Appaloosa Journal

NOV 2018

Appaloosa Journal is the official publication of the Appaloosa Horse Club, the international registry for the Appaloosa horse.

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Page 108 of 134

80 Appaloosa Journal November 2018 formed a single file line to cross the remainder of the battlefield. The trail snaked alongside the road and back into the hills, then down into valleys like a slow-motion roller coaster. There was an historical marker alongside the trail to remind everyone that the opening battle of the Nez Perce War occurred on the very grounds where they stood. The US Cavalry saw a significant defeat, los- ing thirty-four men to the Nez Perce's three. It was on this very ground that war had begun, and lives were forever changed. Out on the 1,900-acre battlefield, it was easy to lose one's mind in conflicts of the past, but all too soon it was back to asphalt as the column made their way into the welcoming town of White Bird (population 91). The structures along the road showed the age of a long-established town. Some buildings sported store front facades to provide that old timey Western feel. Residents stood roadside or on porch chairs to wave and witness the inva- sion as more than one-hundred horses made their way through the town's main street. Outside town, the riders followed the weav- ing Salmon River until they were directed to cross it, albeit by a bridge, and began their ascent from 1,200' to 5,000'. The climb was steady, with the first heavy haul up a lightly-traveled asphalt road. Shortly after leaving blacktop, scouts identified a spring in a section of woods with limited access to water. The opportunity was kismet. Most riders dismounted to allow the horses to relax and rest in the shade of the pine trees alongside the trail while awaiting their turn to hydrate their mounts. The stop did slow progress, but the water was a welcome luxury and the horses made the best use of the break. In the meantime, riders enjoyed the vast and open views of the canyon and mountains beyond. Continuing on, the trail ascended higher, higher, ever higher, snaking along the canyon walls and delivering scenic vistas to rob one's breath. Down, deep on the canyon floor coursed the twisting Salmon River — a mere squiggle of water from so high above. Just hours earlier, a rider could have touched a toe to the water. Switchback upon switchback, the trail would rise and fall as it made its way along the canyon wall. In some areas, the trail would narrow or be littered with large irregularly-shaped fallen rocks that could send a horse head-over-heels. With every turn, the canyon appeared even more vast and the Salmon River ever smaller. Finally, the trail crested, and the column advanced upon the wildflower-bedecked Joseph Plains. From atop the meadow, one could see all the way to Oregon as well as all the canyons in between. Riders drank in the view as they walked along, on the lookout for a sign of camp ahead. The twenty-four-mile ride was a long one and the climb out of White Bird had taken its toll on the saddle weary. The horses, however, remained strong and marched along a breathtaking five miles along a narrow trail overlooking the edge of the canyon. Riding single file, conversations lulled, and it was easy to become lost in oneself and the splendor of Nature. Camp was a welcome sight and riders celebrated their arrival with whoops and hollers. The evening program was presented by local rancher, Leon Sli- chter. He shared tales of his childhood and local lore. He was an en- tertaining storyteller and his stories were a pleasant close to the day. Wednesday Another glorious sunrise marked the start of Wednesday's ad- venture. The trail traversed green fields and led into groves of sparsely planted lodgepoles until it exited out on a two-track. There was some mileage lost in backtracking to locate a missed turn, but riders were soon back on the right path and headed to Wolf Creek. Unbeknownst to the riders, the most technical as- pect of the ride lay just ahead. It has since been dubbed, "The

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