Camping Mojo

Wowzers, what a trip! We’ve been home two days and I’m still in recovery mode … which, in case you’re wondering, looks very much like sunny-afternoon mode, rainy-day mode, campground mode, general nap mode, etc.

Ria and I, rocking post-hike mode.

On Monday the 13th, we set off south on highway 24, bound for a place called Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park. Since T is a writer, and I am a writer, it sounded like the perfect destination. And when we met up with our camping buddies G, S & R in Vulcan, it had the makings of … The. Best. Camping. Trip. Ever!

The whole gang—N, S, R, G, me, and T

Since I sleep while travelling, I’m never sure how far we’ve driven, so when we had to stop for a rattlesnake crossing the road as we entered the campground, I wondered if I’d slept all the way to Arizona! But, no worries, still in Alberta—a part of Alberta that has rattlesnakes.

Rattlesnake country

I used to be a great camper. I loved to lounge in my camp chair by the fire, watch the sun go down, hang with my peeps. But then my chair got difficult to get in and out of, the fire freaked me out but I got chilly away from it, and the ground just isn’t as soft as my foam bed. As much as I wanted to hang with my peeps, it just wasn’t comfortable. I started spending more time in the trailer … alone. I’ve never been a fan of alone and am less so as I get older.

Back in my camp chair days in the desert.

This year I’ve been seeking my camping mojo, immersing myself in the whole lying-on-the-ground-fireside thing. And you know, with enough padding between me and the earth, plus a jacket when it’s cold, I just might have found it. On only night two of the trip, this was me, soaking up the fireside warmth on my camp bed.

After a day spent hiking the hoodoo trail and exploring the campground, I was too tired to object to the ground’s lack of memory-foam cushiness, or the flames licking nearby. And that’s all it took. That night and every night thereafter, I joined the humans and Ria by the fire. In fact, I got a little too close on one occasion and shortened the whiskers on one side of my muzzle. Oops.

Cozy by the fire.

After three nights in Writing-on-Stone, we ventured north and east to the Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park on the Saskatchewan side, a new place for us. With the wind threatening to blow squirrels out of trees (I borrowed that one from my buddy Storm), we opted for a campground set in the shelter of a tall pine forest, Rainbow Campground.

The lodge pole pines of Rainbow Campground.
Not my idea of a fun photo op, but … I aim to please.

After the usual mix of hiking and eating and playing music and fireside sitting, plus a day trip to the town of Maple Creek, we were off again, to the Alberta side of the Cypress Hills. Now this was a familiar stop, twice over. My first trip to Elkwater was four years ago, with Sid in tow and Logan by my side. Good times. And, crazy coincidence, the two side-by-side sites available in Old Baldy campground were the exact ones we stayed in then. It was as if Logan had arranged it all, a little reminder of our time together and how much we still miss him. T shed a few tears when we first arrived, so many memories flooding in. In particular, the one of Logan nesting in the patch of grass and fireweed still there in campsite #3.

Logan at Old Baldy, Cypress Hills, 2017

That trip was the first time we had to leave Logan behind when we went hiking because the trail up Old Baldy was too steep. I thought of him a lot as I climbed to the top this year, wearing his red harness for good luck. I’m four years older with my own physical limitations slowing me down, and he was just a year older then than I am now. I wonder if I’ll be staying behind in the trailer next year. I sure hope not.

On the way up Old Baldy trail. That’s our camp just over my head.

But, this year, I climbed to the top with only a short, shady break before tackling the downhill side to the lake. And all on the heels of another steep trail near Reesor Lake the day before. I’ve still got it.

And, in addition to “it”, I have discovered my senior-dog version of camping mojo.

One Weird Summer

It’s been a strange summer for me. My typical life in the summer months looks something like this …

  • I graze. I graze some more. And when I’m finished with that, I eat some grass.
  • I hang out with my best buddy, Nevada, and the two of us boss the mares around.
  • T saddles me up two or three times a week and we have a workout in the outdoor arena.
  • Once a month or so, Rosa and I hop in the trailer and the humans haul us to the mountains for a trail ride.
At the trailhead of our last mountain ride in August 2020.

This summer is just weird. And not in a good way.

  • I try to graze, but the area Rosa and I have access to has almost no grass, and hasn’t for most of this dry summer. Food-wise, things are more like winter … hay in slow feeder nets.
  • I hang out with my best buddy, Nevada … across a fence. And I have only one mare to boss around.
  • T saddled me up last Tuesday, but before that, well, I’m not sure when we last had an arena workout.
  • And as for the mountain riding, it hasn’t happened at all. That other trailer has left the yard on multiple occasions, but the horse trailer stays parked.
So happy together last Tuesday.

Now, I’m a pretty easygoing guy, but I miss hanging in the shelter with Nevada, I miss having two horses below me in the pecking order as opposed to one, I miss my time with T even if it means I have to work, and most of all, above all else, I MISS GRASS!

Eating our hay while Nevada and Gidget graze across the fenceline.

As you know if you’ve read my posts before, Rosa has metabolic issues which make her prone to inflammation in her feet when she eats green grass. But why do I have to miss out? Why do I have to be her dry-food companion? I know, I know. It’s because I’m what horse people refer to as an “easy keeper”. In other words, every blade of grass goes right to my girth line.

I admit I was a little pleased on Tuesday when T had to adjust my saddle fittings down a size rather than up. And after our ride, she turned me out in a grassy paddock for an hour so I could get my fill of the green stuff. I’ll work every day if it means an hour or two of grazing! I hope she’s reading this.

Can you tell how svelte I am?

My understanding was that we’d all be together again for the winter, once the grass was gone. But now there’s a haystack in our shelter, along with five of the barrel slow feeders. I have a feeling this two herds of two horses might be permanent. As much as I miss my longtime buddy, I know he needs extra feed to get him through the winter and it’s difficult for him to get enough without Rosa and I getting too much. Gidget is somewhere in the middle with her need for feed so she’s a better pasture mate for Nevada than I am, as much as I hate to admit it.

Our bed and bale.

On the plus side—and I do try to keep a sunny outlook—our paddocks are right next to each other so we can visit over the fence. And our track area runs right alongside Nevada and Gidget’s pasture. So, other than shelter time, it’s almost like we’re in the same space.

Visiting over the fence. (I love this photo—we look the same height. Yup, that’s me, 15.3 hh.)

And, you know, if I think about it, in my herd of two, I’m now the alpha horse instead of second-in-command to Nevada. I’ve been promoted!

Lonely Widower Seeks Companion

Sung to the tune of Escape (The Piña Colada Song)

If you like tuna and salmon,
and stayin’ out of the rain.
If you’re not into wandering,
because you have half a brain.
If you like sleeping noon and midnight,
in a cat bed made for two,
then I’m the one that you’ve looked for,
and I’m waiting for you.

What do you think? Will that do the trick? Or maybe I should say more about myself, like how soft my grey fur is, how much I like to cuddle, and that I spend winters in my own personal Meowi. Something like, “Soft, cuddly, feline seeks same for warm, sunny days in Meowi.” Do you think that would attract the girls?

It may not look like the travel brochures, but it’s exclusive and the sun always shines.

Fran left me in June. Well, not just me. She left everything and everyone. The more courageous she got with people, the more she took to exploring the farm and hunting gophers. She was a remarkable hunter for her diminutive size, capturing critters half her weight. But one night she didn’t come home, nor the next, nor all the nights since. Although she was quick and stealthy, I fear something got her, like an owl or a coyote. We have both out here on the prairie.

My lovely Fran.

I was rather forlorn those first weeks, so T moved me into the house where I’d have her and Nollind and Chico for company. The plan was to turn me into a house cat and then find me a new home. Well, I didn’t like either of those things—living in a house or finding a new home.

You want me to live where??

I missed my barn. Its spaciousness and numerous hiding places. The sounds of the rain on the tin roof and wind in the Tyvek (an ongoing renovation project). The smells of hay and shavings. The scamper of tiny rodent feet.

Home sweet home.

So, I hid under the bed in the guest room. I’d venture out when they called or brought my daily treat of wet food, but stayed in hiding otherwise. It just wasn’t home, and I didn’t feel safe, despite the familiar cohabitants.

Three weeks along, T gave in and brought me back here to my barn. I stepped out of the carrier and nearly cried when I saw my beloved home! The huge loft with my favourite cozy bed on the old piece of furniture, access to the outdoors whenever I want it (although I rarely go unless people are around), rough wooden doorsills for sharpening my claws, and no televisions, stereos, appliances, or other terrifying machines.

In the weeks since, I’ve been extra clear about my choice of place to live, going out of my way to show everyone just how happy I am, even without Fran. I think they get it.

So now I need a companion. Someone to share this paradise of mine and curl up with on cold nights. Someone to enjoy my constant supply of kibble and daily treats with me. And someone to hang with on my Meowi beach where I spend most of the winter. I worry, of course, that I won’t love a new companion like I did Fran, or that she won’t love me. But I’m pretty easygoing and loveable so, really, what are the odds?

Winter’s coming, girls. Anyone want to join a handsome, country guy in Meowi?