A Day Hiking Lower Sykes

We were only able to go up Burnt Timber Road about a mile past the range entrance  in the ATV the day before , but I was hopeful that we would be able to at least drive to the big Red Hills on Lower Sykes before we had to start hiking.  It would not happen.

There were not vehicle tracks at the turn off to the Lower Sykes entrance.   I turned and drove the truck in and parked.  No tracks, human or animal.  We unloaded the ATV and I decided that we should go to the Bad Pass Spring area and see if we could see any horses over there before we tried to head up Sykes.

I was able to drive to the spring with little trouble.  We got off and hiked to the first big hill.  The wind was cold and the snow was blowing sideways.  Despite the strong wind, we climbed up the hill for a better view.

Sandy searching for Horses
Sandy searching for Horses
Bad Pass Springs area.
Bad Pass Springs area.
Bad Pass Springs Area
Bad Pass Springs Area

We did not see any horses or even hoof prints, so we returned to the ATV and tried to head up the road.

I had only gone about 20 feet when I realized the snow was too deep for even my high clearance ATV.  The wind had drifted the snow about 2 feet deep in places.

Snow depth at bottom of Sykes Ridge Road, 2-18-13
Snow depth at bottom of Sykes Ridge Road, 2-18-13 (taken in the late afternoon after our hike).

I backed up the ATV and we unloaded are backpacks.  Our only option was to hike.  We considered going back to Burnt Timber, but that also involved a lot of hiking.  We wanted to try and locate some different horses, so we started up the road.

I was glad that three months ago, I had started running again.  Walking through 4 inches up to 2 feet of snow was hard work.  Then add the extra weight of the camera, backpack, boots, coveralls and heavy coat, it made for a really good work out.  Especially when you do it for 6 straight hours.  The only plus was that we were no longer cold, unless we stopped for more than 5 minutes. Next time I vowed I would remember my snow shoes.

Starting to hike up Sykes.
Starting to hike up Sykes.
Anh hiking on Lower Sykes.
Anh hiking on Lower Sykes.

There were no tracks ahead of us for a long while.  Finally we saw one set of horse prints.  It encouraged us to continue.

I would veer off the road and head up a hill every few hundred feet, just to make sure we were not missing horses.  If you have never been to the Lower Sykes area (or any area on the lower range) you need to realize that there are MANY dips in the land.  What looks like it a flat area from far away, turns out to be land where animals the size of draft horses could disappear in seconds, swallowed up by the terrain.

Lower Sykes1 Lower Sykes2 Lower Sykes Sandy 5

Red Hills 1 Red Hills2

Finally we arrived at the Red Hills, found some protection from the wind behind a bush and had lunch.  We had only seen the one set of tracks.

Red Hills 3

Our Lunch View
Our Lunch View

Lower Sykes View 2

After lunch we continued hiking.  I always felt if I just got beyond one more hill I would see horses.  So we continued.

Sandy heads up yet another hill to have a look.
Sandy heads up yet another hill to have a look.

We started to realize that this may be a day of no horses.  The wind was blowing strong and there were no horses or even tracks at this point.  The sun was starting to come out, so we stopped and had a little fun with the shadows on the snow!

Sandy Shadow

After a few minutes we continued.

Lower Sykes 6 Lower Sykes 7 Lower Sykes 8 Lower Sykes 9 Lower Sykes 10

We finally had to realize that we could not continue hiking any further, we needed to start back.  It was a discouraging feeling.

Desert Snow

Just as I was coming around a hill, something caught my eye.  I just don’t look for horses, but what I really do, is look for something that is out of place, something that breaks the pattern of the land.  It was more than a 1/4 mile  away, but I was positive I saw a horse.  I picked up my binoculars to confirm it.

Can you find the horses?
Can you find the horses?

It only took me a second looking through the binoculars to recognize Sitting Bull, Cecelia and their August born colt, Mojave (Mato).

Cecelia, Mojave and Sitting Bull.
Cecelia, Mojave and Sitting Bull.

AND it only took Sitting Bull a second to spot us.

They see us.
They see us.

I did not want to get too close to them.  On a good day, this band does not like people very much.  Oh sure, there may be the occasional lazy hot summer day when they don’t seem to care.  But for the most part, they would rather not have us around.

I felt we could get a little closer without disturbing them.  We had to go by this spot on on way out anyway, so we made our way to a set of bushes we thought would be far enough away from them to give them space, but closer enough that we could get a better look.  When we got to that spot, they were gone.  Well, it appeared that way, but I quickly realized that tricky range terrain had showed itself again.  I spoted just the top of Sitting Bulls head and a pair of ears.  It took me a few minutes to be able to show Anh exactly where they were.

Too much time for Sitting Bull however.  He must have thought us to be a pair of predators stalking them.  He stepped out from behind the bush.  We were still at least a 1,000 feet or more from them.  Sitting Bull made a run straight for us.  I instantly thought that I needed to let him know that I was human and hope that he would not continue toward us.  I raised my arms up in the air, waved them and shouted, “It is okay, it is just us”.  At least that is what I think I said, but I know I spoke words.  It worked and he stopped.

Sitting Bull, 2-18-13
Sitting Bull, 2-18-13

Then after a few seconds watching, he lowered his head and started grazing.  Still keeping an eye out for us.

We turned to leave.  I continued to worry that he might still think us a threat and wanted to him to see us retreating.

Sitting Bull 4 Sitting Bull 5

We got back on the road and continued walking.  Looking back, we had a very good view of this little band.

Cecelia
Cecelia
Mojave and Cecelia
Mojave and Cecelia
Sitting Bull and Mojave
Sitting Bull and Mojave

Just a little way up the road, I again spotted something out of place.  It was Bristol, alone way up on a hillside.

Bristol, 2-18-13
Bristol, 2-18-13
Bristol
Bristol

We continued heading down the way we had came, still searching for horses.

Heading back

Anh had never made a snow angel, so we stopped and I showed her how.  We left them there to watch over the horses.

Snow Angel 1 Snow Angel 2 Snow Angel 3

We arrived back at the ATV and loaded it back unto the truck.

Anh
Anh

Next we would head up the Dryhead and not see one horse.  The next morning, we made one last trip to the Dryhead.  The ever faithful Greeters were along the road to say goodbye.  They looked good,  they seemed in much better condition then the horses I saw on Burnt Timber two days ago.

I remember my first winter trip to the Pryors last March.  I was so excited and happy to find the horses I had.  A total of about 30 that trip.  We were 31 this trip.  I had hoped for more, but happy to see who I had.  Someone asked me before I left who I hoped to see.  I wanted to find Jasmine.  I did that.  I wanted to see Moenkopi.  I did that.

I will be back next month to look again.

I did not hike the fence line of the closed Administrative Pasture(s).  I spent my days looking for horses instead.

But what really hit me was how much snow is down low this year.  I am worried for the horses.  Many of the mares looked thin, the stallions not much better.  This is only mid-February and there are still many months before spring comes to the Pryors.

I have been made to understand that this Administrative Pasture(s), which consists of over 3,500 acres of land, will most likely remained closed until the fall of 2014.  It has to be done “by the book” I am told so that when it is opened, it is opened  for good.

This will be addressed in the RMP which is according to Jim Sparks:  “The RMP is a comprehensive plan for ALL the land and uses managed by the Billings Field Office, not just the wild horse range (the 2009 HMAP is specific to the horse range). . We also manage a national monument, many developed recreation areas, wilderness study areas, areas of critical environmental concern, and the natural resources and activities on about 400,000 surface acres and a million acres of mineral estate that are not associated with the PMWHR. The PMWHR comprises less than 10 percent of the lands we manage.”.

Also from Jim:  “The document is about 2000 pages long at this point, and there is actually very little in it regarding wild horses.  Most wild horse management stuff is in the HMAP.”

Let’s hope that because this is addressed in this very huge RMP and that there is very little regarding the wild horses, that it does not get over looked.  When the comment period comes out, we must all remember to make are feelings known.

I want to do it “by the book”.  But at what cost?  The death of more horses?  Can they wait until the fall of 2014?  I hope that Jared will keep a close eye on this situation, I know I will be.

Sandy

Sunset over the Pryors, 2-18-13
Sunset over the Pryors, 2-18-13

Lower Sykes. A Mountain Report from Shawn.

Since I am not able to go over to see the horses right now, I asked my friend Shawn Ivie if he would write up a report.  Shawn was there last week.  I know there are a lot of you (including myself) who would like to hear news about the horses.  I will have several posts on his trip.  This is the first.

Thanks so much Shawn!

Sandy

Mato and Cecelia, November 21, 2012

Wednesday – Lower Sykes
I was anxious to get back to the Pryors, it had been a long time since I last visited, and I had 3 goals for my trip (besides just checking on all of the horses): 1 – Find Damsel, 2- Find Merlin, 3- See Mato(lower sykes) for the first time.

Knowing that the days in the mountains are short at this time of year, I camped in the lower Sykes area Tuesday night so I could search for Mato. As the sun came up, I made my way to one of my favorite look-out hills in the area. The first animals I spotted were actually deer, 10 in the group. While marching around the area throughout the morning I noticed that there was a lot of deer track, which was not evident during my summer hikes.
I did not see any horses in some of the usual areas, but it is easy for a horse to disappear in this area. As I searched a little further out, I finally found 3 horses and made my way toward them. I had expected to find either Sitting Bull’s band or Bristol and Kitalpha. As I made my way to the horses I noticed a grullo stallion and thought I must have found Bristol, but then I noticed the snip and a third horse would not make sense. I was more than a little surprised once I realized that it was Garcia, Greta and Millicent that I had found.

Garcia, November 21, 2012

In the spring they were way over at the Burnt Timber Canyon guzzler. If this wide range is their usual pattern, it may explain why I have heard they aren’t the easiest to find, although I always seem to run into them. Garcia came over to the side of the draw I was on to investigate me, and finally passed on after I gently held up my hand to make sure he didn’t approach too close.

Garcia
Garcia, Greta and Millicient, November 21, 2012
Millicent, November 21, 2012

 

From the top of a nearby mound I was able to locate some horses back on the white hillsides on the other side of where I park and camp. I knew there was too many for it to be Sitting Bull, but I decided to jog back over and up to them. The first I was able to recognize was Jesse James. The greeters were shirking their duties at the gate. As if they knew they weren’t supposed to be there, they quickly moved down the hill and at least in the direction of their posts. I did not see them for the rest of the trip, so they must have been taking a vacation from their jobs, too.

Before descending, I decided to take advantage of my elevated status and see if I could find anyone else. Back a little to the North of where I started I could see 2 horses. A quick stop at the FJ to drop some gear, and I was making my way through the washes to where I had seen them. My heart sank a little as crested a hill and only saw Sitting Bull and Cecelia standing there. I had heard that Mato may have had a limp, and I was worried that something had happened to him. Looking at some of my pictures now, I can see that he was there on the ground behind Cecelia the whole time, but it caused me a few moments of anxiety that morning. I was still a ways off, so decided to scramble down the hillside.

Mato and Cecelia, November 21, 2012
Sitting Bull, Mato and Cecelia, November 21, 2012

By the time I had climbed out from the draw to the next finger of higher ground, all 3 horses were in sight. I was relieved to finally see Mato. I had witnessed his mother carrying him around throughout the summer, but I had not been able to find them the 1 time I was back on the range after he was born. It was also good to have accomplished one of my tasks with good news. It gave me hope that I would soon run across Merlin. After a check of Sykes Coulee and the Bad Pass Springs area with no horses, I decided to head up the mountain while the weather was nice.

Shawn

Logo designed by Amber Bushnell

A Day On The Lower Mountain, A Report From Lori.

Brianna and I had a great trip yesterday and spent almost all day out on the range.

Brianna and I met at about 9:30 at the Center. There was a young man & woman who were talking to Kaibab and Liesl and waiting for the Center to open.

We let them in and they bought one Sandy’sWild Caballo DVD’s! They loved it.

They wanted to go with us (follow us) out to the range…so that is what we did.
They both were very nice and appreciative. They are from Michigan and were on their honeymoon.

So off we went. We first saw the greeters. They were very spread out and we could not get close…but Jesse James, Seneca, Hightail and Hickok were all there.

Seneca, October 19, 2012
Hickok heading over the hill!
The Greeters, October 19, 2012

Next we drove in to the Devil’s Canyon Overlook and saw Fiero, Cascade and Bakken.

We did not see Strawberry and we hiked around to try to see if we could find her, but no Strawberry. I was really worried about not seeing her with Fiero. They were all just resting, but kept looking towards the Canyon area. We hiked out a ways thinking maybe Strawberry was there, but nothing.

Fiero, October 19, 2012
Cascade and Bakken, October 19, 2012
Cascade
Bakken
Cascade and Bakken

We continued on our way and for some reason we looked around by the turnoff by Bad Pass Trail. We hiked out a ways because Brianna saw a dun horse…well it was Kemmerer, way down in the canyon, but on a cliff.

Then Brianna hiked out further and she saw Sacajawea on the cliff with Kemmerer.

Brianna then (and we were following her) saw Seattle and another horse down there…it was Strawberry!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So we took lots of pictures and watched as Seattle “bred” with her.

I could not believe that. I don’t know how this happened from just Sunday when I was out there…but Seattle has Strawberry!!!! I wonder how long this is going to last and how Sacajawea is feeling about Strawberry in the harem.

I also wonder if there was a fight between Seattle and Fiero, but did not see any “war wounds” on Fiero.  Possibly, as Sandy pointed out, Strawberry did not like Cascade in Fiero’s harem! We will just have to wait and see how this plays out.

Kemmerer and Sacajawea, October 19, 2012
Sacajewa
Brianna hiking down to look below!
Brianna
Kemmerer and Sacajewa
Sacajewa and Kemmerer
Strawberry and Seattle, October 19, 2012
Strawberry and Seattle
October 19, 2012

So there is a lot of drama in the Dry Head again!!!

We never found Merlin…we looked and looked but no Merlin.

On our way out we decided to go to Bad Pass Spring in the lower Sykes area..and we hiked for awhile. We saw Medicine Bow all alone. He was on the side of a cliff.

Medicine Bow, October 19, 2012

I almost did not see him, but just happened to look up and saw him. We never saw anyone else in that area, but lots of hoof prints.
Then after leaving that area we decided to go to another part of the lower Sykes area, but just as far as my car would go. On our way we spotted a black horse, so we got out and hiked to see who it was. Surprise of all surprises…it was Cecelia…and we did not see anyone else.

Cecelia, October 19, 2012

I was so worried because we did not see the foal or Siting Bull. Then we drove a bit further and turned around. On our way back we saw Cecelia again and then we saw Sitting Bull. Now I am really worried…we did not see a foal with them.

Sitting Bull
Sitting Bull and Cecelia, October 19, 2012

Well then Joe and Devin (who were with us) hiked a bit further up over the ridge and pointed down as if to say he saw another horse. He saw the foal. Thank God…he found Cecelia’s foal (who has no name yet). Note: we just found out today that Matt has named him Mato.

Anyway….the little guy was laying under a tree and Cecelia and Sitting Bull were a ways from him. I wondered why. I suppose he was just resting, but when he got up he was limping on his right rear leg. His leg seemed to be hurt, but I did not see anything that looked too bad. I did not see any swelling, or anything that looked like a break…no blood or anything…so hopefully he just has a sprain or pulled muscle in his leg.

I am not an expert on these things, but he was putting some weight on it and moving it, so hopefully he will heal. These injuries just worry me.

He is so beautiful, a grullo color with a snip. He then ran a little bit..limping..but able to run, to his momma. At first she seemed to nip at him but then let him nurse, and then he continued to graze with her.

Sitting Bull was nearby too, but they were very spread out. I was worried for the little guy.

Then Cecelia just kept on walking while grazing and he was left behind a bit. Sitting Bull came close to him and they touched noses..it was so so cute. I felt better while the grazed together. The more he moved around the better he was walking,. I think it was stiff from resting. Maybe that is how they just go along…grazing a distance from each other. but I will still worry about his limp and Cecelia taking care of him.

Ceceila’s colt, October 19, 2012
Cecelia and Sitting Bull’s cot, October 19, 2012
Cecelia and her colt.
Cecelia and Mato
Mato
Mato, October 19, 2012
Sitting Bull with his son, October 19, 2012
Father and Son
Sitting Bull and Mato October 19, 2012

It was a real good day as far as seeing the horses, but I still felt sad that we did not find Merlin.

Lori

Thank you Lori for the great update!  I love your photos.  It is so nice to see photos of Sitting Bull and Cecelia’s colt.  I hope he heals fast and grows old in the Dryhead.

I remember when I saw Fiero alone in March of this year.  You can read that post by clicking FIERO.  I felt really bad for him being alone, but then just a few days later someone reported that he was with Strawberry again.  I think she does that quite often.  Leave him and go off doing her own thing for a while.  It will be interesting to see  if she is back with him.

I am heading to the Pryors tomorrow.  Lori and I are going go to the top of the mountain via Burnt Timber Road.  I hope to be able to check on everyone along the way, and  visit Lakota once more before the snow blankets him.  Then  go up the Dryhead and lower Skyes to check on everyone there.

Sandy

Logo designed by Amber Bushnell

Cecelia, August 2, 2012

I thought I would do a short post to let everyone know that as of this morning at 6:45 Cecelia has not had her foal.

If you did not read my post about Cecelia and Sitting Bull click CECELIA and you can read it.

Sitting Bull and Ceceila, July 29, 2012

My intention was to come down from the top of the mountain and look for her yesterday.  But it had been a very emotional trip up there (Lakota’s memorial and the removals), that when I stepped out of my truck on lower Sykes in the desert at 5 in the afternoon yesterday, I decided to wait until morning.  The heat hit me like a 375 degree oven ready for cookie dough.  I figured the chances of finding them was probably pretty slim, as they could be behind any bush trying to stay cool.

So I went into Lovell to the Horseshoe motel and set my alarm for 4:30 am.

I actually woke up before it went off.  I was packed up and heading towards Sykes at 5:00.  It was still dark.  I saw several mule deer with their babies scampering through the fields playing.  I stopped and watched them for a minute.

The moon was still high in the sky by the time  I got to lower Sykes and I  packed up my camera and water.  I was determined to find her and hoping she would have her foal by her side.  I did not care how long it took.

Full Moon in the early morning over lower Sykes.

I was prepared for a long hike.  The morning was beautiful.  The full moon, the cool temps, the quiet, no other people, it all reconfirmed why I love this place.

I hiked over one hill and “glassed” around, nothing.  I hike up another hill and there was Sitting Bull on a small hill!  I could not believe my luck.  Well, let me back up a bit.  I kind of knew where they might be. Obviously Cecelia would not want to move much, but they did have to go for water.  Let me also point out that lower Sykes is filled with deeps and hills..it can be very hard to see anyone.

Sitting Bull in the early morning light, August 2, 2012

I “glassed” again and saw Cecelia’s back just below the ridge.  I REALLY wanted to see a foal with her.  It would just make this trip end on a pleasant note.  She walked over the ridge and to my disappointment still looked HUGE!

Cecelia, August 2, 2012

I stayed watching them from a distance until the sun rose.  I decided I would not go closer.  There was no foal and I did not want to bother their perfect quiet of the morning.  I knew they saw me, but they pretended they didn’t, which was what I wanted and how it should be.

Cecelia and Sitting Bull

The moon came out from behind the cloud and I snapped one more photo of the peaceful beauty.

I stayed until the sun rose enough to shine on this elusive couple.  I watched them for a few minutes longer and turned and walked back to the truck.

The rising sun hits Cecelia and Sitting Bull, August 2, 2012

I was so wishing to see new life on the last morning of my trip.  But it was not to be so.  But the quiet and beauty of the morning was also a gift that helped lift my spirits.

The Pryors are a magical place and I believe that it is more  magical for some, than others, and that is okay.  I feel that I am one of the lucky ones.

Sandy

Logo designed by Amber Bushnell

Dryhead and Lower Sykes Update,July 29, 2012. A Day of Firsts.

I thought with all of the sad news of the removals that we all needed to read a good post.  So I decided to take the time tonight and update everyone on my day.

I arrived in Lovell, Wyoming early this afternoon. I was eager to head up the Dryhead.  I had not seen these horses since May.

The first horses I saw were Hidatsa, Issaquah and Hawk.  They were way off in the distance on Mustang Flats.  I drove just a short way and saw one horse that I had never seen before, Hidalgo.  Just this past week he lost his band (Cascade and Lewis) to the stallion Blizzard.

Hidalgo was with another bachelor, Jemez.  I had not seen Jemez since last fall.  It was good to see them both.

Hidalgo, July 29, 2012
Jemez, July 29, 2012
Jemez and Hidalgo, July 29, 2012
Jemez, July 29, 2012

After a couple hours in the Dryhead, I received a text message.  It was from Shawn.  He was in lower Sykes and had found Sitting Bull and Cecelia.  Theses were two more horses that I had never seen.  It seems not many people see them.  My friend Linda had told me where she had seen them in June. (thanks Linda!!) So I had emailed Shawn the details on where to possibly find them.  There are so many dips and gully’s on lower Sykes (and all over the whole range actually), that it was hard to locate any horses here, let alone the two most elusive.   Shawn was very lucky!   I also knew that Cecelia was very close to having her foal.

I left the Dryhead and headed towards Sykes.  I was a couple miles away when I received another text from Shawn. Cecelia and Sitting Bull were starting to move!  Oh no!!  I was afraid they would disappear over a ridge and I would not see them.  I hurried (as hurried as you can be up Sykes, which is not very!!)  I saw Shawn and pulled over and parked.  We hiked in the direction that Shawn had said they had gone.  We came over a ridge and were rewarded.

There they were!  Poor Cecelia is huge and looks very uncomfortable.  I am sure it will be very soon.  We hoped it would be while we watch.  We stayed there for a couple hours, then decided to leave them be.  I headed back to Lovell.  Shawn is staying nearby and is going to keep an eye on them.  Hopefully he will be rewarded with a new foal!  If that is the case, I know where I will be in the first light of the day tomorrow!

I can now say that I have seen every horse on the range!!  Well, there are a couple new foals that I have not seen, but otherwise I have seen everyone!  I feel so blessed to have been able to see them all!  They each leave their own memory for me.

Sitting Bull and Cecelia, July 29, 2012
Sitting Bull and Cecelia, July 29, 2012
Sitting Bull and Cecelia!
Sitting Bull and Cecelia, July 29, 2012

 

 

Tomorrow morning and I am going to take an early ride up the Dryhead (or Sykes!!!) and then meet Lori at Britton Springs.  Our plan is to head up the mountain for a few days!

It was a good first day and a great way to forget everything else!

Sandy

Logo designed by Amber Bushnell