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Thread: Packing into the Marble Mountain Wilderness Area

  1. #1
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    Default Packing into the Marble Mountain Wilderness Area

    I have been looking for an area to pack into, fish and hunt here in California. I finally decided on the Russian,Marble Mountain Wilderness areas. I plan on packing in a couple of times a month for a few days each when the weather is not too extreme. There may be better areas (I haven't really found them) but the little town of Etna, CA has a few perks that made this an attractive alternative for me. So now, I am looking for a packing buddy that has his own horses and the time to use them. I am going in to do some fishing on October 1, 2011 for a few days if anyone is interested in going along.

  2. #2
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    Golden trout wilderness area has great fishing. Great place to pack into. The marbles are awesome.

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    Have you driven the Etna Summit Road? I couldn't imagine pulling a horse trailer on that road. Uphill may not be bad, but that would be one nasty trip down. I have a screaming tranny and unresponsive breaks in just a pickup going down that road.

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    Thanks for the info on that road. Probably won't travel it. But, that is the beauty of a horse. Drive to where it starts to get uncomfortable, unload, saddle up, and start hunting. An hour later, you are 5 miles further into the mountains, all the road drivers are back at the road, and only a few hikers have made it that far. Another hour and it is just you and an occassional horse hunter. The wild beasts see an animal on four legs and have less concern. My head is 8 foot up in the air so I see a lot. The horse has the job of keeping his eyes on the trail and walking without stumbling and I just sit there looking for the wild life. At the end of the day, it is pitch black dark. My horse sees 4 times better at night than I do and knows where the camp is located. I just sit there and doze off as we make it back home. And, a good horse, begins to learn what I am looking for and will, with a keen nose, sharp eyes and astute hearing, let me know that my quarry is nigh at hand before I see it. They point like a Brittney Spaniel, not classic pretty, but nose and ears in the right direction. And, afterwards, my pack pony is more than happy to load a couple of hundred pounds of meat on his back and walk back to camp, up hills, down draws, through stickers, over rocks, around logs and all for $5.00 worth of hay.

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    Sign me up. I would love to hunt from a horse.

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    Default Rent and Learn

    Piece of cake. Just requires a bit of effort and a little bit of money which should all be fun anyway.

    Most of the out of the way places, such at Etna, CA have ranchers/packers that will be glad to rent you a horse for $25.00 per day. There are stables all over the state of California. Spend some money at a local stable learning to ride well. Then buy some basic tack so that you are ready to climb on any horse anywhere. Take a couple of guided pack trips into the mountains fishing and see how the pros handle their horses and mules. Find yourself a riding/packing buddy and make yourself useful in planning the trip, working with the animals, etc. Pick up your rental horse, throw your tack on its back and fall in line with the pack string. Catch some fish, shoot a deer, enjoy the scenery and realize that you have discovered the most enjoyable way to interact with nature. Notice. I did not say to buy a horse, or keep a horse. I said to learn about horses and, when necessary, rent a horse. Unless you have some land, you can't afford to keep a horse.

    I don't mind newbies going with me on fishing/hunting trips. But, I don't want to have to provide the horse, provide the tack, provide the transportation, provide the feed, teach some one how to shoot, teach someone how to hunt, provide all the camping equipment, provide all the knowledge, provide all the effort, do all the cooking, and, then, let this newbie get the first shot because he needs all the help he can get. If you want a guided hunt on horses, its $3,000 for 5 days. Not to me, mind you, because I won't do it. I did it years ago, too much risk, too much work, and not enough fun.

  7. #7
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    That is a great idea. I was just talking to my daughter about it as we were being passed by numerous horses on the trail. Since I live in the city, buying a horse is not practical. How do you find places that will rent a horse? Of course, as you say, I need to go to a local stable to learn how to ride first. But how do I get the horse to a trailhead? Do I also have to buy a horse trailer and find where to store it?

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    Default Available horses

    You do not need to buy a trailer, because you would then need a 1/2 ton or, preferably, 3/4 ton truck to pull it. Horse trailers can be rented for a few days, if you need them.

    But, what is better, is to let the rancher that you are renting the horse from deliver it to the trail head for you and pick it up when you are done. He will happily do this for $50.00 each time plus he will likely sell you the hay and deliver it too. Horses are readily available near the mountains as long as the owner knows that you can ride and take care of his horse. You will need to put shoes on the horse and feed it. If I am hunting hard, I rent an extra horse or two as well. I only own three horses (for myself, my daughter, and a pack horse, though the pack horse can be ridden too.) If I am out for more than three days, those horses get tired and need a break. If you are renting a horse, I would suggest showing up a day early and spend a couple of hours getting acquainted with the horse and riding it. Horse shoes are good for about 6 weeks which happens to be the length of most hunting seasons. If your work schedule is like most people, you can spend two or three long weekends hunting. Keep the same horse for the season (paying only for the days you use him) and you can keep your cost to a minimum, maybe $400 for a horse for the season.

    The best way to find the available horses is to take your wife and kid for a couple of nice summer vacations to the area that you are going to ride/fish/hunt. Then start asking around, starting with the feed stores, tack stores and veterinarians. These people will know who has extra horses and there is not a rancher out there that doesn't need the extra money now. Remember, while you lease it, it is your horse so, in the unlikely event of injury or illness, you are responsible for the vet bill. Rent a cheap horse. If the owner says the horse is worth more than $1500, pass on it. That way there is a cap on how much you will have to pay a vet. If the vet bill is projected to get to high, then you buy the horse and have it put down.

    Take your daughter with you when you horse hunt. My oldest daughter was 8 when she first headed up into the Wyoming mountains, near Buffalo and Medicine Bow. By the time she was 12, she was hitting pie plates at 400 yds with my .270 Weatherby. Just dress her warm, feed her well, and make sure she gets afternoon naps. There is no way she could have hunted with me if I was back packing. I would have had to be a road hunter for her to go along.

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    You've got my wheels turning now. My daughter and I are going to learn to ride this off season. Thanks.

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    Default Taking the kid

    When my oldest daughter was hunting with me, I was on a couple of Wyoming ranches that were miles from any town. They both had a one room school house for the ranch kids. When my daughter got tired of hunting, we would saddle her horse up for her in the morning and she would ride 5 miles to the school house and attend their classes and play with the kids. She would then hang out after school with a couple of kids at one of the ranches until we picked her up after spending the day hunting. With my youngest daughter, her school system here in California (San Juan School District) would fix her up with homework assignments which included keeping a diary and writing a report afterwards so that she didn't miss any school when we were on hunting trips. When the youngest was too tired to go hunting, we would let her stay in camp and rest up. Just throwing this in because California has special youth hunts into the Marble mountains for both deer and elk, I believe. You might as well get your daughter signed up for the draw.

  11. #11
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    That is funny. I teach in the San Juan School District. My oldest daughter is 16 now, so she aged out of the youth hunts. She was able to draw the X7B youth hunt last year and got her first deer. My youngest is uninterested in deer hunting. She does want to shoot one duck for bragging rights, but that is it.

    My daughters play competitive sports, so it has been very difficult to get away for a week. Next year my oldest is a senior, so I was thinking of taking her for a week and chasing antelope in Wyoming anyway. Once she goes off to college, she won't be able to take a week at a time. Water polo will just have to suffer without her.

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    Now you guys got me going on this! Great info you're sharing.
    Any day in the outdoors is a damn good day.

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    So your screen name kept me awake half the nite, trying to figure out why you have 50 cows and no bull????????????
    Mulepakr

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    Default Name explanation

    In 1997, the real estate downturn hit my business in Southern California. So, needing a rest, I moved to Nebraska (home state). In 1999, I got a little 160 acre farm plus some additional pasture. I bought 50 head of already pregnant cows and settled in to be a gentleman rancher. (I was a range management graduate from the University of Nebraska many years ago and grew up on a ranch so this isn't quite as prepostrerous as it sounds.)

    The following spring, I needed to breed the cows. One bull for 25 cows is normal coverage so I bought two bulls from a neighbor that claimed great success with these two bulls (He had 500 head of cattle and 30 bulls). Come fall, I ran my cows through the squeeze chute for pregnancy testing with the idea to cull the two or three that were obstinately open (not pregnant). Only about 1/3 of the cows were pregnant. This was a bull problem, not a cow problem and not just one bull. With just one bull on such small acreage and the length of time that the bulls were with the cows, there still should have been more bred cows.

    I immediately went out and bought another bull even though the calves from him would be late bloomers. I had him tested by the vet for fertility. It was a cold, nasty winter and he must have decided to keep his tool warm in the sheath because, the following spring, not very many cows were newly pregnant by this bull or the two bulls that I still had from the prior year.

    I bought two new bulls, selling three bulls for hamburger. These bulls had all the guarantees, doctor's exams, etc. I put them out with the cows for March calves (9 month gestation). I had to leave town for a week or two and, when I came back, the bulls were gone. Just disappeared. As near as I can figure the bulls were the only animals that I had that would allow someone to walk up and gently push them into a trailer. My brand on their hip didn't seem to matter. I later determined that a few of the cows were bred so I know these bulls were potent and, probably, at their life's end reward for good bulls via McDonalds.

    Now, extremely frustrated and needing to get back into an income producing mode, I made arrangements to have my herd artifically insiminated. The man doing the job came out and, over the next 30 days, at great expense, the cows were bred. A month later, he called to inform me that his semen vials had been affected by a loss in temperature control and that some (or all of my cows might not be bred). I really hit my frustration level and made arrangements to run my herd with a larger rancher. His grass, his bulls, etc. and just no money left for me. From that time on, I was known locally as the rancher with 50 cows but no bulls and I was the butt of a lot of jokes. So, I decided to just accept the humor of the circumstances and adopted it as my handle on various webb sites. (It could also be read as being a rancher with 50 cows which was surprising to some people as I stood in front of them in my business suit and they didn't believe me).

    Within the next year, the drought basically drove me out of the cow business and, in 2002, I came back to California (Northern, this time) to earn a living. I still would like to be a successful rancher but will probably just have to settle for going to round-ups and brandings for real ranchers for entertainment purposes.

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    Default Following the first venture into the Marble Mountains

    My oldest daughter, age 27, and I explored the Marbles for the first time over the last weekend (October 1-5). Certainly beautiful country.

    We put the wall tent and stove up at Lover's Camp trailhead. It started raining Sunday and continued through Wednesday with snow in the higher country. We got a little fishing in on Tuesday but didn't catch anything in the Sky High Lakes. Maybe California fish don't like being out in a snow storm. It is a hard trail going up to the Marble Valley, particularly when wet. Horses were really scrambling up the marble steps. The trails up to the first lakes are steep and long, each day took about 7 hours on horseback to go up and back down to the tent. Lots of good grass for the horses up in the Alpine meadows. I will plan on this trip again next July or September when the weather will be more conducive to actually staying in the high meadows for several days. I did learn to be skepticle of any trail marked as PCT (Pacific Crest Trail). The PCT is supposedly horse friendly but there are sections that were cut into the side of cliffs for what appears to be solely the desire to keep the trail as close to the Crest as possible. Can't say I enjoyed a foot wide trail on slippery rocks and mud with a 200 foot fall if a mistep occurs. In the future, I will stick to trails that are marked to go to and from lakes. The horses were introduced to thier first bear which they apparently felt was a bit premature.

    I was also checking the area out for deer and elk hunting. I very quickly formed the opinion that deer are abundent in the lower and probably middle elevations. I probably saw better than a hundred deer, mostly does and fawns but some small antlered bucks. (If I counted the deer inside the municipal limits of Ft. Jones, Etna and Callahan, I would add another 100 does and fawns but only a couple of small spike bucks.) I was of the initial opinion that the high mountain areas were not great deer hunting areas; e.g. no sign, no deer browse, no open areas for glassing or shooting until all the way to the top. I did see and talk to a few hunters, there was a drop camp set up by Little Elk Lake, and none had seen any deer or sign of any deer. However, on Tuesday, I did see three different sets of deer tracks on the trail from Lovers Camp to Marble Valley, all good size, but traveling singlely. I don't know how a hunter could apprehend one of these deer. The trees are thick and forward visible range is probably 25 yds or less before the trail curves away from sight. Maybe if the gun was loaded, with the safety off, and it happens to fire when the hunter stumbles and there happens to be a deer, half asleep, coming in the opposite direction and the bullet and deer happen to meet before the latter dives off the trail into the trees and brush. I know where I will be deer hunting in the general area next fall but I will leave the upper trails to the more skilled outdoorsmen. I was also looking for elk sign but saw none. Hunting elk in the high meadows around the lakes is entirely feasible in my opinion with excellent grazing and open panoramas conducive to glassing and long range shooting. The fact that I didn't see elk sign was not that disturbing. It just meant that the extended local elk herd was somewhere else in its range. With the snow and rain (total of about 6" of moisture fell over the three days) would have washed away all but the most recent sign of the elk.

  16. #16
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    Lover's camp isn't a bad area to ride out of. I rode out of there several years ago in Oct. I packed in and set up camp at sky high valley near frying pan lake. The best fishing I found there was in cafe lake.

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