Back in the basin

11 02 2008

My first trip of the new year to the basin wasn’t exactly what I envisioned. As much snow as I have at my house, within spitting distance of the La Plata Mountains, and as much snow as was in the basin in December, AND as much snow as we’ve had since then, I expected a lot more snow and, well, a lot less mud. It has been warm here the past couple of days (almost 50 degrees yesterday; 42 in the basin today), but it must have been warmer there longer – the snow is just in patches, and the mud is pretty nasty.

There were no new tire tracks coming out of the road to the herd area off the county road, so I parked there and hiked in. I’ve been so anxious about the horses, envisioning them having to paw down through a foot or more of snow, that getting so close and yet, so far away, wouldn’t cut it! It’s about three miles from the county road to the herd area boundary; it took me about an hour and 15 minutes one way, hiking through slushy snow and seriously bad mud. The whole area is just saturated. Yucky, yucky, yucky … but I bet it’s gonna be a good spring for the ponies!

There were some bulls (bovine) about halfway in, close to the road, which goes through private property before it crosses the herd area boundary. They weren’t too worried about me. Close to the boundary, I saw a big herd of elk.

Elk herd

That’s a lot of elk! On the other side of the fence is the herd area.

Once in the herd area, I didn’t have to go too far in to get a vantage point of a huge chunk of the basin. I sat on a rock, ate an apple and got out the binoculars. I saw lots of cows – I counted 45 in several different groups – but it took awhile of slow glassing with the binoculars to find any horses. The good news is that the first group of horses I saw were the Bachelor 7 – including my boy Grey. The ironic part of seeing him for the first time since early November was how far away he was.

I also saw two dark horses even farther away. They were in some trees, so I’m not sure whether there were more than the two I saw. I did take some photos, even though all the horses were so far away I couldn’t see any of them without the binoculars. The photos confirmed that the first group was, indeed, the Bachelor 7, with Grey, and my best guess from the photos of the farther horses is that it was the bachelor stallions Ty, black with a “railroad tie” star and strip, and Mesa, solid bay.

Bachelor 7

Can you see them? This is a full-frame shot, taken at 400 mm. Look above the words “Spring Creek,” just above the cut that runs the width of the photo. See those dots? Those are the boys.

Bachelor 7 close

This is a serious crop of the previous photo. From the distance, the only horses I can absolutely identify are Aspen, far left, Grey, to the right of Aspen, and Duke, the dark horse at far right (in another photo, his head is up, and I can see his big star). Grey kinda blends into the background, but you can see his dark mane.

So now I know what conditions are like. The county road is good to the Suckla Ranch turnoff, but past that, it gets dicey. My first plan was to get down to the corral from which the horse folks ride in. But the road got pretty soft, and getting stuck isn’t my idea of fun. Don’t even think about driving off the county road on the road to the herd area! It will be a long time before I get all the mud off my boots.

I hope all this snow and moisture means a good spring and summer for vegetation in the basin – and for the horses!


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