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

A Day Up Skyes Ridge. What Goes Up Must Come Back Down.

DSCF3880
Photo by Anh.

This would be my 4th trip up Sykes Ridge Road.  But only my second trip back down.  I knew that this time of year I would not be able to make the compete loop (up Sykes, down Burnt Timber).  So looking at the weather map, decided that Sunday would be the best day to head up.

Driving up the roads on the range  made me think about my white water kayaking days.  These roads seemed to fall into the same category as a white water river.  Rivers are classified as such:

Class I:
Easy Waves small; passages clear; no serious obstacles.
Class II:
Medium Rapids of moderate difficulty with passages clear. Requires experience plus suitable outfit and boat.
Class III:
Difficult Waves numerous, high, irregular; rocks; eddies; rapids with passages clear though narrow, requiring expertise in maneuvering; scouting usually needed. Requires good operator and boat.
Class IV:
Very difficult Long rapids; waves high, irregular; dangerous rocks; boiling eddies; best passages difficult to scout; scouting mandatory first time; powerful and precise maneuvering required. Demands expert boatman and excellent boat and good quality equipment.
Class V:
Extremely difficult Exceedingly difficult, long and violent rapids, following each other almost without interruption; riverbed extremely obstructed; big drops; violent current; very steep gradient; close study essential but often difficult. Requires best person, boat, and outfit suited to the situation. All possible precautions must be taken.
Class VI
Class U Formerly classified as unrunnable by any craft. This classification has now[when?] been redefined as “unraftable” due to people having recently kayaked multiple Class VI around the world.[citation needed](Some consider rafting on a class VI river suicidal, and only extreme luck or skill will allow you through)

Sykes Ridge Road
Sykes Ridge Road.  Photo by Anh.

I thought this was the perfect way to explain the roads within the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range.

Sykes is pretty much a straight up class IV to V.  Up is more of a class IV, down is more of a class V.  Sure there are a few Class III parts, maybe even a little Class II.  But this is not a road that can be taken lightly.

You hope you pick the right line.  Sometimes you have very little time to decide.  If you pick the wrong line, it can be a pretty scary and dangerous thing.

Burnt Timber is a class III with some IV thrown in here and there, but mostly a nice class III.

So with that in mind we were on our way up Sykes mid morning after a quick trip through the Dryhead.

Photo by Anh
Photo by Anh

We had gone up the road a couple of miles when we spotted a black horse off in the distance.  As we got closer, I confirmed that it was Chief Joseph.  We stayed there watching him for several minutes.  He appeared to be alone.

Jospeh, April 28, 2013
Jospeh, April 28, 2013
Josph
Josph

IMG_0739

We continued up the Class IV road with little trouble.  After going another 8 miles without seeing another horse, I wondered if it would be a day of few horses.  I navigated “dead biologist corner” with ease.   We stopped to take a look around.  Anh pointed up behind us and we saw nine horses moving across the steep hill directly above our heads.

IMG_0757 IMG_0762

One of the bands that I really wanted to see this trip was Fools Crows.  At first glance I thought I had full filled that wish.  It was Fools Crow’s Band, but where was Fools Crow?  Hidalgo seemed to be in charge of these 8 horses now.  I had not expected this.  It has been a long complicated story to get to this point for this band and I will try to shorten it as much as possible, but still give you a look into what is going on.

1. May  2012 Fools Crow had: Bell Starr, Jewel and Mercuria.

2. May 2012  Merlin had: Kaelia, Halo, Fresia and Montana

3. December 2012 Hidalgo had: Halo, Fresia and Montana (Kaelia was removed in August)

4.  February 2013 Fools Crow had: Halo, Fresia, Montana, Jewel, Mercuria, Icara, Morgana and Bell Starr

Now, today, Hidalgo had taken Fools Crows entire band.  I watched them head off through the trees and was sure we would see them again down the road.  They were able to take a more direct route to where they were going.

I was right, just down the road several turns, we encountered them again high above us.  Hidalgo was keeping this band moving.  It made me think that this switch in bands was a recent occurrence.

IMG_0777

Hidalgo
Hidalgo

IMG_0782

Icara

We watched them run off again and kept going up the road.  We had gone about 12 miles now.  We stopped to take a few photos of the view of the Dryhead below us.

IMG_0795 IMG_0796 IMG_0797 IMG_0799

Then just around another curve there was Hidalgo and the band right in front of us again.  This was one of the bands I had really wanted to see on this trip and I was so happy I was lucky enough to find them.  This time they were allowed to relax and eat, so we were able to spend some time with them.  They all looked good.  I was relieved to see that the three yearlings ( Morgana, Montana and Mecuria) had made it through the winter.  But surprised that none of the mares looked pregnant.  I had thought that I might find some new foals with this group.  Fresia had Montana the end of April last year.  Halo is not on PZP.  But neither looked pregnant to me.  Would there be no new foals in the Dryhead this year?   Yes, these are Dryhead horses, 10 miles up Sykes.  That is what I love about going up Sykes, the line between the Dryhead horses and the Mountain horses is very faint.  The are very close together, we would see that today.

IMG_0802

Mercuria
Mercuria
Fresia and Montana
Fresia and Montana

IMG_0805

Halo and Bell Starr
Halo and Bell Starr

IMG_0810

Jewel
Jewel

IMG_0817

Fresia
Fresia

IMG_0822 IMG_0830 IMG_0860

Morgana
Morgana

I spotted a few horses off in the distances, so after a few more minutes with this band, we continued up the road.  I only had to go a short way when I saw Blizzard with Bakken, Cascade and Strawberry.  I was surprised to see him up here and equally surprised to see that he still had these mares.  They all looked good.   The were intent on eating and barely lifted their heads to look our way.  After a few minutes we decided to keep going up the road.  There was snow on parts of the road, so I was unsure on how much further I would be able to go.

Blizzard and his band, April 28, 2013
Blizzard and his band, April 28, 2013
Blizzard, Strawberry and Bakken
Blizzard, Strawberry and Bakken
Cascade
Cascade
Blizzard
Blizzard
Bakken
Bakken

Just up the road, maybe a quarter-mile at most was Morning Star and his band and then Blue Moon and his band.  I was amazed that the Dryhead horses were so close to these mountain horses.  Maybe will start seeing some mountain horses down in the Dryhead soon.

As I watched the two bands, I realized that there was a missing horse in Morning Star’s band.  Audubon.  Audubon is 14 this year.  I wondered if she could possibly be off foaling.  I hoped that was the reason for her absence.

We decided to have our lunch with these two bands as we watched them peacefully graze next to one another.

Morning Star Band
Morning Star Band
Blue Moon Band
Blue Moon Band
Hailstorm
Hailstorm
Morning Stars Band, April 29, 2013
Morning Stars Band, April 29, 2013
Morning Star
Morning Star
Felina
Felina
Hataalii
Hataalii
Isadora
Isadora
Gaelic Princess and Hataalii
Gaelic Princess and Hataalii
Felina
Felina
Blue Moon band and Morning Star band.
Blue Moon band and Morning Star band.
Sequoyah and Miocene
Sequoyah and Miocene

I could see a few horses just up the road.  So after we finished our lunch we continued driving.  Both Anh and I felt we were having a perfect day.  We had seen more horses than I was thinking we would.  I turned to her and said:  “The only thing that would make this day better is if we would find a foal.”  We drove just a short way and I looked up.  It was Custer and his band.  Then I spotted him.  A new foal!!!  He was lying up on the windy ridge between his mother Fiasco and 26-year-old Winnemucca.  I can still vividly remember the day late last July when they removed two from this band.  Two year old Kiabab and one year old Leo.  These two mares were very upset.  It had been heart breaking to witness.  But now, they had a new foal to care for.  I was really happy for this band.  We decided to name him Nodin.  Nodin is a Native American word that means “wind”.  It seemed fitting as we discovered him on a windy ridge on Sykes.

Fiasco, Nodin and Winnemucca, April 28, 2013
Fiasco, Nodin and Winnemucca, April 28, 2013

We were not close, but too close for Winnemucca.  She quickly gathered up the band and asked them to move into the trees below.  We did not follow them.  It was clear they did not want us around.

View from where we were on Sykes.
View from where we were on Sykes.

I spotted three more horses up and to the right.  We walked over to see who the were.  It was Horizon, Juniper and Fiesta.  They were grazing and eating snow.   Once again, I wondered how long this unlikely band would last.  There are two stallions in this band.  Five year old Horizon and 9-year-old Fiesta.  Many times that I have watched and studied this band, it seems Fiesta acts as the satellite stallion.  He is the one to confront or fight off any other stallion that approaches. This band has been like this for over a year now.

Juniper
Juniper
Horizon
Horizon
Horizon
Horizon
Horizon
Horizon
Juniper and Horizon
Juniper and Horizon
Juniper, Horizon and Fiesta
Juniper, Horizon and Fiesta
Fiesta
Fiesta

We noticed that Custer and his band had come out of the trees and seemed to be relaxing with our presents.  We turned our attention back to them.  What a perfect little family they were.

IMG_1242

Custer, Fiasco and Nodin
Custer, Fiasco and Nodin
Fiasco and Nodin, April 28, 2013
Fiasco and Nodin, April 28, 2013
Winnemucca
Winnemucca
Custer and band
Custer and band
Custer
Custer
Nodin, April 28, 2013
Nodin, April 28, 2013

We could hear whinnying up the road from us, so we hurried to see who it was.  It was Bolder and band and Coronado and band.  It was so good to see that little Manuelita, Dove’s late born foal, had made it through the winter.    Dove did not look great.  Not horribly bad, just not the best.  Her hair seemed a bit longer than it should be and she was thin.

Both bands were on the move and did not give us much time to take photos.  We were lucky to have seen them, as they vanished into the trees as quickly has they had first appeared.

IMG_1432 IMG_1434 IMG_1433 IMG_1444

Mesa and Killian
Lobo and Killian
Lobo, Mesca and Killian
Mesa, Lobo and Killian

IMG_1445 IMG_1436 IMG_1451

Dove
Dove

IMG_1461 IMG_1464 IMG_1472

Manuelita and Dove
Manuelita and Dove

IMG_1462 IMG_1457 IMG_1476 IMG_1496

The only thing left between us and Penns Cabin was about 5 miles of road in trees.  I knew there would be too much snow to go on much further.  I also realized that we had seen most bands that would be in this area.  It was 4:30 pm, so we decided we should head down with plenty of light still left in the day.  I was dreading the drive down.  But unfortunately what goes up Sykes this time of year must come back down Sykes.

We were a few miles down the road.  On one of the more steep and technical spots when I spotted a horse to my left.  It was a bay horse.  Then I spotted a dun horse.  I told Anh.  ” I am sorry, I can’t stop here.”  Then I saw the foal and his bay mom.  Somehow I managed to find a semi-small, flat piece of land to park on.  They were not very far away and I was not sure how they would react to us.  The dun looked at me and immediately  started to go.  She seemed familiar to me.  It was Topper.  She looked thin and sad.  I wanted to pack her up on the ATV and drive her back over to Burnt Timber where Chino and her daughter Tooper Too were.

I then realized who the other horses were.  Corona and Waif.  My friend Maria from Bulgaria had told me she thought Waif was pregnant.  I was happy to have found her and the new foal that was with them.  He seemed to be much older than Nodin.  I think he may be a month old.  We decided to name him Norte.  Norte is spanish for North.  North Star.

Waif and her colt, Norte, April 28, 2013
Waif and her colt, Norte, April 28, 2013
Topper
Topper
Corona
Corona

IMG_1536

Norte
Norte
Waif and Norte
Waif and Norte

IMG_1572

Corona
Corona

IMG_1597

Topper
Topper

IMG_1603 IMG_1613 IMG_1632

They allowed us to watch them for as long as we wanted.  We stayed for about 15 minutes before we decided we should head back down the road.

We had seen 50 horses today and two new foals.  It was one of the best days I have ever had on the range.   I love Sykes  Ridge and all it has to show me.   It seems so much more wild and inaccessible.  I love how the Dryhead Horses and the Mountain Horses co-exist near one another.  It was worth driving that Class IV river all day to get to the beauty that few people get to witness.  I ‘ll be ready to do it again soon.

Sandy

Logo designed by Amber Bushnell
Logo designed by Amber Bushnell

Sandy

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

Mountain Update From My Last Trip

I decided I had better finish my update before too much time passed.  Sorry for the delay.  I have been a bit busy here at home!  My new “kids” Kootenani and Kiowa have been taking up a lot of my time.  I have been enjoying every second of my time with them.  It is hard for me to tear myself away from them.  But they are both napping in the sun this morning, so I decided I would work on this post.

On Saturday, September 1, Amber and I drove down Burnt Timber to meet my good friend Lori at Britton Springs.  I also got to meet another new friend there that day, Brianna.

I have decided not to share any of the photos of the horses in the pens.  I think we have all seen enough of those, and it is actually a bit painful for me to look at them, knowing I will probably not see most of these horses again.  Time to move on.

Just as Amber and I started down Burnt Timber Road we saw a few bachelors.  Two Boots, Santa Fe, Garay and Jasper.  We stopped and watched them for a few minutes.  They all looked really good.

We continued down the road.  Amber had never been down Burnt Timber Road, so it was fun to see (and hear) her reaction to it.

A few years ago, Amber was a mountain bike racer.  Both cross-country and downhill.  So Burnt Timber Road really brought those memories back for her and I could tell that she wished she was on the back of a mountain bike instead of an ATV.  I have also raced before, so I could relate to her view of the road.

We saw no more horses the rest of the way down.  I did not expect too, they are all on top right now.  The forage along the way looked better than on top in a lot of places.

We stopped at the bottom water guzzler and walked back to it.  I wanted to see if there was water in it.  I was pleasantly surprised to find it full (at least the drinking tank was)  Even in this dry summer, it seems there was enough rain to fill this one.  What a great addition to the range these water guzzlers are.

We left Britton Springs and headed towards Sykes Ridge Road.  I was giving Amber a tour of the range.  One that not very many people have done.  It is a necessary tour that I wish more people could witness.  Seeing the vast range from all sides and in between is important in order to understand the land that these horses really live on.

We started up Sykes Ridge Road.  We were about 2 miles up when Amber pointed out a black horse to our left.  I did not see him, my eyes were on the road (an important assignment for Sykes).  We stopped.  I could not believe our luck!  It was Inniq!

When I was here last month, I made a post that said that I had seen every horse on the range.  Well, at that time I had thought that Inniq was missing.  I had not heard anything about him for a very long time.  I learned just before I came that he was still alive.  So, NOW, I have seen every horse on the range.

He was alone today.  Think of your image of a wild horse, and Inniq is that.  He is the son of Sitting Bull and Cecelia.

Inniq was not happy that we were looking at him.  He was pretty far away, we had to look through the binoculars to get a good look at his markings and make sure who he was.  He turned and ran before I could get a photo of him.  We watched where he went and decided our best chance to get another look would be to continue down the road and hike up a hill.  It was a good decision, because we saw him again and I was able to snap a few photos before he turned and left again.

Inniq, September 1, 2012
Inniq
Inniq stopped to have one more look at us. September 1, 2012

I never get used to this road.  This is my third trip up here.  I consider  Sykes Ridge Road to be a good aerobic workout, my heart beats very fast the whole way up!  🙂  Since the last time I was up this road, I learned one of the corners is called “Dead Biologist’s Corner”.  I won’t say anymore about that….

I made the mistake of telling Amber that one of the first narrow roads we went down was the scariest for me. She thought I meant that nothing else would be scary.  So when she said out loud “Oh wow…”  I quickly asked her (after we got up the “oh wow”) that if she could please keep her comments to herself that it would be very helpful for me.

We saw no horses (again, I did not expect too) after we saw Inniq.   We stopped about 15 miles up the road and Amber took these shots.  Can anyone figure out where we are above the Dryhead?  On the first photo you can see the road to the left.

Sykes Ridge Road View.
Sykes view
View from Sykes Ridge Road, September 1, 2012
Sykes View

There were some storm clouds starting to form behind us.  The wind was picking up and I became even more nervous.  The last thing I wanted to do was get caught in a storm on Sykes Ridge Road.  We continued up the road a bit faster.

I stopped to let Amber take a few shots of “Castle Rock” and to drink some water.  I knew that now we were getting close to the top (probably only about 5 or so more miles).

Castle Rock, September 1, 2012

We were both relieved when we arrived on top.  The storm never caught up to us.  There were however several groups of people on top now.  Our quiet time was over.

As we drove past Penn’s Cabin, I could see several horses ahead.  We drove back to our campsite and watched them all parade past us.

Several of you have asked what type and size camera and lens I use.  I thought I would post this photo for you to see.

Sandy, September 1, 2012

I was happy to see Tecumseh.  His wounds have healed and he was walking better than the last time I saw him.  He seems to have worked out a deal with Gringo.  He appears (at least that day) to be acting as a satellite bachelor and is allowed to be in the herd.  He was actually in the lead, with Gringo bringing up the rear.  Gringo also looked good.  He has put on some well needed weight.

Tecumseh, September 1, 2012
Gringo and Ketchikan, September 1, 2012

Over the next several hours we saw horses going past us in both directions.  It was a wonderful site to witness.

That day, Jasmine was back with White Cloud’s band.  Poor Damsel was huge.  To date, I have not heard if she has had her foal.

Coronado’s Band, September 1, 2012
Part of White Cloud’s Band, September 1, 2012
The rest of White Cloud’s band.
Damsel, September 1, 2012

Garay and Jasper were together this afternoon, unlike when we saw them in the morning with Two Boots and Santa Fe.  The bachelors all seem to change groups often.  Since March, I have seen them in several different combinations.

Jasper
Garay

The next band that we saw was Grijala.  I was so hoping Quelle Colour would foal and that it would be Lakota’s, but I am thinking she may not be pregnant after all.

Quelle Colour, September 1, 2012

Grijala’s band of “Special K’s” has gotten smaller because of the removal.  He now only has Kohl and Kindra along with Quelle Colour.

Something was up with Blue Moon and his band.  Amethyst was running ahead of the rest of her band.  Snorting, with her tail up.  Blue Moon was trying to get her under control.  I have rarely seen any of these horses act like this and I wondered what the cause of it was.

Amethyst, September 1, 2012
Blue Moon runs after Amethyest.
Blue Moon and Amethyst.
Blue Moon stops to check on the rest of his band.

Amethyst’s actions caused Grijala to decide to move his small band out of there.

Grijala’s Band

Not far behind I saw Horizon running after Blue Moon’s band.  I wondered if he was trying to take someone or ones in Blue Moon’s band.  Juniper and Fiesta were not far behind.

We would not see them again, so I do not know the answer.

Horizon
Horizon, September 1, 2012
Jupiter, September 1, 2012
Fiesta

Next to come by was Two Boots and Santa Fe.

Two Boots, September 1, 2012
Santa Fe

Not too far behind in the parade of horses was Dukes Band, Teton’s Band and Mescalero’s Band.

Meriwether, September 1, 2012
Mescalero and Rosarita
Polaris
Missoula and Teton, September 1, 2012

Custer’s band and Jackson’s band came by us a short time later.

Brumby and Moorcroft, September 1, 2012
Jackson

Off in the distance I saw Doc and his band.  I was really happy to see them.  I had not seen them yet.

Doc’s Band, September 1, 2012

I felt eyes on me and turned to the right.  I could just make out two sets of eyes looking at me just below a little dip in the land.  It did not take me long to figure out it was the Toppers!  I would know those eyes anywhere!  It seemed they paused for a shorter time before they continued towards us.  I am being to think they are getting to know me.

Topper 1 and Topper too, September 1, 2012
Topper One and Topper Too.
Chino, September 1, 2012

We also saw Morning Star and his beautiful band.

Morning Star’s band, September 1, 2012

Galaxy is Amber’s favorite stallion on the range.  So we were both really happy to see them again before dark.

Ireland, September 1, 2012
Galaxy and his band, September 1, 2012

I had not seen Cappuccino yet.  I had not seen this band since they lost 3 members.  Lilly, Kodiak and Kootenai.   Finally they came by us.  They all looked good, but I missed the other members.  I miss all the faces that I will not see again, but for some reason I really noticed the missing member’s of this band.

Cappuccino’s Band, September 1, 2012

As the sky darkened, we watched the horses peacefully grazing in the distance.  I never get tired of that view.  The peace, the beauty.

This would most likely be my last camping trip of the year.  The temperatures are beginning to fall and snow could be coming soon.  The mountains certainly need the moisture.   I am planning on coming again in a while to check on everyone before winter sets in.

Sandy

September 1, 2012
Moon over the Pryors, September 1, 2012
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

Mountain Update, Sykes Ridge, May 20, 2012

Remember my first trip up Sykes Ridge Road?  Click SYKES RIDGE to read that post.  Well this would be my second trip up this road.  I was still nervous, but really wanted to do it.   Our plan was to drive all the way up Sykes Ridge Road and then down Burnt Timber.  I wanted to finally drive the entire Sykes Ridge Road.  Last summer when I spent some time on the mountain with Jared Bybee, he said that I was really missing a lot by not seeing Sykes Ridge.  I have to agree.  I was really happy to take it all the way up the mountain.  The land is so beautiful and photos and words just can not explain its beauty.  It is something that needs to be seen in person.   I do not know how anyone would drive it in a vehicle.  I really think this road should only be accessed by an ATV.  It is that bad.

We were on our way up Sykes Ridge by 6:45 am.  It was another sunny beautiful day.

As we began to climb, I stopped and looked back.  I could see Kitalpha, Bristol and another horse.  I took a photo.  As I was looking through my photos I realized the other photo was Liesel.  Liesel is the yearling daughter of Bristol and Greta.  She had been with Greta who is now with Garcia.  I wonder how that happened.

Kitalpha, Bristol and Liesel, May 20, 2012

A short distance up the road  we saw three bachelor stallions.  They were:  Medicine Bow, Johan and Joseph.  I had just seen Medicine Bow and Joseph 2 days ago in the Dryhead.  They really get around!

Medicine Bow and Johan, May 20, 2012
Joseph, May 20, 2012

As we walked back to the ATV I saw a little bit more wildlife!

We continue up the road several miles without seeing any horses.  We were about 10 miles up when we saw some horses in the distance.  I stopped and took a quick photo.  I really like to do that for record.  I can zoom in pretty good later and see who it was.  Even if it is not a good photo, it is good for keeping record.

May 20, 2012

We got in the ATV and continued up the road.  It is pretty much instinct trying to decide where they might be along the way.  If you have ever gone up there, you know what I mean.  I drove a little bit and stopped.  I just wanted to look over a hill and see if we were there by this horse or if I could see him again.  I looked over the hill and I saw this:

Mercuria and Belle Star, May 20, 2012
Jewel, Mercuria and Belle Star
Jewel and Belle Star
Fools Crow, May 20, 2012
Jewel and Mercuria
Mercuria
Jewel
Fools Crow
Mercuria and Jewel, May 20, 2012
Mercuria, Fools Crow and Jewel

I was really surprised to see Jewel with Belle Star and Fools Crow.  My first thought was that Belle Star had a foal.  Then I saw her nurse from Jewel.  I had never seen Jewel in person.  The last I had heard was Jewel and her foal were with the stallion Hidalgo.

We spent a while with this little band and then decided to move on.

We could see some horses way off in the distance.  So we were hoping we would get closer to them by driving down the road.

We had not gone far when I saw Horizon, Juniper and Fiesta.  They were grazing next to a wood area, right along the road.

Horizon, May 20, 2012
Fiesta, May 20, 2012
Juniper, May 20, 2012
Juniper

We continued up Sykes Ridge Road.  We were entering an area where there were a lot of thick trees.  No more looking for horses at a distance now.  The trees were thick on both sides.  We came around a little bend in the road and this is what I saw:

Cloud and Mica, May 20, 2012

We were very surprised to see horses in this thick wooded area.  The last time I had seen Cloud and his band was in April and they were way over on Burnt Timber, down by the first guzzler.   Cloud seemed fine with us there.   We got off and took a number of photos.

Feldspar, May 20, 2012
Mica, Feldspar and Cloud’s colt.
Mica and his father Cloud.
Mica
Mica deep in the woods on Sykes, May 20, 2012
Aztec, May 20, 2012
Jasmine, Krystal and Baileys
Jasmine
Mica
Kierra and Damsel, May 20, 2012
Lynx and Innocentes, May 20, 2012
Mica

We continued up the mountain, came around a bend and saw this.  I immediately decided to call it “Castle Rock”.  It sure looks like one.

Castle Rock

Just a little way past Castle Rock and to the left, I saw a lone horse.  I thought it looked like Prince and sent it to Matt  for a positive ID.  It was Prince.  I was glad that he seemed OK.  Prince just lost his entire band to the young stallion Galaxy.  Prince will be 19 this year.

Prince, May 20, 2012

We reached the top of Sykes Ridge Road!  I had finally driven the whole road!  It felt good.  There were horses in the meadow below Penn’s Cabin.  I will tell you about them in my next post!

Sandy

Sykes Ridge, April 16, 2012

I thought I would take a break from posting another on the Dryhead and take you for a trip up Sykes Ridge.   I have never been up Sykes. Well, not far anyway.  In March we went up it a little ways until we ran into a lot of snow.   There were not tracks to follow and I was a little unsure of the way, so I happily turned around.

I have heard things about Sykes Ridge Road,  most of them were not good.  I had heard that this road was the worst of all and to be honest I was not excited to go up it.  But I really wanted to see it.  It was one part of the mountain I was not familiar with and I wanted to change that.

I am afraid of heights.  Mostly it is when I am driving up a mountain road with a steep drop off.  Like Crooked Creek for example.  I did not know what Skyes would hold, but I feared I would be in several uncomfortable situations.  I was right.  Even in the ATV I was in several uncomfortable spots.  I honestly don’t know how anyone could drive a vehicle up this road.  It seems impossible to me.  I have a lot of respect for thoses that are able to do it.

But I was determined.   So after spending a little while up the Dryhead we parked at the bottom of Sykes, unloaded the ATV and headed up.  I wondered what horses I might see.  The ones I saw were all new faces to me and quite a surprise!  It was confusing at times on who they were, because I never expected to see them there.

We came to the spot in the road where we had turned around in March.  There was no snow today, so I had no excuse not to go on.  The next part of the road looked like it went off the end of the earth.  So I parked and we walked over and looked down it.  My heart was in my throat, I felt a little dizzy.  Maybe we should just go back up Burnt Timber and look for that new foal.  Sounded like a good plan.  Anything to keep from having to continue on this road.  But no, I really needed to do this.  So after a couple of minutes we climb back on the ATV and headed down the road.  Singing seems to help me relax in very stressful situations (like this), so I began to sing and continued down the steep section of the road.  We made it and we were alive to tell about it.

We were at the bottom now.  There were two choices.  I had talked to Matt the night before about the road and he gave me some pointers.  We were to take the road to the right, not the left.  There was  a sign laying down that said “detour”, but I was unclear if it meant to take that way or the other.  Doesn’t “detour” usually mean that you are supposed to go that way?  Well, I was glad that I had talked to Matt and he told me which way to go.  We headed up the steep road.  We had not gone far when I saw a dun horse not too far down to the left.

At first I thought it was Horizon (thinking only about Mountain horses, not Dryhead horses).  But he looked different.  It was Johan the 2009 son of Greta and Bristol!  A Dryhead horse.  He did not really want to stay by us, so he moved on and so did we.  Matt had told me the night before, that we probably would not see any horses before the water guzzler.  This was before the water guzzler, so I was excited.  We were going to see a lot of horses, I just knew it!

Johan, April 16, 2011

The landscape started to really open up, this wasn’t so bad, I thought.

Looking towards Burnt Timber going up Sykes. Can you find the water guzzler?

A little farther up the road we saw the water guzzler to our right.  We decided to walk down to it and see if there were any horses there.  There were not, but we spent some time there, just in case some might be coming.

We continued back up the road.  There were some spots that were steep, but for the most part it was not much different from Burnt Timber Road.   I was feeling more confident and glad I had made myself take this road.  Then, just as I was feeling relaxed, we came to a part of the road that entered into a very dark and narrow canyon.  The walls of the canyon were high on both sides of us.  It was cloudy at the time, so it made it even seem more dark.  This was called Cougar Canyon.  I could see why.  My imagination started picturing several mountain lions watching us from above.  Maybe even a bear would be standing in the road on the next turn. I felt eyes on me.  It seemed to go on forever.  I vowed right then that I would never drive this road again.  I started to sing…

I had forgotten to check the odometer at the bottom, but it seemed like we went for miles through that canyon.  When we did come out, we began to climb.  No more open landscape.  It seemed we would never get to where we would be able to see anything.  It had been a while since we had seen Johan.  We talked about turning around.

Then it began to open up again .  We could finally see around.  We spotted 2 horses way off in the distance!  I could not make out who they were.  My lens was giving me some problems and I was having a hard time getting it to focus.

Two faraway horses.

We decided to continue up the road once more.  At one point Brigitte thought it would be wise for her to get off while I navigated a steep and rocky section.  I thought that sounded like a good idea, so I parked and got off too!  After hiking up the road a bit I decided that I would try the road again.  Lining it up just so, and giving it some gas, I made it up the steep and rocky section.  We saw it snowing up here yesterday and we got far enough up the road to see some of the snow on the trees.

Snow on the trees, way up Sykes.

We glassed for horses, none.  We drove up the road a little further, none.  It looked like it was starting to snow up higher.  We wanted to go up Burnt Timber again, so we decided to head back down.  I looked at the odometer this time.

We saw those distance horses again on the way down.  As we continued down we were able to see them better.  I would later learn (from Alex) that it was Fools Crow and Belle Star.  More Dryhead horses!

Bell Star and Fools Crow, April 16, 2012

Continuing down the road,  I began to realize that those two horses were way above the canyon that we had come through.  They were just at the end of it, high above.  I wondered if those were the eyes I had felt on me!

Belle Star
Fools Crow

I took this last photo just as we were about to enter into the canyon.  My lens was acting up (again!!), so I missed the shot of them looking down at us.  I decided to include this one so you can see just how steep it was and also, the blue sky was just incredible!  I was on my knees with my camera pointing straight up.

We entered the long canyon.  The sun was out now, so it did not seem as dark or as scary.  We came around a bend in the road and there on the hill to my right was a horse!  It was Johanston, another Dryhead Horse. He is the son of Cascade and Seattle.  I did not know who he was, I had never seen him before.   He refused to look at me.  Well directly anyway.

Johanston, April 16, 2012

Then he turned his head in the direction of the road.  At the same time I heard the sound of hoofs running down the road.

Johanston

We were right in the middle of the narrow road.  There was another bend in the road right in front of us.   I was not sure that whoever it was, was going to be able to stop, so I grabbed my camera and stood behind the ATV.  AND then, I fell in love.

Who was this horse?  I had never seen him before.  He was surprised to see us there and slammed on the brakes.  He debated about where to go.  He looked up the hill towards Johanston.  Johanston had turned his head back around away from him and did not seem at all concerned for this boy’s safety.  This was Jalisco, I later learned from Matt.  Another Dryhead horse, the 2009 son of Buffalo Girl and Durango. He was Valerosa’s cousin!

I decided to talk softly to him.  He responded well to my voice.  So well in fact, he decided to take a nap, right there.  His eyes started to close.

Jalisco, April 16, 2012
Jalisco

I could have stayed there forever.  It was a really special time.  It is hard to describe.  I am not sure how long we stayed, maybe 45 minutes, maybe more.  I never looked at my watch.

We had to go past him to continue down the road.  He was inches from the road.  I did not want to startle him.  The wind began to blow and he woke up a little.

Jalisco

I inched the ATV slowly toward him, still talking to him.  He very calmly moved away from the road and began to graze.   I reluctantly continued down the road. I already missed him.  I later learned from my odometer that these two Dryhead horses were 8 miles up Sykes Ridge Road.  I estimated Belle Star and Fools Crow at around 9 miles up.

As we headed back through that scary Cougar Canyon, I swear, it had gotten much shorter.  So short in fact I thought maybe there was another canyon coming up.  There wasn’t.

We continued down, past the water guzzler. Not too far past the water guzzler, we saw Medicine Bow. He is the 1999 son of Twiggy  and Cortez.  I had never seen him before.  He was alone.   It was not too far from where I had seen Johan in the morning on our way up,  so maybe they were together.

Medicine Bow, April 16, 2012
Medicine Bow, April 16, 2012
Medicine Bow

He did not seem thrilled that we were there, so we moved on after only a few minutes.

We stopped to take a few photos of the view.