Mountain Top, Day One. June 15, 2013

I picked up Amber in Missoula at 7:00 am.  We were on the mountain top by 2:00 pm.  This trip would be our “dry run” for our camping tours that will begin in a couple of weeks.  It was also the first day that the Sage Creek road to the top of the mountain would be open.   I have made it a tradition to come up on opening day each year.  I love the quiet the mountain offers then.  There are day trip people then, but almost every night we are sharing the mountain with only the horses and other wild life that call the mountain their home.

Mountain Blue Bird by our campsite.
Mountain Blue Bird by our campsite.

The wildflowers are incredible this year.  The carpet of color was much thicker this year than last. The spring rains and snow have added much-needed moisture to the mountains this year.

I have some of the same wild flowers on our land in Potomc, Montana.  I could tell by the ones in bloom here, that the mountain was about a month behind us in growth.  The Pasque flowers are the first to bloom, followed by the Shooting Stars and then the Lupine.  Many of the Lupine were beginning to bloom on the last day we were there, so I know when I return in two weeks they will be in full bloom.  I have not seen this many since blooms since the summer of 2010.  It will be beautiful.  The Lupine stays in bloom for a full month or more.  There were many other flowers that I recognized, but do not know the name of.

A small field of Shooting Stars
A small field of Shooting Stars
Lupine not yet in bloom, Shooting Stars and Pasque Flowers pave the way.
Lupine not yet in bloom, Shooting Stars and Pasque Flowers pave the way.

About a mile from the range, we encountered Don and Tim from the BLM.  They were assisting some younger men who had driven their “dun buggy” off the road and had been rewarded by high centering on a huge rock.  Their “buggy” was trashed.

We stopped for a few minutes to talk with Tim and Don and then continued to the range.  I really like both Tim and Don.  Don works really hard to keep people in line on the range.  He is a retired gentleman from Tennessee.  For many years ( I don’t know how many, but many), he has made the trip to Montana to volunteer for the summer months.   Last year he was busy with the care taking of the horses that were removed, so his time on the mountain was limited.  This year he will be up on top more and I look forward to his visits to my campsite.  He always has a great story or two of things that have happened on the mountain in the past.  I usually try to reward his story telling and kindness with some fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies.  He stopped by on his way down and I gave him a couple of my homemade cinnamon rolls this time instead.  Don’t worry Don, there will be many cookies for you in the next few months!

As we entered the range, Amber and I made a quick stop to see if anyone was at Krueger Pond.  Don had said he had not seen a horse all day, but I was still hopeful my luck would be different.  The only thing we encountered were some HUGE snow drifts.  There is still a lot of snow up here on top.  I was pleased to see it.  Krueger Pond was so full that it was even with the banks on the other side.  There was still a huge snow field up above it.  There will be plenty of water this year.

Amber standing by one of the many snow drifts.  We thought this one was big, until we saw the next!
Amber standing by one of the many snow drifts. We thought this one was big, until we saw the next!
Snow drift by Krueger Pond
Snow drift by Krueger Pond, June 15, 2013
Snow field above Krueger Pond
Snow field above Krueger Pond
Krueger Pond
Krueger Pond

We continued on to my campsite.  I call it “mine” because there has never been a time when I have gone up that I have had to look for another.  This will be my 4th year camping on the mountain top and there has never been another person camping in this spot.  I hope my luck continues, but on this trip, I casually begin to scope out a few other choices if my luck doesn’t hold.

I consider my camping spot to be like a good fishing hole.  I don’t share its location with anyone unless they are with me and see it for themselves.

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As we finished unloading and setting up camp, we began to see several horses emerging from the woods way past Penns Cabin.  We hurried with our chores and went down to see who it was.  I like to set up camp right away.  Once I begin looking at the horses, all time stands still and I knew I did not want to come back at dark and have to set up our camp.

Just over the hill less than 1/2 mile from camp, we encountered Jupiter, Hernando and Irial.  I had learned that Irial (who very briefly had Audubon and her filly) had lost them back to Morning Star (where they were before she foaled), so I was not surprised to see him hanging with the boys again.  I had last seen Jupiter the end of April.  At that time he was intently watching Cloud and his mares.  You can read about that by clicking on Jupiter.  I had not seen Hernando since last fall, so it was especially great to see him.  I really like the “Forest Service Boys”, and Hernando is one of them.  All three looked good.

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Irial, June 15, 2013
Irial, June 15, 2013
Irial
Irial

The next band we saw was Galaxy and his girls.  Galaxy is by far Amber’s favorite Stallion.  So we spent a lot of time with them.  I could see Morning Star and his band along with Baja and his band not too far from us.  Just below Galaxy was four more bachelor boys.  Knight, London, Hamlet and Inali.   There were some others, I could not quite make out, but I knew I would have an opportunity to identify them soon.  There were more than 30 horses and it seemed like more were popping out of the trees.

Galaxy
Galaxy
Limerick, Ireland, and Pococeno, June 15, 2013 Bachelor Boys below them:  Inali, London, Knight and Hamlet.
Limerick, Ireland, and Pococeno, June 15, 2013 Bachelor Boys below them: Inali, London, Knight and Hamlet.
Limerick
Limerick
Galaxy's girls
Galaxy’s girls
Maia
Maia
Ireland and Pococeno
Ireland and Pococeno

Galaxy has had this band, whom he stole from Prince, for over a year now.  He is an extremely wise and very good band stallion for such a young stallion (he is 7 this year).  Amber and both enjoyed watching him carefully this time.  We were impressed with his wisdom.  Galaxy likes to keep his band slightly away from the other bands.  He won’t back down from conflict, but he won’t go looking for it either.   It is obvious that his father raised him well. (Lakota).

Galaxy, June 15, 2013
Galaxy, June 15, 2013

This time of year, there is a lot of action going on here on the mountain.  This is prime breeding season.  Stallions are looking to breed and the mares are accepting willingly.  This is also the most combative time of year, because of it.  Amber and I would have to stay on our toes and keep our distance so we did not get in the line for fire.  What seems like a peaceful scene can quickly turn in to a stallion battle.

But for now, it seemed peaceful.  After a while I convinced Amber to leave her stallion and come with me to see the other horses.  I was looking forward to seeing Audubon’s filly Niyaha.  When I was here in April, Anh and I had seen Morning Star’s band, minus Audobon.  I was hoping she was off foaling, and I had been right.  Ginger discovered the following week with Irial and her new filly.  Now Audubon was back with Morning Star.

Morning Star and Band
Morning Star and Band
Niyaha, June 15, 2013
Niyaha, June 15, 2013
Morning Star's Band
Morning Star’s Band
Audobon and Niyaha, June 15, 2013
Audobon and Niyaha, June 15, 2013

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Morning Star's Band
Morning Star’s Band
Niyaha, Hailstorm, Felina, Hataalli, Gaelic Princess and Morning Star, June 15, 2013
Niyaha, Hailstorm, Felina, Hataalli, Gaelic Princess and Morning Star, June 15, 2013
Hataalii
Hataalii
Hailstorm, Felina and Hataalii
Hailstorm, Felina and Hataalii
Hailstorm, Niyaha and Hataalii
Hailstorm, Niyaha and Hataalii
Gaelic Princess
Gaelic Princess
Morning Star
Morning Star
Niyaha
Niyaha

Along with Morning Star’s band we also saw Gringo’s (with Tecumseh), Baja, Mescalero and the odd couples, Horizon, Fiesta and Juniper.

Tecumseh was very close to Gringo and his band.  They all seemed to be eating peacefully together.  Had they reached some kind of an agreement?

Tecumseh had lost his band to Gringo a year ago.  He was still following them.  By the looks of him, it looked like all was not peaceful.  He had many wounds on his face and body.  But Gringo also had several.  I was very interested in studying this band and I would have several opportunities to do that over the next several days.

Right now, all seemed peaceful.

Tecumseh, June 15, 2013
Tecumseh, June 15, 2013
Jacinta, Gringo, Tecumseh, Beulah, Galarial and Kechikan (behind).
Jacinta, Gringo, Tecumseh, Beulah, Galarial and Kechikan (behind).

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Tecumseh, Gringo and Jacinta, June 15, 2013
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Tecumseh and Gringo

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Baja and his band were near, The Odd couples (Fiesta, Juniper and Horizon) along with Mescalero and his band.  Mescalero and his band (Rosarita and Polaris) headed over the hill before I could get some good photos of them.

Baja kept a close eye on Fiesta and Horizon, and Gringo’s band.  Charging at them if he felt they came too close.

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Baja charges after Gringo
Baja charges after Gringo

Topper Too is now with Baja.  She seems happy with this situation.  She was close to Baja many times and Washakie really seemed to like her.  It was the first time she had ever stayed put, not her normal “glare and leave” stance that I had witnessed many times when she was with her mother Topper and the band stallion Chino.  It was good to see her so relaxed.

Painfully missing from this band was the young filly Meadowlark.  I had heard that she was missing, but hoped she would turn up.  It was not to be so this trip.  Washakie looked pregnant to me and I hoped she was.  Last year was very hard on Baja offspring, he lost 3 of them to the removal, Jicarlla, his 2009 mare that he had with Bacardi,  his 2012 colt he had with Juneau and his 2011 filly, Lukachukai, that he had with Washakie.  And now Meadowlark was most likely gone too.

Topper Too and Washakie
Topper Too and Washakie
Topper Too and Baja
Topper Too and Baja
Baja and Washakie
Baja and Washakie

IMG_3080

Baja, Topper Too and Washakie
Baja, Topper Too and Washakie
Bacardi
Bacardi

I still don’t know what to think of this odd threesome, consisting of Horizon, Juniper and Fiesta.  There seemed to be more tension this time between the two stallions, but not unlike what I had witnessed  last summer.  But perhaps this time their disagreements seemed to be a bit more often and the sparing last a bit longer.  I wondered how much longer it would last.  I wondered that same thing last summer.

As I studied these 3, I witnessed many times over the next several days, the system they had worked out.  Whenever conflict came their way, Fiesta was the one who was quick  to step in and spar with whomever  challenged this band.  He actually seemed to enjoy that role.

Several people thought Juniper was pregnant, when I saw her last over on Sykes ridge in April.  I wasn’t sure.  But she doesn’t appear to be now, and maybe never was.  Or was she still?  Some of these young mares make it very hard to tell for sure.

Horizon and Juniper
Horizon and Juniper
Juniper, Horizon and Fiesta
Juniper, Horizon and Fiesta

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Juniper, Horizon and Fiesta
Juniper, Horizon and Fiesta
Fiesta, Juniper and Horizon
Fiesta, Juniper and Horizon
Horizon, Fiesta and Juniper, June 15, 2013
Horizon, Fiesta and Juniper, June 15, 2013

I looked down at my watch.  It was after 7:00 pm.  We had been watching these bands for more than 4 hours!  We decided to leave them and make our way back to our camp.

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Galaxy, Baja, Mescalero, Gringo and Horizon bands
Galaxy, Baja, Mescalero, Gringo and Horizon bands

On our way down the road, I saw Custer and his band to the left.  Nodin was really getting big.  I am so happy that this band has another foal with them this year.

Custer and his son, Nodin, June 15, 2013
Custer and his son, Nodin, June 15, 2013

Further down the road we saw Bolder and his band.  Killian is getting so large and he seems to be very interested in the mares.  I wonder how long Bolder will allow him to remain.   One of the things that I noticed about Killian, was his coloring was changing.  His coated seemed to be a darker yellow this year.

Bolder
Bolder
Part of Bolder's band, June 15, 2013
Part of Bolder’s band, June 15, 2013
Killian, June 15, 2013
Killian, June 15, 2013

I ended my first day with a visit to Lakota’s memorial.  His remains had been scattered several feet away.  Amber and I carefully collected the ones we could find and stacked them in the exact place he had died last July.  I was hoping to see the leg that had the break, so I could exam it better, but it was gone.  It was just hard to believe that it had almost been a year since his death.

Lakota's remains, June 15, 2013
Lakota’s remains, June 15, 2013

This was only our first afternoon on the mountain!  We had already seen so many horses.  There were 4 horses I really wanted to see this trip.  Four that have not been seen for a while.  Kindra, Meadowlark, Jasper and Grijala.  I was looking forward to another day.

At almost dark (around 9:30 pm).  We saw 4 bachelors working their way down towards us.  Amber and I were the only campers on the mountain this first night.  Just the way I like it.

Sandy

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Logo designed by Amber Bushnell
Logo designed by Amber Bushnell

35 thoughts on “Mountain Top, Day One. June 15, 2013

  1. So very beautiful, the flowers, the horses and your campsite. We are so excited to join you and your daughter up in your little part of heaven in a couple of weeks. As always thank you for all you do.

  2. Thanks for the update!!! 🙂

    Limerick’s udder looks like it’s starting to fill up, I wonder if we could see a foal from her. I doubt Juniper is pregnant at this point, though she does look slim for this time of year. Killian has gotten darker, I wonder how much darker he will get.
    See ya next month!

  3. The Forrest Service boys really seem to be intermingling with the other bachelors this year instead of mostly keeping to themselves. Jupiter has really matured. I had hoped Indigo might be able to hold onto Audubon, but I guess not. Galaxy is a favorite of mine too! Great pictures of him 🙂 I know we had hoped Hera would give us a foal with Galaxy, but it looks like Limerick might be giving us one. Niyaha and Nodin both look good. I seriously can’t wait for Hailstorm’s foal!! Very excited about that one! I was really hoping you would find Meadowlark. It’s always odd when a seemingly healthy horse goes missing. I agree that Washakie is likely pregnant. I really hope it is healthy and gets to live out life in the Pryors as all of their offspring together have either gone missing or been removed. Topper Too does seem to be relaxed and a part of their band, which is nice to see. Echo does seem to be a more golden palomino color now. It will be interesting to see if this is the year he will become a bachelor. Seems like you had a very great first few hours on the mountain!!

    1. I really think your right Sarah! Even if Limerick foaling is not ideal!

      Thanks for the report and the pics sandy! I especially like the pics of morning stars band!

      1. Thanks Alex. Yes, Limerick is young, but what a combination! I saw her still nursing on her mother Ireland, so it should be a healthy foal, if she is pregnant. With only 10 surviving foals so far this year, it would be nice to have one in Galaxy’s band.

      2. It is a great combination even though it’s a bit earlier than expected. But her still nursing probably explains why she looks so healthy herself. Usually the ones who carry a foal so young come out of winter looking thin, but I’m glad she looks good. What would be great would be if someone got a picture of her nursing Electra while her own foal was nursing her. That would be quite a moment!

  4. Awesome photo’s Sandy! I just love the ones of Galaxy…another “hunk”!!
    Also, you captured a beautiful photo of the blue bird…just beautiful. I love watching the birds
    too. Lots of wonderful memories with these special horses!
    After looking at my photos and yours, I do believe that Limerick may be pregnant.
    As you said… a nice surprise foal!! Like Waif’s foal…who would have guessed.
    Thanks for the great report.

  5. The photos of the flowers, the bird, the scenery and the horses are very beautiful.
    Thank you Sandy.
    Galaxy is so handsome. I love the photo of him. It seemed he was posing for you.
    I can’t wait to visit the Pryors again.

  6. Thanks for the lovely pictures and keeping us informed on what’s happening on the mountain. I’m really looking forward to meeting up and going up on the mountain with you in July….see you soon…..Ross and Marj

  7. Hi Sandy & Amber~
    Thank you so much for the trip, as always when reading and seeing all the pic’s, I feel as though I am there. Love how Galaxy is such a good band leader and just like Lakota. A year since Lakota has gone on to greener pastures, wow. It was sad seeing Lakota’s remains and yet I have to remind myself he lived and passed free and that is a good thing. The flowers are so beautiful and must be amazing to see hills of them. So glad the Pryor horses are doing and looking so good, does my heart good to see that. As always just love seeing all your photos and reading about all , looking forward to your next blog, thanks again!!!!

  8. Sandy,
    Thanks so much for your wonderful report. It’s very informative with great photos. I really value your information!

    Nancy

  9. Thanks Sandy for the beautiful blog!!! Can’t tell you how much I enjoyed it! Pictures are outstanding, and all the information is great! Really, really enjoying “your” trip!!!

  10. What a great start of the camping season! 😀
    It’s great to see that the mountain has had so much moisture this year! Do you think the dry summer last year can have anything to do with the low number of foals born so far this year? I’m not sure how these things work, but nature often find it’s own solutions. Just a thought:)
    It’s really interesting that Limerick is most likely pregnant.. I’ve always thought she’s from Jackson and Galena, but she’s Prince and Ireland, right? Hopefully everything goes well! She and Galaxy should have a smashing foal together! I’m picturing a black beauty 😀
    It’s really strange to see Topper Too acting so relaxed among all the horses and with humans around.. I wonder what causes this change? Was Chino around that you could see? It will be interesting to see if he tries to get her back, or if he’ll enjoy the life of an older bachelor.
    And I just have to say it again.. Jupiter is beautiful!! Sooo sleek and handsome in his shiny summercoat. And it’s just something about that face.. it might be perfection 😉
    The view in the background of the photos are amazing as well! Now that I know we’ll be going there I keep noticing more and more! Can’t wait for next year!!! 😀
    Looking forward to your next post!

    1. Thanks Anne! I am really looking forward to your trip here next year!
      Yes, Limerick is Ireland and Prince’s daughter.
      I did see Chino several times. I will be updating that with a post, but he seemed to be just fine “hanging with the boys”. Maybe he is ready for retirement this time. He seemed just fine.
      I think the PZP program is being to work this year, which is why I disagreed with an increase in the current program. This program needs to be given sufficient time to work. Nothing is 100%, but I do believe we are seeing the effects of it now.
      My next post should be sometime today! 🙂

  11. What great pictures!! I’m going to have to try and make a trip out there next year. Every post I read gives me horse envy.

    I also was wondering why you called that band the Odd Couple but then you explained–2 stallions and a mare. Isn’t that a lot of testosterone for one band? Maybe one of the two stallions will eventually get a mare and they will form their own separate bands? Interesting dynamic.

    1. Hi Amelie! Thank you. I actually call them the “Odd Couples” LOL Maybe I forgot an s one time. Yes, it is a bit unusual (but not unheard of) for 2 stallions to be together like this. Usually there is more than one mare though and the situation doesn’t last as long as this one has. It is a very interesting dynamic! 🙂
      Hope you can make the trip! That would be great!

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