was a big, gray, monster of a horse. He looked like one of those horses knights rode in the Middle Ages because they were big enough to hold all that armor. My biggest fear before getting here was having a horse get pissed at me for having to haul my big ass on a thirty mile trip. But Ol' General was well suited to my unique body style and he had taken many a tender foot on rides such as this. This was the horse for me.

Mike, by the luck of the draw that day, was matched with a mule Festus Hagan would have been proud to ride into Dodge City. It was a spirited animal yet well behaved. The mule had one peculiarity which manifested itself whenever one of the other horses tried to pass it. If the mule lagged behind Tim very far and one of the guys went to pass, the mule would kick into high gear, without much notice, to close the gap and not allow a change in position. It kept Mike on his toes most of the time.

Tim Tonkin's horse was a pretty chestnut that was a little smaller than Ol' General, but not much. Tim thought the horse might have been too big for him and made his legs spread too far in order to hold the stirrups. Other than that it was a very good animal.

Tim Tonkin Tall in the Saddle

Rick's horse was a perfect fit. It was a Little Joe Cartwright type that seemed to suit him just fine. It was small and quick and responded to Rick like they were old friends.

After a mandatory before picture, with the four of us lined up like the opening credits on Bonanza, and we filled all the parts, Pa (Tim Tonkin, Adam (Mike) Hoss (me) and Little Joe (Rick), we were on our way up the mountain that nearly killed me the year before.

Little Joe, Hoss, Adam and Pa

Let me just say this, riding a horse up that mountain is preferable to walking. Being strapped to a mules back would have been preferable to walking up that mountain. Other than getting used to the rhythm of Ol' Generals gate, a slow and plodding walk, the only bad part was being so far from the ground but I got used to it, eventually.

Tim Bowers and Mike take the Point
Tim Bowers took the point and led the pack animals with our gear and we rode for a fairly uneventful two and a half hours to the third meadow of Slough Creek. Mike and Tim Tonkin stayed next to Tim Bowers then Greene. I had taken up my position guarding the flanks from sudden attack by desperadoes and such. Greene, true to form, was very comfortable with his steed and became somewhat lackadaisical in his riding style by turning in the saddle and letting both his legs hang on one side. Once his water bottle fell out of his saddle bag and he had to let Tim Bowers know about it.

"Sir" he spoke, somewhat softly. "Sir?" he said a little louder. Tim Bowers stopped the train and turned to see what this guy wanted. "My water bottle fell out of the saddle bag." Rick stated innocently. Tim rode back with a disgusted look on his face dismounted, retrieved the bottle, put it back in the bag, remounted and goes back to the front. Says not a word.

I tell Rick, "I think the guy's pissed and I don't think he likes us - especially you." Rick agrees and adds that he doesn't talk much either. Well, to be honest, from our vantage point, the last two in line and usually 50 to 100 yards back from the pack, it was real hard to hold, or be a part of, any conversation with the leader. So naturally we decide he's not too friendly. Wouldn't you?

Tim Bowers lead us into a semicircle of creek about 3/4 of a mile in length, an oxbow, and we dismounted. Most of the guys asses were starting to sting a little and Tonkin's knee was hurting too. My ass, being designed for long trips on just such an animal, was not feeling too bad but my right knee felt like it had been twisted with power tongs. I think the stirrups may need adjustment but I don't want to ruffle the feathers on the Ram Rod so I decide pain is part of the program.

Second Meadow of Slough Creek

Tim Bowers gave each of us a bag lunch that held two sandwiches, some fruit, a bag of chips, a cookie, candy bar and a drink. It hit the spot perfectly. He then hobbled the horses and turned them out to graze. He's very methodical and tended his duties without any fanfare and very little discussion. He then sat down in our little circle on the ground and had some lunch himself.

Now, I'm the kind of guy that can't stand for someone to not like me first. If I don't care for someone, and they don't like me either, that's OK, but if I think they don't like me before I can decide they're dorks, first, it bothers me. One of my quirks. So, in order to endear myself and make some conversation to Tim I ask him "Do you enjoy what you do?" and Tim says "Yep, I like it a lot" and I said "Well, its hard to tell." My friends, being used to my warped since of humor, busted a gut laughing and I think I saw a smile crack Tim Bowers' lips. Maybe.

Anyway, he and Greene had a mutual interest in welding and they had a big conversation. Mike, Tonkin and I headed for the stream. What a stream. It was maybe 20 yards across at its widest and narrowed to stretches less than 10 feet wide, the long pools held water from 2- 6 feet deep, mixed with small ripples, sand bars and undercut banks in the middle of the biggest meadows any farm boy ever saw and trout. Not just a few small risers but big gulping fish and they were everywhere. You could spot so many it was hard to decide which one to cast to.

Third Meadow of Slough Creek Oxbow Being as it was mid-day and the hoppers were making so much noise in the meadow I tied on a Chernobyl Hopper. My first cast was a little off the mark but the second brought a strike. Having forgotten the lesson with The Guide from last year, I set the hook too soon and missed the fish. It was like Christmas when you were a kid coming into the living room to look at all the booty Santa had left. You know the feeling, you get a little nervous, a little excited and shake a little from the anticipation. So I told myself to relax and wait until I felt the tug when the fish hit. These Cutthroats are very deliberate when they commit to the fly. They've seen more than their share. But the chance to eat a number 6 Hopper is too good a meal for most of these to pass up considering the numbers of fish competing for food here.

Slough Creek Cutthroat
The next cast was dead on and soon I was letting a nice 16 inch Cutthroat go back to his feeding station. Three or four more in quick succession were caught and released and I moved up to the inside of a curve and drifted the hopper along the far bank. Bang! The hit was anything but subtle. The fish took the fly and the reel started to scream. Not a long run maybe another 30 or 40 feet of line pulled off before I felt safe to put much pressure on the 6X tippet. The fish stopped and I reeled and pumped. This was either a big fish or he had me in the current which wasn't very fast so this had to be a big fish. I pumped and reeled, he pulled and swam. Pump, reel, swim, pull. This went on for what seemed like an eternity. I have laughed about people saying they fought a fish so long their arms hurt. Never again. My forearms felt like I was trying to set a curling record. The muscles were starting to cramp a little. Being somewhat ambidextrous (I eat equally well with both hands) I switched to the left hand to give the right arm a break.

By this time Greene's down at the stream and he and Tim Tonkin see I've got a fight on my hands and come from about a quarter of a mile away to watch the battle. When they got to me I had already brought the fish into the shallows, took pictures of it in the water, never having touched it, dropped my wife's camera which immediately sank a foot to the bottom, and was prepared to die because life don't get no better then this. I plucked the fly from its jaw and lifted it up and Tonkin said, "That trout's at least 24 inches," and his eyes were real big. We didn't put a tape on it, we didn't have one, so I worked it in the current a little and it pulled away nicely and went back to its lair. What a fish.

Tim Tonkin Slough Creek Cuttie, Mike on Assist Mike had been catching them right and left and Tonkin was having a fine day himself. Our friend Rick Greene was struggling a bit and had not landed one fish. After several more C's & R's It was time to head up to camp and we went back to the spot the horses were congregated. While I was fishing, the relief wrangler from the base camp had ridden down to take charge of us sports for the remainder of the sojourn to camp. Tim Bowers went back home until time to bring in the next group and take us out.

I looked up at this cowboy, sitting tall in the saddle with the sun glinting behind him, dressed in a well worn cowboy hat, leather chaps and sunglasses. He looked like the Marlboro Man personified. This was a real cowboy. He slid off the horse with the grace of someone who's done that before and introduced himself as Will. He wasn't as tall on the ground as he looked on the horse. He took the shades and hat off and sat down to rest before he gathered the horses up and I looked at him again. Now he looked like a freshman computer science major at any college you might think of.

Will the Marlboro Man

Will had been around horses all his life and had a degree in animal husbandry or something of that sort. He was quick witted and a likable guy right from the start. He got us all on our horses and made a beeline for the trail that we followed another 5 miles or so to the base camp. On the way we passed the Silver Tip Ranch we had heard about the year before. It was like something out of a picture book.

Silver Tip Ranch

Situated just past the park boundary, the Silver Tip Ranch is back-dropped by sparse green pines intermixed with the many burnt but standing pines dotting the low peaks in the middle of a mountain meadow. The main lodge was rustic looking and had several satellite buildings, a barn and a split-rail fence around a corral that encompassed 5-10 acres. We had to pass through its gates and fenced in pasture to proceed up the trail. It was quite a sight.

Stream Crossing at Elbow Creek
When we got within a half mile of the base camp we intercepted Philip Bowers, son of Tim Bowers, head guide at the base camp. Phil was moving some stock down to Silver Tip and hurried nods of introduction were performed in passing. Then we came to the stream crossing about 150 feet from camp. Everybody had these big smiles on their faces from the excitement of crossing a stream, on horseback, as part of a pack team. It was too cool.

We had been discussing the accommodations on the way in and throughout our whole trip. What would the camp be like? How "primitive" will it be? Showers or cold stream baths? Out houses or latrine? Comfy cots or bed rolls on the ground?

Cavalry Camp To our utter surprise and amazement it looked like the Seventh Cavalry had set up here and we were to be their honored guest. The camp was perfect. There were six high walled canvas tents with indoor-out door carpeting, little wood stoves and cots with big foam mattresses. Each tent could sleep four very comfortably. There was a main dining tent with a long table and a big pot bellied stove. The kitchen tent was right next to the dining tent and Phil's wife was busy making hors d'oeuvres and dinner. It was unreal.

Camp Kitchen

There was a temporary coral set up for dealing with the horses. Will unloaded the pack mules, took the saddles off, tended to all the other little chores and turned the horses loose in Frenchy's Meadow for the night. He would be up before any of us early risers to fetch the horses for tomorrow's fishing trip. There was a wood shed lean to, a fire pit with logs and rocks for sitting around. A solar shower was available if you wanted to use it and an outhouse made with a lashed wood frame and regular seating that looked out into the pine trees. It was excellent.

Camp Corral Phil got back in time for dinner and we all sat down to a great meal. We filled up on some sumptuous ranch-style cooking and had a great time getting to know each other and measuring each others tolerance for nasty jokes. There was no limit. We passed the snake bite medicine and after everyone was properly medicated we turned into bed.

It gets cold up here, even in August, and the hot coffee was a welcome sight at 7:00 a.m. The cook had been up, as had Phil and Will, hours before us. She was getting breakfast and packing our lunches, Phil and Will were rounding up the horses to take us on a ride to go fishing. My contemporaries were feeling the effects of yesterdays butt massage and were in no hurry to get back in the saddle. Naturally they told the crew it was me who didn't care to ride that day and we would just fish from camp within hiking distance. I think the cowboys were a little disappointed but they honored our decision.

The Staff at Elbow Creek Camp

The fishing in the upper stretches of Slough Creek was nothing like the meadows. It might have been better. Not better because of bigger fish but better because of the numbers of 12 to 18 inch fish that we all got our fill of.

Slough Creek at the Edge of Frenchy's Meadow

After breakfast we put our stuff on and followed the path back to the ford and crossed to the other side, walking down stream to look round a bit. Up here at the edge of Frenchy's Meadow, Slough Creek looks like an eastern freestone stream. Unlike the meadows it is tree lined for he most part with a rocky bottom that's easy to navigate. It turns right and left every fifty to one hundred yards. The turns have deeper holes and undercut banks where you know there has to be fish lying in wait. There are multitudes of log jams, ripples, runs, flat stretches and narrow canyon type water where it runs 4-5 feet deep from side to side. You name it, it has that kind of water.

Freestone Section of Slough Creek Rick stopped at a likely looking spot and started to flail the water. Mike took up the next station, I pulled up at a small run between a ripple and a 50 yard long, shallow, flat and Tonkin moseyed on downstream and around the next bend. I was into fish immediately. C&R'd six as fast as I've caught bluegills on a farm pond. This doesn't happen to me normally.

About this time Mike walked up, Rick sees us congregated and slides on down too. Mike caught several but Rick was still batting zero. We tell Rick he just needs a couple under his belt to get the feel of the take and I set him up on my honey hole. Rick casts, drifts, strikes and misses, two or three times. Mike and I think maybe he's under pressure so why not turn it up a notch. "OK Greene, were not moving or fishing, the rest of the day, until you catch one."

Greene set his jaw, let the line slip forward a bit to start his back cast, pulls back smoothly on the rod, stops, reverses his motion and sticks the size 14 elk hair caddis six inches from a log lying parallel to the current and the drift is perfect for about a foot and a half when THUP! A nice, fourteen inch, cutthroat sucked the caddis down, pretty much hooks himself, pulls a little line off the reel and Rick jerks its butt up on the sand bar we're standing on. High fives all around. Everybody's happy.

Fly and Fish

Mike and I looked at each other turn to Rick and at the exact same time say "See ya Greene, we're going downstream." As we turned to wade across a corner of the flat to the far bank, we both see a huge mule deer crossing the stream not 40 yards below us and quartering in our direction. The deer looked at us and kept coming. We started counting points. It's a natural thing for people in our neck of the woods to go into point counting mode at the first glint of a horn. It adds to your repertoire of stories about bucks you've seen, not shot, just seen. You can have a whole mornings visit with about anyone at home just talking about big racks that are burned into your memory. So our prowess in counting points is flawless. Naturally, our eye witness accounts varied from14 to 16 to 18 points. It was a biggin'.

Mule Deer Crossing Slough Creek The deer moved into cover maybe 25 yards below us and disappeared. We took some pictures but those disposables and automatic 35 mm cameras we had didn't demonstrate just how close this thing walked up on us. We watched Greene land another fish, gave some advise as to proper C&R techniques and started across to the other bank. Just as our boots hit dry ground the buck raised up from under a fallen tree, almost at eye level, and maybe 15 feet away. Scared the hell out of us. We jumped, threw our arms in the air, almost fell back in the water and the deer slowly turned and disappeared again. Now we're all sure it was an 18 pointer.

By the time Mike and I caught up with Tonkin he's got a smile pasted on his face that pledge won't wipe off. He caught "a bunch" of fish. He had been working his way downstream catching one after another. We fell in behind him and caught fish in the same runs and holes he just fished minutes before. Not because we're superior fisherman but just because these fish were bountiful and amazingly cooperative.

Tonkin worked his way on down below a narrow channel where the water picked up speed and depth. There's some big rocks in the middle of this channel and some of their tops are sticking out like those volcanic islands you see on National Geographic. Tonkin had just caught a few fish in this 100 yard stretch and then the four of us were spread out along its length catching fish after fish. We would catch a couple and just hop scotch the next guy down and then up and then down until we got a little tired of it. But not for long. All told we came up with a number of at least sixty fish between us in that 100 yards of water, nothing over 16 inches but nothing under 13 either.

The Narrows of Slough Creek

Rick did so well that he's now convinced fast water like this and just below a ripple is his kind of water. If you ever fish with Rick Greene try to leave these spots for him. Before the day was out he had C&R'd over twenty fish and this was just the third full day of this trip and 4th time he had ever held a fly rod. The stream-born disease that had infected Mike and I years earlier had taken hold of his system too. A Fly Fisherman had been born.

We fished our way back toward camp, ate our lunches, basked in the sun and caught more fish. A couple around 18 inches or so. It was near 90 degrees around noon but some big black clouds started to roll in and the temperature dropped as the wind picked up to 20 mph and better. We thought it might be a good idea to take a mid afternoon break near the shelter of our tents. The ding to dong schedule we had been on since flying out of Charleston, WV, four days before was starting to wear us down a little bit. A nap would be just the ticket.

Nap Time for Mike

Thunder and lightning accompanied the rain that blew through in sheets that stung your face when you walked into the teeth of it. Mike and I opted for a short nap while Rick and Tim drank some coffee and talked with the cook. Two hours later the front had passed and Rick and I were back in our boots and heading up stream to see what Frenchy saw.

Rick in Frenchy's Meadow

The country north of camp and upstream spreads out again to create Frenchy's Meadow, other than one side being completely void of vegetation it's just like the water downstream. Rick and I both catch several more fish and Rick caught a couple of real nice ones before we decided to call it a day. I had planned to take a quick dip and wash some of the crud off while Rick headed back on the path to the corral. About the time Rick got half way through the pine grove the wranglers cut the horses loose for the night and the whole herd, 20 animals or so comes crashing through the pines right at Rick. "STAMPEDE!" Greene shouted while hiding behind a tree as the horses headed for pasture. Luckily he survived the assault. All this is unbeknownst to me as I try to wash in less than 50 degree water in the deep hole next to the river crossing the horses use to get to their dining area.

Rick with a Frenchy's Meadow Cutthroat Both me and the horses were shocked to see each other right then and there. They must have been more scared of me standing there buck naked, looking like a big wet turkey that had been freshly plucked. Goose bumps are bigger in Montana like everything else. The horses detoured around me and went on with their business but I think a couple of them looked back several times and I'm sure I heard some horse laughs. I dried off, dressed quickly and headed back to camp for a dose of snake bite medicine and dinner.

After a hardy and plentiful meal we decided to have a camp fire and brush our teeth for the evening. In grizzly country you must take extreme precautions to not attract the bears into your tent or anywhere near camp. You are instructed to not have food or other "smelly" items that bears may want to share with you. They strongly recommend (do it) brushing your teeth around the fire pit and spitting into the fire in order to burn up the smell of sweet tooth paste. Mindlessly doing it on the edge of camp is inviting disaster. Tonkin was putting the fire wood on and I was in the act of brushing, preparing for the initial discharge when Will brought forth this bit of wisdom so I immediately spit that first mouth full of water and Crest into the fire pit, right where Tonkin was lighting the kindling to start the fire. Fire's out.

Mike and Rick thought it was hilarious. Will choked back his snicker and went to do something else further away where we couldn't hear him laugh and Tonkin gave me one of those looks he reserves for bad waitresses at breakfast. I got the fire going and we had a dose of medicine, until all the medicine was gone.

Since we had gotten to know each other the night before jokes started at the level of nastiness we had left off at and digressed from there. Conversation ran the gambit from Grizzly attacks, to colleges, relationships and sex. I drifted in and out of the subject at hand while staring at and tending the fire when I hear Rick make the statement that he does pretty well for himself, woman wise. About that time we all decide its time to turn in. We've got a 15 mile trip out with another stop at the third meadow for some big sipper action tomorrow. We slept like babies, actually Rick said I slept like a bear because he could hear me growl (snore) all night, two tents away. Like being in the arms of Morpheus.

The front from yesterday afternoon either got bigger and came back or its big brother came looking for it because the next morning was cold and drizzly mixed with occasional downpours. We delayed our departure while Phil made contact with Tim Bowers, via cell phone, who was scheduled to bring a new group up to the third meadow and switch them for us with Will. I'm hoping the other group cancels and we get to stay another day here because, in my opinion the weather's too bad to ride a horse back to the trail head. My opinion don't count.

Packing Up to Leave Camp

Wishful thinking. We waited for a break in the weather and I don't think laying over was an option. The weather wasn't much of a concern for the wranglers and we were heading south by 10:00 a.m. We hit a couple of squaws on the way. One ended with a double rainbow that you could see both ends of across the valley behind us. We got pictures. Will pointed out a fresh wolf track that was a good eight inches across. That will make the hair on your neck rise a little. There was also a lone bull buffalo about half a mile away that didn't have a friend in site. By the time we got to the third meadow the sky was big and blue so we dismounted, ate lunch, and fished a couple of hours before we remounted and headed for the parking area.

Mike, Rick, Will and Tim Third Meadow of Slough Creek

About a mile up the road we hooked back up with Tim Bowers, dressed exactly as he was when we last saw him, coming in with the new group. We said our good byes to Will and moved it on out. The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful just a couple more down pours to contend with. By the time we came into the parking lot me and Ol' General had reached an understanding and I was feeling pretty confident and comfortable riding the range. We thanked Tim for showing us a great time, paid the balance of his fees, plus tip, and jumped in the truck for the ride to West Yellowstone where we planned to spend the night. My buddies were all glad to be sitting on those nice truck seats.

It was an experience I know none of us will ever forget. Even today whenever we see each other long enough to talk about more than three or four subjects the Pack Trip always gets some air time. ~ Bo Ranson

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Slough Creek Pack Trip

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