I bought a horse in July.  It is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.  I grew up riding horses and ride every chance I get but I have never truly had a horse of my very own.  Resero will arrive at the farm with much pomp and circumstance in the first week of October — which is to say, my sister and her boyfriend are hauling him to Idaho for me and I am going to do a little dance when they pull through the gate, around the corner where the old apple trees stand and come down the final stretch of the driveway to our house.

Let me tell you a few things about Resero.  His name means cowboy.  He is sorrel with a tiny star on his forehead between his eyes and a huge white splash on his rump (it’s getting bigger as he grows up).  He is seven years old.  He is sturdy yet elegant, built somewhat like a mustang but with a refinement to him that makes him seem like a gentleman.  He likes corn on the cob, unhusked.  He is a Peruvian Paso.  My sister’s boyfriend bred, raised, trained and competed on this horse in a professional capacity — to Tanner’s credit, Resero is a great horse because Tanner is a great horseman.  When I sit on his back I feel like I might be siting on a lightning bolt.  He has fire and charisma but also a very fine quality to him that I can sense when I look into his eyes and feel when I urge him into his gait and collect him up tight so that all his fire and power seems to reside in the thickness of his arched neck where it curves up and away from my quiet hands.  He’s majestic and utterly masculine.  In short, he’s superb.

I never thought I would wind up with a Peruvian; gaited horses were generally off my radar until we bought the farm here on the Snake River of Idaho.  My neighbors have Peruvians and I’ve been able to ride those horses over the past year and I really fell in love with the breed.

I randomly texted my sister about Peruvians about six months ago and she almost immediately told me that she and Tanner had a horse she thought would be perfect for me.

I rode him while in Alberta — in the arena and on the trail (and in a river, as you can see here) and I knew he was mine.  Something I love about this horse is that he challenges my skill set.  I am a good rider.  Resero asks me to be excellent, because he, himself, is excellent.  I must rise to meet his high standards.  He’s going to make me a great horsewoman.  For that, I am already grateful.

Smoke and Horses


And so a week came and went.

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A lot can happen in a week.  I said yes to a last minute shoot in Northern Washington two Fridays ago and buzzed all over Idaho, Montana and Washington on the way to and from the job.  I didn’t mind the driving because I was in a mood to see fresh country.  The shoot was beautiful, in a lovely location at a ranch on top of a mountain.  It was horse heaven.  The crew was good company.  It was a great time.  I was modeling on this job, not shooting, which is occasionally an uncomfortable thing for me.  I have to deal with some self-consciousness in front of a camera (which might come as a surprise to you since I use myself as a subject so often).  I think the best models tend to be vain — or aware of their physical beauty.  I just feel awkward, crooked and strange looking most of the time.  That said, my favorite thing about modeling these past two years has been how much I have learned from the photographers I am being photographed by!  There are so many tidbits to absorb.  It’s a great learning experience for me and I put into practice the trade secrets I have learned on a regular basis.  Being around great photographic talent tends to breed new skills in me, if I maintain awareness and ask questions (and I’m never afraid to ask questions).  Anyway, great crew, great location, stunning horses and a great all around time was had on that shoot.  I’m glad I said yes.

After we wrapped, I drove the Columbia to the Spokane to the Coeur d’Alene to the Clark Fork to the Bitterroot to the Lochsa to the Clearwater to the Salmon to the Little Salmon and then I was suddenly home in McCall.  It’s a marvelous thing to follow roads that bend in synchrony to the will of a river.  It’s one of the few times in life I allow myself to joyfully follow the path of least resistance.

I stopped here and there on the trip home: coffee with a girlfriend in Missoula, fishing pocket water here and there on the Lochsa and Clearwater, pausing to watch the salmon spawn (rotting and exhausted from the strain of their endeavor — dead and gone on the banks of the river, eyes in the bellies of birds), breakfast in a shabby diner or two, sleeping fitfully in my tent on the edge of a rapid (rain staccato on the fly of the tent, logging trucks grinding at high speeds through the black of night)…

I like to lallygag.  I like to forget about the destination and slowly make my way through the journey, exploring whenever I can.  My friends and family know to expect I’ll arrive in their homes or at our meeting places anywhere from two hours late to three days late and I’m unapologetic about it.  It’s how I stay in touch with everything around me.  It’s how I stay in touch with my curiosity.  It’s how I ask questions and find answers.  I arrive when I am good and ready and not a moment before.

I’m off to hunt for elderberries here in the beautiful, autumnal Payette region.  Robert comes off a fire this evening and I can’t wait to see him.  I’ll plan a nice dinner for two in the Airstream and maybe even pick up a tiny tub of ice cream and a nice bottle of gin for him.  We’ll probably stay up late dreaming about what do with the farm and ourselves in the next couple of days, months, years.  I love this time of year.   Autumn is for dreamers.

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The Bob

I had a wild summer.  It’s strange that I’m only starting to share some of these photos with you now, in the waning days of January, but things take as long as they take (and I have the most dependable WIFI I have had in a long while so I can actually get images uploaded for you — hallelujah).

The short of it is this:  I spent a week on the back of a hilariously stubborn, thistle-chomping Haflinger  while riding 80+ miles into the heart of the Bob Marshall Wilderness of Montana (I abated the stubbornness with a little willow switch).  One of my dearest friends was with me and we had a blast choking on the dust kicked up by the full string of mules we were riding behind, freezing to death on the first day which involved 21 miles of rain after un-sleeping in a haunted Forest Service cabin, fishing the pristine waters of the Southfork of the Flathead River, and generally being spoiled rotten by our hosts, guides and friends (you’ll know them as @muledragger and @bigskybandits on the old Instagram machine).  I shot most of the trip from the back of my bumpy and delightful horse with my x100t — it shoots pretty soft so if you notice a difference in the feel of these photos, that’s the reason why.

The entire trip was terrible for my already acute case of horse-fever.  While I’ve always dreamed of having a pack mule for mountain trips and high country hunts, I walked away from this backcountry horseback trip with such a rich respect for the hybrid.  They are truly such wonderful, stout, complex creatures.  A joy to behold and to know.  And boy howdy, when you reach your fingers down into their big, beautiful ears to give them a scritchy scratch and they lean in and drop their enormous heads down on your shoulder and forget their size and weight because they’re too busy feeling mule ecstasy…well, it’s a pretty darn magical thing to experience.  Our libraries need more books about the solid love of good mules.

Without further adieu, I give you the Bob Marshall Wilderness and a smattering of humans, horses and mules in the fat heart of summer.  Enjoy!

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Nibbling On The Green Edges of Springtime

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