SLC anomaly – Crook Mountain

It has been quite some time since I have written a blog post.  Part of this is due to moving last summer and getting the house ready to sell.  Another factor would be my dedication of time to a game called Ingress.  If you look it up and join, go Enlightened (green).  Last of all, while I did manage some trips to see horses or Yellowstone and even new places like Teddy Roosevelt, I ended up either just putting the pictures directly on or a lot have still not even been converted from NEF. They were ok, but I didn’t have much to say about them and have no internet ( just hotspot from my phone).

So here is the first post in a while and most of it will be pictures without much commentary.  For those that don’t follow ingress, it will mainly be at the start.  I will add that with more time this summer, I have been able to mix my trips in to include both Ingress, and photography and camping.  While most of the pictures in this post and the next will be wild horses, the trip was centered around an anomaly in SLC  (Enlightened won) in which I tried GoRuck Urban for the first time ( we won 4-0).  My path there allowed me to both see the things I enjoy and hit some remote portals to try and help prevent a field over SLC for the anomaly. At the same time 2 teammates were doing the same from southern Utah.  It ended up looking like rails, but we had no plan that I know of to field.

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The anchor under the M is at Baroil and an entrance to the Green Mountain horse herd.  I did not get on the closest roads to Green Mountain, so I did not see any horses in that stretch.  It comes out at Crooks Gap, where I turned up Crooks Mountain and was rewarded with both wildflowers and quite a few of the Crooks Mountain herd.

Happy New Year

I was finally able to get out and camp a little over Christmas break, and visit both the Pryor horse range and Yellowstone. While I did not see any horses on my first pass through the Bighorn Canyon NRA, when I stopped by the pull-out for Sullivan’s Knob the second time I was greeted by Fiero on the hill and Oregon right near the parking.  I did not see any other horses the first time there, but when I came back to check quite a while later I was able to find the rest of the band down the hill.

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The other area I was around in between visits to Sullivan’s knob and trips out to mustangs flat was the overlook.  I saw tracks but no horses until eventually Jemez, Montana and Medicine Bow were on the hillside.  It is always good to see an older horse like Medicine Bow and know that they are making ti through the winter.

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The only horses that I saw out on Mustang Flats we in the brush to the left, and I didn’t hike out to them.  My guess is bachelors, but that is based solely on the fact that every time I do hike out in that area it seems to be bachelors.  Can’t tell much from the picture, but there are 3 in it.  My bet would be Issaquah was 1 black and maybe the grulla/grullo (toward left) is Johnston. I also saw quite a few deer, but no big bucks.

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The longest hike I took was down to some horses from the “Spirited Mustangs” signs to a band of 6 I could see at the bottom of the draws near the fence.

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After hiking back to the FJ, I saw one last group on the way out.

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From there I made my way around to Gardiner and into Yellowstone.  I did not get any great pictures, but enjoyed my time there.  I did see an elk with drop tines near Lava Creek, which I think is the first time I have seen a live elk with drops.  On Thursday night, Malaki and I listened to some wolves calling nearby in the Yellowstone River picnic area.  We heard more in 2 areas on Friday, and I was able to watch some move along a ridge at one point.  I would love to run across some close for photos, but it is always fun to listen to them.

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August 7th, 2014

The morning of the 7th found most of the horses down in the meadow across from the Little Ice Cave road.  There were a few new bands here that I didn’t get to see the night before very close. Boulder and Hernando are the two that come to mind, plus some bachelors.

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For the most part it was peaceful, but as we wandered through the trees checking groups out we would hear commotion now and then.  When we got back tot he area that the bachelors were in, we found that it was them disturbing the quiet.  Lobo was at the center of it.  There was some minor jousing with Mica.  Jasper stepped in, and of course the action had to happen in the trees so that you could tell what was going on but not get pictures of it.

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They did move into the opening eventually, and we saw some minor skirmishes with them.

DSC_4205 DSC_4207Then it was Lobo and Mica doing some biting practice.  Mica went low, and Lobo dropped to the ground to avoid it.

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The majority of the sparring took place between Lobo and Moorcroft.  I pulled my favorite shots out of the encounters to share.

DSC_4235 DSC_4247 DSC_4259 DSC_4263 DSC_4265 DSC_4280So there are 2 and 3 year olds preparing to be lead stallions, and then we have 4 year old momma’s-boys like this:

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August 6th, 2014 – Pryor Mountain

Having been a while since I had been to the Pryor range, Ahnya and I decided to spend a night on the mountain.  The first horses we encountered as we approached the top were Jupter and Demure. Jupiter is solidly built and I believe he will command a much larger harem in years to come.

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Some of the changes on the mountain this year are still hard for me to accept as being more than short term, but it is far enough into the summer to discount them like some of the March and April events.  It is still tough for me to think of Jackson’s band as someone elses. The next band I saw was another change that is still sinking in.  In both cases things could return to how I have known them, but there is just as good a chance that they won’t.  Dove was the easiest to spot in the band, but I did not even see Coronado dogging the band.  Irial is the current band stallion.  I think this is a pretty large group for his experience level.  

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I may have remained with this group a little longer, but I could see Galaxy and Cloud’s bands to the left …

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and foals trump all else if they are ones I have not been able to observe.  First was Ohanzee with Cloud, Inocentes and Feldspar.  

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Right behind them was Galaxy’s band with little Oro.

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As we drove toward Penn’s Cabin we found that a few bands were in the meadow just above the pond.  I saw Bolder over toward the cabin and some more horses down along the road before it heads into the woods on its way to Sykes, but decided to go for the nearby horses as I could see 2 foals.  They were Okomi, who I had seen before, and Olivia, who I hadn’t. She was very active during the time I watched.  While *Doc’s band*, Mescalero’s, and Blue Moon’s was present, the best discovery was of a new foal with Baja’s.  

DSC_3985 DSC_3988 DSC_3994 DSC_4007 DSC_4029 DSC_4037 DSC_4018DSC_4045 DSC_4063 DSC_4016To cap off a great evening, the sun decided to turn the sky a yellow-gold which allowed me to do some sillhouette shots.

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BCNRA sign dedication

As many of you know, one of my pictures was used on a sign at Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area.  Ahnya and I got back from our Pennsylvania trip in time to run over for the new sign dedication and talk with all of the other contributors but one. The ones I knew I hadn’t seen in a while, and some I had talked to on blogs and facebook, but was finally able to meet in person for the first time.  There was also an informative presentation by the artist-in-residence.  Ahnya took pictures of some of the ceremonies. 

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Since we arrived early, we did have time to run out to the Dryhead and see some horses.  It was the first I saw Orion and Oak.

Closer to the road was Hidalgo’s band with Oak

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Way out from the interpretive site was Corona’s band with Orion

DSC_3502 DSC_3504 DSC_3511The only other horses I saw on this trip besides the greeters was Fiero’s band.  Oregon looked so comfortable sleeping that we did not hike down to get a closer look at them, but we did see them all pass by on the way to Layout Creek during the “meet the artist” part of the day.

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Two Herds – Act 2

The second herd that I visited last week is pretty much the opposite of what I described in Act 1.  They are visited often.  In fact, when I first began driving by McCullough Peaks HMA I could see 2 vehicles plus an atv out on the two tracks , and I wasn’t planning on stopping.  When I got further up the road and saw some horses without anyone around, I did decide to drive back and see them.

While there are some wilder horses in McCullough, most are pretty calm around humans.  Even though I have only visited there for a few years, it definitely seems to me that they have changed a lot as a herd and are less wild than when I first visited.  There is a badlands area, but the horses are usually in the wide open with just grass and sage as a backdrop if you don’t catch them at water.  In the desert during the day, any distance is going have the heat waves cause soft pictures and you won’t be able to get a sharp focus. Don’t go in the heat of the day and expect really crisp shots from afar.

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Even though some are mostly calm around humans, there is a right way and a wrong way to interact with the horses.  The first thing to do with friendlier horses is to let them see you so that you don’t startle them. Once you have done this do not just walk right at them or into them.  I saw someone do this at Pryor Mountain a few years ago and while the horses didn’t run you could definitely see them change their pattern and try moving away from the person.  Let the horses be the ones to walk closer to you on their terms.  In this case, I moved around the horses in a large circle to get on the right side for the sun first.  In the first picture you will see the harsh contrast on the horse.  If the body is exposed right, the back while be washed out.  If the back is toned down, the body will be dark and lose detail.    In the second the lighting is much more even.  The horse was still a decent distance away for these, but I wanted to stress how much of a difference getting the sun in the right spot can make.

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Even with the sun on the right side, when it is higher in the sky you will still get shadows from the horses head if it isn’t turned just right.  This can require patience and waiting for a certain pose. It isn’t bad in the next shot, but you will notice more shadow on the front of the horse.

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The horses could watch me as I slowly made the arc around them to get the sun on the correct side. Instead of pushing in close to them, I just watched and eventually they decided to move by me.  They could have gone the other way, but I was lucky and they chose my way to move.  The one horse I can definitely identify from this group is Indian Paintbrush (last 2 in this set), but I think another one is Woya.  That would most likely make the bay Hudson Bay.  I think this is Moon Pie’s band, but finding pictures of them isn’t easy.

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Also hanging out with this band was the only horse that did seem bothered by me being around, but he wanted to follow the rest so he made his way by me.  He stopped long enough to make some faces.  I am pretty sure this is Booker Rose.

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I am not sure if the other horses in the area were one band, or some smaller ones that happened to be close to each other.  Utah and Shakira were together for sure.

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The next horse was most likely with them, but I don’t know for sure. I am including 2 pictures because it illustrates why I usually pick the shots with the horse looking at me even though most of the time they are eating.  In the first picture, you can tell there is a blaze, but not much detail.  In the second, you can tell that it isn’t just a straight star/blaze, but has a more unique pattern that should help with someone confirming the identity of the horse.  Neither of these pictures does a great job, but I will often wait until the horse is clear of any sagebrush so that feet can clearly be seen for socks/stockings/coronets.  This isn’t as easy as even grass can block the view, but usually with multiple pictures you can find shots of different feet and piece together the whole story.DSC_3831

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The reason I am not sure if the horse was with Utah and Shikira is that it was also as close to the next horse and interacted at one point ( the following picture was part of that), but this horse would not be Siska or Garth.  The only horses I could find pictures of close to it are either Major or Bridger, but I really don’t know.

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The last horse is actually the first horse I posted.  He seemed to be more of a bachelor, and I don’t know who he is.

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Two herds – Act 1

It is with some trepidation that I write this blog.  I do feel fortunate to be able to visit so many beautiful places and horses easily like I am able to do living in Wyoming.  At the same time, I enjoy having the outdoors to myself.  As more people realize what is out there and visit it increases knowledge and support to protect the places and animals I love to visit.  Yet, still, I want it all to myself.  
I am going to write about two herds, and the major differences between visiting them.  The first is probably one of my favorites for a variety of reasons.  One is that I never run across anyone else while visiting it.  Part of this could be due to their remoteness.  It is 30 miles from the East to the boundary on probably the most “friendly” dirt/gravel road.  I usually prefer comig down from the North but don’t think it is any less distance.  

It is not the distance that keeps me from visiting the herd more.  I have become quite fond of desert areas to escape as I have visited them more.  Arriving late Thursday night, I set camp up on my favorite knob toward the bottom of Fenton Pass Road.  Out in the desert like this you can see so much of the sky.  I didn’t set my tripod up, but took a few pictures with the camera open to 30 seconds lying on its back on the ground.  I don’t think pictures can convey the awe of staring up at a fully open sky filled with stars and galaxies at distances that are hard to comprehend.

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Probably the reason that I like this herd so much is that this herd is still so wild compared to most of the horses that I visit.  That is also why I do not visit them as much.  I feel that if I visit too much it will either make them become acclimated to me and humans, or if they don’t it will stress them as they move away from me.  These horses must be approached differently than other horses due to their wildness.  I was fortunate on this trip that I was able to locate them first thing in the morning from my camp and they weren’t near as far as normal to hike to.  Unlike the horses in the second act, where I would normally let them see me and then circle around or just stand and let them approach me, I knew that I needed to move along ridges and valleys where I would not be seen, and would not be able to get very close.

A third reason that I love this herd is that the landscape around them is so colorful and geologically interesting that viewing the horses from farther off and getting more landscape shots of them in the environment is a good thing.  You won’t see any close-ups of single horses in this array of photos as you will in act 2, but this isn’t a band where I know of any/many named horses and known band groups that people follow anyway.  I have been lucky to get closer pictures now and then, but this trip you can enjoy more gorup shots, although close enough to identify horses for anyone that does visit them or know any names.

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DSC_3645I don’t think the horses ever really saw me, but the wind was blowing toward them.  Winds can be tricky in this area as they swirl and will seem to blow in different directions in one canyon compared ot the next.  I think that the horse in the bottom left of the next picture smelled me.  It may have seen me too, but I have seen them ignore antelope moving around.  I don’t think that enough of my head looked over for it to know I was human and not an antelope or other animal, so my experience tells me that it was smell.  While I do not have a picture of it, I also saw its nose in the air, as if sniffing to place my scent.

DSC_3649With that detection of my scent a small band decided to move out of the area.

DSC_3654When one group decides there is something to make them leave, they all decide it is time to leave.

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The grass in the area looked very green, and fairly thick and long for late July.

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I did not see any other horses in the area and did not want to bother the main herd again. I found a cool little arch on this trip, and saw the usual birds and antelope.

DSC_3676 DSC_3679 DSC_3682While deciding whether to cross a wash due to the sand ( they turn to mud/quicksand when wet, but can be just as tricky with deep sand when dry), I found some interesting rocks.  They seem very light for their size, and have interesting features and formations that make me think they are something formed from lava.  Or a few look like dung.  If you know more about them, please let me know.

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