A Trip Up Sykes Ridge Road, April 27, 2014

Lower Sykes, April 27, 2014
Lower Sykes, April 27, 2014

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.

Bighorn Canyon View from a view miles up Sykes Ridge Road.  April 27, 2014
Bighorn Canyon View from a view miles up Sykes Ridge Road. April 27, 2014

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.

Canyon View
Canyon View
Medicine Bows favorite area.
Medicine Bows favorite area.
Ophelia
Ophelia and the road.

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.

Wild in the Pryors

Couger Canyon Area
Cougar Canyon Area

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.

Fools Crow band, April 27, 2014
Fools Crow band, April 27, 2014
Icara and Morgana
Icara and Morgana
Fools Crow
Fools Crow
Morgana
Morgana
Fools Crow
Fools Crow

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.

Wide Angle View of Bristol's Band.  Can you see them on that far off hill?
Wide Angle View of Bristol’s Band. Can you see them on that far off hill?
Bristol's Band
Bristol’s Band
Nova, Bristol and Kitalpha, April 27, 2014
Nova, Bristol and Kitalpha, April 27, 2014
Bristol's Band
Bristol’s Band

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.

High Center Road.
High Center Road.

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.

Hawks Band
Hawks Band
Hawk
Hawk

Wild in the Pryors

Halo
Belle Starr
Hawk
Hawk
Mercuria
Mercuria
Belle Star and Halo
Belle Star and Halo

They moved off shortly after we got there, but we would see them again when we headed back down the mountain.

Walking towards the water guzzler
Walking towards the water guzzler
One of our views of the Canyon below
One of our views of the Canyon below

Wild in the Pryors

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.

Johan with Audubon and Niyaha, April 27, 2014
Johan with Audubon and Niyaha, April 27, 2014

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.

Niyaha and Johan
Niyaha and Johan
Johan and Niyaha
Johan and Niyaha

Wild in the Pryors Wild in the Pryors

Niyaha
Niyaha
Johan
Johan
Audubon
Audubon
Johan
Johan

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.

Blue Moon's Band, April 27, 2014
Blue Moon’s Band, April 27, 2014

Everything in Blue Moon’s band was the same, except he had one additional member, Baileys.

Baileys
Baileys
Blue Moon
Blue Moon
Halcyon
Halcyon
Micocene and Nirvana playing
Micocene and Nirvana playing
Blue Moon's Band
Blue Moon’s Band
Amethyst and Halcyon
Amethyst and Halcyon
Isadora and Sequoyah
Isadora and Sequoyah
Blue Moons
Blue Moons
Blue Moons
Blue Moons

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.

Water Guzzler on Sykes
Water Guzzler on Sykes

Wild in the Pryors Wild in the Pryors

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.

Custer and Nodin
Custer and Nodin

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.

Hawk's band
Hawk’s band
Icara, Mercuria and Hawk
Icara, Mercuria and Hawk

Wild in the Pryors

Mecuria
Mecuria

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.

Corona
Corona
Norte and Orion
Norte and Orion

Wild in the Pryors

Orion
Orion
Orion and Norte
Orion and Norte
Norte, Orion and Waif
Norte, Orion and Waif
Corona
Corona

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.

Medicine Bow, April 27, 2014
Medicine Bow, April 27, 2014

Wild in the Pryors Wild in the Pryors Wild in the Pryors

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.

Lower Sykes
Lower Sykes

Wild in the Pryors

And tomorrow would be another day on the mountain.

Sandy

Logo designed by Amber Bushnell
Logo designed by Amber Bushnell

11 thoughts on “A Trip Up Sykes Ridge Road, April 27, 2014

  1. What a great trip you’ve been having!:) Blue Moon now seems to have a very tight band. Everything changes so quickly now, but they stay the same (except for Bailys of course, but she seems to wonder a lot back and forth now). Halcyon is looking round.. I was hoping she would get a break this year. Bur she’s looking in better shape this year:) It’s fascinating to see Hawk and Johan as bandstallions! Wonder if it will last? Specially for Johan with a mountain mare. I wonder if she will bring him up on the mountain:)

    1. Oh!! And Medicin Bow!!! 🙂 So glad to see him looking so good! If only he could be seen with a mare one day….:)

  2. Thank you for the updates and the great pictures. I love the picture of Orion and Norte on the hillside. The angle the photo was taken looks as if Orion is standing on Norte’s back….very typical for a little brother : )

  3. Wow! What a great day seeing many illusive horses! I definitely would have also thought that Icara would have a couple more weeks, but I guess not. Morgana is beautiful as always. And what luck seeing Bristol’s band. Nova is such a pretty girl! I’m also glad that Kitalpha doesn’t seem to be pregnant this year. Hawk definitely looks like it wasn’t an easy fight taking those girls from Fools Crow and Hidalgo. Although I do wish that he would switch one of them with Fresia haha. Wishful thinking since she and Hidalgo are full siblings. And seeing Johan too! Definitely interesting that he has Audubon and Niyaha. He’ll probably have to stay on his toes to keep them. If he wasn’t breeding Audubon I would have said she looks like she might be pregnant. But her body condition isn’t all that great, and wasn’t that great last summer, so better for her that she isn’t. I agree with Anne that Halcyon is looking round. I had hoped she would get a year off too after not looking so great last summer, but oh well. She does look much better now than she did last year. Interesting that Baileys is with Flint. How was that dynamic between them? I find it interesting as while they were both in Cloud’s band Flint was like the “little brother” young colt being raised in the band. Norte is so grown up! And little Orion is adorable! His face kind of reminds me of a young Jesse James. I’m also hoping that may be the beginning of a baby bump on Halo. I really want her to be pregnant this year. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking… we’ll see. And Medicine Bow looks good! So glad you saw him too! Thank you as always for the wonderful post!

    1. Hi Sarah! Thank you! I agree about Audubon. Of course after what happened to Nacer last year, I find my mind going to the dark side of thinking, and I hope it is not right. But the thought did cross my mind that perhaps Audubon went off to foal, that is when Johan got her, and then something happened to the foal. That would explain while Audubon still looks round. But hopefully my thinking is off and it may just be her body condition.

      Baileys and Isodora were grooming each other in that one photo. I had the feeling they liked her being there. Just hope she does steal Halcyon’s foal (opps, there I go again with that bad thinking). I never saw any interaction between Blue Moon and Baileys while I was there. Blue Moon was usually off a few feet away grazing. Maybe he needed a break! HA

      1. It definitely could be her body condition. I think she had that belly through most of the summer too. I’ve seen some of the mares at Clemson keep a big belly even sometimes when they’re having a year off from foaling. And it’s not common, but it’s also not completely unheard of for a stallion to sometimes be over eager (especially a young one) about winning a mare and want to breed them even if they’re not in heat. If that was the case here, she could be pregnant and Johan was trying to take advantage of the new perks of being a band stallion. I think (and hope) we will see Baileys return to the more nurturing role we have seen her take in the past. I think part of the situation with Nacer was that she did not have a mother (in Bolder’s band) to claim her. Where the other foals that Baileys has been an “aunt” to had definite mothers who claimed them. And then Baileys filled in the role of a maternal aunt who was also looking out for the foal. I really was troubled and surprised by her behavior last year. At first when you posted that a Nacer had been separated from LaBrava and was in Bolder’s band my immediate thought was oh good, Baileys is there and she will look after her. I agree with you on the point you’ve made before that the fact that Bolder’s band did not have a foal of their own and no pregnant mare in the band, may have played a part in them taking the “unclaimed” (in their minds) foal. I think that the reason Baileys may have left Bolder’s band, was because again they would not have a foal and she wants to be around a foal. She spent a good chunk of the winter with Cloud’s band, and then I think it was Ginger’s February trip with Deb Little that they are pretty sure they saw her from a distance with Red Raven’s band, and now she is with Flint’s band. All three of these bands will likely have foals. Feldspar and Halcyon seem to be pregnant, and Innocentes and Isadora may be as well. And I haven’t seen Red Raven’s up close in awhile but potentially Fools Gold or Dove may be pregnant. Hopefully we will not see any foal stealing this year from any bands. I think with Baileys being in a band with a foal, she will be content this year just to be interacting within the band.

  4. Orion is as cute as button! 🙂 I can’t believe how grown up Norte and Nirvana look, and Nova is just gorgeous! Kitalpha and Medicine Bow look so good too 🙂 It’s weird to see Audobon and Niyaha “out of place”….wonder how long it will last!

    Morgana is so lovely (I really can’t believe she’s already had a foal :O ) , and Icara and Halo have such pretty faces. Can’t wait to hear about the new foals, and fingers crossed for the current MIAs!

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