Sunday, July 28, 2013

I Didn't Want To Leave


After spending a dusty day with the mustangs, we headed a little further west, and walked into a dream.

The Gates of Lodore opened wide, as the emerald Green River flowed through the deep red canyon walls, luring us in. This place, this ancient, old place, is none other than Dinosaur National Monument in northwest Colorado. It continues on the other side of the mountains, into Utah, where Jurassic creatures, now fossilized, were embedded into a sandbar 149 million years ago.

The enormous cottonwood tree at campsite 9 coaxed me in. I hopped out of the Subaru, eager to check out the place we'd be spending the night. Running my hand around that tree, I found a weathered horse skull at the base of the trunk!

How utterly ironic. With all my mustang love and passion for bones, this was a gift, a sacred campsite, so I would remember the horses. The one's from today. The one's here and gone.

It had been a scorcher out at the Sand Wash Basin. Particles of dirt and dust stuck to my bare arms and legs, and rabbit brush stems and stickers had eased their way inside my socks and hiking boots. Just on the other side of our camp was the river. We couldn't wait!

The Green River is wide and slow moving. It was cold. It was perfect. C and I swam and splashed around and talked about the ponies. We laughed at the little sandpiper birds doing mating dances in the sky. I don't know if they were really trying to mate, but they acted very flirty, like it was a courting game.

Feeling refreshed and invigorated, we hiked to where the river starts to flow into the deep canyon. The canyon of Lodore. That's exactly where our trail ended. We sat on wide, flat rocks and stared, as if in a trance, at the jaw-dropping scenery before our eyes. The cliffs were high and rust and fushia with contrasting greens of pine and fir trees standing like soldiers on the mountain palette. We sat there for a long time. It was one of the most quiet places I had ever been to. If we talked, we whispered. A bird the color of Azure caught my attention, flitting from tree to tree. From a crack in the rock, a curious lizard made an appearance, looked at me, then quickly crawled away. C and I both watched an osprey dive into the river and and fly away with the prize fish. We watched the sun go down. Needless to say, I didn't want to leave.

Did we step into Narnia? Maybe.

Was it sublime? Yes. It really was.





Saturday, July 20, 2013

I Think I See One

I went out looking for mustangs.
The wild horses of Sand Wash Basin, in northwest Colorado, roam 160,000 acres of harsh and vast land.
Not knowing what to expect or really where to begin, C and I drove through the range along dirt roads, following piles of manure, which I thought for sure would lead us to horses.
I said "you look on the left, and I'll look on the right". That never works. (Haven't you done that before?) So, we continued to look in every direction we chose. Searching high and low, we drove for miles on the winding road and at one point, got out to hike around. We climbed to the high spots to scan the basin with binoculars.
I wanted to see a wild horse soooooo bad.
The weather was hot, the terrain was dry and the vegetation was sparse. I discovered a salt lick block and an empty trough, but next to it was a small muddy water hole, with horse hoove tracks in the mud.
But no horses.
Exploring the area some more, we climbed another hill. Looking through binoculars, I heard C say, "we've got ponies". Three horses were spotted! A "yellow" one, most likely a palomino, and two blacks. I was excited to finally see something move out there, but seriously, they looked like ants from where we were. We took turns glassing them until they slowly disappeared from sight.
Unless you know the area well, have someone with you who is a seasoned wild horse groupie, and unless you have an ATV, the chances of being near the horses are rare. That was my hunch anyway, after spending half a day out there.
We got the BLM map out and looked for another road to explore on the northern part of the herd management area. An area with better views of the mesas and ridges.
Standing at the highest point on Seven Mile Ridge you can see the entire basin. It takes patience and a slow and steady hand to span this enormous and empty land with binoculars, hoping and praying for the sight of a paint or a strawberry roan.
We saw two different groups of horses from up on that ridge. I was thrilled. I was satisfied. Even though they looked like ants with manes and tails, there they were. Those velvet eared beasts with the long and tangled forelocks, the stallion scars, the bad boy bachelors and the desirable mares. The unshod wild bunch.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Moose Whisperer

"Rawah" means "wild place" in the Native American language.

Here are some pictures my husband took a few days ago, when he backpacked up into this high alpine wilderness.

Moose were introduced to this area in the 70's and they are thriving now. With plenty of willow trees and abundant lakes and no predators, it's an ideal habitat for them.

Look at these cinnamon babies!!!!

And to think mama would nonchalantly let them nurse, in the company of C.

Moose live in such a secretive world, but my husband's presence seems to be non threatening to her.

He's my mountain man, another Tom Brown the Tracker, part Grizzly Adams, and a little Edward Abbey.

A friend of mine said to me yesterday, "you guys attract animals!".

She could be right. Or we are just that lucky.



Monday, July 8, 2013

Gifts From The Land


Wherever I go, there they are.

Sun bleached spinal cords.

Antelope legs of velvet, dirt in their hooves. What the mountain lion leaves behind. She was his meal.

Jawbones and teeth of a deer. Or a coyote. Blessed by the sun.

A ravens wing. A chipmunk's tail. The raven ate the chipmunk. But, who tangled with the raven?

A great blue heron on a rock on a prairie.

Woodpecker nests in a ponderosa pine.

Mountain lion scat.

And feathers...

And more feathers.

The land is wild. Alive!