A bucket list hunt – My 2022 Colorado Mountain Goat (G16) experience

Firehead117

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Joined
Apr 19, 2022
Messages
71
My father started me out when I was 4 allowing me to tag along the final day of deer season and I have been hooked ever since. The beauty of nature, the silence, the challenges, and camaraderie with friends all instantly identified with me. Since that day, I cannot remember a year without some type of big game hunting. At 5 I was toting Dad’s spare gun (unloaded) as he taught me gun safety, hunting techniques, rules, and regulations. By 6 I was the camp field dresser and knife sharpener all of camp earning myself a hand me down Old Timer knife. I completed my hunter safety course in 4th grade (only missing 1 question on the test) and Dad bought me a 2 ¾ Remington 1100 that I still own to this day. I bagged my first 8-point buck that season at 9 years old. Uncles, friends, and my father-in-law have all gifted me with lessons and knowledge along the way. Growing up on the east coast, I never even had thoughts of hunting the “Big Three,” it was all about whitetails. I guess there were a few years Dad worked for a company headquartered in Maine so he applied for moose permits but we never drew. I was young and never understood what he was chasing.

Fast-forward two decades and I was living in the NOVA/DC rat race working at building my career. Great place to be from career wise but not the best place to settle and start a family in our opinion. When work presented an opportunity for our family to relocate from out Virginia roots to Colorado in 2007 and we jumped at it. Keeping things hunting related, it was April when I arrived and this whole ‘applying’ for hunting licenses was a foreign concept to me. I was used to just driving down to Wal-Mart and buying my tags the eve of the season opener. Needless to say, I missed the 2007 application cycle all together. Matter fact, I missed the entire 2007 Colorado hunting season due to the transition, house buying, and just general confusion on how to even hunt western states. Luckily, I had a VA Lifetime license and got to spend 2 weeks hunting whitetails that Thanksgiving taking a nice 156 VA Buck (for another thread some other day).

By application time 2008 I figured out the very basics of Colorado application process enough so to start at least collecting points. Many of you will remember, this was when you sent the full tag fee in for each species and the DOW would hold your cash sending you one refund check at a time with your “Sorry you were not drawn letters.” Needless to say, life was crazy that hunt season as we welcomed my oldest daughter to the family November 2008. I was able to slip away for my first DIY Elk hunt with zero advanced scouting right before she arrived. Looking back, it was more like hiking and bivy camping with guns. While I may have had tag soup that year several things were beginning to build… 1) I was HUNTING in Colorado. 2) I was acquiring some base gear & knowledge ‘required’ for western hunting I never needed in VA and 3) I had 1 pt. for each of the Big 3.

Fast forwarding 13 years through a positive learning curve of western hunting including a few successful Elk, mule deer, and Pronghorn hunts, and a family with tween girls keeping me busy I was starting to acquire a legit amount of points to envision drawing. For many reasons but mainly time commitment away from family life, I never even applied for anything beyond a point until 2020. After spending hours in GoHunt and other research sources I developed a plan I’ve been following for applications ever since including the 2022 applications.

On April 19, 2022 @ 10:47 AM I got the email from CPW. Instinctively I started to file in my hunting folder when my eye caught the word Congratulations in the opening sentence and my heart paused. I slowed down and read the message closer looking for the species revealing it was Mountain Goat!!! I started to shake out of joy. Of the Big 3 and honestly all Colorado species, Mountain Goat was always my most desired as I just think they are beautiful creatures.

Part of me thought it was a fake/phishing email so I instantly logged into my CC to check for charges to confirm the validity. With second level confirmation it began to get real and I had to break the news to my wife. At lunch we went for our normal walk routine, and I told her I had just drawn a Mountain Goat tag. She was excited for me but more so seemed to enjoy how giddy I was. She and my two daughters have reiterated they have not seen me so anxious and happy over something like I have been since that day. They still make fun of me about the day the physical tag arrived and I walked into the living room and did a little dance with it in my hand. Trust me… I’ve got moves…

It is only late April with my head spinning from excitement and anticipation the planner side of me wen into overdrive. I was making to do lists, researching the species, building initial hunt strategies, escouting, itemizing my gear needs so on and so forth. I had so much to learn and do and what seemed to be so little time. Of course, the year we have a 4-week summer east coast trip planned (& booked/paid) would be the year I need scouting time for a new unit/species. I kept telling myself I would find a way… escouting and networking with a few folks I met here or knew as previous tag holders helped start the wheels rolling.

With the kiddos off at IdRaHaJe summer camp for a week, the wife and I planned to hit the trail and tackle some 14ers (Grays and Torreys).
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The hike, while not in my G16 unit, was right across the ridges in the neighboring G7 unit, presented many opportunities to observe goats up close (and far away) for the first time since drawing. We counted nearly a dozen anywhere from 20 yards to 500 yards which was super exciting.

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After completing the hike, we on a whim decided to drive Guanella Pass over the top for an alternate route home. As we stopped for a picnic lunch on the other side of the pass, I started thinking… Man, are we are in my unit now??? Pulling out my phone and firing up OnX confirmed we were indeed right at the border of G16. With plenty of daylight left I started talking about that fact we were entering the unit and should keep our eyes peeled. On the way down the pass, with no pre-planning, we turned off a forest service road to check out some dispersed camping options for later that summer with the girls. The road happened to be Upper Geneva Creek Road/FS119 which I really had not gotten around to looking at much escouting. My focus until this point had me hunting the Summit side out of Montezuma/Peru Creek/Cinnamon Gulch based on intel and past friends experience. Our 5-mile run of Upper Geneva Creek looking at dispersed campsites impressed us enough to plan some family camping over the next 3 weeks before the big road trip.
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That week my escouting went into overdrive. I plotted all the GPS data of previous harvest in the unit and began seeing some patterns on/near the random Upper Geneva Creek Road we intended to camp. ***Shout of out to my friend Patrick who is a GIS whiz kid and helped teach me the basics for converting (townships to centroids) and plotting all the data ~300 cords. With a new location in mind and time on the calendar to put boots on the ground I was starting to feel a bit relieved. About this time CPW invites to the Goat Webinar came out along with info from KHunter on the RMBS BBQ invite. The BBQ fell on dates I was scheduled to be out of town starting our trip, but I was able to rearrange my travels to fit in my attendance. I’m glad I did as it was a fun time, and I was able to meet some great folks and get good intel confirming some of my plans.
 

Firehead117

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Apr 19, 2022
Messages
71
The family camping trip yielded lots of memories and laughter.
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In addition, it presented 2 solid glassing & scouting opportunities for the whole family to partake in. The first one we spotted an isolated goat that I assumed to be a Billy on the rocks high above Iron Fens toward Geneva Peak. He was big in body but with no comparison nearby and no experience glassing goats I was just guessing. The wife and kids had a wonderful time looking him over. My youngest daughter then yells – Hey Dad over here there seem to be more! About a mile down the ridges the next hill over she spots a heard of 6 on hillside. Sure enough, they were goats and we watched them for about 20 minutes before the rain came in and we drove back down to camp. I was stoked to get eyes on live goats in my unit.
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Doing so with the wife and kids made it that much more special to me. The following day around lunch we hiked an established trail to some high-country basin with a lake – Shelf Lake Trail 3.3 miles one way. About 2 miles in we could hear and see the storms building and the girls decided they wanted to turn back. We had a quick chat as I evaluated the weather and decided we would split and I would make a bad dash to the lake taking in quick intel on the basin, cliffs, visibility etc. to aid my escouting. There had been several goats taken within a ½ mile of this trail over the last few years and seeing the terrain firsthand proved to be immensely helpful. Right before reaching the end of the trail/lake the weather was hitting a point I knew I had to be responsible and turn around. Just then looking up at the ridges a group of 6 goats decided to silhouette/sky-lining themselves for me and run across the top of the saddle coming off Decatur Mtn.
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With my goals of recon and spotting goats both accomplished I successfully raced down the trail beating the storm and meeting the family in the 4runner. They were playing cards and timing my arrival. Apparently, I had under 5 minutes before they were going to leave me and drive back to camp adding another .5 mile to my hike out...

Summer was flying by. The to-do lists and prep work was slowly getting checked off one by one. Family vacation rolled around taking us back east for our road trip creating memories of a lifetime in Acadia, VT, NH, and all-over New England.
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Although I would not change anything it was weighing in the back of my head that my to-do lists and scouting opportunities were slipping by and opening day was barreling down on me. We were not scheduled to be back in Colorado until the first week of August which was less than a month before opening day. I continued to escout and plan the best I could. Folks like dsnow and folks I met at the BBQ and CPW webinar exchanged info and helped ease my anxiousness that I was going to be in the wrong area. Thanks to all.

Back from the road trip (7+k miles and 29 days) it was time to get boots on the ground again in my unit. After church that weekend, I decided to make a solo daytrip to the trail we spotted all the goats during the family camping trip. The weather was crappy with consistent rain and isolated thunderstorms but it did not slow me down as I needed to see more goats! While the rain did not slow me down, blowing a tire 5.5 miles back on a forest service trail while solo WILL slow you down. To complicate the matter further I will shamefully share I was being a tight wad earlier in the year when I blew a tire and had not yet replaced my spare. Here I sit 5.5 miles back with a flat, no spare, raining hard, and no cell reception.
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What a bonehead move… I know insert jokes here… I deserve it. But now let us move on we got goats to get to… I limp the truck up the hill to a creek crossing spot where I will not block the trail. This spot happens to be the same spot we parked and glassed the isolated Billy and Nanny groups the month before. I spend 20 minutes or so glassing with no luck. No goats.
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Discouraged I decide I must do something, or it is going to get dark, and I am going to be stranded. I plan to hike to the RV camped ~3 miles below and ask for help. I drop the blown spare, put on my rain jacket, and start bouncing the tire down the trail with the skill of a NASCAR crew member. A sight for sore eyes I promise you.

I make it about a mile before running into a gentleman running the road who happened to be getting sketched out with the terrain/grade and wanting to turn around. My scene I’m sure made him really want to turn around. He was an awesome person who generously gave me a ride 60 miles back to Denver where I met my wife. I fixed the tire the next morning and had a friend bring me back the following afternoon to recover the 4runner. Yes, I then put all new tires and a new spare on the rig… Will not make that mistake twice.

Time is flying, schools starting, and parental ubering of tweens is in full swing. Before I knew it, we are one week out from Go time and I have come to grips with it is going to be what it is going to be. I hope the little (4 days) scouting, lots escouting, youtubing goat hunts and other random goat researching I did is enough to lead to success…

The season opens the Tuesday after Labor Day (September 6). I do not plan to setup camp until the afternoon of Labor Day (9/5) for multiple reason – Family BBQ and allow the recreation traffic to exit the mountains freeing up the roads/campsites a bit. Setting up camp was a solo job with my friend not able to join me until Tuesday due to family commitments. It is no big deal doing so and I am beyond grateful for his company on the trip.

With Camp set I decided to enjoy dinner next to the firepit under the stars.
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While sitting there I fired off come check in messages from the newly acquires Zoleo reassuring folks I was ok and confirming the camp location for Dan. After receiving several encouraging messages from my crew and enjoying several constellations I decided it was time to head into the tent for some last-minute gear prep before hitting the sack for a good night sleep.
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As with every Eve, no matter Christmas or Opening Day, I did not sleep great as I was super anxious for what tomorrow would bring.

At 5:15am my alarm went off and I was ready for Go time. I popped out of my cot to a brisk mid 40’s perfectly clear morning, got dressed, and headed to the cook tent to enjoy some yogurt and berries and a nice cup of Joe...
 

Firehead117

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Joined
Apr 19, 2022
Messages
71
Day 1 – Season Opener.

Prior to leaving for the season, I mapped a hunting plan/strategy with coordinates, routes, and rounds that I intended to hunt naming them areas 1-4. On opening day, my plan was to drive the truck up the basin to a nice access point to Area 1 that had an established trail for me to use the first mile before turning off and gaining significant elevation to the ridges and lake area I had seen the nicer of billies this summer. I intended to spend the entire first day on the ridges glassing goats until I found the one, I wanted to put a stalk on. Easier said than done…

The initial hike in and climb went smooth. It was very steep as expected but the creek drainage I choose during escouting provided a nice path for climbing along with the shade as soon as the sun was up.

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The sun was something I quickly determined I had not adequately planned for. I was beyond thankful I randomly tossed my super light neck garter in my pack at the last minute as it saved my beautiful Irish skin from some sunburn during the next 12 hours above tree line on a perfectly sunny and hot (mid 60s) day.

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After the initial climb and some initial ridge creeping to get where I wanted, I settled in for glassing. I picked apart the basin, cliffs, and rockslides to the best of my ability to no avail. I skirted to the next glassing spot and perspective and repeated the process. I jumped ridges and crossed saddles only to repeat the process with no luck. I was getting a bit discourages and honestly sick of the sun intensity when I realized it was past lunch time (~130pm) and I must just be hangry. I settled into a new glassing spot that would position me to look across the road a few miles to the gulches/basins I had picked out for Area 2, 3, and 4 and began glassing them as I enjoyed my lunch. While the food raised my spirits it did little for the sun bearing down on me and did not attract any goats. They must not have gotten the invitation or appreciated the selection of RxBars, nuts, and fruit I had on the menu. Perhaps it was the 7mm WSM on the guest list that had them discouraged.

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With a bit higher spirit and a full belly, I began picking apart the areas around me with my binos as well as scanning across the mountain into Areas 2 and backside of Area 3 that provided the best perspectives from where I sat. I caught movement way in the back of Area 2 coming off a saddle. Focusing I could quickly tell there were goats, but they were over 2 miles away. Without my spotter and clearly counting 2 larger and 3 smaller goats I assume it was a nannie/kid group. While I did not want to shoot a nannie, especially with a kid, it was super encouraging to be in season and have live goats in my binoculars regardless of how close they were. enjoyed watching their movements in Area 2 for the next hour learning how they descend and skirted the lake before reclimbing into some cliffs. Area 2 is a gulch I have never hiked into but has produced several goats over the years so any education I could gain would be useful. Area 2 was part of the evening plan and/or day 2 strategy. I’ve since learned the a billie was taken from the hillside these goats came scurrying from about this exact time. I must have been seeing the fallout from that commotion.

With the hours passing by and the sunning falling on the horizon I started working my way back to some of the morning glassing spots to reevaluate the cliffs with different lighting. The sun really played tricks on my eyes throughout the day making tons of the rocks shine looking nice and white from a distance. Upon closer inspection I was continually disappointed.

Not having a great estimate for my return hike, I decided to head down a bit and circle the lower rock fields of the basin. The plan would allow me to navigate some of the trickier terrain in daylight but also be in position to hit the upper road where I blew my tire earlier in the summer. I would walk the road back to my truck and in doing so check the creek for my tire rod extension I used during recovery. No dice.

Back at my truck a bit earlier then intended and with ~ 1.5hr of daylight left I debated on the best plan of action. I did not really have any easily accessible areas planned for such a short window. I debated climbing a well-established hiking trail and peeling off to the ridge it skates for a glimpse into Area 4 basin. The trail would allow easy night hiking but would put me back in camp late on Day 1. I opted against the idea after swinging by camp and seeing my buddy Dan had arrived and was enjoying a cold one. We got to talking and I decided best to rest my legs and settle in for the marathon not the sprint. I had dropped 16 miles total on the day all said and done. The company of a friend in camp and green chili feta elk burgers was just what this soul needed.

As we sat next to the firepit with the night winding down our conversation was interrupted when we noticed something large grunting and quickly approaching camp from the creek. We both sprang from our camp chairs trying to figure out what the hell was going on when in the moonlight I could barely make out massive white antlers mounted on a huge body about 15 yards skating the ends of camp right on a creek. It was a massive bull moose. He walked right behind our tent about 20 yards with two creek merge and began thrashing the bushes with his antlers. I have not paid particularly close attention to the moose sizes in CO over the years but in my book/estimate this is the largest I have ever seen in CO. The pictures are not great as it is dark out and we are using flashlights, but you be the judge and let me know.

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After about 20 minutes of watching, he decided the poor bush had enough and continued his trek down the creek and we decided it was time to turn in for the night.

Laying in my cot recounting my day and studying my onx maps making plans for day 2 I decided to skip area 2 for the more accessible area 3. Area 3 has many historical kills on the backside cliffs/rocks located about halfway up an established hiking trail. This was also the trail I ran up this summer with the family in the rainstorm when I spotted the heard of goats. Dan would carry the spotter allowing us to pick the area apart much easier and the trails would provide quicker access back to camp for him if necessary. We a plan set I quickly drifted off for a good night sleep.
 

Firehead117

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Joined
Apr 19, 2022
Messages
71
Day 2
Alarms ringing at 5:15am and I was quick to dress and start some coffee.

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Before long we were off to the trailhead which was only a quarter mile from camp. The initial hike would take us about 2 miles to the area providing magnificent views of what I call the rocky cliffs. Before we even got to the glassing areas, I planned to setup at I was able to spot 2 goats on the ledges from a small window along the hike up. It got my adrenaline going and made for a quick sprint up the steepest part of the trail prob at a faster clip than Dan wished but he did so with a smile.
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When we got to the intended area for glassing, we quickly setup the spotter to get a closer look at the two goats.
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It was a nice size nannie and kid doing was goats do in defying reality walking on ledges. They were only 550 yards but in some really steep and tricky areas for recovery etc. Mentally I mapped plans to make a climb & stalk through several of the shoots as I wrestled with the voices in my head to pass vs make a play. Having an either sex tag for Goat presented this internal conflict of taking the first nice goat I saw vs wanting to take a billy for all the reasons you suspect. Having fun watching them for a good 2 hours as we picked the rest of the mountain side apart as I changed my mind 20 times. I came to my senses and for safety and conservation reasons decided to pass and keep heading up the trail. Dan was tired from the quick sprint up and said he would stick around this area in the last of the shade a reading his book and keep an eye on this area as it was known for bedding goats. He would be able to signal me back, if necessary, later I would glass back before hopping the ridges to Area 2 where I saw the goats yesterday.

I made quick progress up the remaining 1.3 mile established hiking trail which ended at a lake. About .2 from the lake and 100 yards from where I spotted the goats this summer, I sarcastically say to myself wouldn’t it be something if there were goats here again? Looking up and albeit a different hillside what to my surprise my eyes fell upon two goats laid out sunning. Holy Crap!!! I quickly step off the trail into what little brush remained and could provide some cover. I tossed my binos up and quickly could tell these are billies and has a nice chuckle to myself. The Lord is so good to me and blesses me time and time again when my faith can be so small... The billies were halfway up the hillside (no real cliffs) right at 410 yards lying about 20 yards apart...

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There is only one problem running through my head… I do not want to shoot more then 300 yards. Some of you may criticize but I just do not get to shoot as often as I would like so that is my range and I stick to it for many reasons. While many of you have the gift, time, and/or setup to just crank out long-range shots with no error I am only truly comfortable out to about 300 yards. What to do what to do…. They clearly saw me initially before I stepped off the trail and continued to rotate like watchmen. One laying its head down (sleeping?) and the other staring directly at me/in my direction.

I knew the trail climbed a bit closer to them before taking a hard turn toward the lake where it would leave their visibility. Should I walk the trail like a normal hiker hoping they are used to it and then climb the ridge to get above them? Should I slowly sidehill to the large rocks on the other side of the trail that gave yardage? It had been 15 minutes that I had pinned myself down and I needed to decide.

I slowly walked across the trail and crouched/crawled my way to the targeted rocks. 360 yards. Damn I thought it would gain me more. . here are some more rocks further along the sidehill so I make my move and crouch walk slowly (thighs burning!!!). 328 yards. Damn it. I have this fear that 3 strikes I am out. There will be no way I can make a third move this exposed without something happening. They are both looking at me like hawks at this point but there is one more set of rocks right there. Do I break my rule of 300 or so I try my luck at another move? With a little more cover from the rocks and using my ninja like moves I make my way one last time to the next batch of rocks I have picked out. I breath a nice huge sigh of relief when the rangefinder reveals 267 yards, and the goats do not seem phased. To that point the top goat seems to have laid his head back down.

I slide my mystery ranch pack off to brace my rifle on the angle as I prone out on the step rocks. The pack will not seem to sit right, and I keep having to adjust it. I have gone back and forth 100 time on which is the better goat. Initially I went top and, in the end, had settled on him being my preference for body size reasons as the horns looked comparable.
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Ohh shoot the top billing has stood up and is looking right at me at this point... settle the Leopold crosshairs of my 7mm WSM onto the top goat standing perfectly broadside looking at me and squeeze off the shot.

The goat spins from facing to my right to facing to my left. I know I hit him, but he does not seem to be phased so I jack another shell in and settle in on him as he begins to walk. Anxious I yank the trigger and clearly send one about 6 inch high as I see if explode on the hill right behind him. The second billy stands and looks in my direction and my billy keeps walking but clearly is hurt. I see him start to fall/collapse on his knee, but he regains his stability and keeps walking. I put the 3rd shot on him high lungs and he takes an instant nosedive and rolls 165 yards directly down the hill towards before piling up in some small flat area. 2022 Mountain Goat tag filled! A dream comes true! A bucket list item checked!!!

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I get some Zoleo messages out to my wife and buddies while Dan makes his way to me. We celebrate and take some pictures before getting to work. We cape it out for a full body mount and quarter it all up.

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I hike out two hinds, a strap, and loins along with the cape. Dan handles some gear, two shoulders, and a strap. It is 3.2 miles to the truck down about 2000 ft in elevation. It takes us nearly 4 hours said and done but we make it out in one trip.

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The wife and kids helped process all the meat this past weekend and we look forward to trying it out so I can stake an opinion in the mountain goat taste debate for myself. As homeschoolers this is one of dads ways of contributing to the Anatomy/Biology lessons and Mom doesn’t miss a beat making connections. Great times for all!

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A full body mount is in the works and Pictures to follow. For the time being my taxidermist sent my horns home and they rest on the mantel warming up to the environment.

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This memory will live with me forever. Couldn't have dreamed a better story/outcome as I look back and recount it. Thanks for reading and all that have contributed to the hunt and all my hunting experiences to date. Looking forward to many more.
 
Last edited:

Lilhowie83

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Jun 19, 2020
Messages
611
Location
Southeast Idaho
Congratulations and awsome write up. Thanks for taking us along on the adventure. I especially love the homeschool aspect. We have homeschooled all of our kids through elementary and I would always look for opportunities like this to teach our kids. Good job.
 

targetpanic

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Joined
Aug 24, 2017
Messages
724
Location
Phillipston, MA
What a great write up and pics! Congratulations!
Hope you enjoyed your time in New England this summer...the pic of you guys on the rocks w the covered bridge in the background...was that on the Ammonoosuc River in NH by any stretch???
 

Firehead117

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Joined
Apr 19, 2022
Messages
71
Congratulations and awsome write up. Thanks for taking us along on the adventure. I especially love the homeschool aspect. We have homeschooled all of our kids through elementary and I would always look for opportunities like this to teach our kids. Good job.
Sweet! Hunting season always brings school closures for meat processing around our 'middle school'. The kids love it. Mom caught a little grief this year when she mixed it up and brought lessons/textbooks to the meat processing party. HAHA
 

Firehead117

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 19, 2022
Messages
71
What a great write up and pics! Congratulations!
Hope you enjoyed your time in New England this summer...the pic of you guys on the rocks w the covered bridge in the background...was that on the Ammonoosuc River in NH by any stretch???

Loved New England! That particular bridge I believe was the Albany Covered Bridge outside of Conway, NH as we were finishing the Kancamagus Highway drive. We stopped at many I think that's right though. Gorgeous area. Love VT and NH.
 

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