"Don't worry, They'll get us back."

Under the vast Idaho sky, the scene was set: four of us, four sturdy horses, three resilient mules, and an abundance of gear, all under the watchful eye of one camera. Our mission for the day was crystal clear – Brock Ball, Brigham Ball, Tyler Gebbs, and I were tasked with loading up our trusty steeds and embarking on a journey to establish a hunting base camp deep within the heart of central Idaho, nestled somewhere between the enigmatic Secret Creek and the mysterious No Tellin' Ridge.

I had grown up in Idaho, fancying myself an outdoorsman, but this was uncharted territory for me. At 25 years old, I was about to get a firsthand glimpse into the world of cowboys and their reality. These three were a unique breed, marked by their rowdiness, rough edges, and an unpredictable streak. Yet, despite the relentless teasing, arguments over distant high school memories, and the relentless one-upmanship, a profound camaraderie connected them. Their bond ran deep, and it was palpable as they looked out for one another throughout our expedition.

I confess I wasn't exactly tackling the arduous tasks of the day. My role was to document this captivating adventure as a photographer, striving to capture its essence. We rose before the sun, orchestrating the loading of gear and horses into trailers, setting the stage for a long drive to the trailhead. It was an unexpected lesson in organization – from the strategic placement of saddles to the careful arrangement of ropes, lead ropes, and saddlebags, every item had its designated spot.

The subsequent hours were a mesmerizing blend of rhythmic motion as our bodies synchronized with our equine companions. There was no soundtrack except for the creaking of leather, the rustling of gear, and the symphony of sounds that horses and mules emit when tired, sweaty, and a tad stubborn. Hours passed, and finally, we reached our mountaintop destination. There, we encountered two forest firefighters who had been cutting trails in the rugged Idaho terrain for three weeks, self-sustained. Their solitude and dedication left me pondering the simplicity and challenges of such an existence.

After setting up camp, we began the process of loading up the horses, granting them a reprieve from the burdens we had borne up the mountain. Our descent was punctuated by an unusual soundtrack – Tyler and Brigham singing '99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall' in its entirety. A feat that had always seemed unattainable, yet they accomplished it, their voices fading into the distance as I continued my journey.

The descent into darkness was inevitable, and the setting sun was soon concealed behind the surrounding peaks. With no moon to guide us, darkness descended swiftly. At one point, I yelled back to Brock, expressing my worry and difficulty in seeing the trail. His response, calm and collected, reassured me:


In that moment, I realized that I was a mere observer in their world. The horses, along with Brock, Brigham, and Tyler, were at home here. They possessed an intimate knowledge of the land, the horses, and the canyon that stretched before us. They drew upon years of experience to navigate the situation. My worries dissipated as I watched the steady rhythm of the horse's head bobbing before me.

We continued our descent, guided by the faintest hints of the trail and the instincts of our equine companions. We were engulfed by darkness, enveloped in an eerie silence broken only by the sounds of hooves on rocky terrain and the gentle splash of water as we crossed the river. In those moments, the world was dark, tranquil, and calm.

As we approached the truck on the other side, a familiar feeling washed over me, one that I've come to recognize in various aspects of life – the "suffer-fest." These are the moments when the journey is filled with both elation and pain, camaraderie and struggle, and when discomfort becomes the norm. But then, abruptly, it all comes to an end. It's a pattern I've noticed in challenging endeavors – whether it's long bike rides, trail runs, or arduous hikes, they all follow this rhythm.

Upon reflection, these experiences never fail to yield profound lessons and realizations. They remind me that it truly is all about the journey. Focusing solely on the destination risks missing the vast tapestry of experiences along the way. So, there we were, four weary souls, four horses seeking respite, three mules, lighter on gear, and a silent camera, ending our day under the stars in the rugged Idaho wilderness.