Saturday, July 24, 2010 – A Great Ride in Montana

Saddled up and out by 10:15, following a pretty wide dirt road with some gravel. The first half mile was a mix of stone and dirt, so eventually we decided to put their boots on to be safe. Once we made the first river crossing, the trail got a bit narrower and less rocky, and really felt like a walk in the park. We decided to take the Blackfoot Meadows Trail, as the other Kading trail looked more rocky and seemed to climb a lot, and frankly, we’ve had enough rocky climbs for a while. This is an incredible forest, with only one kind of tree, lodgepole pine, all 3 or 4 stories high and straight as an arrow upward. They have obviously had some infestation, as quite a few trees were dead, particularly on the east side of the river, and the campground was the worst, where practically everything is dead. There’s no work being done in the campground, however, so my only supposition as to why it was closed is because of fear of liability, not any actual trees being down yet. Seems like they could just put up a “Camp at your own risk” sign and leave it at that. Anyway, the trail was fantastic, only a few ups and downs, mostly to cross the river a few times, which were shallow, easy fords. There were a few places where the trail was narrow and hanging on the edge of the mountains, but nothing too dangerous for a seasoned horse. We passed one couple of runners and two fishermen, then the trail opened up to Blackfoot Meadows, a large gorgeous clearing with the creek running through it. It was so easy to imagine the meadow full of teepees and Indian families, as surely was the case a century and a half ago. We found a lovely campsite and stopped for lunch, with plenty of grass for the horses and a log for us to sit on. We spent more time at the stop than usual, simply because it was such a beautiful scene. Eventually, we set back on the same trail (we had no trail map, the first National Forest we’ve been to that didn’t have any free trail maps anywhere, even at the ranger station), as we didn’t know if there were any loops or other connecting trails. Passed a couple of other riders, fortunately at the creek where it was wide enough, and had a lovely ride the rest of the way home, arriving about 3:30. A perfect day, exactly the kind of day we are always striving to have!

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