2nd 2021 NAPgA Rendezvous in Slim Buttes, SD!
Mark your calendars for September 24-26 because NAPgA is hosting a second 2021 Rendezvous in Slim Buttes, South Dakota!
We’ll gather at the Reva Gap Campground which is off Route 20 about 20 minutes east of Buffalo and 40 minutes west of Bison (do you think there might be any wild bovines in the area?).  

We don’t yet have an itinerary planned, but it should be a wonderful weekend of hiking, swapping yarns, and enjoying our goats and the Great Outdoors.
Please let us know if you plan to attend. 

I (Nan Hassey) am organizing this get-together and I'd like to know how many to plan for and whether the established vault toilets will be adequate for our needs. You can email napga.org@gmail.com or call Nan at 719-489-2732.

This looks like a beautiful and unique area. Read more about it here: https://www.southdakotamagazine.com/slim...s-aug-2013

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Who's all planning on coming? We are!
It won't be an overly huge turnout, but so far it sounds like Clay and Charlotte Zimmerman, Terri Summerfield (I don't think Rex will be able to make it), Dwite and Mary Sharp, Robert and Connie Losee, Morgan Rust, Finn Sacrison who is one of our only SD NAPgA members, and there's a fellow who lives near us that is hoping to make it. I don't know if Larry Robinson will make it. He was very excited about a trip to SD but it's a long way for him. I'll be sending out another email in the next day or two and maybe I'll get some more confirmations. Finn Sacrison is planning to give a talk about the Wounded Warriors project he's heading up out in his area. It sounds like he's taking wounded vets out on hunting excursions in the Black Hills and he's using packgoats to help carry their stuff. I don't know if he's actually put a hunt together yet, but he's working on it. I look forward to hearing more about this exciting project.

It will be a small gathering but I think it's going to be a very fun group. And because it will be smaller we'll have more time to really hang out and enjoy getting to know each other better. When it's a large group I often find myself talking briefly to so many different people that I come away feeling like I didn't really get to know anyone and I have trouble remembering all their names afterwards. I think this will be a very fun opportunity.
That's a pretty good turnout for this far east, in my mind Smile It will be nice to catch up with those I know, and great to meet some I haven't met before!
The Slim Buttes Rendy turned out a bit slimmer than anticipated. Several "I'll be there!"s changed plans at the last minute. However, the group we had was incredible and I for one had a really fun time! Sometimes the smaller the crowd the better it is because you can spend more time getting to know the people you're with. Finn Sacrison was planning to give us a spiel about his Wounded Warriors project, but unfortunately his time was extremely limited and a little up-in-the-air. He ended up coming not long after most of us had departed for our Saturday hike around the Buttes. However, Dwite Sharp remained in camp and he and Finn had a nice time visiting for an hour or two.

Robert and Connie Losee drove all the way up from Texas to spend the weekend! They came out a day early and scoped the place out for us. The campground is gorgeous and nicely spaced out among trees. They found a nice shady spot well away from the entrance and waited for the rest of us to show up on Friday. Dwite came next, followed by Dean Kroon and his wife Dani. Dani had never been to any packgoat gatherings before, but because this one was so much closer to Minnesota than the others she was able to get away. We were so happy for her to join us! Phil and I were the last to arrive. We picked out a nice spot in the middle of everyone else and set up camp. 

It was a very cold day, but there was no rain so Phil and I decided to take our boys and make a brief afternoon exploration of the Buttes. Dean and Dani had already done some hiking and were ready to settle in, but Connie and Robert were up for a jaunt so they joined Phil and I with their two goats, Blackie and Butterscotch. 

The late afternoon sun glowed off the unique formations. We stopped at the first overlook to take in the beautiful white and yellow-striped rock.  

We marched on into the valley. 

I love Butterscotch's beautiful Kiko horns! Butterscotch was a bit lame because Blackie hit him in the shoulder the day before, but he was a trooper and kept up the pace.  

I loved the way the late afternoon light shone on the white rock faces of the Buttes.

We hiked for maybe a mile and a half and it was time to head back. 

Scout is starting to behave like Finn and climb along cliff edges. He needs to watch out because not only am I not sure he's quite as sure-footed or athletic as Finn, but he's also low man on the goatem pole. If Scout goes too close to an edge someone might think it's funny to push him over, or if there's a dispute over a narrow ledge he's going to lose. Finn doesn't have that particular problem to deal with when he tiptoes along clifftops!  

We stopped once more at the overlook so Phil could pose, and then it was time to head back to camp.

Around dusk everyone gathered at me and Phil's campsite, which was centrally located and had a nice open area around it. Sadly there was a fire ban and the night was quite chilly so it wasn't as cozy a gathering as we might have hoped, but the company was good and we had a lot of laughs and swapped a few yarns before we all shivered off to our beds. Phil and I decided to take a brief walk up to a lookout point above camp so we could warm ourselves with some exercise and enjoy the stars which were absolutely brilliant. We couldn't wait to explore for real in the morning!
Friday's cold snap broke sometime before dawn on Saturday. We woke up to a beautiful, warm fall day with bright blue skies and no wind. Robert and Connie were up first but had a delay as Butterscotch's shoulder pain had worsened during the night. He laid down three times on the way to me and Phil's campsite so they unloaded him and took him back to spend the day resting with Dwite and his three goats who remained in camp. 

Phil and I loaded the food and water onto Finn and gave Scout the first aid and survival kits. Sputnik wore a pack because he would have felt slighted without one, but I left it empty because he was footsore after hiking in Nemo the previous week. Sputnik unfortunately suffers from crooked leg joints and flat-footedness due to a total lack of angle in his pasterns. His poor conformation has been catching up to him these last couple of years so we have to be careful. Still, I love his attitude. He keeps up with us for the most part and he never complains even when his limp becomes obvious near the end of the day. He loves to hike, and more than that he loves to feel useful. So even if I don't load the panniers, Sputnik still gets to wear his saddle. 

Dean and Dani opted to carry their own gear and let their goats, Hunter and Georgey, hike unburdened. Their boys had not had enough conditioning to do a long hike with weight. It turned out later that they had made a very wise decision! 

We dropped into the valley and spread out along the trail. Phil was our fearless leader for most of the hike so our boys also led the way. I found that if I walked behind Phil and my goats walked behind me, they tended to lag a bit. Connie had to bump them with her hiking poles to keep them striding along. She did a good job keeping my herd moving! 

The area has no marked trails. Slim Buttes is open for grazing so there are innumerable cattle trails all over the formation. This can make navigation a bit tricky. Luckily the area is small enough it would not be possible to become truly lost. We headed left in order to navigate the site in a clockwise direction. We soon left the valley floor and climbed up into a beautiful, open pine forest filled with dappled sunlight and fall colors. Through this we often caught glimpses of the unique white rock formations rising up beyond the trees. 

The formation is not high so before lunchtime we crested the top and hiked back down into the valley. Unfortunately this was also where we left the shade behind. However, the valley was cut by many ravines filled with willow and cottonwood trees. These provided some much-needed relief from the sun but they also meant climbing down and then back up some fairly steep banks. 

We found a place in one of these ravines with enough fallen logs to accommodate a picnic lunch. At this point I remarked that the hike had been both longer and more difficult than anticipated, but also a whole lot more interesting. I believe all of us were stunned by the unique beauty of this place. I was also thinking that the hike was well over halfway done and the walk back after lunch would prove fairly easy.  

We got going again and from looking across the plain it seemed like our hike back to camp would be straightforward. There was precious little shade but it looked nice and flat. We would simply need to curve around the ridge to our right and we'd be back in camp!  

Unfortunately the reality was not so straightforward. The ravine crossings, although pretty in their fall colors, made for some intense workouts in the afternoon heat. 
We had only trekked a short distance across the valley floor when we encountered a large herd of cattle near a large water trough. A few goats drank but most didn't. We also encountered a fence cutting off our path. Slim Buttes is sectioned into three or four cattle grazing areas and hikers have to pass through gates. I didn't see a gate but in hindsight I believe there was one (Phil said he saw it). Our campsite was located diagonally to our right, but the fenceline went too far right. It would take us up and over the ridge again. I wasn't sure if this was a wise course to take, but it did mean getting back into the shade. So we turned along the fence and headed up. 

This is a lousy photo, but it's one of the only ones I have of Dean and it tells a story. Shortly after we turned off toward the woods, Dean's goat Georgey began to show signs of distress. He was lagging and more than anything he was panting heavily with his tongue hanging out. He clearly needed a break. We found a shady spot and sat down for a good half hour to let Georgey rest. The break turned out to be good for everyone since we ended up having a pretty good climb afterwards. 

We got back on the ridge and the view was stunning. We could see the formation next to our campsite, but the question now was how do we get to it? There was no obvious way down and the cliffs were very tall. We had to keep a close eye on our boys along the ridgetop. It was a very long drop on the other side, and Finn seemed to have his eye out for an opportunity to shove Scout off the edge. We also found a little window arch! 

After several false paths, Phil finally found a steep but good trail off the bluffs. We were back down in the valley and the heat and long hike were starting to get to us. Connie began to have painful charlie horses in her legs. We had to stop and rest a few times. Luckily I had some extra water in my pack for Connie. The trailhead looked tantalizingly close but nonetheless felt very far away.   

Almost back to camp and behind the goats you can see the bluffs which we climbed atop in our quest for a way back. It was beautiful up there, but in hindsight I think we'd have done better to look for a gate and cut across the valley even if it meant less shade.  

We got back to camp and all of us collapsed for some much-needed R&R. Later that afternoon Phil played his fiddle and two different families came to see the Rendy and visit with us for a while. I got out all of our packsaddles for them to see and shared some BMP cards. One family had joined NAPgA earlier this year. The other family had not joined yet, but they had just gotten a couple of miniature goats for their kids and wanted to train them for light pack work. They brought their goats with them and took them for a little hike around camp that evening. A third family who was camping out for the weekend and doing some hunting in the area spent some time visiting with Dwite. Perhaps they will get into packgoats one day!
What a great account, Nan. I have to add Nan and.Phil did a fantastic job finding a beautiful and interesting place for this rendezvous and we hope they'll organize and pull off a few more of these now and.then. We.did learn an important lesson, something I've heard Curtis King hammer on more than once. Take enough water! Now Robert and I know that "enough water" means two to three times what you think you will need. We took 4 small bottles of water with us but things happen. With the unexpected extra time of the hike, it was not enough, and it was a terrible burden to put on my fellow hikers to share their water to make it back to camp. We had some sweet generous fellow hikers to do so which I'm sure put a burden on them. Apparently dehydration can be the cause of.the severe Charlie muscles I had in the big muscles. Never had them like that in my life. Would I do it again? Well, I never have been very bright so the answer is YES!!

And I sure was proud of our little Blackie. Without much conditioning and being a "flatlander" like us, he handled it like a champ. For most part he remembered the "behind.me" command I taught him almost 2 years ago and haven't practiced since. But once the charlie horses started.to take me downhill,  I couldn't enforce it anymore and he took lead. I figured he'd charge ahead to be with the other goats and pay us little attention. He would.stay ahead about 3 or 4 lengths, then stop, look back at us and wait for us to catch up a little. Such a devoted boy. Just wish he wasn't so jealous of our other goats getting close to us. It was a little disappointing leaving Butterscotch behind due to the injuries Blackie had done to him. Butterscotch is small but normally a very willing packer and follower.

Nan and Blackie were my heroes the last mile or so. Nan kind of led Blackie while he had to pull my bulk up and down hills the last mile or so.

But the bottom line is, the old.lady (me) made it thru. Hubby even more so. So let it not be said we have too much "snow on the mountain" to do these hikes. We have not turned gray but rather PLATINUM BLOND!!!

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Here's my little.hero, Blackie w/ Hubby and Butterscotch.

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Ah yes. Thanks, Connie, for reminding me of Blackie's extra contribution there at the end. It's something I think all of us can make use of from time to time. I know I certainly have on very steep slopes! Tie a rope to the front crossbuck on a wooden saddle or to the back ring on a Sopris saddle and then let your goat pull you up a steep hill! It's the same concept as a tow rope on a ski slope. A few years ago me and three friends all used Sputnik to help us scale a very steep and icy slope during a winter hike. He had better traction than we did so we hung onto his saddle to help us make the climb and keep our feet. I have also used our goats to help navigate steep downhill slopes. I even did this at Slim Buttes on the last day when Phil and I went for one last little hike with Dean and Dani. The others scooted down on their bottoms, but I got Finn next to me and used his strong back to brace myself so I could stay upright. I knew he wasn't going to tumbled down that steep hillside of loose rock!

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