I was nine in the summer of 1954, the year mom and dad took on the task of herding three kids and guiding three horses over our first trek through the Sawtooth Mountains of central Idaho.
Atlanta, Idaho, is some eighty miles from Boise, up a very rough road along the Boise River. Dad was thirteen years old when he first saw Atlanta and his mother ran a laundry there until he was fifteen. He loved the rugged mountain setting of towering peaks and rushing cold water, all sprinkled with hot springs here and there.
By 1954 we had camped in Atlanta several times, so I didn’t think much of yet another summer vacation in the remote reaches of Idaho.
The first hint of this being an unusual camping trip was Dad talking with locals about horses. And then having horses in our camp while we loaded wooden boxes with raw potatoes and cans of food and our Coleman camping stove and a can of white gas for the stove and pans and can openers and knives and matches — only to double check and check again that we had everything.
Then, next morning, dad put what looked like small sawhorses on the backs of the horses. The sawhorses were called called packsaddles and had little legs that stuck up from them. Where these legs crossed made a notch to catch rope loops — rope loops that were attached to the wooden boxes holding our heavy 1950s camping gear.
Photo: A special thanks to Trailhead Supply of Kalispell, Montana.
Mom and Dad were careful to make sure the weight of each box was real close to the weight of the box on the other side of the horse. Then they mounded the loads ever higher with quilts and canvases thrown over the tops of the boxes and the backs of the horses. Finally the entire kit and caboodle was secured to the packsaddles with ropes.
And we were off !