Day of giving thanks

26 11 2020

On this day of thanksgiving, I thought I’d share some images from the other day when I hiked to the top of Flat Top in Spring Creek Basin. Among the many objects of my gratitude: moisture. And these pix show it in most obvious form. 🙂

Starting about halfway up one of the western fins, this is looking west-northwestish across part of the western part of the basin. Filly Peak is the prominent hill at left. Part of Spring Creek canyon is visible on the right side of the image. Lingering clouds obscure most of Utah’s La Sal Mountains in the far distance. Note how much snow has already melted in the lower regions of Spring Creek Basin and far lower Disappointment Valley.

This is looking to the north-northwest.

And looking to the west-southwest. That’s Filly Peak again at far right. The already-meltedness is obvious in this image.

From the top, southern edge of Flat Top, this is the view looking across a small part of the southern part of Spring Creek Basin and across Disappointment Road (not visible), where the land rises to the south, encompassing more BLM land (outside the herd management area) before the invisible border where it meets San Juan National Forest.

From the east side of Flat Top, looking east: Round Top across most of the image, McKenna Peak at mid-left and Temple Butte at center-back.

The top of Flat Top isn’t really that big – and it’s also really not that flat, despite its appearance from below-the-top ground level. It’s made up of fins of ridges that stretch out and down, mostly to the northwestish and north on the north and west sides. In one little drainage, there’s a random little cluster of pinon-juniper trees – evidence of the collection, at least at one time, of moisture needed to grow trees.

The top of Round Top also really isn’t that big. I’ve been on top of that hill many, many times; the top of Flat Top, not so many times.

And here I am, back on the west side of Flat Top, stopping for one more soaking in of the view, even as the snow was soaking into the ground. Even more had melted in the time I was on top.

Those are my tracks from my hike up the ridge-fin. Melty-melty. I followed them back down …

… for one more visit with some of the wild horses for which I am so grateful. Look how the ground around the shadscale and sage already has been slurped by the plants. Yes, it was extraordinarily, sloppily, marvelously muddy. 🙂

Happy Thanksgiving to you all, for whom I’m also grateful! My family, of course, tops my list this day, and though I can’t be with them, we’re together in spirit, as I hope so many of you are with your own families if you’re avoiding travel.

Peaceful wishes and gratitude to you all!





No trails, no problem

2 11 2020

On Halloween, I had great fun hiking with a group from Telluride’s Sheep Mountain Alliance into a part of Spring Creek Basin that is overlapped by McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area.

Lexi and Mason from SMA brought five interested – and interesting – people to see this area that’s in the same county as Telluride (San Miguel) … and a world away climate- and geology- and geography-wise.

Disclaimer: The pic above of Juniper walking past McKenna Peak was NOT taken during our hike. 🙂

We didn’t see any of our fabulous mustangs during our hike in the far southeastern part of the basin, but we did see a couple of tarantulas and lots of cool fossils (including a couple of faint but awesome nautilus impressions!). I got to talk about my favorite subject ever (I bet none of you can guess what that is … ;)), and Lexi talked to us about McKenna Peak and the CORE Act – the Colorado Recreation and Economy Act.

From the website:

“The CORE Act is the most significant and broadly-supported effort to protect Colorado’s most cherished lands, waters, and forests in a generation. The legislation would protect roughly 400,000 acres of public lands in Colorado, ensuring that future generations can always enjoy our state’s mountains, rivers and wildlife.”

McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area is proposed for inclusion in the San Juan Mountains area. This link shows the locations of the areas; scroll down to read a little more about McKenna Peak and see where it’s located. The entire WSA isn’t included, just the part in San Miguel County. As with anything else, politics plays a part. Our San Miguel County commissioners are fully supportive of this inclusion, just as they were of the naming of Temple Butte, which is in San Miguel County.

Regular readers know the shape of both McKenna Peak and Temple Butte as icons of our Spring Creek Basin horizon. Given our location and lack of specific trails, I don’t think we’ll be overrun with visitors. But how cool would it be to see the status of even part of this amazing landscape go from wilderness study area to full wilderness area? It’s protected from motorized/mechanized-vehicle use currently, which enables it to feel secluded and protected to the wild horses and other lives that know its wildness (even us humans).

Being able to share it with another few like-minded humans gave me great enjoyment. To see their wonder and appreciation of this landscape I love … well, to be perfectly honest, it made me happy. 🙂





Fleeting

30 10 2020

Not much is left of the snow that blanketed Disappointment Valley early in the week. Here’s to the fervent hope that we’ll have more as winter arrives!

This was taken from Disappointment Road. Visible are corral hill, the south edge of Flat Top, Round Top, McKenna Peak, submarine ridge and Temple Butte.





Color brilliant

21 10 2020

Glorious cottonwoods and blooming rabbitbrush along (dry) Disappointment Creek in Disappointment Valley draw admirers’ eyes toward McKenna Peak and Temple Butte above and beyond Spring Creek Basin. The sky isn’t blue-blue because we’ve had some gauzy, hazy, high “clouds.”





Other views

1 10 2020

Readers have seen a lot of pix of La Sal Mountains in my photos of mustangs in Spring Creek Basin. They form a pretty dramatic range on our northwestern horizon.

During a couple of recent aspen-leaf-peeping drives, I had the opportunity to see our landmarks from different perspectives, including from those not-so-far-away La Sals.

Spring Creek Basin, in Disappointment Valley, is a little hazy with smoke in this view southeast from below Mount Peale (the highest La Sal peak), and in this smallish view, maybe hard to pick out. But visible – in the upper, farthest area of the pic – are McKenna Peak, Temple Butte, submarine ridge (my name for it), Brumley Point, Round Top, Flat Top, Filly Peak and the rimrocks on the western edge of the basin.

Autumn-tinged Gambel oak is in the foreground.

This may be the most colorful image I’ll ever get to take of Temple Butte.

It’s taken from a couple of miles east of Groundhog Reservoir, looking northwestish. Spring Creek Basin is on the *other* side of Temple Butte from this perspective.

Happy autumn. I hope you’re all enjoying the colors of the changing season and the cooler temps!





Green = good

22 07 2020

That looks lovely, right?! That’s nearly all of San Miguel County – McKenna Peak is outside the basin’s eastern boundary – under wonderful green, which in radar terms, of course, means RAIN.

Except that it wasn’t actually raining when I took this screenshot (around quarter after 8 a.m.). The heavens had leaked a little a little while earlier, but someone fixed (!) the leak. (Note to someone: We’re really OK with that kind of leak … and it could rip right open … really!)

We are so hopeful, and we need it BADLY – GOODLY? … We need the goodness of it in a really bad way ’cause it’s really kinda bad dry out there.





Border patrol

20 06 2020

The fence is the western boundary of Spring Creek Basin. The white cable as the top “strand” of the fence is from the old days when roundups were done by helicopter, and the horses were moved to the west fence line, then down into Spring Creek canyon and trapped at the upper end of it.

We don’t do that anymore, of course, but it’s still a good visual boundary for the horses on the rare occasion when they get close to that area.

The La Sal Mountains of Utah rise into the sunset on our northwestern horizon.

P.S. Happy summer solstice! As we start the slide toward shorter days and winter, I think I can speak for all of us when I say the biggest thing we want in the near future are our monsoon rains.





Just that beautiful

18 05 2020

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Storm was peacefully grazing along, and I was patiently watching to catch him in a better “pose” with that spectacular background, looking across Spring Creek Basin and Disappointment Valley, all the way to Utah! Maybe looking back to his mares or something.

Suddenly, the “something” happened, and he stopped with his head up, then performed a neat turn on the haunches and headed in the direction of the trees to the right. I never did figure out what caught his attention. But it gave me a nice little photo op of one of my very favorite boys with the La Sals still gleaming under a bit of snow in the distance.





Gold from the sky

12 05 2020

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We did get some sprinkles yesterday in a couple of light waves, mostly in the evening.

It’s all welcome, and we’re grateful for even the smallest amount of moisture.





Little things … that become ginormous

2 05 2020

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Do you see the little bird, taking flight in front of Raven?

Do you see the head and ears of the horse below and beyond Raven?

Do you see Raven, divine wild girl, in all that delicious evening light?

Do you feel the magic?

********************

My friends, my fellow lovers of Spring Creek Basin’s marvelous mustangs, the draft HMAP EA is out for comments. (That’s herd management area plan environmental assessment in non-acronym-speak, and it lays out the overall plan for the next umpteen years of management of our Spring Creek Basin mustangs.)

It’s kinda huge.

OK, in the grand scheme of all that’s going on in the country, in the world, right now, it’s a blip. And I do not make light of those who are suffering terribly now, in so many ways.

This EA represents countless hours and days and weeks and months – the last couple of years – of work by our uber-respected BLM herd manager, Mike Jensen, at Tres Rios Field Office in Dolores, Colorado. It represents field work (vegetation monitoring, land-health assessments), and it represents computer time. It represents a career spent doing good things, positive things, for the ranges he has managed during his work with BLM. It represents gathering facts, lining up the science, listening to partners, speaking to a wide variety of people … and honoring the good management we’ve achieved, together, for Spring Creek Basin’s mustangs, these descendants of horses from cavalry, Native American, settler stock and beyond, and ensuring that what we have worked so hard to achieve will be set down in the herd management area plan going forward for Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area.

I cannot overstate the enormity of this document and what it represents. I cannot overstate the positivity of what this document represents.

It means our Spring Creek Basin mustangs will be as well managed as possible, protected, the range on which they depend will be protected, and we will continue to do all in our power to ensure that they live long, healthy lives, as wild and free as they were born to be.

There’s a lot of crazy in the world, yes. BUT. Spring Creek Basin, as so many have discovered, is a place of peace and beauty and magic and partnership, and our goals, set so long ago, are coming to fruition.

Among other things, Alternative A (preferred, of course) sets the appropriate management level (AML) at 50 to 80 adult horses, an increase from the current 35 to 65 adult horses. As Mike said, the science (the vegetation monitoring, the land-health assessments, the PZP fertility-control program) supports it. This is absolutely what I have hoped and prayed and worked so hard to have happen … for what seems like a million years.

Don’t worry – we will continue to introduce mares periodically to ensure the viability of our small herd’s genetic health. And don’t forget: Spring Creek Basin is almost 22,000 acres of high-desert, low-rainfall, kinda-scrubby, perfect-for-wild-horses geography. Translation: It’s small in terms of ranges, and we worry about water even in good years. Also keep in mind that BLM closed the allotment to livestock grazing a few years ago, and with PZP treatments keeping our foal crops low each year, we CAN increase the AML a bit and not fear that it will reduce the current quality of the range. That’s a win-win.

BLM also will continue the current, natural, 50-50 stallions-to-mares ratio. Also good.

Here’s the link to the eplanning site (the above link will take you directly to the PDF): go.usa.gov/xpJKn

Once there, click on the “Documents” link on the left side of the page. Then click the “Draft EA and Appendices” link. (Below that is the link to the scoping letter that we commented on a couple of months ago.) Then click the PDF icon to the left of “Document Name: Draft DOI-BLM-CO-S010-2020-0009-EA.pdf.” A new tab will open in your browser with the PDF document of the draft HMAP EA.

There are only two “Proposed Actions and Alternatives”: “Alternative A – Preferred Action” and “Alternative B – No Action.” We, of course, prefer the preferred Alternative A. 🙂

Please comment as you have before (the deadline is May 30), for the mustangs. For all the work and blood and sweat and tears (I was crying (with joy) so hard when I called my mom yesterday morning, she couldn’t understand me and thought something was wrong!) freely given from all of us who have worked so hard to get to this point. For Mr. Mike Jensen, BLM herd manager and range specialist extraordinaire, who created this management plan that includes all our hopes for our mustangs’ futures.

This is a shining ray of light in the way things can be done for our mustangs. We are so grateful.

Thank you, thank you and thank you.

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For this little guy and all those that were born to be wild and free in Spring Creek Basin – and all those yet to come into their wild world.