Most beloved horizon

1 01 2022

The very best in the whole wide world. πŸ™‚

Happy New Year!





12 from 2021

31 12 2021

Another year comes to a close. Another year is poised to begin. The older I get, the more I wonder about endings and beginnings, and our perspectives about where we are in the middle.

That maudlin attitude aside (!), it’s a pretty good time to roll out some favorite images and a little explanation that goes along with them. Because, collectively, who doesn’t need a little more time at the computer (or phone or tablet) to look at a few more images from this little blue marble-in-space that we’re supremely fortunate to call home? πŸ™‚ I’m kidding about that, of course, and I hope you all enjoy the extra offerings of Spring Creek Basin wild ones!

As I typed for a similar post last year: What follows is one photo for each month of the last year. Some have been on the blog previously; others have not. Onward.

January

In the year’s first month, we had snow to cover the basin with blessed white, also known as frozen gold in our neck of the drought-stricken woods. I found Hayden’s band back in the east pocket, calm as fuzzy, fully winterized mustangs can be. My presence wasn’t any deterrent from the serious business of looking for tasty bits as the snowflakes covered us all.

*****

February

I don’t think Hollywood thinks he’s a comedian as much as *I* think he has the potential to be! Wild stallions, after all, are very serious about the business of survival and protecting their families. This particular day in the basin brought several inches of snow, and I was on snowshoes. Fortunately, it was months before I would roll my ankle because the hike out to his band, which wouldn’t have caused a sweat in dry conditions, was about as difficult and wearying as any I’ve ever done. It was worth it (of course) to see the horses looking good and finding edibles … even if they did sometimes come up looking as though they’d been snorkeling.

*****

March

In March, this little cutie was the first arrival of the year to grace the herd. He’s sire Corazon’s mini me and growing up just as handsome. The band was keeping to one area so the little one didn’t have to go far on those wobbly legs, and I was able to sit with them and observe respectfully. Mama seems pretty proud of her little one, and she took to motherhood like a natural (of course she did!).

*****

April

In April, we welcomed baby No. 2, and she was big and feisty right from the get-go! Most readers know that we use fertility-control vaccine PZP in Spring Creek Basin, and it is THE reason we haven’t had a roundup in 10-plus years. I read an article this fall in which a person was quoted as saying that because of PZP, our herd would be extinct in 10 years. … Well, probably, that person hadn’t seen this little darling, or any of our other foals (or other young horses, or maybe even any other-age horse!). And it’s too bad that they’d rather have roundups. For my part, to see more of THIS (which is to say, healthy foals that grow up to be wild and free mustangs) and fewer roundups, I’ll stick with PZP, thanks!

*****

May

We didn’t have as many wildflowers as we’ve had some other years because of our ongoing drought (we were still in the “exceptional” category at that point in the year; that’s the worst category), but we had a few spots of color to brighten the desert. Bursts of color and the shedding of shaggy coats lets us know winter is in our rearview … but it also heralds anxiety and sky-watching (for clouds, particularly dark ones).

*****

June

“Drought?!” you may be asking yourself. “What the heck is she talking about? Look at that grass!” And it WAS good in June (and then later, after the monsoons finally found us) … before it got hot(ter) and dry(er), and the grasses withered and shrank and turned crunchy underhoof and -foot. This day, pictured, was one of the loveliest days and memories with a little group of young bachelor stallions, recently on their own for the first time. Look at those shiny, slick coats! In the northwestern part of the basin, a mustang (and a human) can see for … well, a pretty long way! To know that our mustangs can roam almost all the land pictured (not the very farthest, pinon-juniper covered hills and ridges), it’s worth everything. … Everything.

*****

July

This little treasure graced us just as the monsoon rains did this summer. With soaring birds on each shoulder, she zoomed right into our hearts from first glance. It had been several years (I’d lost track) since we had an actual monsoon weather pattern over Disappointment Valley, and in the midst of our excruciating drought (that might be a “better” term than “exceptional”), more welcome than I can even express. Those rains set us up for a less-anxious autumn than we would otherwise have had.

*****

August

If you read any of the blog this past year, surely you caught at least a glimpse of one of the posts about the new water catchment our excellent BLM guys built in Spring Creek Basin this summer. We started it at the end of April, I think, and finished by the end of August. Lots of hot, hot, HOT welding work with heavy steel posts and purlins and reflective metal roof sheets. The new catchment gives us the potential to catch and store 14,000 gallons of fresh rainwater and snowmelt for the mustangs in the northern-ish part of the basin. While we were still in the building phase, a few bands of mustangs occasionally meandered through the area to check things out. The image above came together as three of our most perfect grey girls turned to look just as the sun was setting. On the left, our venerable Houdini is most likely in her third decade of life – wild and free on the range where she was born (and birthed many babies).

*****

September

Another big milestone of 2021 happened in September, when we welcomed three young mares from Sand Wash Basin to Spring Creek Basin. Because Spring Creek Basin is small (almost 22,000 acres) and the herd correspondingly small, we periodically introduce mustangs from other herds to contribute to its genetic viability. The grey-and-white pinto stallion was the first to greet the girls, and he had them for their first week and a half here. Then his uncle, the grey stallion, acquired the mares, and they’re happily (so I like to think) with him still. The youngster is hanging out with another young bachelor and a veteran stallion. He’ll have more many chances to win more mares!

*****

October

This beautiful girl is a daughter of Storm-my-love. After growing up in the best of bands, she finally left daddy’s band this fall and joined another stallion and his mare, where – interestingly – she has taken on a bit of a lookout/protector role. She’s much more interested in the goings-on than the very sedate stallion and his low-key mare. Maybe it’s a bit less energy than her natal band, but I think she is enjoying her new family.

*****

November

Our little spotted girl with her daddy, curiously watching a nearby band near a wonderfully full pond. I love to see babies with their steadfast sires, and I love to see ponds with water, rippling gently at the shore. Some of our ponds have even had mallard ducks on them this autumn. Starting the year with dry ponds was awfully awful; finishing the year with water (or even ice) is such an enormous relief.

*****

December

Readers will remember this image of our fabulous elder lady, Houdini, because it wasn’t all that long ago that I took it and posted it here on the blog! She should have full immunity as an ambassador, but I don’t think she would like that title because, truth be known, she really doesn’t like or trust humans all that much. Who can blame her? Though her last 10 years (have to) have been the most peaceful of her life. And to have been part of that … ? Well, I can’t begin to tell you all how happy I am to have played a part in *that*. What better life for a wild horse than to live it fully IN THE WILD?

*****

Bonus

Because, as always, who doesn’t love bonus content? Readers also know how I adore backlighting. … Why? Please see above. πŸ™‚ We did have some wildfire smoke in our skies this year, again. And we had a lot of love and family. If it started relatively dry, and Mother Nature made us wait, anxiously, for moisture, she did come through rather well this summer. Then we had a very dry autumn, and winter didn’t make a very auspicious start. But the last few days, we’ve had a nice little contribution from the heavens: Rain in some areas, a rather large amount of snow in other areas! All of it begs the question: Are we at the start or end or in the middle of our weather year? πŸ™‚ We hope more is to come; it’s all a cycle, after all!

*****

Thank you all so much for following our Spring Creek Basin mustangs this year! Many quarters of this ol’ world endure so much violence and strife and endless struggles that threaten to tear apart people and wild things alike. The very planet is threatened as never before. Observing and acknowledging the beauty of our home rock in the universe has to be a foundation of working to preserve it for all those here and those to come. Just as we strive here to continue our mustangs’ peaceful existence, surely it will take all of us, working together, to preserve life FOR us all.

Peace on Earth, goodwill toward humans and animals and plants alike.
We are not alone (no matter how hermitlike we may favor being).
Here’s to 2022 being a year more steeped in love than hate, more in peace than violence. Here’s to the power of wild and the healing qualities all around us.





Winter waves

19 12 2021

It’s not too hard to imagine the immense ocean that once covered this whole region of the Colorado Plateau from this angle, eh?

Madison looks toward her bestie while I watch the snow rolling over the southern ridges of Disappointment Valley. As it came over the ridges, the wind blew it west, and it never did reach us in Spring Creek Basin (which is included in the valley).





Remembering a great

16 12 2021

Six years ago today, we lost one of the greatest wildlife advocates of our age: Dr. Jay Kirkpatrick.

I’ve never known a more intelligent, compassionate, big-hearted human being. When friend and inspiration Marty Felix, champion for the Little Book Cliffs horses for more than four decades, suggested I contact him, early in my advocacy years, it was like she’d told me to call up a rock star. And when I did call him, he was just … so … kind. When I met him in August 2010, when I went to the Science and Conservation Center in Billings, Montana, for the training and certification to become a PZP darter, the first thing I did was ask if I could hug him. πŸ™‚ The memory makes me smile and cry in equal measure.

It’s still true: I honor him and his legacy to preserve wild horses (all wildlife) with every dart I fire. He is one of our mustang angels over Spring Creek Basin. He is missed, never forgotten.

(Sun halo seen yesterday over Spring Creek Basin and Disappointment Valley.)





Whitening our horizons

11 12 2021

Yesterday, for a few hours, it looked a little like this in Disappointment Valley and Spring Creek Basin:

Looking eastish toward McKenna Peak and Temple Butte from Disappointment Road.

Looking northish to McKenna Peak.

Temple Butte and looking farther into McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area beyond Spring Creek Basin.





*Special* special event

25 10 2021

As far as we know, Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum‘s special exhibit this year celebrating Colorado’s mustangs and highlighting the 50th anniversary of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act is the only one of its kind in the country.

From the museum’s website:

*The BLM Canyons of the Ancients Museum and Visitor Center is proud to announce our new exhibit, β€œHome on the Range; Managing Wild Horses on Colorado Public Lands” opening to visitors in 2021. The exhibit celebrates the 50th anniversary of the β€œWild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act” of 1971 through captivating photographs and in-depth information about the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program. The exhibit features information about Colorado’s four BLM Herd Management Areas and stunning photographs by TJ Holmes. Visitors will learn about BLM’s work to manage wild horses, unique traits of different herds, and how the public can get involved in stewardship and adoption. The BLM will announce public programs in 2021 to engage visitors and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Act.*

While we are hyper aware of the enormous challenges surrounding the management of wild horses and burros on America’s public lands, we’re also very well aware of the positive management going on in our own backyard: Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area in Disappointment Valley. Humbly, it is the celebration of these positives and understanding of the challenges that has led us to what we consider to be one of the best managed herds in the country. Why *wouldn’t* we celebrate that? And why wouldn’t we celebrate America’s wild horses (and burros, though none of Colorado’s wild herds include burros), their beauty and diversity and strength and the way they bring us together? THAT is the real message of this very special exhibit of Colorado’s mustangs in a very special visitor center and museum in Southwest Colorado.

Thank you, particularly, to all the visitors who came yesterday, whether you came specifically to see the mustangs or whether your travels brought you at just the right time and day. We very much enjoyed meeting all of you and talking about our hearts’ dearest subjects: our mustangs.

Being the high-desert mustangs they are, Whisper (left, with Tif Rodriguez) and Skipper (right, with Keith Bean) walked willingly onto the cobbled walkway that leads from the parking area to the plaza, but those brick pavers caused the horses to take a bit of a pause. After much encouragement from Tif and more than a few glances at his pal to see what Skipper thought of the while thing, Whisper was the first to set hooves on the bricks. Skipper, however, was the first to follow Keith fully onto the brick plaza at the base of the museum building.

The plaza is hollow underneath to allow for heating elements that keep it clear of snow in the winter. The horses took a few tentative steps across it at first, but it must not have sounded too different from crossing a trail bridge over a mountain stream – which these guys are well used to from all their backcountry travel and trail work – and pretty soon, they were right at home. (And yes, the size difference between gentle-giant Whisper and super-pony Skipper really is that great!)

Museum curator Bridget Ambler (responsible for printing all the amazing images and information panels and designing the special exhibit), who has horses of her own, got to meet Skipper before the visitors arrived.

What he really wanted was to check out her mask. No mask-wearing qualms here!

For people unfamiliar with horses, as many of the visitors were, this sign listed basic etiquette to help keep mustangs and people safe.

Tres Rios Field Office Manager Connie Clementson talks with Lyn Rowley and Tif Rodriguez, left, and Marianne Mate and Keith Bean. Interesting side note: Marianne was mayor of Dolores when I was editor of the Dolores Star.

Whisper was kind enough to pose with a poster of Hollywood on the outside wall of the visitor center and museum. Whisper is the son of Bounce (who passed away a few years ago) and Alegre, who is still wild in the basin – with Hollywood’s band!

Canyons of the Ancients National Monument Manager Ray O’Neil, with Connie Clementson at left and the visitor center and museum’s Amala Posey-Monk at right, welcomed visitors and gave them a brief introduction to the exhibit and why we were all gathered: to celebrate mustangs!

A very large portion of my gratitude goes to Bridget Ambler, supervisory museum curator, for working so diligently to select images and work with me and Spring Creek Basin herd manager Mike Jensen (who unfortunately couldn’t attend the day’s event) for captions for each, and for designing the exhibit hall, which, as I mentioned in a previous blog post, stopped me in my tracks the moment I first walked through the doors and caused me to bawl my eyes out! Kat Wilder and one of Ray O’Neil’s daughters listen in the background.

Amala Posey-Monk, visitor services and recreation program manager at the visitor center and museum, did an excellent job keeping us on schedule and bringing new groups of people into the special exhibit hall where Kat and I extolled all the virtues of Colorado’s wild horses – and adopters! Here, she’s introducing Kat, who read a couple of excerpts from her book, “Desert Chrome: Water, a Woman, and Wild Horses in the West,” in the museum’s theater. (If you’re interesting in purchasing a copy of Kat’s book, contact her through her blog! She’ll even autograph it for you!)

I’m afraid I didn’t take a lot of photos (OK, any) of the tours of people inside the exhibit, but you can see some of it again on my original post from back in June: ‘Home on the Range.’

Mostly, I wanted to take pix of the visitors greeting the mustangs, Whisper and Skipper. πŸ™‚

Skipper and Whisper listen attentively as Keith and Tif introduced themselves and their mustangs to the crowd of visitors.

Skipper wonders what the heck I’m DOING back there! πŸ™‚

Visitors were equally attentive, soaking up all the information given by Tif and Keith about their mustangs.

Skipper particularly enjoyed meeting all the pretty girls. πŸ™‚

And the kids. πŸ™‚ I haven’t met a mustang yet that didn’t love kids.

Big boy Whisper had his share of fans.

Most of all, he loves his mama Tif! πŸ™‚

Skipper was having too much fun being admired to leave Keith’s side. This image of the crowd of visitors was taken as introductions were being made at the beginning of the event. I’d love to know the total count of people who came to see the mustangs and the exhibit; we guessed at least 60?! Pretty good crowd for a crisp autumn day in Southwest Colorado!

These two were among our favorite visitors! Whether you’re new to the blog or go way back, you’ll recognize Sue Story’s name as an everyday commenter on the posts. πŸ™‚ She and her husband, Dennis, are local to Southwest Colorado, and they came by in the afternoon to meet the mustangs and see the exhibit. Most recently, we’d met almost head-on (! no, no, we were all going pretty slowly πŸ™‚ ) on a quiet and golden forest road while out looking at the glorious autumn aspen!

Karen Keene Day (left) had the quick thought to ask Amala to capture us and Alice Billings (right) in the exhibit hall for a photo in front of one of photos (Hollywood and his band). I’m so glad these ladies joined us from Ridgway!

A couple of key people had left for the day by the time we quit yakking and took a group pic in front of the banner below Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum. From left: Skipper, Keith Bean, Alice Billings, yours truly, Lyn Rowley, Amala Posey-Monk, Kat Wilder, Karen Keene Day, Tif Rodriguez and Whisper.

We want to extend our sincere, grateful and enthusiastic gratitude, respect and love for everyone who made this special exhibit and special event, well, SPECIAL.

Thank you, thank you and more thank yous!
It takes a herd, and we have the best herd in the country. πŸ™‚





Season’s first snowfall

14 10 2021

The snow that didn’t stick in Spring Creek Basin or lower Disappointment Valley DID linger on the higher ridges, including Temple Butte and McKenna Peak (not pictured in this image).

All moisture is good moisture, and we were plenty happy to get rain down-valley.

And remember the views of the Glade, where the trees were golden?

It has gotten a little snowy and grey up there now. πŸ™‚





Whooo whooo spots the owl?

8 10 2021

Because … even at a FAR distance, hugely cropped …

BURROWING OWL!

It’s the first one I’ve seen in Disappointment Valley in many years. Whooo (!) doesn’t love a burrowing owl!? πŸ™‚

*** Update ***

My favorite bird photographer, Ron Dudley, posted about burrowing owls on his blog – Feathered Photography – this morning, requesting respect for these beloved owls. Maybe a coincidence, maybe an opportunity to share some love and education.

I was driving when I saw a bird zoom in front of the Jeep, and I thought it was a kestrel (also one of my favorite birds), but I looked through the window as I passed and was astounded to see the owl on the ground. I stopped and slowly backed up … and spotted it again at a fair distance from the road. It flew again and landed, and those are the shots posted above. I never got out of the Jeep to pursue further pix because I didn’t want to bother it – it WAS doing the bobbing behavior indicating stress – and spent no more than a couple of minutes watching it (I took four pix). Even though I knew the pix would be terrible quality, I was so excited, I tried anyway.

When I tried to select “burrowing owl” later on the bird ID app (Merlin) on my phone, it didn’t even give me the option! All books and websites I’ve looked at indicate that burrowing owls are uncommon and the population is declining. … Ron Dudley’s post gives some indication why that is. I’m very happy to have seen this little owl … and very much hope I didn’t cause it any harm.





Most loved horizon

28 09 2021

The night I realized fall has sprung … err, fallen? … across the slopes of Utah’s La Sal Mountains!

Edge of Spring Creek canyon’s rimrocks at lower left; hills along northern Disappointment Valley across the midground.





Moon over Disappointment

20 09 2021

Magic happens.

I rest my case. πŸ™‚