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Camping @ Elk Hill - Pigeon River Campground

by Denise Conroy

ELK HILL, the rest of the story (continued from Judged Trail Ride Story)..........

The decision was made at 4:30 to head back north to Elk Hill. Our horses had rested, ate & drank and jumped right back in the trailer as if to say, "we're game." With each mile north we drove farther and farther away from the hussle of the metro traffic and I felt my entire body relax and the anxiety melt. It was almost dark when we arrived to Tracy's car in Gaylord and I dropped her off to follow me another 10 miles north so I wouldn't have to go back in the a.m. to do that. We got lost at one point and I parked the trailer while Tracy went to a local gas station for clearer directions. At this point, I couldn't help but think about the horses...although they were fine I just wanted to unload them and get them to a quiet spot to rest. Tracy returned and said, "ah Mom, it's another 15 miles but the lady said it feels like 50 because you have to take a gravel road and it's very slow going. I felt committed and lead the way onward to the campground in the dark- down a twisty, road going 25 mph.... but wondered if this whole weekend had been a huge mistake......but I made a decision to stop fretting and see this as a wonderful challenging experience for all of us. Come what may.....

We arrived at the Elk Hill campground at 9:30 p.m. and found the campground very full. Two ladies met us at the road with lanterns, so I stopped and turned off my engine. They were like angels, I can't tell you. I probably seemed frazzled, but told them I had never been there before and did they know if there was any openings. They said, Sure!! They lead the way around the corner with their lanterns to a beautiful spot on a bank overlooking a creek. We parked and I sighed a huge relief. They asked if we had picketing rope etc. and we said we were just going to keep our horses in the trailer overnite. They said, "oh you can't do will never sleep a wink!" So they rigged up all up with a picketing line in the dark, using only a lantern. I wanted to cry, I was so thankful and so relieved. They helped us get the hay bags hooked up and tied our horses up safely. They said they were going out on an early morning ride to see if they could see Elk and invited us to come along. Wonderful! But first we had to get through the nite and see how the horses managed. As we unpacked our sleeping bags, we heard a "thud" over by the picket line. I flicked on the flashlight to find Reese laying down as comfortable as can be in the sand with that lead line firmly taught to the high line. I chuckled and so did Tracy. THAT horse makes himself comfortable anytime, anywhere. At that moment, I finally felt PEACE. I looked up in thankfulness and the sky was brilliant with stars and a beautiful cresent moon. The warm breeze brushed across my face as I heard the horses munching their hay and the babbling creek below. It was like heaven. I snuggled into my sleeping bag and fell fast asleep. The horses never made a sound.

With good rest and full bellies, Tracy, the horses and I joined the group
for the ride starting at 8:30 a.m.

Pictured below is: Chris (who is also a Rad-tech! And he and Tracy talked nonstop!
his wife, Amy, then Lori, Tracy, Fran and Jackie. They are all from Alpena. They were
gifts to us that weekend and without them we wouldn't not have such fond
memories. Thank you!!

Our first stop was the creek below to offer the horses a last big drink before heading out on the ride. Our horses were eager to move out and were incredibly rested and fresh. It was awesome! The day was goregous with a balmy breeze and mild temps. No flies and we knew it was going to be a fantastic day.


Lori and Jackie have been here a million times and know the trails like the back of their hand. So they would often just cut through the woods, blazing their own trail scouting out any elk. ;-) After almost 20 miles and 5 hours later we arrived back to camp. We ended as we began with a cool dip in the stream just below our campsite.

Our horses were our heros. They not only did everything that was asked of them in a calm, patient manner, but they also showed incredible trust in us as their human leader. Each one of us were challenged this weekend and we grew just a bit more in learning about ourselves and our faithful mounts. I didn't think it was possible to love my horse any more, but I do!

Our Alpena buddies invited us over for breakfast as our final goodbyes were said. I am not sure how we can ever thank them nor will they ever really know just how special they made that weekend for Tracy and I.

We loaded up the horses by late afternoon. And Tracy and I waved goodbye as she headed southwest and I headed north to resume normal daily life. Two hours later, the horses and I were greeted by Zig and Billy anxiously awaiting our return. I tossed them some hay and gave Chy and Reese hugs and kisses before I left. As I turned, Reese had left his hay and was standing back at the gate watching me leave. What was he thinking? Whatever it was, the feeling I felt was indescribable.

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