Tag Archives: mountain

Atlanta ID to Alturas Lake #2

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After packing our horses on that Atlanta morning in 1954, we found ourselves walking the entire operation up the familiar road to Atlanta.

Atlanta was a virtual ghost town even then, so probably no one noticed Mom and Dad and we three kids and three loaded horses, but we did our best to provide a parade for anyone interested in watching.

After the few buildings of Atlanta we walked past the Forest Service bath house, fed with hot springs, and a short bit later the swimming pool, also fed by hot springs. Back in 1917, when he was fourteen, Dad and his school buddies had kicked the mud up from the bottom of this pool when the schoolmarm walked by. The mud made a good curtain to hide their skinny dipping from such a pretty authority figure.

Pool INT

I knew what that warm mud felt like between my toes. Returning to Dad’s youthful haunt had filled many an evening on our summer camping trips. The crisp air at 5,500 feet, the warm water, the mossy mud and the smell of pine trees were all one Atlanta amalgam.

But this time we didn’t stop for a swim. We just kept walking. Past the rusting penstock of an abandoned powerhouse. Past the upper campground we never stayed at. Along the deteriorating wooden flume that had run water to the penstock. Then we crossed the green-clear rushing water of Leggit Creek on a most precarious bridge of barely more than logs laying on rocks.

Then the climb began. A steep and rocky and dusty climb in my mind. And tiring. Before long I had been hoisted up on one of the pack horses to ride (What? A nine-year-old whine about walking uphill? Pshaw… I’m sure the horse just needed more weight).

Folks, to my mind it was a long way up to the back of a horse. Add another yard or so because of pack boxes piled over with blankets and tarps — blankets and tarps I was sitting on that left no room to reach my legs around!

Way down beneath it all was a steep slope littered with rocks to bash my head on should I fall off.
Nyla INT

Well. I was one very attentive boy and my knuckles turned whatever color they had to while my hands gripped the ropes that cinched the awkward mound on a swaying and bucking perch!

But I didn’t ask to get off and walk …

Atlanta ID to Alturas Lake #1

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.

Atlanta 1952 INT

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.

Atlanta camp INT

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.

Packbox INT

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.

Packsaddle INT

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.

My beautiful picture

And we were off !