Before the snow …

8 02 2009

The weather forecasters were raining (and snowing) on my parade since about Thursday, after we’d had decidedly atypical Colorado February weather the past couple of weeks. After being sick last weekend and deciding to wait till this weekend to visit Spring Creek Basin, come hell, high water or a Johnny-come-lately snowstorm, I was heading north to get some face time with the ponies!

You’ll forgive me, again, I hope, for saying – again – what a beautiful day was my most recent visit (Saturday). The weather was undeniably gorgeous (61 degrees?!), and I had the opportunity to sit with three bands while they napped and grazed. I didn’t sit with Kreacher and the girls, but they were so interested in the cattle and a Suburban they all but ignored me as I stood nearby in the early morning sunlight during our visit.

Roach and the gang remain elusive, but I haven’t gone searching for them in their back-of-beyond favored territory. Did see the pintos from afar, and Seven’s, also way off yonder, still between the Tops. Didn’t see David and Shadow, Bruiser and Cinch. Pix of everyone else are but a downward scroll away.

Three girls and a boy

Three girls and a boy

The cattle – a lot of them/most of them? – are up in the area near the entrance and west of the catchment. They have less than a month remaining of their time in the herd area, so I wonder if the ranchers have moved them closer in preparation for moving them out to the private property outside the herd area. When I drove in – the road was remarkably dry, by the way – I saw lots and lots of cattle … and one little grey non-cow-looking object: Kreacher, up on a little ridge, watching the cows go by. I parked by the water catchment to hike out to them, but from the road before I parked, I saw Grey (Traveler) and his band almost tucked away behind a little hill across the “valley” south of the catchment. It’s always a great day when I see my boy! The above pic of the girls and Kreacher was taken from a little ridgetop trail that basically goes from the water troughs at the catchment toward the pond just off the road to the trap site.

Look at the weird cows!

Look at the weird cows!

From left, Mona, Raven, Kootenai and Kreacher. Mona and Kreacher were shy this day, but none of them were so interested in me as they were in those cattle!

Sunshine nap

Sunshine nap

The girls must think it’s quite normal to have weirdo the two-legged (that would be me) around at random intervals. They don’t seem to be bothered by me in the least. Here’s Raven, getting some of her 40 winks. Hope that’s just belly fat?! She’s healthy, anyway!

Fuzzy horse

Fuzzy horse

I love how fuzzy and furry she is! All the horses were fuzzy as can be, so I’m sure they know in their wild bones that winter is not quite over, despite the warm temperatures we’ve enjoyed lately.

Next stop: Traveler’s band. But when I walked down to where they had been, they weren’t there! I spotted them up on the ridge, probably on or close to the doubletrack that goes to Flat Top and the pond. I’m not sure if they had water on their minds, but when I reached the ridge top, they were walking a diagonal back slightly toward me. I thought they might be going toward the Spring Creek arroyo, so I went back to the Jeep and braved the V arroyo (did I mention how dry the road was?), then turned on the “north-south” doubletrack. By the time I got that far, they had crossed that road and had slowed down to graze. When it looked like they weren’t going to make a beeline to water, I parked and walked out toward them.

Blue ridges

Blue ridges

Conventional photography wisdom says “shoot with the light at your back.” This isn’t directly shot into the light – but close. We had some high, thin clouds during the day – mostly sunny, but sometimes a heavy enough cloud would cross the path of the sun and turn the sky cloudy. Whatever combination of light was going on here, I happen to like how the photo turned out of dun Jif and dark grey Two Boots! That’s Knife Edge in the distance.

Houdini

Houdini

She’s still not too sure about me. Lucky for me, she tolerates her stallion’s tolerance for this two-legged!

Grazing

Grazing

When it became clear they were going to settle down to the business of eating, I angled around the other side of them – and got a white sky for my troubles. Ha.

Little boy, big girl

Little boy, big girl

Twister (back) will be a 2-year-old this year (along with Two Boots), but this orphan is still a little guy. Iya (front) will be a yearling the end of April.

The boys

The boys

Twister and Traveler don’t seem to mind being the only boys in the family.

Le petite Jif

Le petite Jif

Is there a baby in that belly?! She didn’t have a foal last year (and wasn’t gathered), so as far as I know, this will be her first baby.

From my visit with Kreacher and the girls, I spotted horse-ant dots against the very same hill where I found Steeldust’s band a few weeks ago, and if you can believe it, I drove out to the loop road, parked a little northwestish of the old enclosure and hiked out to them. The road, if I haven’t been clear, was unbelievably dry. I thanked my lucky stars, but that’s just not right in February! (The stars held off, for whatever reason, and it’s snowing here now – Sunday.)

But when I got close enough to see their hill, all I saw were Bounce and Gaia, close together, and Alegre a short distance away. That baby girl loves her daddy (not really her sire)! But by the time I started hiking, there wasn’t a horse to be seen – except, in the other direction, Seven and Molly up against Round Top. Off I went.

All the trails I’ve learned in the basin are the result of walking out to the horses – whether directly from the Jeep or on a long walkabout loop. What I always find interesting is finding a trail for the first time, then having it become familiar because the horses are suddenly hanging out somewhere. It was like deja vu walking back out to that hill, even though I couldn’t actually see any horses at that point. This was also the point a few weeks ago when I found out Aspen had stolen Piedra and Baylee from Hollywood. I walked up the ridge where Duke had walked to join Chrome and Hook that day, then followed the little diagonal trail to the top of another ridge, which I had gone up on last time to look over the other side …

The first ponies I saw were Duke, Chrome and Hook. Then Bounce, Alegre and Gaia between the boys and Steeldust’s band. Then, running toward Steeldust’s band from the left – Hollywood and Comanche, hot on the heels of Aspen, Piedra and Baylee! Weird timing, but I don’t think they had seen me because I hadn’t seen any horses and approached from the wide open. They must have been just around the end of that hill/ridge I was on.

Bachelors

Bachelors

Alegre, Gaia and Bounce – top – ran for the opening between the bachelors and the big band, then the bachelors – Duke, Chrome and Hook – went toward the band.

So close

So close

Then Bounce’s band sort of stopped to watch Hollywood challenge Aspen to get “his” mares back. They were totally oblivious to Bounce and his mare and foal. Piedra galloped toward the band with Baylee right with her. At one point, Hollywood actually got between the mares and Aspen, but re-claiming his mares was not to be, and they remain Aspen’s mares!

Sorting it out

Sorting it out

At left, you can see grey Piedra and Baylee (big star, strip and snip) with Aspen (star) behind them. Hollywood is in the middle, torn between them and Comanche and Mouse – you can see their matching grey-brown butts behind Steeldust toward the right; Mouse is the right of those butts, trying to cut Comanche (the left butt) away from the band.

Eventually, they all ran out into the open, away from Knife Edge. I waited on my ridge until they got everybody separated and ran out of steam, then went down toward the end of Knife Edge. I had seen Bounce and family earlier this year but from a great distance – no pix – so they were my goal. Except that when I got down to where I could see the horses out in the open starting to settle down and graze, Bounce was nowhere to be seen. Alegre seems to favor that little “valley” between Knife Edge and Lizard Mesa as a sort of escape route (from either direction), so I figured they’d go that way. Sure enough, from one of the trails that goes up over that “flank” of Knife Edge, I could see Bounce, Alegre and Gaia, also seemingly settled down and grazing.

Bounce is pretty tolerant of me, so I walked slowly up and over until he saw me, then stopped so he could recognize me. What a boy. He’s one of my favorites because he’s so smart and laid back. He’s been around the block, you might say, and he doesn’t waste energy where it’s not needed, and thankfully, he apparently doesn’t see me as something to waste energy over! Alegre and Gaia were walking slowly eastish, grazing as they went. I came down the hill so Bounce could see me through the trees and waited. He looked toward Alegre and the baby a few times, but he just cocked a hip and otherwise stood looking at me. Hmm. That shady side of Knife Edge was still soupy from melting snow (the most snow I’d seen still in the basin), so I didn’t really want to walk through the mud when it had been such easy – dry – walking, and I didn’t want to go after Alegre and Gaia and thus get between them and Bounce. If I had done that, I figured Bounce would go running toward them, and they’d all take off. So I found a nice little boulder on Bounce’s sunny side and sat down to see what happened.

At some point, Alegre must have realized Bounce wasn’t following her, so she came back to him. Did Bounce know she would come back?! Or did he just figure he and I were fine alone, together? Oh, I try not to anthropomorphize … but it’s hard NOT to wonder what they’re thinking!

Baby loves mama!

Baby loves mama!

One of my favorite mares … one of my favorite babies (though I can’t really say I have a least-favorite baby!?). And another little belly. Gaia was born around April 22, so around that time is when I expect Alegre’s next baby. Hey, if the politicos and football talkers can speculate, so can I!

Faces

Faces

Three of my favorites. 🙂

One more

One more

Can’t have too many pix of this beautiful little family.

Wild black stallion

Wild black stallion

Lizard Mesa and the east pocket in the background.

Alegre finally got tired of ignoring me, so she sauntered off back up the valley (you can just barely see her and Gaia above “Spring” and the “C” in Creek). I took a few more looks back at the boy as I left, then he stretched and moseyed on after them! No energy wasted in the observation of this human!

Disappearing ponies seemed to be a theme of the day because when I went back over the flank of Knife Edge to see Steeldust’s band and head back to the Jeep, they were all gone! But it was about midday, time for a drink. Mouthfuls of snow weren’t readily available like they had been until recently. I figured if I waited long enough, I’d see them pop up out of Spring Creek. When I waited long enough to amend that thought to “… if they haven’t already popped up and gone up the hill and over the road and out of sight,” they appeared. Stinkers. I’m not privy to their timetable, of course.

Midday nap

Midday nap

By the time I crossed “the big open” and picked up a trail to the arroyo and up the hill and made it up to them, it was time for their midday nap (not to be confused with the equally important mid-morning nap). From right to left, Butch, Storm, Alegre, Kestrel, Pinon, Mahogany (and Sundance’s back), Steeldust, Luna and napping Ember at the very left edge of the picture. Filly Peak in the distance. They were just a hop, skip and a jump from the loop road here. I sat with the ponies for quite a while and enjoyed every peaceful minute.

Outcast

Outcast

Aspen sandwiched between Baylee, left, and Piedra. Hollywood at right.

Windblown

Windblown

The wind picked up at some point mid- to late morning and started blowing with a vengeance. Even so, it was never cold. I love how the wind is blowing tendrils of Chrome’s tail. That’s Hook at left. Duke was a short distance farther to the left. I noticed when I first saw this pic that Hook’s snip-hook seems to have faded right away as he gets a little more grey. Chrome’s face looks really white from a distance, but here you can still see the outline of his blaze.

Convenient chin rest

Convenient chin rest

There’s good baby Storm (almost 6 months old!) letting “uncle” Butch rest on his back.

Show me the love

Show me the love

I wish I knew the exact relationship of these look-alikes. Brothers? Surely. Twins? Who knows?? Butch, right, tries to give Sundance a little nuzzle, but SunnyD is suspicious of his motives …

Gotcha!

Gotcha!

… For good reason!

Lover boy

Lover boy

Steeldust was looking for a little romance, but Luna shot him down.

New season

New season

If you had a belly like that, you probably wouldn’t be up for much romancin’, either! Ember was the first foal last year, likely born April 18 or April 19. Pinon, in the background, was born around May 13, right before last year’s count by the Four Corners Back Country Horsemen. The count is May 16 this year. All the babies seem to be weaned (except Storm). I saw Luna, Mahogany and Alegre raise a hind leg, pin ears, nip or just walk away when the babies even thought about sneaking a slurp (I didn’t see Iya even try).

Luna and Ember

Luna and Ember

Being weaned doesn’t mean the “old” babies don’t still get comfort from mamas, though.

Pinon and his mama

Pinon and his mama

Can’t help but look ahead a year or so when it will be time for Steeldust to kick last year’s babies out of his band to start their lives with new families – a new stallion or a group of bachelor buddies.

Wild world

Wild world

I’m a sucker for taking pix of the ponies with the La Sal Mountains in the background, in case no one has noticed. Big girl Kestrel will be 2 this year – same age as Baylee, who already has left the band.

That old wind was fierce, and I had had such a great day (saw Seven again, and Roja) that I decided to head home, glad the snow held off for one more day. It was pretty nice to be able to drive in as far as I did, which enabled me to do a few short hikes as opposed to one great big one, but I’ll be the first to make a wish for more snow. The pond by Flat Top, which dried up early last year, like the one south of Round Top, is still dry so far – like the RT pond. We need more moisture for the coming dry months.

Thanks, ponies, for our time in the sun!


Actions

Information

5 responses

8 02 2009
Lynn Bauer

Great Job, TJ, as usual!! So glad you’re feeling better! Kathy and I spent 4 hours yesterday (Sat.) going over your blogs and working on the map… questions to follow via email! Did I day that your pix are really, really GOOD!!! Thank-you so much for the update on the kids!!
Lynn and Kathy

9 02 2009
Billie

TJ,
Looks like another great day in the Basin! But then I alway say that the worst day on the range with the horses is still better than the best day at work! The horses look great and your photos, as always, are wonderful. Glad you are feeling better and were able to get back out there.
Billie

9 02 2009
TJ

Lynn and Kathy,
I typed a reply to ya’ll last night … I must not have hit the “submit” button? Overload from time at the computer, I guess! Anyway, glad you liked the update about the ponies! I was SO glad to get out there and see them. Everybody looks pretty great. Some of the mares have big enough bellies now to drag on their backs and make their ribs show, but they all look so fuzzy and healthy. Great job on the map! Wow! I can’t wait to see it later this spring!

Billie,
Exactly! I was trying to think of a “bad” day I’ve had in the basin … The day I realized the filly Starla was gone wasn’t real fun, but otherwise, it seems like just getting out there and being with the horses makes any day a great day. I am so thankful for that!
TJ

25 02 2009
DEBBIE

TJ-

Your photographs are breathtaking! How beautiful those wild horses are! WOW!
Love the Baby Soft photo- too adorable!

25 02 2009
TJ

Deb,
Glad you like the photos. I’m glad to show off our beautiful wild horses!
TJ

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: