I’m writing this while horseback on the breaks high above the flood waters of the snowmelt swollen Salmon River. My kids got me this cool folding keyboard that attaches to my phone and fits nicely in my saddle bag. The juxtaposition of tech with the old worn leather of my gear amuses me, but it’s nice to be able to write my weekly missive and be out here.
Cowgirl/daughter Linnaea just joined me this morning up here, and we trailed beeves together, gaining elevation from our riverside cow camp this frosty morning. It rained much of the night in camp; I was grateful for the rainfly we put up, as I wasn’t planning on pitching a tent. As it was, I just unrolled my bed roll under the cook tarp and slept snug and dry.
After getting licked awake at 5:30 AM by my border pups, Gyp and True, I threw together a hasty breakfast on the camp stove, saddled up, gathered beeves and started them up the mountain. We enjoyed a nice backdrop of misty canyon walls frosted by new snow on the rim.
The cattle were ready; they wanted breakfast as well after the 10 mile walk from the home ranch to Camp 1 yesterday. They put their heads down in the deep green as soon as we left the bedding ground.
Here, on the lowest part of the summer grass range, the vegetative diversity is astounding. Everything from desert saltbrush and prickly pear cactus to bluegrass and ryegrass grows here, and the beeves sample all of it. This salad bar commences the long summer journey, and the beeves by fall will log nearly 600 miles of slow-moving grazing across 70 square miles of certified organic wildlands. Together cowboys and cowgirls and the herd will climb over 3000 feet and travel through four ecological biomes.
To the observer, there’s always intrigue on the wild range landscape. Yesterday’s was a blood curdling scream from on high above the river canyon as two bald eagles locked talons with each other and free fell in a terrific courtship display, finally releasing just before they hit the ground.
Then there was the discovery of hundreds of wild morel mushrooms around our river bottom camp; the intrigue tonight should be a gastronomic one. In addition, this morning Linnaea and I dug and gathered some bitterroot from the desert floor in hopes of finding out why the Lemhi Shoshoni thought it a delicacy. It is drying in this afternoon’s warm sun and should be ready for us to sample its charm tonight around the cook fire. The red pith of the upper root was said by the ancient natives to provide its eaters relief from bear attacks. I’m all for that.
These sights and flavors from the range are ones that I wish I could share with each of you first hand on horseback or around my fire. Alas, the flavor that we serve up to you in steak and roast will have to do. And it does quite well, I think. Because wild food always brings with it more than flavor. When I eat wild salmon, my mind’s eye goes right to the Alaskan coast from which it came. And so it is with bison, elk or deer.
Unlike most beef, Alderspring’s has flavor that is distinctive of these wild central Idaho mountains. I’ve tried well-raised beef from friends in the Great Plains. It was delicious, but it was different than ours. Real food has flavor that reflects the soils and the plants where it was raised.
Speaking of flavor and dinner, the beeves are getting up from their afternoon siesta. It’s time for me to put writing down and step back into stirrup to shepherd the cattle on their gastronomic journey.
Thanks for letting me share our passion for wild landscapes and the food that comes with them. Happy trails.