Arkansas BCH Cowgirls Take their Pack Trip Purchased at Last Years Crowdfunding Campaign

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Heading home after a most successful pack trip in the Emigrant Wilderness of the Stanislaus National Forest in California–trail boss Dennis Serpa riding Poppy and leading 3 other mules, Theis Thoming riding his Arab Jess, Jacque Alexander riding Johnny the Mule, Lee Owning riding Sato and pulling 3 mules, Karen Lopes riding her quarter horse Junior and leading Dolly, and the photographer Nancy Deisch riding Molly the Mule.

Article and Photographs by Nancy Deisch
Buffalo River BCH of Arkansas

Remember the 2014 Chattanooga NBM crowd funding extravaganza?  Remember the extraordinary trips offered to the lucky buyers?  Well, the final pack trip was recently taken to the Emigrant Wilderness in the Stanislaus National Forest in California by the two Arkansas BCH cowgirls who managed to buy the trip in 2014 but couldn’t manage to take it until August, 2015.   For Jacque Alexander and Nancy Deisch of the Buffalo River Arkansas BCH, it was well worth the wait.

After lunch on the trail, a little scrambling was done to the top of one of the many dams built earlier in the 20th century that allowed the majestic alpine lakes and all the fish and wildlife they support to flourish in the wilderness. Pictured are Nancy Deisch, Karen Lopes, Lee Owning, Jacque Alexander, and Dennis Serpa (photographer Thies Thoming).

Dennis Serpa of the California Mid-Valley BCH unit was the trail boss aided by Lee Owning, Karen Lopes (also with Mid-Valley), and Thies Thoming, an eager future packer and also Dennis’ grandson.  Dennis and Lee each brought 4 mules for riding and packing, Karen rode one horse and packed another, and Thies rode his trusty Arab while Jacque Alexander and Nancy Deisch rode 2 of Dennis’ fine mules.

On Thursday, August 6, everyone gathered at the Crabtree trailhead to put packs together, group, and sort to be ready to ride out on Friday morning.  After what seemed to be an amazing amount of organization (to 2 novices), we hit the trail and headed out the 15 miles to Buck Lake for 4 days and 3 nights of paradise.  The ride out was incredibly beautiful and varied–passing by alpine lakes (we were at roughly 8000 feet, +/-), granite knobs, unusual trail construction and maintenance (from an Arkansas point-of-view), and getting use to the sweet gait of a mule (for 2 horseback riders).  Camp was made in a lovely pine grove across the trail from Buck Lake where swimming was possible.

Lee Owning on the Buck Lake trail with his pack string.
Riders across the meadow from our camp.

The next 2 days were spent taking rides from the camp to other lakes–Emigrant, Wood (upper and lower), Gem, Jewelry, to name a few.  Our guides were knowledgeable on the local history and the current issues of the area and kept us informed each step of the way.  Sitting around the campfire mornings and evenings was the perfect way to start and end each day in the wilderness.

View from the side of the mountain adjoining our camp. The writer literally had over 500 pictures of the camp/the trails/ the incredible scenery, so it was VERY hard to choose such a small sampling to try to relay what beauty we saw. You’ll just have to go see for yourself.
Still happy and wanting more! Six Emigrant Wilderness packers (well, 4 and 2 guests) at the end of the trail–Theis Thoming (boss’s right-hand guy), Jacque Alexander (guest), Dennis Serpa (trail boss), Nancy Deisch (guest), Lee Owning (mule packer), and Karen Lopes (horse packer).

All good things must end, so on Monday morning we packed up and took a different trail back to Crabtree where the real world awaited and the fantasy was over.

Our guides took excellent care, fed us too well, and made us feel like we were old hands.  It was a trip of a lifetime.

Nancy Deisch and Jacque Alexander on the incredibly beautiful Emigrant Wilderness trail from Buck Lake almost back to the Crabtree trailhead. (One can see the mountains from where we started that morning on the right-side background.)–photograph by Karen Lopes

Now, in a dream, I am almost awakened by the trot-like jingle of far-off bells.  Soon the air is full of dust and hoofbeats. Happy, kicking, rolling, bucking mules perform in front of our tents?–checking in to say, “We’re here!” and then racing to the lush green wildflower-decorated meadow that adjoins the campground, hiding their heads in the grass.  I smile.  It’s not a dream–just morning in the Emigrant Wilderness.–Jacque Alexander

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