Millennium Adventure on the Mountain

    

     When I was a child, I wondered many times where I would be and what I would be doing at the turn of this century. As the date drew nearer, I knew I wanted to celebrate with special companions in a place we all loved. Most of all I wanted to make a memory. In the end, I really didnít have to look very far to find what I was looking for. This is how two dogs, two horses, granddaughter Kendra, and my husband and I welcomed the year 2000.

    On December 31st, we packed Wildwood Kokanee, heretofore reining horse, with food, clothing and sleeping gear. We also saddled another reiner, Wildwood Destiny, and threw on saddlebags filled with extra clothes and hot chocolate. I carried my 35 mm in my backpack and a video camera slung over a shoulder. Don carried a "day pack" with emergency supplies and Kendra had her own little pack with the party favours. Thus armed we headed out for our Millennium Adventure on the Mountain.

The Millennium Adventure took a little advance preparation. Before any snow had fallen, Don and I had ridden a couple of two year olds up the mountain behind our house to pick out a camp spot. Then a week or so before Christmas, Don packed a tent, stove, hay and firewood to the camp on Kokanee. He set up the tent, arranged cedar boughs for a bed and built a makeshift corral for horses. He had to make two trips with Kokanee to get all this done. Now we were on our way.

We started out walking, Don leading Kokanee, me Destiny, and Kendra in front. It seemed unlikely the horses would run uphill away from home if they got loose, so we thought the safest place for Kendra was in front. Slogging through deep snow uphill in winter clothes immediately seemed pretty physical to all of us. Kendra, eight years old, handled it as well as we did.

"I still think youíre crazy!" our chore girl called as she videotaped our departure.

Not too crazy though. I usually ride the trails in sliding plates, but for this trip, we chose the mares that were barefoot even though two three year olds in great shape were in the barn. Destiny and Kokanee had not been ridden for some time, but were more than able to withstand the adventure. In fact, Destiny was much too playful at first. When she threw my expensive video camera out of the saddlebag, I had had enough. I got on. That didnít solve all of the problems either. She reared and turned on a slippery slope, coming dangerously close to throwing me. My answer to that was a fast paced climb for a few minutes! When Don and Kendra caught up to me, we had hot chocolate, and then continued the steady ascent this time much more under control.

Kendra toughed it out well, but her little legs slowed after a couple of hours of hiking through the snow. Destiny had settled down enough now to pack her the final quarter of the hike. As Kendra told her mother later, "Destiny was bad with grandma, but she was good when I rode her!" So she was.

Right after we arrived at the already erected tent, I remembered what I had forgotten - the cake! Darned if I would let 2000 arrive without that cake, so I rode back home to get it while Don and Kendra unpacked. Destiny was more willing to settle down after the extra miles, too.

The tent was warm and cozy when I got back. Both Fox and Kirby (the dogs) had made themselves right at home and Kendra was housekeeping already, deciding who would sleep where and hanging her clothes to dry on the temporary line down the ridgepole. The horses were relatively happy with feed in front of them and darkness was falling. A light snow was falling perfect, I thought, for a camp in a winter wonderland.

Having Kendra with us lent unexpected charm to the campout in the snow. "Through the eyes of a child," as the saying goes. She helped grandpa gather firewood, get water (the creek was still running so we didnít have to melt snow), chattering a mile a minute. She had an opinion on everything ("Kokanee carried the luggage, didnít she, grandma?"), and attacked the adventure with eagerness and wonder. After a substantial meal of steak, potatoes and the delicious truffle cake, she couldnít keep her eyes open any longer. Snuggled in her sleeping bag with a dog on each side, she drifted off, but only after making me promise to wake her at midnight.

At the magic hour, the three of us and our dogs toasted Y2K by a fire in front of the tent. No party gowns or big bands, but we did have funny little hats, noisemakers and champagne! The nightscape was quite bright with only a few flakes drifting down on us. For a brief moment wilderness touched settlement as coyotes howled from the shadows and fireworks popped in the valley below. Then that deep silence that is at the same time eerie and wonderful settled over our camp.

It snowed all night. The first light of 2000 fell on a "marshmallow world". Evergreens were bowing low with the load and the mares were shaking the white stuff off their backs. A hushed silence had settled over our meadow on the mountain with the heavy snowfall. Time slowed for all of us and we relaxed in the snug closeness of the tent. Only after a hearty pancake breakfast complete with camp coffee did we reluctantly pack for the descent home, but not before capturing the moment in a photo of all of us in front of the tent. When I look at that photo now, I can easily imagine our forefathers in a similar scenario, not by design, but by necessity on January 1, 1900.

The nineteen hundreds are gone but not forgotten, but Don and I will always have a very special memory of a very special adventure in a unique moment in time. And Kendra will have stories to tell her children and grandchildren, stories about how she and her grandma and grandpa welcomed the year 2000 in snowsuits with only dogs and horses for companions!

Don just says, "Iím going to do that every millennium!"