This would be my 4th trip up Sykes Ridge Road. But only my second trip back down. I knew that this time of year I would not be able to make the compete loop (up Sykes, down Burnt Timber). So looking at the weather map, decided that Sunday would be the best day to head up.
Driving up the roads on the range made me think about my white water kayaking days. These roads seemed to fall into the same category as a white water river. Rivers are classified as such:
Easy Waves small; passages clear; no serious obstacles.
Medium Rapids of moderate difficulty with passages clear. Requires experience plus suitable outfit and boat.
Difficult Waves numerous, high, irregular; rocks; eddies; rapids with passages clear though narrow, requiring expertise in maneuvering; scouting usually needed. Requires good operator and boat.
Very difficult Long rapids; waves high, irregular; dangerous rocks; boiling eddies; best passages difficult to scout; scouting mandatory first time; powerful and precise maneuvering required. Demands expert boatman and excellent boat and good quality equipment.
Extremely difficult Exceedingly difficult, long and violent rapids, following each other almost without interruption; riverbed extremely obstructed; big drops; violent current; very steep gradient; close study essential but often difficult. Requires best person, boat, and outfit suited to the situation. All possible precautions must be taken.
Class U Formerly classified as unrunnable by any craft. This classification has now[when?] been redefined as “unraftable” due to people having recently kayaked multiple Class VI around the world.(Some consider rafting on a class VI river suicidal, and only extreme luck or skill will allow you through)
I thought this was the perfect way to explain the roads within the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range.
Sykes is pretty much a straight up class IV to V. Up is more of a class IV, down is more of a class V. Sure there are a few Class III parts, maybe even a little Class II. But this is not a road that can be taken lightly.
You hope you pick the right line. Sometimes you have very little time to decide. If you pick the wrong line, it can be a pretty scary and dangerous thing.
Burnt Timber is a class III with some IV thrown in here and there, but mostly a nice class III.
So with that in mind we were on our way up Sykes mid morning after a quick trip through the Dryhead.
We had gone up the road a couple of miles when we spotted a black horse off in the distance. As we got closer, I confirmed that it was Chief Joseph. We stayed there watching him for several minutes. He appeared to be alone.
We continued up the Class IV road with little trouble. After going another 8 miles without seeing another horse, I wondered if it would be a day of few horses. I navigated “dead biologist corner” with ease. We stopped to take a look around. Anh pointed up behind us and we saw nine horses moving across the steep hill directly above our heads.
One of the bands that I really wanted to see this trip was Fools Crows. At first glance I thought I had full filled that wish. It was Fools Crow’s Band, but where was Fools Crow? Hidalgo seemed to be in charge of these 8 horses now. I had not expected this. It has been a long complicated story to get to this point for this band and I will try to shorten it as much as possible, but still give you a look into what is going on.
1. May 2012 Fools Crow had: Bell Starr, Jewel and Mercuria.
2. May 2012 Merlin had: Kaelia, Halo, Fresia and Montana
3. December 2012 Hidalgo had: Halo, Fresia and Montana (Kaelia was removed in August)
4. February 2013 Fools Crow had: Halo, Fresia, Montana, Jewel, Mercuria, Icara, Morgana and Bell Starr
Now, today, Hidalgo had taken Fools Crows entire band. I watched them head off through the trees and was sure we would see them again down the road. They were able to take a more direct route to where they were going.
I was right, just down the road several turns, we encountered them again high above us. Hidalgo was keeping this band moving. It made me think that this switch in bands was a recent occurrence.
We watched them run off again and kept going up the road. We had gone about 12 miles now. We stopped to take a few photos of the view of the Dryhead below us.
Then just around another curve there was Hidalgo and the band right in front of us again. This was one of the bands I had really wanted to see on this trip and I was so happy I was lucky enough to find them. This time they were allowed to relax and eat, so we were able to spend some time with them. They all looked good. I was relieved to see that the three yearlings ( Morgana, Montana and Mecuria) had made it through the winter. But surprised that none of the mares looked pregnant. I had thought that I might find some new foals with this group. Fresia had Montana the end of April last year. Halo is not on PZP. But neither looked pregnant to me. Would there be no new foals in the Dryhead this year? Yes, these are Dryhead horses, 10 miles up Sykes. That is what I love about going up Sykes, the line between the Dryhead horses and the Mountain horses is very faint. The are very close together, we would see that today.
I spotted a few horses off in the distances, so after a few more minutes with this band, we continued up the road. I only had to go a short way when I saw Blizzard with Bakken, Cascade and Strawberry. I was surprised to see him up here and equally surprised to see that he still had these mares. They all looked good. The were intent on eating and barely lifted their heads to look our way. After a few minutes we decided to keep going up the road. There was snow on parts of the road, so I was unsure on how much further I would be able to go.
Just up the road, maybe a quarter-mile at most was Morning Star and his band and then Blue Moon and his band. I was amazed that the Dryhead horses were so close to these mountain horses. Maybe will start seeing some mountain horses down in the Dryhead soon.
As I watched the two bands, I realized that there was a missing horse in Morning Star’s band. Audubon. Audubon is 14 this year. I wondered if she could possibly be off foaling. I hoped that was the reason for her absence.
We decided to have our lunch with these two bands as we watched them peacefully graze next to one another.
I could see a few horses just up the road. So after we finished our lunch we continued driving. Both Anh and I felt we were having a perfect day. We had seen more horses than I was thinking we would. I turned to her and said: “The only thing that would make this day better is if we would find a foal.” We drove just a short way and I looked up. It was Custer and his band. Then I spotted him. A new foal!!! He was lying up on the windy ridge between his mother Fiasco and 26-year-old Winnemucca. I can still vividly remember the day late last July when they removed two from this band. Two year old Kiabab and one year old Leo. These two mares were very upset. It had been heart breaking to witness. But now, they had a new foal to care for. I was really happy for this band. We decided to name him Nodin. Nodin is a Native American word that means “wind”. It seemed fitting as we discovered him on a windy ridge on Sykes.
We were not close, but too close for Winnemucca. She quickly gathered up the band and asked them to move into the trees below. We did not follow them. It was clear they did not want us around.
I spotted three more horses up and to the right. We walked over to see who the were. It was Horizon, Juniper and Fiesta. They were grazing and eating snow. Once again, I wondered how long this unlikely band would last. There are two stallions in this band. Five year old Horizon and 9-year-old Fiesta. Many times that I have watched and studied this band, it seems Fiesta acts as the satellite stallion. He is the one to confront or fight off any other stallion that approaches. This band has been like this for over a year now.
We noticed that Custer and his band had come out of the trees and seemed to be relaxing with our presents. We turned our attention back to them. What a perfect little family they were.
We could hear whinnying up the road from us, so we hurried to see who it was. It was Bolder and band and Coronado and band. It was so good to see that little Manuelita, Dove’s late born foal, had made it through the winter. Dove did not look great. Not horribly bad, just not the best. Her hair seemed a bit longer than it should be and she was thin.
Both bands were on the move and did not give us much time to take photos. We were lucky to have seen them, as they vanished into the trees as quickly has they had first appeared.
The only thing left between us and Penns Cabin was about 5 miles of road in trees. I knew there would be too much snow to go on much further. I also realized that we had seen most bands that would be in this area. It was 4:30 pm, so we decided we should head down with plenty of light still left in the day. I was dreading the drive down. But unfortunately what goes up Sykes this time of year must come back down Sykes.
We were a few miles down the road. On one of the more steep and technical spots when I spotted a horse to my left. It was a bay horse. Then I spotted a dun horse. I told Anh. ” I am sorry, I can’t stop here.” Then I saw the foal and his bay mom. Somehow I managed to find a semi-small, flat piece of land to park on. They were not very far away and I was not sure how they would react to us. The dun looked at me and immediately started to go. She seemed familiar to me. It was Topper. She looked thin and sad. I wanted to pack her up on the ATV and drive her back over to Burnt Timber where Chino and her daughter Tooper Too were.
I then realized who the other horses were. Corona and Waif. My friend Maria from Bulgaria had told me she thought Waif was pregnant. I was happy to have found her and the new foal that was with them. He seemed to be much older than Nodin. I think he may be a month old. We decided to name him Norte. Norte is spanish for North. North Star.
They allowed us to watch them for as long as we wanted. We stayed for about 15 minutes before we decided we should head back down the road.
We had seen 50 horses today and two new foals. It was one of the best days I have ever had on the range. I love Sykes Ridge and all it has to show me. It seems so much more wild and inaccessible. I love how the Dryhead Horses and the Mountain Horses co-exist near one another. It was worth driving that Class IV river all day to get to the beauty that few people get to witness. I ‘ll be ready to do it again soon.
35 thoughts on “A Day Up Skyes Ridge. What Goes Up Must Come Back Down.”
Reblogged this on Wyoman Photography blog and commented:
Sandy’s report on her day with Ahn discovering the 2nd and 3rd foal of the year.
Great pics and commentary, Sandy. Thank you so much for sharing— as always. Anh’s pics of the “road” bring back memories…
It’s so good to see and hear about all the horses you saw. Many look as tho it will be good that the forage will improve soon.
I know Dove was not supposed to get PZP, but it almost looks like there’s a round bump on her left flank in that first pic of her—like maybe an injection sight.
I wish Merlin still had Fresia and Montana. 🙁 I really love that diamond on Montana’s nose 🙂 I’m looking at my cute pic of him from last June for the month of April in my calendar—time to turn the page to Mesa for May, tho. I’m amazed at how she has grown! It’s going to be such fun to see them develop, if all goes well with all of them. 🙂 And then there’s the new ones… 🙂
Kudos to Matt for using your names. 🙂 I am going to start keeping better data collections. 🙂
Thanks Linda. That is an old reaction to a PZP injection from before (on Dove).
thankyou very much for your hard work and write up and pics job well done
Thank you Ross!
Thanks for the post sandy!! It’s great to see the horses!! The new foals are really something! Juniper and ,fools gold look like they will become mamas as well! Halcyon doesn’t look that great , just like last year! Looking forward to seeing the next part of the trip!
So technically Norte is 201302 and not 03 ???
No, I think it goes by the time they were found, but I will check and let you know.
Yikes in the Sykes, Sandy! Are your innards still in tact? 😉 Norte is such a show off and what a beauty! Great post. Thank you for all you do! Diane
Thank you Diane. Yes, everything is intact and ready for the next trip up there! 🙂
Thanks for the update! Love the new foals, I think they get more and more beautiful each year;) Can’t wait for a Juniper/Horizon one.. should be a stunner too:) Halcyon is looking very skinny, as she did last year. Do you know the reason why someone always seems to be so thin when the rest of the herd is looking healthy? Did you see Amethyst with them?
And I saw a photo of Chino on facebook, hope he still had Topper Too with him? Handsome hunk he is;)
Looove a Custer-foal on the mountain again btw;)
Thanks Anne! Yes, Amethyst was there. I need to look for a photo of her. I did not get very many. I will be doing more posts in the next couple days. Yes, Topper Too is with Chino! 🙂 I do not know why some or thin and others seem to be fine.
I was definitely surprised that Hidalgo had taken Fools Crow’s entire band. I had expected that eventually the mares would end up split between the two of them. It will be interesting to see how this drama continues to play out. I’m hoping that maybe Fresia didn’t get pregnant off her first heat and may be foaling in the next month of so. I’m hoping the same for Halo too. The three yearlings do look good, it’s nice to seem pictures of them up close. Haha I also feel proud for Blizzard that he seems to have grown up and decided to keep a band together. I’d like to see him father another apricot dun foal. A filly would be great! Bakken and Strawberry seem to have a round look to them, but I think they did last year too. I know Fiero would be the dad if either of them foaled this year. I think it would actually be nice for Fiero to have some offspring on the range. So glad Custer and Fiasco have another little one! Buckskin Jewel seems to be looking a bit round herself. I’ve been dying to see a foal from her and Horizon so I have to say I hope she is! I’m hoping Audoban was off foaling. She only has Hera so it would be nice if she had another offspring on the range. I’m not sure how Felina usually looks, but she seems to have a round belly as well. Did Halcyon appear pregnant to you? She’s far off in the picture. It was also nice to see Bolder’s band up close. Cedar was mostly blocked in the pictures, so I couldn’t really see her to judge, but did she look pregnant to you? I know she got pzp, but she’s foaled the past few years anyways, so I’m just curious. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind a year off though. I’m glad Manuelita looks good. Hopefully Dove will pick up weight as the new forage comes in. I think Autum looks pregnant, which makes me very happy too! I hope Topper ends up back with Chino and Topper Too. She does seem sad. She also appears to be distant from the rest of that band. Norte looks dark around his eyes which makes me wonder if he’ll end up being darker like Corona. I think it’s nice for Corona to have a son to raise now since he’s had all daughters. Thanks again!! I look forward to reading about your other days!
Thank you! I will need to study photos before I make any more pregnancy guesses. Some mares look just plain fat to me, but some do look pregnant. I have not really had enough time to sit and study them yet. Especially Bolder’s band as I literally only had about 3 minutes with them before they went racing off through the trees. Something was going on with Bolder and Coronado’s band, but could tell what. Time will tell us if it is something or nothing.
Yes, it will be interesting to see what happens with Hidalgo and Fools Crow. Interesting he did not have any real visible wounds, so who knows how it all happened.
Forgot to also ask if you saw Montana nursing Fresia at all while you were with them.
No, but Hidalgo was keeping the band moving, except for a very little while.
Thanks for the update, Sandy, your photos are fantastic. However, I think you may have mislabeled Lobo and Mesa.
Thanks Livi. I might of, need to look again. It was late and I was really tired! 🙂
Yep, sure did. All fixed now! 😉 I was going off of their size and not their markings. Silly me!
Is Mesa out of Bolder and Sapo?
Couldn’t be happier to see the foals beginning to drop! These four are too precious. Also I was excited to see Fiesta in good health. Ever since I started following this blog, he has had a special place in my heart, he and Bolder 😉
I’m rather worried about Dove. She has always been my favorite made on the range and seeing her looking so frail is rather scary. Hopefully now that winter is moving off she can get some weight back on her. Manuelita looks good though.
I’m so excited to see what this year will bring!
Thank you Maleah! I think Dove gave everything she had to make sure that Manuelita survived the winter. But I think she will be just fine.
Wonderful pictures and I am so pleased to see Coronado´s band 😉
Dove doesn´t look pregnant but perhaps she isn´t showing so much since she is so thin. Will be interesting to see.
Do Coronado and Blue Sioux have any offspring on the range?
Bolder has quite a large band. Could you please tell me who are his mares…I know he has Sapo and Velvet but I don´t think I am familiar with the others.
The young ones and the new foals look lovely, I look forward to watching them this summer.
Hi Thora! Coronado and Blue Sioux have two daughters on the range. Halcyon, who is in Blue Moons band and LaBrava who was born in 2011 and is still in the family band.
Bolders mares are: Sapo, Celt, Scarlett and Baileys. The two young ones in the band are Mesa (2012) and Lobo (2011), they are both Sapo and Bolder offspring. Then there is Killian (2010) who is Celt and Bolders.
ps: I thought about you when I saw Coronado and band! 🙂 I wish I could have gotten better photos of them before they moved off.
Thanks…i am happy with the photos 🙂 and I was pleased to see that they are looking good aside from Dove. I think Coronado captured my heart when I read about the special connection between him and Blue Sioux. He seems to be a very capable band stallion.
I think it is so amazing to read about these families and how deep the connection is between the members of each group. This is something you don´t see often with domestic horses but in my case I have 10 horses all related to each other except for one and I can really see the special connection between brothers, between mother – daughter so it is really hard to hear about the horses removed because they really do suffer the loss.
I really hope it is possible for the foals born this year to stay on the range.
Well since I have never been up Sykes Ridge road…I am thinking that maybe a hike is in order. It sure would be a very LONG hike though! (: Maybe someday…lol
Great photos and just love seeing some of the little ones who were born last year. Great pictures of Norte!!!
I wonder why some of the DH horses are still up Sykes? I am thinking that they know why, as Nature gave them instincts to survive. They know what they are doing way better than we do!!
Glad that you and Anh saw so many horses up there, but I do hope that they come back to the DH, and maybe some of them will bring some new mares with them!!!???
Lori, I will make sure you get up there with me sometime soon. That is if you don’t mind riding on the back of an ATV. 🙂
I saw many Dryhead horses still up there last May. The forage is much better up there, not to mention it is beautiful! 🙂