I knew when this trip got closer, that the weather on Sunday looked bad. My plan when I learned this, was to get to Lovell early enough to be able to go up the mountain on Saturday.
So my friend Brigitte and I left Missoula early and were heading up Burnt Timber Road by 2:00 pm. I was glad the time had changed and we would have that extra hour of light now. It meant we would have a good 5 hours before dark.
I was happy I had planned the trip that way. This is what it looks like outside right now. Snow and 50 + mile an hour winds.
So that is why you are getting to read this post today. We are hoping the weather clears by this afternoon and we can at least venture out to the Dryhead and look for horses.
As we started to head up Burnt Timber Road, we saw a black cloud looming ahead of us. But there was blue sky following that cloud. We were hoping the blue sky prevailed .
We quickly learned that there was some hail in that black cloud and stopped to put on our rain gear. My mind drifted back to my trip up this road in late October and I hoped I would not have a repeat of that adventure. You can read about that by clicking on OCTOBER.
We continued up the mountain. When I was here four weeks ago, there was a lot of snow and we were only able to get up the road a short way. Today, there was no snow on the road, all the way to the first water catchment. I was really happy I did not have to hike up that long red hill in knee deep snow again this trip. However, I do hope they get some spring snow. The range will need the moisture.
By the time we arrived at the water guzzler, the hail had stopped and the dark cloud was making an exit. We pulled over and turned towards the guzzler. No horses.
We walked back to it, making sure no horses were in the bushes taking cover from the departing storm. No horses.
We continued to hike so that we could get a view of Skyes and Turkey Flats below. We were not disappointed, spotting one apricot dun horse over on Sykes. It was Durango, still alone. I wondered if Fools Crow still had his band and was hoping to spot them as well. Durango was the only one we spotted on Sykes.
We turned to glass towards Turkey Flats, and again were not disappointed. We quickly spotted 3 more horses and 3 others to the left of them. The 3 on the left were running towards the 3 on the right. The stallion from the right ran up to greet and head off the 3 on the left. It was too far away to see who they were, but I concluded by watching these actions, that it must have been 3 bachelor stallions on the left and a band of 3 on the right.
The bachelors backed down pretty fast and continued to move on at a fast pace.
We hiked back to the guzzler, still no horses and returned to the ATV heading back up the road.
As we continued up the road, which was now a bit muddy (from melting snow and the recent hail) I wondered how far we would be able to go.
Shawn had been on this road the day before and had given me a brief report on what he saw, where and how the road conditions were. He said he had driven as far as the mines, so I was confidant we would be able to make it further in the ATV without too much trouble.
We arrived at the mine area and I was surprised to see a picnic table and fire ring installed there. It made me frown a bit. I had heard of this picnic table last summer, but had not made the slight turn off the road to see it yet. Well here it was and it seemed really out-of-place to me.
Still no horses.
We continued up the road. The sun was out now and the road was getting muddier and more slippery. We wondered how far we should venture this late in the day. We continued. Just as we were about to give up and turn around in hopes of seeing horses on our way down, I came around a bend in the road and there stood a black horse looking back at me.
It was Polaris, and she was as surprised to see us as we were to see her.
I turned off the ATV and we walked close enough to the edge to be able to look over and see Mescalaro.
Then I turned and saw Half Moon and Missoula. Now this was interesting. I knew that Half Moon and Missoula belonged to the stallion Teton. I looked across the deep ravine and saw Phoenix, she also was from Tetons band.
Where was Warbonnet? Was she over the edge where I could not see her? Had Mescalero taken Tetons band? I could tell by the mares actions and postures, that they were not pleased with the current situation.
I thought back on my last mountain top visit early in September. I had seen these two bands together then. Several times. Missoula at that time seemed to really like Mescalero. It seemed odd, but was he partially the reason for this apparent switch? You can read about this in that September post, by clicking on September.
I knew I wanted to settle in and observe this band for a while and see what unfolded. There was a lot of gentle interaction between Missoula and his grandmother Rosarita. Polaris, however wanted nothing to do with the situation and made herself comfortable further down and way from those three.
At one point Rosarita tried to get Half Moon and Missoula to move, but Half Moon refused to go far.
It was over 30 minutes before I saw Tetons head coming up from below.
We continued to watch. I had still not seen Warbonnet, and now Phoenix was out of sight.
Despite the fact that Teton had now arrived on the scene, Mescalero continued to be relaxed. Were these two bands simply just enjoying being together? I still concluded no. It was a quiet unrest that I had seen before. Not unlike the times I had seen from Grijala and Lakota a couple of years before.
Mescalero was comfortable enough to lay down and enjoy a good roll in the red dirt.
Then it was Rosarita’s turn to roll and have a little fun with Missoula.
Then, Teton decided to come over and see what all the fun was and flirt a little with Rosarita.
Rosarita let out a squeal and a kick. Just enough noise to get Mescalero’s attention.
Mecalero wasted no time coming over and moving Rosarita away. Then quickly returned and had a few words with Teton.
Now before you have time to worry about Missoula in this photo, let me tell you the complete story . Missoula had plenty of time to remove himself from this situation. But he choose to remain here, almost seeming to take the side of Mescalero, until things got a little to heated! Then he made a dash for safety.
Without any physical contact, Teton backed down and retreated back by Half Moon. Missoula clearly chose to stay where he was.
This seemed odd to me. Wasn’t a young colt supposed to want to be with his mom? It just did not seem right to me. I wondered if this is how some of the foals get separated from their family bands. Did they choose to go on their own? It almost seemed like this could be the case with Missoula.
Then, I tried not too, but I began to worry, even before I got back down from the mountain and had extra time on my hands to think things through. Mescalero does not have a good track record with foals. They seem to have a habit of disappearing while in his band. In the late spring. Please, don’t let this happen to Missoula, I thought.
Teton will be 19 this year. I really dislike seeing these older stallions loose their bands. It makes my heart hurt. For some more than others. This situation made my heart hurt. I know it is the way things are in the wild, but I can not tell my heart to not hurt.
We stayed longer, still hoping that Warbonnet would appear.
Finally, Half Moon came over and quietly took Missoula back.
It was almost 6 by now and we decided we should start to head down. I wanted enough light left in case we spotted some more horses. I hated leaving without seeing Warbonnet, but I figured she was just over the ridge, out of sight, not happy about the current situation.
I confirmed with Shawn today, that he did see Warbonnet just the day before.
We turned the ATV around on the narrow road and headed back down, past the guzzler without seeing another horse.
I mentioned that I thought we should be seeing Capuccino. We were just coming around a bend (does that sound familiar?) when I saw a blonde horse in front of us. It was Blanca and the rest of Cappuccino’s band. Moenkopi looked even better than the last time I had seen her, four weeks earlier. She is Jackson and Galena’s daughter. She also seemed very content to be with this band. Had she chosen this? It was something new to consider.
It wasn’t long and this beautiful band of almost all duns, decided to move on. They took the way we needed to go, so we followed slowly way behind them until they turned off the road and headed down a ridge.
I did not see Two Boots in his usual spot, and I wondered where he was.
We have seen 17 horses so far. Not a lot, but more than some days I have had.
As I finish writing this post, almost 4 hours since I started it, the wind continues to blow strong and it is still snowing. I continue to hope for a break. But we have tomorrow, I am thankful for our day yesterday.