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Neal Conan atop XL, a cross between a draft horse and a Morgan. He rode XL for two days, and Bruce the other three. ( )

Conan's Alaska Adventure: 'The Talk Of Horsfeld'

by Neal Conan
Aug 9, 2011

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At the end of July, I got the rare chance to spend a week in a remote part of Alaska, on a wilderness trip to Horsfeld, which is about 40 miles from the Canadian border in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. To get there, you fly to Fairbanks, drive four hours south to Tok, and board a small plane operated by 40 Mile Air that brings you into a grass field near the spot where Horsfeld Creek flows into Beaver Creek.

The camp, operated these past ten years by Dick and Gretchen Petersen, boasts a small cookhouse, a supply hut, a series of wood-frame wall tents, a wood-fired sauna and hot tub and a corral that was home to 29 horses. Each morning, we saddled up and rode out across creeks and bogs, up across the tree line onto breathtaking vistas. I admit that we sometimes strained bugs through our smiles, but the experience was fantastic. Especially for a novice rider like me.

Several writers came on the trip. My contribution was a daily news story read each day at breakfast. I missed one day because I overslept. Hey, it was vacation.

Below, please find The Talk of Horsfeld.

A skull brought yesterday's orientation ride to a sudden stop in a boggy, buggy meadow near Beaver Creek.

Leader Mark Koehler called the riders to a halt after Juneau-based artist Denise Chase spotted a skeleton. As the rear of the column coiled up, she climbed down from her horse and beamed as she held up the well preserved jaw and skull of a full-grown moose. The retired government worker collects bones to use in art projects she creates in her cabin about 25 miles north of the capitol.

Though Koehler shared the load, transportation of the awkward trophies proved difficult and the prizes had to be shifted after a tooth fell out.

Later, Chase spotted some antlers, but young Koehler decided against another stop. "We can pick that up next time," he said. "Don't get greedy."

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