This is the last report from Shawn on his trip last week. Enjoy! I sure did! Thanks again Shawn for sharing!
Thanksgiving morning started cloudy, so I decided I should run out to the dryhead and see who I could find to let it clear before heading back up the mountain. The first horse I ran across was… no one. No greeters at the gate, no horses hanging out on the hills around the overlook, and mustang flats was empty.
I scanned often, but did not get out and hike to some of the areas down draws or behind hills where I have seen horses. While I had driven through the dryhead, I had realized that the only clouds were right around where I had camped and the rest of the sky was clear and blue. I decided to head back up and hike over to where I had seen the horses on Sykes.
The only horses I saw from the day before were the Forest Boys and Knight eating more of the road. I scanned the opposite hillside from Cheyenne flats, and then looked up higher on Burnt Timber. A little higher in the light, new snow I could see some horses. Maybe in an effort to prolong the hike or maybe because a band in the hand is worth 2 across the chasm, I decided to check on them.
I thought I had seen Missoula’s bright colors from below, and as I entered their opening I saw Phoenix and War Bonnet moving into the trees.
I started to move toward another opening in the trees, hoping to catch them as they entered, when I heard some action and they came back out. The band moved past me, and Teton brought up the rear in his common snaking mode. A few seconds later, Jaser popped out of the trees and looked a little surprised to see me. Garay came out with him and Teton made a hurried little rush to keep them back near the trees.
As Teton and group moved down the ridge, Jasper and Garay followed as close as Teton would allow them before jogging over to make sure they knew he was there. I made my way back to the flats as the horses all moved down over the edge.
From the flats I was able to relocate some horses on one of the Sykes arms. I knew the snow up top would make that route dicey, if it had even been open before. The horses were high enough up Sykes to not want to drive up from the bottom. There is only one way I know of to make it to Sykes without adding a lot of wear on your vehicle, and it involves a nasty hike down burnt timber and then back up the other side.
You usually get hot as you hike, and cold when the wind hits you on the other side. While it is easy to see the horses and what to do from BT, once you get to the bottom it can be hard to find where you need to head up the other side properly. If you go up the wrong hill, like I did in my first attempt last spring, you end up on an island or the wrong arm and have to go down and up again. I avoided that this time, but did need to make one short detour along the bottom of rimrock before I could find a draw leading to the “top”. Even that is misleading on the Sykes side. It was finally what looks like the “level” ground from the other side, but they are long, skinny, sloped arms with a lot of steep draws between smaller fingers. I hiked up longer than I thought it had looked from the other side before I finally saw some horses across a smaller draw.
Irial and Mescalero were hanging out together, with Polaris and Rosarita eating above them and Jupiter and London eating below them. I found a spot slightly out of the wind and ate a Thanksgiving lunch pb and j sandwich as I watched them all eat.
London looks like he has been scrapping a little, and while I didn’t notice it there, I noticed while looking through the photos that Jupiter may have a small red wound near his right hip. All 6 horses seemed fairly comfortable together. I knew I had seen other horses, so after I finished eating I began walking up the arm in search of more.
Just as I was beginning to think that the other horses were on a different ridge arm, I saw a few moving higher up the arm. I took off after them and finally caught up. Coronado’s band was in front of me and Morning Star’s was a little more to my right. Of course I ignored Morning Star’s and went right for pictures of Manuelita. She looks healthy, but after seeing how big some of the early foals are she does seem so small.
After getting pictures of her and her family, I moved back down the arm but over the edge in the draw. This allowed me to put Morning Star and his band above me so I could set-up and wait for them to walk by as they were heading down, and get some shots with the blue sky behind. I prepared to head back down as Irial and the others came up. There must be water or some attraction in the area that draws the horses up to it.
I made my way back to burnt timber and since I didn’t see any other horses I decided to try the park again before I made my way to Cabelas and then Yellowstone. I didn’t see any horses on the way to the end of the range, and was heading out when I finally ran across a blazed grulla at the Ranger’s Delight trailhead. I was a little excited at first, hoping I had found the lone Merlin. I pulled into the parking area and was able to get a better look. It was just Fiero, but I had not seen him in a while, and not since he had lost his harem.
I snapped a picture of him as the light began to fade, and left the range knowing I will have o get back soon to continue the search for some of the missing horses and to see the ones I had missed this trip.