The first afternoon and evening of my Pryor Trip, I spent in the Dryhead and Lower Sykes. Within that time I was able to see: Fools Crow and Band (from a distance). Four bachelors: Hawk, Issaquah, Kememerer, Joseph. They were together. Fiero and his band. The last time I saw this band, it was from a distance, so it was good to see them up close. Bakken certainly looked pregnant to me. I hope if she is, she has her foal soon. I also saw Blizzard and Cascade right along the road, drinking from a mud puddle that had formed from a recent rain. Almost the same spot I saw him in early July. But then he had Strawberry, Cascade and Sacajewa with him.
From there I wanted to go to Lower Sykes. It was early evening, and I knew my chances would be greater to see some of these elusive horses as they went to drink at one of the water catchments. My timing was right.
As I arrived, Bristol, Kitalpha and Nova were heading down a path right in front of me. They had just finished with their drink from one of the catchments. They seemed more relaxed with me this time, and walked right towards me, instead of away from me. (Last month they saw me front about 1/4 mile away and left). The light was perfect, making the land and especially the color of Nova show up beautifully in the early evening sun.
The last time I saw Kitalpha (in August), I thought she looked like she had put on some weight. She does look a bit better, but she still looks like she could use some more. She still has that pop-belly, just like when I saw her in March, 2012. Worms? I wondered. You can read about that post and learn more about her by clicking on Kitalpha.
They stayed grazing around me for several minutes before moving on. It was such a gift to spend so much time with this little family.
I will be going to the mountain again, sometime in October. Depending on the weather. The season of set dates has passed now. Where did the summer go? It passed so quickly. I feel so lucky to have been able to spend so much time with these beautiful creatures.
I have been wanting to hike the “back way” to the Cottonwood Springs water area for a couple of years. I decided that early on my first day in Lower Sykes was the day. It was interesting to walk the dry river bed and look at all of the rocks and plants along the way. That was the day I found what I thought was a Bear Canyon Agate. I am pretty sure it was one and the next day I would come across a lot more of them.
We also discovered several of these interesting flowers along the way. I am not sure what they are.
When we reached the spring, we found it to be dry. There were a lot of horse tracks around, but of course since it was dry, no horses.
I decided to follow the plastic hose to the spring source to make sure it was okay. I found it broke at the spring source. There was only a trickle of water coming out, so even if it was connected, there would be no water coming out the other end. I did email Jared to let him know. Instead of me trying to explain what had happened to it, I thought I would just publish what Jared told wrote me:
“Yes the spring box at Cottonwood Spring got washed out earlier this year. The catch wall stayed intact and the pipeline was washed out a short ways. The system worked as designed in order to prevent the entire thing from being destroyed. The catch wall is the most important thing to keep intact. We had planned to go back in to replace the box, however with the fire danger decided it was better to wait until a shift in the weather pattern.”
The sun was getting pretty hot by now, so we hiked back to the truck. After discovering that Cottonwood Springs was dry, I wanted to check out the other two water sources for this area to see how they were doing.
They both still had some water in them and a lot of horse tracks were there as well.
There was not a lot of water in either one , but for the end of August, it was not bad. The Lower Sykes horses can make there way to the bay for water, if these dry up completely. But, I am hoping for more rain to fill them.
By now it was much too hot to hike any more. So we headed up the Dryhead. I will post all my Dryhead photos on the next post.
The next morning, we returned to Lower Sykes, determined to find Kitalpha, Nova and Bristol. We went to the water sources and did not see them. I then parked and followed some fresh tracks down the road. There were 3 separate tracks: 2 adults and 1 foal. It had rained a little the night before, so the fresh tracks were easy to determine on top of the rain drop prints in the red dust.
We had not followed the tracks very long, when I hiked up a small hill and looked down. Hundreds of Bear Canyon Agates lie glistening in the sun at my feet. I then looked up and spotted Bristol and his girls high up on a hill. Both of these sights were a rare treat for sure.
Kitalpha looked like she was putting on some well needed weight. Nova looked strong and healthy. I was happy Bristol had his band back.
They spotted us right away. We would not hike closer. I could tell that Kitalpha already thought we were too close. They headed away from us and over the hill. So different from the mountain top horses. These horses were so much more wild. I hope they stay that way.
January 2nd 2013
Monday the 31st I checked the dryhead 1 last time, and saw the greeters near Ranger’s Delight.
I decided to run over to Cody to see the rams, and swung by McCullough on the way. After a New Year’s night of listening to owls and coyotes while watching the stars and having a little 14 hands cabernet sauvignon by a rare fire, I spent the 1st day of 2013 watching rams up the North Fork before heading back to Lovell.
I stopped in to see Liesl, Kaibab and Exhilharation at the center, and was fortunate that Lori stopped to feed them about 3 minutes after I got there.
Tuesday morning I woke up and decided to drive up to above Sykes Coulee to see if I could see any one either across it, and to look down on the lower sykes area. I did see 3 horses across the coulee, but decided I wasn’t going to hike over for just 3. While coming back down, I could see that there were more horses out on Turkey Flat than before and snapped a long distance shot.
I was determined to go up Burnt Timber and hoped I could tell who was on the flat by zooming in on the shot and looking at colors.
Another fruitless trip through the park and I was heading to BT. From the road, I looked out to get another view of the flat, but could not see them from this side today. I scanned the lower BT area while I was stopped, and was surprised to see some to the right of the entrance. While I may have been able to get up BT, since the snow was a little wetter and more slippery, I decided to hike and see who was down near the fence before deciding if I should go up.
I had never hiked in this area, so I wasn’t sure exactly how far it would be until I found the horses I had seen from the road. I had a landmark I was looking for, and as I got closer to it I started to notice more tracks in the snow. When I finally reached them, I was a little surprised to see Kitalpha first, because I knew there were at least 3 horses from the road.
Almost as surprised to see me was Greta. She led the group a little further up a hill before stopping and going back to grazing. I grabbed some shots of her, Garcia, Millicent and Kitalpha before leaving this secretive group alone. I did see them from a hill later, heading to an even more remote area to hide from everyone.
I decided since I was already in the right direction, I would continue at an angle to Turkey Flats . Not only is this way a little longer to get there in distance, but the walk along the flat plateau is replaced by some ridges and a badlands area that has steep washes and knobs. It was a lot more work, and I regretted my choice at times, but I did learn a lot about a new area. When I got to the flats, I didn’t see any at first and thought I had made the long hike for nothing. I knew there were some dips and I wasn’t going to leave without looking around really well.
As I came over a small rise, I first ran across Rosarita. Her, Mescalero and Polaris were eating their way toward the junipers.
I looked to the junipers and was surprised to see quite a few horses in them. Galaxy was there with his group. Since I saw them on Sunday, I went toward the group slightly to the left of him. There was a near black horse sleeping, but it was really the dark winter blue roan.
A horse came through the sage and first I thought Kalahari, but knowing that wasn’t possible I realized it was La Brava with Coronado right behind.
I moved around the juniper and saw all of his harem before heading back to the flat. I saw Irial, Jupiter and London again, but they did not have Bristol with them.
By the time we got back to the FJ, Malakai and I decided it was time to head home and have a warm bed to sleep in.
It may be a while before I can get back over, but I know Sandy will let us know what is going on when she gets over in a month.
Thanks Shawn for another great update. I really appreciate it so much!