I knew Sunday would possibly be my last day to be on the range. There was a snow storm predicted for the next day. I wanted to get an early start. We were heading up the Dryhead just as daylight came.
This was day two of my wide-angle lens. After reviewing my photos from the day before, I realized I had several shots with some lens flare. Today I would have to be more aware of where the sun was.
I was deeply in love with this lens, despite the challenge it seemed to be presenting to me. The photos it took made me feel as if I was actually bringing the range home with me.
We saw some horses right as we entered the range. The Greeters. But this morning it was only Seneca and Hightail. I could not see Hickok anywhere. I have seen Hickok missing from this band a couple of times over the last year. I always thought he was just around a hill close by. But this morning I would find him a few miles away.
We stayed for just a few minutes before we continued down the paved road of the Dryhead.
We saw Johnston and Hawk way out on Mustang Flats. Since this day was most likely our last on the range, we decided not to spend the time hiking out to them.
We turned on the road that lead to the Devils Outlook parking lot. I wanted to get some shots with the wide-angle lens.
From the Dryhead, I headed to lower Sykes and unloaded the ATV. After checking the water catchments in this lower area, I turned to head up the road towards the red hills.
Just past the red hills I stopped. I could see a dark horse heading our way. It was Hickok! He briefly stopped to look around and then continued right past us.
Hickok seemed to be on a mission to get somewhere, and if I had to guess where, I would say most likely back to his mares, Seneca and Hightail, who were a couple of miles away.
After Hickok left, I parked the ATV. We spent some time hiking and looking through the binoculars.
My plan for the day when I mapped it out before I realized there would be a storm, was to head up Sykes. My perfect plan for this trip would have been: Day One on BT, Day Two on Sykes, Day 3 back to BT.
As I drove further up Sykes, I began to think about this plan. I knew it could be 8-10 miles up this road before I saw horses. I really wanted to see these horses, but with my luck from the day before, I hated to risk driving that far and not finding any. I knew if I went back to Burnt Timber, I could find horses there AND see the horses on Sykes from a couple of areas on BT. After spending a minute or two talking it over, we turned around and headed to Burnt Timber instead.
I really wanted to see Baja and check on their new foal Nahwa who had just been born in September.
Again I headed up far enough to be able to get a good look around. We saw Jackson’s band again where we left them the afternoon before. We decided not to hike to them, but to continue on in search of other horses.
We reached Cheyene Flats, where I stopped to look over to Sykes through the binoculars. I immediately saw several horses and concluded that it was Bolder’s Band and Coronado’s Band. I have uploaded these photos in full size so you can click on them to have a closer look. Please let me know if you think they are different horses than what I have concluded.
I also briefly saw what appeared to be a band of 3 horses, or part of a band. The stallion snaked them away from these bands and into the trees before I could Identify them or take a photo.
We were now entering Cheyenne Flats, a beautiful open area about half way up Burnt Timber Road.
We were still not seeing any horses here. But we only had to go a short distance before we spotted a few of my favorite Bachelor Stallions. Grijala, Hernando and Jasper. I have never seen Grijala look so fat. Without a band to defend, he has really put on some weight. They saw us and immediately started heading our way.
They did not stay very long with us. They flexed their stallions muscles a little over a stud pile and headed into the trees.
I took another look over at Sykes and saw another band. This one was even harder to identify, but I believe it is Morning Stars. Although at one point I counted 9 horses on this ridge. Morning Star’s band only has 7, so I am not quite sure what is going on or if I may have misidentified them. I spent a long time looking through the binoculars and concluded (with some relief) that if it was Morning Star and band, they DID NOT have a new foal with them. I have uploaded these photos full size so you can see them closer. Note: Morning Star’s Band is on the ridge below where you can still see part of Bolders and Coronados. Look closely at the photos, they are on the ridge and also a few are just below it on the side of the hill.
We stayed here and ate our lunch. We had an incredible view of all of Cheyenne Flats and then over to Sykes. I wanted to check on Morning Star’s band a bit more, just in case I had missed a new foal.
After lunch I decided maybe we should continue up the road to where we had gotten stuck in the snow the day before. We still had not seen many horses and I thought perhaps some may still be further up the mountain.
Not seeing any horses or any signs of horses (we were again about 2 miles from the top), we headed back down to Cheyenne Flats to do some hiking.
We hiked down to the water guzzler that is there. It was just about as full as it could get. For those of you that have never seen a guzzler, let me explain the best I can how it works. The guzzlers are installed on a slope. The black “tarp” is the water catchment and catches rain and snow. From there the water (or snow as it melts) goes in a tube and into the holding tank. The fence is installed to keep the horses (or other wild life) off of the tarp. There is a spring-loaded gate installed in case a young foal, horse or even a deer accidentally gets in this area. With a light push they are able to get out. This gate was open, as you can see in the photo. I wondered what had gotten in there, but there was no damage or evidence of anyone being in there. I re-closed the gate after I took this photo.
We saw plenty of horse hoof prints, and we followed their paths for a while. I couldn’t believe how warm this day had become. At one point on the hike, I took off my vest and fleece and was only wearing a t-shirt. The end of October. I barely had days on top of the mountain this summer warmer than that! I knew it would not last long, I could see clouds starting to form in the distance.
Not finding any horses, we returned to the ATV and slowly made our way back down the mountain.
Once again, we stopped several times along the way, looking for horses. When I got to the spot with the clear view of both lower guzzlers, I stopped and looked through the binoculars for several minutes. At one guzzler I could see horses and at the other one where Jackson had been that morning, I saw several. I have to mention, there has only been one other time (October 2012) where I have not seen Cloud and his band when I have been on the mountain. It does not seem to matter what time of the year it is, he always seems to be very visible to me. I wondered if his band was there. I was just a bit too far away to make a positive ID. It seemed there was a light colored horse (or two), but wasn’t sure.
We stopped at the first guzzler that we could see from the road. I quickly realized it was Cappuccino’s band. I was really happy to see them. The last time I had seen this band was at the end of August and the handsome yearling colt, McKeahnie had a puncture wound on his right hip. I was pleased to see that it had healed and that McKeanhie was walking without a limp.
I wanted to stay with this band for a while, but we also wanted to see who the other horses were at the next guzzler, so we left after few minutes.
We parked and made the familiar hike towards the guzzler. As we approached the open area that contained the guzzler, I was surprised to see that it was Jackson and band. Again!
For whatever reason, this band still seemed a bit uneasy, so we did not go any closer. I instead hiked around in the hills above them. Looking for more horses and taking some landscape shots of the area. The wind was picking up now and I was beginning to think that the weather prediction was going to be right. But at this moment in the late afternoon, the sky was still a beautiful blue.
We decided to take a different path back. One that was up high so we could continue to look for horses on our way back to the road.
Once again, by the time we hiked back to the road (it took a bit longer as the way I chose ended up to be a ridge line over further than what I thought. Something that can easily happen on this range. But it was a beautiful horse path!) it was starting to get dark and much colder. We got to the truck and headed down the road just as the last glow of the sunset was beginning to fade.
Our horse count so far this trip was 53 horses.