A Hot Time at Iva Belle

                  It was always a joy for the trail crew to call in the mules and horses early in the morning from the lush, Leprechaun-green government pasture down in Red’s Meadow on a sweet, warm summer’s day.  The animals really loved it too, as they munched on mush from feed bags tied around their necks.  They would get so frisky and spunky from feeling their oats that they would deposit road apples in the corral.  This was soon stomped into the dirt and completely overwhelmed the fresh, fragrant smell of flowers, meadow and forest. 

                After they were fed it was time to brush, saddle, pack and place each mule in its unique position in the string.  Each animal found its place in the string depending on its own temperament, skills and personality. 

                As everyone mounted their horses, the packer grabbed the lead rope for the mule string, and it was toes in the stirrups all the way down to Fish Creek.  By the time they reached Iva Belle Hot Springs, they had traveled nearly 15 hot, dusty, snake-infested miles.  Often on steep side slopes, they would hear a rattle go off and see a snake slither by within feet of their exposed necks. 

                It was a real treat for the trail crew to ride horses into their work area, because usually they had to walk and carry tools.  It was easy money for them without heavy packs, and horseback was the E-ticket to ride in the backcountry. 

                As they floated happily along down the trail, the crew sang songs from old TV shows like “Branded” or “Johnny Yuma.”  One guy liked to whistle the “Bonanza” theme, while another would whistle the “Days of Our Lives” melody.  Most everyone was in agreement that the soap opera fan was nuts.  Any mention of the “Duke” (John Wayne) was met with a tip of the hat and a silent moment of reflection. Then someone would bring up how the Duke started crying at the Republican convention one year and that got everyone going.

                There were long moments of silence as the riders were lulled into a most wonderful, comfortable feeling gazing at the magnificent scenery of the great valleys and monster peaks.  Besides the wind in the trees, the stream and birds, the only sounds they heard were the jingle of chains and twenty pairs of hooves plodding along the trail.  It was a big land that humbled the little crew, as they ventured into the backcountry to repair the trails that the American people so dearly love.

                When they finally reached Iva Belle, they decided to set up camp in their favorite location, above the meadow and in the Lodgepole Pine trees.  Packers and trail crews always have a favorite spot that they go to, and this was it.  The men were tired from the long ride but knew they must take care of the animals first.  They threw up a hitch line between some trees and tethered each animal to it. They unpacked, unsaddled and watered the stock one by one at a small creek nearby. Camp was set up quickly in their special, organized way with a kitchen, latrine and tent pads. Firewood was gathered and dinner ready to go within an hour.  Everyone felt very satisfied after eating a fresh salad, steak, corn on the cob and ice cold beer.  Mule packing was definitely the life of luxury in the backcountry.

                Most of the trail crew had heard stories about the notorious history of Iva Belle Hot Springs in the ‘60s, when it was rumored that naked hippies wandered aimlessly, stoned on LSD, doing God only knows what in the water bubbling up from the bowels of the earth.

                At the mention of this, the boss said to the crew, “Let’s take the halters off the stock and let them graze the meadow.”  After all the animals were unhitched, he gave one of the mules a little pat on the rear, and the whole herd charged down the hill through the menagerie of multi-colored dome tents.  The inhabitants swarmed out like angry red ants, screaming in total shock at the sight of the horses and mules running through their camp.  The crew saw for themselves that it was true about the naked hippies at the hot springs, but whether they were stoned on LSD is still open to conjecture. 

                As the boss watched the whole spectacle with a sly grin on his face, he calmly remarked, “Now boys, that’s how I like to extend a most cordial welcome to the ‘babes in the woods’ down here at good old Iva Belle Hot Springs.”

One Response to “A Hot Time at Iva Belle”

  1. Robeet Says:

    Like the blog and stories. Is this the same Dave that my buddy and I met up at M’s pond a couple of weeks ago?

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