80 Miles in 7 Days with a String of Trusty Mules

Campfire Story by Darcie Baum from New York

This past August, my boyfriend, Mark, and I went to JJJ Wilderness Ranch in Montana for a pack trip into the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Talk about breathtaking. It was incredible!

We rode about 80 miles in seven days, avoiding forest fires, passing old burns with new growth peaking through the downed trees, maneuvering tight switchbacks up sketchy rock trails, camping under the MILLIONS of stars with our trusty mule string watching over us. When we reached The Chinese Wall we heard nothing but the huffing of horses and wind crashing through the lodge pole pines. We were all silenced by it's grandiose beauty. It was magical!!

One of my favorite things to do was open my "Mule Spa" when we settled into camp at the end of the day. I have much to learn about mules, but one thing I do know is that they enjoy a good rub-n-pet session. Their lips would quiver, their eyelids would hang heavy and their heads would bow down in pure relaxed bliss. It was my way of thanking them for working their butts off every day. It filled my heart up to have them nuzzle me for more. FYI, they love a good inner ear scritch! 

Montana and the mules will hold a special place in my heart forever. 

How did you get into trail riding?

I have the worst memory, but can clearly remember the feeling of being drawn to horses as a young girl—it was an intense desire that I can't explain. I just LOVED THEM.

Likely at my request (demands), my mom started taking me to a trail riding spot near our camp in the Adirondacks. It was super casual, riding up mountains in thick woods, watering the horses at a stream, cantering and hanging on for dear life.

I took some riding lessons near home in New Jersey, but it never amounted to any serious equine education for me. Horses fizzled out of my life once I hit my bratty and experimental teenage years, and spending the past 8 years living in NYC kept me pretty far removed from riding.

It wasn't until two years ago that I rediscovered my passion for horses. At the time, I was commuting between Brooklyn and the Adirondacks where my boyfriend, Mark, lives and I had more options to find lessons. With an interest in learning about "natural horsemanship" and partnership with your horse, I found Bob DeLorenzo's farm.

The first lesson with him was so frustrating and discouraging to me, solely because everything I thought I knew about riding was flipped upside down. My body felt incompetent, but my brain was racing with all of this new AWESOME information about feel, pressure, communication, ground work, etc.

Since moving permanently to the Adirondacks in February I have been able to ride every week with Bob, working on all walks of horsemanship from cutting cows to roping to side passing. He is an incredible teacher, and it has been life changing for me.

What trail rides are on your bucket list?

I would LOVE to do some winter trail riding in the northeast. Purely for the photos of manes glittered with snowflakes... Not for the hypothermia.

What do you love most about trail riding?

The quiet. I shut out all of the crap in my brain from work or life and just ride with my horse. It's meditative and refreshing.

Thank you, Darcie, for sharing your trail riding adventures with the community!


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