I know I have said this before in my posts about Sykes Ridge Road, but every time I travel up this road, my heart is in my throat, and every time I head back down this road, I say out loud how I don’t think I can ever drive it again. But then I do. For the horses. Believe me, if there were no horses involved, I would never drive it.
I was waiting for the perfect weather day to drive up this part of the range. I have become so accustom to Burnt Timber Road, that I feel comfortable doing it in any weather situation (especially on Ophelia). But Sykes Ridge Road is another thing. The last thing I want to have happen while on that road was to be caught in a rain or snow storm.
The weather for Saturday April 26 the chance of rain was 50 percent in the afternoon, not a good day for Sykes, Sunday, April 27, was initially supposed to be a 40% chance of rain, not a good day either. Monday the 28 there was only a 10 % chance, so I felt that would be our day. But when Sunday morning came, I checked the weather and suddenly the hour by hour forecast was looking good. Only by 5 pm was there then a 20 % chance of rain. After I quick trip up the Dryhead early that morning, I announced this would be the day to do Sykes. I actually think it was better that way, doing it at the last-minute, it somehow helped my heart not beat so fast just by the anticipation of the drive. Decide fast, think about it later..
So by 10 am, we were heading up Sykes Ridge. The day before from Burnt Timber side, I had spotted several horses over on that side of the range, so I knew our trip would be somewhat successful. But of course, horses move and things can change, even minute by minute. But I figured we had a pretty good chance of seeing some.
We stopped a few miles up to take in the view. This is the area that I knew Medicine Bow liked to hang out in, and I was hoping to see him here. Not this morning.
A few miles up the road, we entered what is called Cougar Canyon. This area is a bit creepy the first time you go through it. High Canyon walls on each side and the name alone makes your heart beat just a little faster. But the more I do this road, the more the beauty of this area shows itself to me, and this time I was actually able to stop and take a few photos. They really don’t do it justice, but I thought I would share them anyway.
Continuing up the road a few more miles, we finally spotted some horses. It was Fools Crow and he had Icara and Morgana with him.
After a short time, we continued up the road. We ran into a bit of snow on the road, in the dark shaded areas, but I was able to push through it after two tries. I had a shovel with me just in case. After maneuvering “Dead Biologist’s Corner”, with little trouble, I felt my heart calm down a bit.
I looked up and saw three horses on a hill pretty far from us. We stopped and I quickly realized it was Kitalpha, Bristol and their yearling filly, Nova!! Nova was a beautiful red, sunny glow on the far away hillside. I was relieved to see that Kitalpha did not appear to be pregnant again.
I was at mile-marker 9 going up Sykes Ridge Road. Anyone that goes up that road and is reading this, please take note. Ophelia high-centered on this part. Three times. It was a bit scarey to back up of a rock, but I gave it a try three times. In retrospect, I should have tried a fourth time, but by then I welcomed the idea of parking and hiking. Last year I had the same problem with my ATV, but was able to sneak through. Ophelia is wider, so I did not have that option. It seemed the winter run-off had made this part of the road worse. Anyway, we (or rather I) decided this would be a great place to park and hike. Don’t tell Liz and Anh, but I was VERY excited to leave Ophelia and hike beyond this. It was WAY less scary. Hard work, yes, but much more comfortable.
We had only hiked a short way (up a very steep road) when we came upon enough snow in the road (we sunk in past our knees), that I am sure we would not have made it past this spot anyway, so parking and hiking was the right thing to do after all.
Then, just a little further, we came across some horses, right on the road. It was Hawk, and he had a band of his own, the first I had seen this. He had Belle Star, Halo, Jewel and her two year old filly, Mercuria.
They moved off shortly after we got there, but we would see them again when we headed back down the mountain.
I knew I had seen some horses around the water guzzler in this part of Sykes yesterday from Burnt Timber. So I hiked down to the guzzler while Anh and Liz waited to see if there were any horses there.
I immediately saw three horses. They did not see me right away. It took me a while to figure out it was Johan. I had only seen him a couple of times. What threw me off was that he had Audubon (a mountain horse) and her 2013 filly, Niyaha.
Once Johan saw me, he headed straight for me. I wasn’t in the best place to be. There were no trees and no other people to make me look larger. I slowly turned and left, thinking that would keep him from coming over. But I glanced over my shoulder and saw him looking straight at me.
I motioned Liz and Anh to hurry over. We all as one then backed up and that seemed to calm him a bit. He had been breeding Audubon, and I knew his hormones were really kicking it up and he made it clear he did not want anyone around. I am not sure he would have charged me, but I did not want to stick around and find out. Once we moved away, he continued mounting Audubon.
I spotted Blue Moons band not to far away, and we decided to slowly make our exit here and go over to a much calmer band.
Everything in Blue Moon’s band was the same, except he had one additional member, Baileys.
I would have liked nothing more that to have been able to sit and watch these horses for a long while. But it was after 3 pm and I knew we had at least an hour hike back to Ophelia and then another 2 back down the mountain. I did not want to risk leaving too late in case something when wrong on the way down.
As I headed back down, I spotted Custer and Nodin on a far away hill. The view was such that I could not see Fiasco or Winnemucca. I wondered if Fiasco was off foaling and I hoped that Winnemucca ( born in 1987) had made it through the winter.
We were almost back to Ophelia when we came upon Hawk and his band. They were right along side the road. Hawk was acting as if he was going to breed Mecuria. Icara saw this and stepped in to replace her daughter.
We walked slowly by, barely noticed by them now. Back to Ophelia, we headed back down the mountain. Going down Sykes is always worse for me than going up.
About a mile down the road, I saw Corona, Waif, Northe and the new colt, Orion. Missing from this band since I last saw them was Topper. I wondered if she was still alive. I will miss her, and I hope she turns up.
It was pretty clear that Norte was enjoying his new brother. We watched them for a while before we decided we should continue back down the road.
We were just few mile from reaching lower Sykes, when we spotted Medicine Bow! It had been a long time since I had seen him. He looked better than the last several photos I had seen of him. Even his tail seemed to be longer and healthier looking. He has had a hard life and I hope that perhaps things are starting to look up for him. He certainly deserves it.
We made it safely down to the bottom of Sykes. It had been a great day. Sure, it would have been great to see a few of the other bands I have not seen for a while. I would have loved to have seen the new foal in Morning Star’s band. I guess we just missed see 2, maybe 3 more new foals that have been born on Sykes ridge. There have been reports of them this week from the NPS. I am waiting for photos and positive confirmation of all of those before I make my blog post announcing their birth. New life on the mountain.
And tomorrow would be another day on the mountain.