Water catchment: phase 4.9

26 07 2021

Do you suppose we’ll get to phase 5 soon!? … I think so. 🙂 Close. We’re SO close!

Those wily BLM’ers – Mike Jensen and new dad Daniel Chavez – hustled out to the basin without alert or fanfare last week and finished attaching the rest of the propanel sheets to the roof structure.

The last time I’d seen it, when Garth Nelson and Jim Cisco were out to attach the gutter and install three of four pipes, the roof covered half the structure. Because of rain in our forecast, they wanted to get the gutter installed so we could start catching SOME water.

Sure is shady under there! And think of that whole span of rain-catching marvelousness!

Just the end tank has to be piped, then the trough installed (the pipe to its destination is already in the ground) and the structure fenced to keep curious ponies from rubbing on tanks and posts and pawing at lids.

And what the heck is this, you ask?! It might be the strangest, most mind-bending pic I’ve ever posted on this blog. That’s a reflection – in WATER – of me gripping tightly my cellphone at the open lid on TOP of one of the water tanks. See it now? Even standing on the valve cover, I couldn’t quite see into the dark depths. Although I turned on the “flashlight” of my phone, I’m not sure it worked very well; you can see what you *can* see only by virtue of a little Photoshope lightening of shadows. But when I looked at my phone, I knew by the “white dot” – the reflection – that there was water TO reflect my phone and the lid and the metal roof above: I knew there was WATER. 🙂

Wow, wowza and zowie Marie. 🙂 That itself was worth a little dance (and it’s a good thing no ponies or humans were around to witness!).

And YES! We got our biggest rain to date later that evening. Perfect timing, guys. Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Beloved horizon

2 07 2021

Just about everything is shown in this one pic – just about everything I love: Mustang (and there are more in the yonder) and that horizon that always lets me know I’m home after any amount of time away.

As always, I wonder what the horse sees/thinks as he looks out on that view, those places he knows intimately as a true, wild resident of that vast, wild land.

Top of my world

15 06 2021
Upper Disappointment Valley from Dawson Draw Road.

From high on the south side of Disappointment Valley, this is part of the amazing view looking eastish. Lone Cone is the prominent lone (!) peak in the far center background. Brumley Point and Temple Butte are visible at left.

Upper Disappointment Valley and beyond from Dawson Draw Road. Lone Cone and Groundhog Mountain visible

Layers and layers and layers of magnificence. Disappointment Road is visible in the middle distance and at far right. San Miguel Mountains in the center distance, and Groundhog Mountain slightly nearer to the right.

Spring Creek Basin from Dawson Draw Road above Disappointment Valley

And looking down into my heart’s own home ground: Spring Creek Basin. Round Top and Knife Edge are visible from here … and all the millions of other unnamed (or named only by me) places I traverse in my travels to see the mustangs. There actually are horses in this pic, though I’m not sure they show up in this very long and very far cellphone view. 🙂 Do they need to? The magic of knowing they’re there is enough.

The bow without the rain

7 06 2021

You actually can have a rainbow without rain (where you want it).

Our lack is the boon of our friends up-valley and up-country.


Reminder: Kat Wilder will be reading from her book “Desert Chrome” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Sherbino Theater in Ridgway, Colorado. Ten-dollar tickets are required. Please join us if you’re in the area!

Just about dark

21 05 2021

Though we got clouds a couple of nights ago, the clouds refused to leak. Pretty Gaia carried on with her greasewood grazing. I hope she knows something we don’t know … that it WILL rain again!

‘Desert Chrome’

2 05 2021

‘Water, a Woman, and Wild Horses in the West’

(Photo courtesy of Kathryn Wilder)

Kathryn Wilder‘s debut book, “Desert Chrome,” will be published in mid-May by Torrey House Press!

Longtime readers will recognize Kat’s name as an advocate for Spring Creek Basin mustangs. In this vulnerable, deeply touching and wide-ranging memoir, she recounts her life’s journey that eventually led her to Disappointment Valley and Spring Creek Basin – among earlier and parallel events that shaped her among heartbreak, water and wilderness. About the mustangs, she writes about getting to know them and the great strides we’ve made in the management of our herd with the use of PZP.

Kirkus Reviews calls it “testimony to the healing power of wildness” and “a spirited and impassioned chronicle.” And it is, without a doubt, all of that.

Suzanne Roy, fierce director of the American Wild Horse Campaign, wrote: “Kat Wilder’s beautifully written memoir takes us on a journey of a life lived on the move, full of love, loss and searching, finally finding peace among a herd of mustangs in Colorado’s magnificent Disappointment Valley. Wilder’s insight into the wild horses, why they’re worth saving and how to save them, will be of interest to anyone concerned with preserving the West’s last remaining wild spaces and the wild animals that inhabit them. A must read.”

Pre-order the book from Torrey House Press, your local independent bookstore or from Amazon.

Kat will be doing numerous readings, both virtual – Garcia Street Books in Santa Fe, and Maria’s Bookshop and Cortez Public Library here in Southwest Colorado – and in person at Sherbino Theater in Ridgway and Entrada Institute in Torrey, Utah.

Here are some particular deets:

Maria’s virtual event for “Desert Chrome” will start at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 20, on Zoom and Facebook Live. Check Maria’s events calendar page for details.

Kat’s first live reading will be from about 6 to about 7:45 p.m. Saturday, May 22, at The Livery in Norwood. This is basically our backyard! Head over to Between the Covers’ Facebook page to find out more.

The Cortez Public Library will have an online reading with Kat starting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 26.

On Thursday, June 10, Ridgway’s Sherbino Theater will host Kat for a live reading from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Visit the website for tickets, on sale 30 days before the event. Ridgway’s also fairly local to us, and several mustang friends call it home.

If you’re in Torrey, Utah, on Saturday, June 26, stop by the Entrada Institute for a live reading.

Be sure to find and follow Kat on Facebook to keep up with other events as they’re scheduled, and I’ll post reminders about the above readings close to their happening dates.

(Kathryn Wilder’s “Desert Chrome” with Chrome’s newest grandson, Jasper, with Brumley Point and Temple Butte in the background; Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area, Disappointment Valley, Southwest Colorado)

12 from 2020

30 12 2020

It seems to be a *thing* for people to highlight memories from the year as the year comes to a close. It’s natural to want to remember those beautiful times, which our photos are particularly primed to help us do. That’s the ultimate goodness of *pictures*.

Over the years, I’ve gotten away from long, rambling explanations and photo-heavy blog posts in favor of single photos and a sprinkling of words – every day – to highlight a moment in a day on the range with the mustangs. So today’s post, at the end of a long year that challenged our endurance, is a way to give a little better explanation of what was happening in the instant the shutter snapped on that moment. They also serve as a challenge to find ways to show my beloved mustangs in their natural beauty … and all the infinite reasons why they should be valued and preserved (in general), in addition to explaining why I do what I do to protect this herd in Spring Creek Basin (in particular).

What follows is one photo for each month. Some have been on the blog previously; others have not. Onward.


In January, we had fresh snow, and I was happy to find Hollywood’s band in the scenic eastern part of the basin, a short hike from the road (I may even have strapped on my snowshoes). McKenna Peak and Temple Butte are iconic landmarks, and I love to feature them in photos behind/above the horses. Because of the way they were standing, however, Brumley Point, seen here, made the obvious background (the peak and butte are farther to the left). Even though Shane had her rear toward me, the horses were so relaxed, their winter coats so velvety thick and glowing in the low winter sunshine, their demeanor so peaceful, this became one of my favorite images of the day (and month).



We knew we were in trouble early in the winter when Mother Nature simply didn’t give us the amount of snow – aka moisture – we would need for the rest of the year. … For plants to grow, for ponds to fill, for creeks to flow (for very long). Sure, it made getting around – driving and hiking – a piece of cake, but in the case of Colorado (and much of the Rocky Mountain West), where we absolutely depend on winter white for summer green, it was looking bleak. I had hiked out to an area where a couple of bands were grazing, and later, as they started to line out toward a pond, back toward the road, I meandered along with them. … And then the sky exploded. When that happens, you’re a) glad you’re with mustangs, b) ecstatic to see Mother Nature’s art come to life and c) uber-aware of time and how it flies. The horses were following a trail, so I picked a likely spot and left the trail and set up the shot. As the horses trotted by – following some and followed by others – I hoped I remembered everything about photography that I’d ever learned … and then I hoped the computer would reveal that everything had literally trotted into place in even one rectangular, finite image. … Voila. 🙂



Most people know that, as a volunteer for BLM, I dart (some of) the mares of Spring Creek Basin every spring with fertility-control vaccine PZP. Does it work? In September, we will celebrate a full decade of NO ROUNDUPS in Spring Creek Basin. Do we still have foals? Yes, a handful or so every year. I have my own reasons for not showing them on the blog. PZP figures into this explanation because Sundance is the band stallion of the mare I darted the day I took this photo. It’s worth slowing down, even in the face of a job to be done, to appreciate peace … and the mustangs who bring so much peace to me.



Speaking of foals, this is our first of the year. Born on Easter Sunday, she is mother Mariah’s second foal. I moseyed about with them for a fair amount of time as they grazed. As the sun was nudging the far western rim of our little world, the horses paused on a ridge trail on their way to water, and Mariah checked that all was well with her baby girl. The most fleeting moment in time. The most beautiful. The most treasured. … The most natural that goes on around the world with mothers and babies of every hue and color and species. Because I know this mother and this baby, that one moment seemed super, ultra, amazingly special.



This – THIS! – was one of those astounding moments when you literally are in the most best place at the very most bestest time, and you cannot believe your luck and goodness and that karma is smiling on you. … And then the horses won’t cooperate. 🙂 There was not one but TWO utterly spectacular rainbows against a sky promising even more rain (the second arch was out of the frame to the right). It was windy, and the horses were edgy. There were (and are) a couple of bachelors with the band, and that energy, combined with the storm, meant that they really weren’t in the mood to line up with ears up showing perfect conformation stances against the wild wonder of Spring Creek Basin and a rare rainfall. … So I “caught” them as they were walking on, and it was enough to remember the day and their wildness and their freedom to move under the magic.



This is an image that happened almost without me being there to see it, let alone capture it on digital media. I was with a couple of bachelors on a hill far, far (enough) away, thinking they were my last quiet visit of the evening. But one of the bachelors was interested in something besides me (ah, the story of my single life!), and as he focused on *it*, I heard a sudden, sharp whinny in the distance. One whinny, three bands – plus a bachelor after my guy trotted out to meet them. I had to hustle back to the Jeep and drive closer, and then hurry out to them as the sun was sinking (neither planetary roll nor mustang waits for the photographer to get her act together – or close the gap in distance). And although it was terribly dry in June (as it had been and would be), it’s not often (almost never) that enough horses are together – and moving enough – to cause enough dust to rise for a shot like this to even be possible in the basin. So, even from drought, something beautiful.



Maybe readers know (or maybe they don’t) that Storm is one of my very best most absolute favoritest stallions in the basin. From the time he appeared with his curled ear tips, big blaze, stockings almost to his hocks and shining like a polished penny next to his mother, still with the blood of his birth on her hocks and tail, he has had my heart curled around his perfect hooves. … Which means that – of course – Storm’s band is one of, if not THE, most elusive bands in the basin (!). Every sighting of them is like a dream. That said, I spent a fair amount of time with them this summer, and they led me into some heretofore rarely visited areas and showed me seeps I never knew existed. Though there are few of our iconic landmarks in the great expanse of background in this photo (Filly Peak and Flat Top are there), the soft light (we did have some smoke this summer …) and Storm’s handsome face alert as he checked on his band members, already at the top of a ridge that he was grazing his way up, seem to represent everything that I love about Spring Creek Basin and its wildest back of beyond.



Did someone mention smoke? Haze from wildfires burning, burning, burning in Colorado and across the West was the story of our summer in some (many) ways. The drought that allowed (caused!) the fires to start and burn was unrelenting and brutal (and is ongoing). Still, the mustangs persevered and continued to show their resilience and beauty. Piedra, loveliest of mares, is a goddess of grace. Another image of beauty plucked from a reality not so pretty.



In September, the heat starts to relent, the angle of light starts its descent, and still we pray for rain. The band I was with this day was grazing their way across a hillside, above an arroyo. The stallion had descended to the arroyo, and a couple of mares had followed and were already across. I looked up to check on this mare and her yearling, and though I couldn’t see beyond the scree of rock where they stood, apparently she didn’t like the look of what SHE could see. Here, she’s turning around, so after I took this shot, I went farther down the hill with the others to encourage her to find a path she liked better. Not long after this, that ol’ sun disappeared behind the long ridge on the other side of this narrow valley, and the golden light was dimmed at the close of another day.



In October, we got a heavy, wet snowstorm that lasted roughly half a second. … OK, maybe a liiiiitttttttttttlllle longer than that (but not by much). The ponies did as the ponies do, and soon, they were grazing about in mud, not snow, and I like to think none of us minded one little bit. Although it makes the camera hunt for auto-focus, I love to be out with the horses while it’s snowing because in addition to the flakes in the air and on the horses’ noses and eyelashes, it’s just plain beautiful.



Lingering snow, lengthening drought, a mature stallion and an up-n-comer. Life goes on, even as the calendar’s days get shorter. In all these years of photographing the mustangs, it is the late – and late-in-the-year – light that I love the best. If I worry and fret (and I do) about lack of moisture and what the coming days and seasons and year will bring, still, I seek that beauty and these amazing horses that allow me brief visits and journeys along their paths – even, sometimes, while they are making the tracks. In my fortunate gratitude, I even find it.



We might even close out 2020 with (a little) snow on the ground, and how wonderful would that be? I like to start the year with the things I hope to fill/find/expand on in the coming year, so horses, and snow, and love, and beauty, and days in Spring Creek Basin surely are on my agenda (which I try not to make!). As the soft light filtered through a smokeless sky on this day in December, the horses browsed for the dry stuff palatable enough to eat through the thin blanket of snow. They didn’t seem to mind the cold, or that maybe there was a bit less than in some previous years, or that a human being moseyed along with them, steadying a clicking black box on a black stick, sometimes talking, sometimes singing, mostly wondering how I could be so blessed in this life.



Because who doesn’t like – or need – a little extra? And to leave you with a hopeful thought: Just when you think it can’t get any better … maybe it can. 🙂


Thank you *all* for reading along and following the mustangs of Spring Creek Basin. Together, we are a community of people who value wild life and all the beauty that unfolds within it.

Shadows above and below

12 07 2020

Shadow keeps an eye on her band, drinking in the arroyo below, and on the photographer. Just in case, you know, *something*.

After the rain

7 06 2020

The news of the day in Disappointment Valley is RAIN.

The addendum is WIND.

But we still got rain. 🙂 It soaked in pretty much immediately, but there were a few puddles in places that the wind couldn’t suck up immediately.

Houdini, Alegre and Maia took advantage of the rain and damp ground to get in some good, wriggly rolls.

Wild, home

5 06 2020

What stories can this guy tell? 🙂 Handsome Storm is the strong, silent type.