It is a cold snowy weekend here in western Montana. So I thought I would take myself back to warmer days and write a post about camping in the Pryor’s.
Camping in the Pryor’s with the wild horses is one of my favorite things to do. Hearing the horses whinny and munch grass right outside my tent at night, is really an experience that I won’t get tired of. Each time that I have camped up there, I find that I am almost if not the only the only one, on the mountain top (human).
I have heard that the BLM is thinking of establishing a campground up there. I am going to be pretty sad if that happens. I love being able to pick my campsite and camp where ever I want. Having an established campground would bring a whole list of problems. Mostly I am thinking, bear problems. With an established campground, the more people, the more mess left behind. That is an invitation for bears. Also, I am not seeing a need for an established campground. There just are not that many people camping up there. But if an established campground was made…well I see a lot more people coming up and camping, and I personally don’t want to see that happen. It is not good for the horses or the land. They need to leave it more primitive.
I am going to share with you a few simple rules about camping in the Pryor’s, or any land for that matter. My hope is that those that do camp, will remember these things, and those that just do day trips will also remember some of these. Then maybe, just maybe the BLM will not put in an established campground.
I have lived in Montana for 20 years. In those twenty years I have camped quite a bit. So these things just come naturally to me. I realize though, that some people may not camp very much, so I will just tell you a few things to remember.
1. Stay on the road. In the Pryor’s you are not allowed to drive off the road. That includes all vehicles, 4- wheelers, dirt bikes, etc.. You must stay on the designated road. That includes setting up camp. I usually find a wider place in the road where I can pull my truck to the side and still let other cars get by. Then I carry all of my gear back to where I want to camp (usually not that far).
Last summer I witnessed someone parked and camping about 1/2 mile off the road, just above Mystic Pond. You can camp there, you just can’t drive your vehicle there.
2. PACK IN, PACK OUT. I don’t think a lot of people know what that means. I have seen tissue, plastic water bottles, etc lying around. Tissue will probably go away in time, but it is pretty gross to see it lying around until then. So please just pick it up. The water bottles won’t go away. So pack in, pack out means just that. What ever you bring in with you must go back with you. That includes EVERYTHING. There are not bathrooms in the Pryor’s. I won’t go into too much detail on that, but I hope you get the idea.
3. Don’t Leave your Food out. I put all of my food items, including coolers, back in the truck at night. Leaving it out will attract critters. Bears, etc..and please do not take any food in the tent with you! I had heard that there were quite a few black bears up there, but I did not see one until my October 2011 trip. I do take bear spray with me.
4. Leave your campsite how you found it. Please leave your campsite just how you found it. When I take down my tent, I try to fluff up the grass where the tent was. I am really pleased when I come back the next time and it looks just like it did before I was there. When I see that, I know I did a good job. Also, look around and make sure you are leaving nothing behind.
5. Keep your dog on a leash. That is for their safety and of course the horses. Last summer I witness a huge German Shepard off leash. It went within feet (yes feet!!) to the horses, including a very young foal. ( these were actually the same people who were parked 1/2 mile off the road to camp too!)
6. Respect the Horses. Please try to stay at least 50-100 feet away from the horses. That is not always possible. Sometimes they are right by your car, sometimes they walk by you when you are eating breakfast, lunch or dinner. Waking up and finding a band of horses right outside your tent is a very good possibility. When I find that happening, I get out of my tent slowly and move away. I have a 70×300 lens. I wish I had a bigger one, but I feel I get some really good photos with that. I won’t put myself or the horses in danger by trying to get closer for a really good shot. I would rather take the photo at a respected distance and crop it. So when you can, please stay your distance. It is just out of respect for the horses and for your safety.
7. Don’t Feed or Touch the Horses. I wasn’t even going to post this. But, unfortunately I have seen people do both. The horses digestive systems are not used to eating other things then what they get on the range. They are wild animals, so trying to touch them may put yourself in danger. Enough said about this. Just don’t do it.
All of the photos below were taken from my campsite just around 6:00 am. The horses visit me often!
I love camping in the Pryor’s with the horses. I wish everyone could experience it. If you do, let’s do it by respecting the Horses and the Land.