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No Switchbacks in the Stairway to Heaven!

We should have started this morning with a big meal for the equines. But alas, the grass was sparse. We left them out extra long, but they were still a little hungry by the time we needed to leave. Little did we know that the Great Western Trail had never heard of the concept of switchbacks. Today was filled with exceptionally steep trails- both up and down. We literally had to ride with our feet forward because the horses were reaching so far up with their back legs- digging into the climb- that their legs were hitting the back of ours. According to the map, we reached well over 10,000 feet. It was a day filled with rests for the horses to breath.

Our scenery was also of great interest. We could see in the distance a land filled with canyons, rock formations, and a generally formidable look. We continued forward with admittedly a little bit of trepidation.

We learned today- not for the first time- that horses can get unbearable when they are hungry- just like people. I nearly wanted to murder Apache today. He was SO cranky, irritable, and generally ignoring everything I asked him to do. He almost got me hurt by ignoring me and wrapping me up in the ropes of the pack horses when I asked him to navigate around a down tree in a burnt area. I was furiously angry with him and had a tearful meltdown at one point on the trail- threatening to get rid of him and get a different horse. Secretly, I was even planning his murder- pushing him over a cliff or something- in my frustration. I’m sure I was not the most fun to be around either. I should jump ahead to tomorrow in this story to let you know that after a good meal, Apache was a different horse and we were back to being friends. I haven’t had a murderous thought towards him since then! :)

Since today was filled with challenging trail and ugly emotions, we decided to stop early. It was a fitting place in the mountains- “McGath Lake.” They forgot the ‘R’. But hey- we nearly had a lake named after us! It was gorgeous- more water than we’d seen in a while- not to mention tons of grass to feed the horses. It was great to stop in the early afternoon and let them eat themselves silly for hours and hours. While they were happily munching, we decided to play. After a preliminary hike around half the lake’s edge looking for a deep spot to swim, we decided the entire lake really was as shallow as it looked. So we went to plan B- build a raft! Mind you, we weren’t about to spend a ton of effort on this idea, so our raft consisted of 5 logs found near enough the water that it didn’t take tons of energy to pull them into the water. We then tied them all together with 2 pieces of hay bale rope. Yup- only 2. :) It was more of a balancing act than real raft- but it worked. We tried sitting on it together, but it nearly sank. So I went first, using a bucket lid as an ore and paddled my way out to the middle of the lake. From somewhere on the other side, someone must have come up on a four wheeler because I saw a camera flash and looked out to see an inflatable boat. They were pointing at me! Glad I could give them some afternoon entertainment! Richard went next, but only made it 10 feet from the shore when he saw a leech on him, screamed like a girl, and ran back to shore. Yup, my cowboy husband is afraid of leeches! I had never seen a leech before, so while Richard watched in horror, I played with it until it sucked onto me- then I decided that was enough of that!

The evening was such a blessing. We had a real campfire- not just our cook stove. We had time to sit and relax, make some tea, look at the stars, and once again I carved on an aspen. I had to commemorate the McGrath’s coming to McGath lake with our initials in a heart “4-ever.” :)


  1. “Mcgath Lake…”…God’s sense of humor to let you know He is near eh!

    Good job on the logs. Looks like it was a great campsite too!

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