Continued from "Into the Back Country"
On our second day, C rode out on a fresh mount, the very handsome Ricky - her previous mount, Gent, was being given an easy day, on account of having been bitten by Ajax while in the corral. Ricky was very lazy, always falling behind - until motivated with a freshly-cut switch, after which he became a reformed character.
We rode first along a winding trail through dark forest, tall pines close on every side. Once, we passed a ruined log cabin, built by trappers sometime around the start of the twentieth century. The walls still stood, but the massive trunks of falling trees had toppled inwards from all sides to crash through the roof; an imaginative observer might think the forest had sacrificed a few of its giants to drive the intruders out.
Dark forest became scrubby bog, followed by meadow; we sat a while beside an old elk trap, used to thin (by relocation) the local population. Later, we stopped for lunch in a forest whose floor was carpeted with the thickest and softest mosses became the mattresses for our siesta; we dozed beside an abandoned wolf den, under the solemn gaze of a young and fearless owl.
The afternoon ride was a little more challenging; we rode a very narrow trail across a steep slope, listening to loose stones rattle off into the forest below. I felt Ajax stumble once or twice, but my Appaloosa didn't fail me. Later, he took me safely through the cold, cold Cascade River a time or two (stirrup-deep, sometimes), and finally, very cautiously, down the break-neck steepness of the trail into our camp below Flint's Peak.
In camp, I took to the river to wash away the heat and grime of the trail; my chosen bathtub was a hollow in mid-river in the lee of an obstruction that broke the current. I reached it by edging out along some fallen trees, a very rough and slippery bridge, trying not to think about how it would feel to be swept downstream after a good raking from the sharp stumps of broken branches. It was the coldest (and easily the quickest) bath of my life - but what a location.