Geology and archaeology in the Pryors

This post is a hodgepodge of topics from my trip last week.
I have mentioned finding most of the horses near the Little Ice Cave spur.  The road is closed now, so I am not sure if many people make the short hike to visit it anymore.  If you hike down the road a short distance you come to a trail that leads about 100 yards to the opening of the cave.

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There is a slightly lower area you can sort of see at the back of the picture.  Once you duck a little through that it opens up to a larger room that has ice on the floor.

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It did seem to me that the ice was a little further back and had a little more water from melting on top than the last time I went a few years ago.  It is hard to say since it had been a while, but I wonder if measurements in an area like an ice cave that is sheltered from the outside wouldn’t give better data on if things were getting warmer or cooler on Earth.  There is also a lower chamber that drops off the right, but I have never gone down to it.  I think that I would need to use a rope because coming up an ice slope would not be easy, and maybe not possible.

To give a better size perspective, here is an outstanding picture from the inside that I do not own, so I am just linking to it:

http://www.panoramio.com/photo/75300575

Since I usually come in Big Timber, I have never stopped at the Big Ice Cave.  I am sure it is more impressive, but if you are ever on the mountain and it is really hot, you might want to stop in and cool down.

I know there are some other caves that I have not located but have seen on maps, and my guess is that there are some caves that are not mapped hidden along the reef ridges on the top.  I found one big overhang that would make a good shelter if needed for a storm.  This thing was big.

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On the other end of the spectrum I found a small cave that may go deeper.  I will need someone to be there with me before I try to look further into it.  From the outside it is a hole barely larger than a person.

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With my feet on the ground and my upper body in the hole, I reached in as far as I could and took a picture.  It will be awkward to go in further as it would require going up to begin and it is not much bigger than a person so it will be tight.  What I was not able to see from using he cameras flash to look is if it ends at the back of this picture or if it dips down to the right or left.  Who wants to explore with me, or pull me out by my feet if I got stuck?

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In case you do not know what I mean by reef ridges, along the top there are the starts of many canyons, and they all have rock bluffs that grow to straight walls.  The taller of these can be hard or impossible to climb up or down, but in some places I would think they would be great for mountain lion ambushes if there weren’t so few lions around the Pryors.

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What many may not know is that those cliffs are the remains from ancient sea floors.  If you want to know more about the geology then here is an excellent site that describes all of the formations you see coming in from Bridger to the Crooked Creek junction.  Great stuff.  http://www.pryormountains.org/natural-history/geology/

Anyway, if you have walked along the rocks on the top, pretty much any of them, you may have noticed both shells and coral. The shells are obvious.

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Until one of my workshops from the Geoscience Center in Shell (http://www.geo-sciences.com/) I did not know what the coral looked like.  I had seen it, but didn’t know what it was.  It will look like either circles that are the ends or maybe you will get longer structures if it is the sides.  Every now and then you find a really good piece that has both the sides and tops.  These two I saw on this trip, but I have a real good example in the garage somewhere I might post some time.

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I also visited another interesting Pryor feature while on this trip.  Since I hadn’t seen some of the bachelors while on this trip ( see yesterday’s post about keeping hope), I went over to above Kreuger’s pond where Sandy had seen the horses.  I hiked along the terraces to what many ( myself included up until now) have referred to as “Vision Quest” sites.  When I got back in from the sites there was a BLM truck and another car just inside the entrance.  I asked the BLM employee if he was looking for the horses, and he said that he was actually an archaeologist.  They are eventually going to do a study and map all of the sites used by Crow Indians in the area.

He was himself a Crow Indian.  He informed me that the sites should be called “fasting beds” because they were not always looking for a vision when they used them.  They are horse shoe shaped structures of rock, often with shrubs in them.  He said this was because they would place branches in them to lie on and often growth would occur.

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He said that the ones that had rocks moved more recently were “culturally modified”.

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He said there are some with really high backs like an armchair so that you wouldn’t be seen from behind.  He also said that as both a Crow Indian and a BLM employee he did have some struggles that I think also exemplify the struggles that the BLM faces as an organization when dealing with the multiple uses of the land they govern.

One of their wishes is to encourage the use of the area again for fasting and other activities.  To do this, you wouldn’t want to have people walking around you or disturbing you.  He said they would want to maybe close some of the area during the fasting time so that it could be used.  I am not sure of who the “they” included, or how big an area.  Would it just be along the edge where it wouldn’t affect horse viewing too often?  

I don’t have a lot of information, just the things we talked about.  I can see where it would be “right” to allow the Crow Indians to do this.  They were using the area long before others and they gave the land to the government ( he said- we took a lot, too).  While I know that it might affect what some of us do on the mountains, a lot of what anyone does affects others.  There are assuredly groups that like to off-road in ATV’s and don’t understand why they have to stay on maintained trails.  Shooting may soon be limited on the top, for safety, but some will argue that their shooting shouldn’t be limited just for some horses and “tree huggers” because they are responsible shooters.  Limit travel during foaling season or not?  RMEF would probably say the top could be managed more to support elk, and WSF for the sheep.

There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong in some situations.  There is a limited amount of public land with numerous interests all pushing for their cause.  Some, like the horses, are spelled out by laws such as the Wild Horse and Burro Act that take precedence.  Yet it doesn’t say people must be given access to view them.  It would be possible to allow the horses but close areas for ritual usage.   I do not think this would happen and as someone that spends a lot of time on the mountain would personally be affected, but I can empathize with the employee’s perspective.

I know a lot of people give them a hard time and are sometimes extremely rude, but I think the BLM ( here where I see it) does the best that they can in looking at all of the factors and interests and coming up with a plan that they believe is going to be the best for the land.  I may not always agree, but I don’t think they are intentionally out to harm any group, or at the extreme end of “trying to get rid of all horses in the West”.

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Keeping hope alive

One of my goals from the last trip was to hopefully see Two Boots, Starman and Jemez. The last I have seen Two Boots was on March 3rd and then April 19th.

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I am not sure about Starman.  It had been a while since anyone had seen Jemez, too.  One of the hard things about the range is that it is large and there are some good hiding spots.  I will hike to them and look, but without an idea of where they are there is just too much land to cover.

This also means that the range can surprise us.  I have often heard people say that “by now a visitor should have seen them”.  I don’t agree with this statement.  A lot of visitors never leave the main road through the park.  I have seen horses just over a ridge from the road that I know others have driven by without even knowing they were there.  A lot that get to the top usually check the main ponds and the Penn’s Cabin area.  On this last trip the horses were all in the woods below the Little Ice cave road and I saw a few people that might have seen 2 bands or would have seen none if I didn’t let them know where they could find some.  This was almost the entire herd that was hidden, not 1 or 2 horses.

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My main point in telling that is that it is easy for a horse that does not follow the main group to remain unseen.  I was talking to someone earlier this year that said ” don’t think that Kitalpha is with us anymore”  It made sense to think that.  I don’t think she had been seen since January 2nd.

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Then just 2 weeks ago Ahn saw not only Kitalpha, but a foal with her. ( see http://wildinthepryors.com/2013/07/21/pryor-foal-15/)

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The same has happened with Jemez as he was recently seen in July but the picture just came out this week after my trip. (https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=576448585747830&set=a.267217203337638.64496.264471890278836&type=1&theater).  Being younger, I didn’t have a lot of doubt that Jemez would turn up.  A lot of horses have disappeared for stretches, especially down on the dryhead and sykes, and then turned up.  Seattle is a recent example that was an older horse that came back after an extended hiatus.(http://wildinthepryors.com/2013/06/11/seattle-merlin-and-fiero-an-update-from-lori/)

Even on this trip, while I did not see neither Starman nor Two Boots, there were incidents that remind me to keep looking.   After spending days hiking through trees and looking for horses, it wasn’t until on my way out that I finally saw Chino just above the old trap at the narrow ridge bridge.( Need a name for that)

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While driving in across it,  I had viewed a print that looked like a horse coming up from lower and had hoped it was one of the missing horses just arriving on the top, but now I think it was probably him.

That is one thing I usually do while on the range: even when I am not near the main groups I scan far ridges and openings and look for any fresh sign I can find.  As I continued my drive out I ran across what looked like some fresh track right near where I park to hike to the Burnt Timber Canyon guzzler and Big Lick.

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I parked and followed them on and off the road as they went in a direction heading back out of the range.  I was fairly sure they were recent, but it became certain they were and that there was more than one when I found a longer stretch through tire tracks I knew were since I drove up.

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Continuing on, I came across a stud pile that was not dried, and told me that this was probably stallions.

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I was really clueless as to who would be way down here.  Was it some of the dryhead bachelors that had continued up a ways from Turkey Flats?  Was it someone missing like Starman and Two Boots?  Bristol hiding Kitalpha?

After hiking a while I decided to go back to my FJ and move it to where I had tracks so I could have a hike back, a break and then could continue tracking instead of getting further and further and having one big hike at the end.  I was also near a narrow pass, so I thought the horses may have traveled through it.  I was correct and I was able to follow the tracks on or near the road in my FJ for a while further when I suddenly found horses in front of me on a knob.  It was 3 of the bachelors I had not seen while up top; Jupiter, Grijalla and Irial.

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The tracks continued past them and didn’t stop until somewhere around the first draw you cross near the Burnt Timber Road entrance.  Once they were not along the road I did not get out to see how far they had traveled.  It is possible they had continued down to Turkey Flats or even Cottonwood.  There sure wasn’t water here.

The discovery of the trio in the middle of nowhere, far from any other horse, helped to strengthen my belief that it takes a full year before one can really know if a horse is gone.  Even then there could be a shocker that shows up.

Yes, there is a time to be realistic.  Gold Rush most likely will not turn up even though a body was never found.  Starman(24) may not have survived the winter.  Two Boots made it through to better weather, but was 25 years old.  I do know there is a good chance at least one of them, if not both of them, may be gone.

Yet on this range a horse can remain hidden if they don’t want to deal with the fights or be bothered by young ones.  I once encountered Starman in the bottom of a deep ravine where I have never seen another horse. I have often found old track or manure in the bottom of canyons where I have not seen a horse.

I am realistic in my expectations, but until a year has passed and things seem more sure, there is always hope.

Missoula and Lobo

I don’t have a lot to say for this post, just a lot of pictures to show.  I cut it down from the 56 I had taken to a little less than half of that.  I didn’t want to take too many out, because I wanted it to still show how much time these two sparred and how even though it is practice, it can still be intense.  By being attacked, they can also learn what they need to do to defend themselves and not get hurt, hopefully.  Just looking at this fighting between young stallions, it is easy to see how mature stallions can get hurt during their fights over mares.  

It seems I have seen favorite tactics of some stallions, too.  Some seem to like and go high, like Missoula does in most of the fights they had.  This is not a single spar, but many spread out over 8 minutes, plus however long they were doing it before I got there.  There are advantages to going high, especially with the damage the hooves can do. It also has the disafvantage of exposing the neck and some stallions seem to prefer and go low for the bite as Lobo usually did.  

The first 4 are backlit, but it does make it seem bigger, and then the rest have better light.

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Right after this I shot the video which shows the end of their sparring, and Missoula trotted off like he was the winner.

 

A pryor love story (shakespeare style)

Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Pryor, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hoofs unclean.

For once upon the mountain two half-brothers played, until one day the elder brother took the younger’s mother to be his very own.  Since then, the Clouds and the Tetons have been locked in endless strife.

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Missoula:  Nay, as they dare. I will bite my thumb at them;
                     which is a disgrace to them, if they bear it.

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Mica:  Thou villain Missoula,–Hold me not, let me go. 

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Later that morning

Missoula If I profane with my unworthiest hand
                This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this:
                My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
                To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.

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NimbusGood pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
                Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
                For saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch,
                And palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss.

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Nimbus:  Go ask his name: if he be married.
                My grave is like to be my wedding bed.

Mica: His name is Missoula, and a Teton;
          The only son of your great enemy.

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Mica: Missoula, the hate I bear thee can afford
           No better term than this,–thou art a villain.

Missoula: Mica, the reason that I have to love thee
                  Doth much excuse the appertaining rage
                  To such a greeting: villain am I none;
                  Therefore farewell; I see thou know’st me not.

Mica: Boy, this shall not excuse the injuries
           That thou hast done me; therefore turn and draw.

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Missoula: As I hate hell, all Clouds, and thee:
                   Have at thee, coward!

ImageNimbus:  Do not fight him Mica!  I will confess to you that I love him.

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  • Kisses him

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Nimbus: Thy lips are warm.

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Prince: For never was a story of more woe  lacuna*
             Than this of Nimbus and her Missoula.

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*la·cu·na   [luh-kyoo-nuh]  

 1.a gap or missing part, as in a manuscript, series, or logical argument; hiatus.

All parts are from Romeo and Juliet except those that are itallicized.  Some words were necessarily removed with strike-through. 

Minor changes and dryhead report

I got to spend a lot of time in the Pryors this week, with a majority of that being on the top and mostly to myself.  There was rain throughout the week, which kept the horses in the trees on the Burnt Timber side and on the ridge in between until Thursday evening.  There isn’t a lot of news from the trip, but it was very enjoyable because I was able to spend long amounts of time just rel;axing and watching different groups as they ate or hung out under a pine.

When I first got to the range, I did run out the dryhead.  On my way through I only saw a group of bachelors.  Going in I could see 3, but when I came back out I noticed that it was a large chunk of the dryhead bachelors.  Hawk, Johnston, Merlin, Issaquah and Chief Joseph ( although I never got close to tell which was which or make sure it wasn’t Seattle), Kemmerer and Fool’s Crow.

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After a brief journey to the homestead and North of the range, the first of the bits of news from the trip was seeing Fiero out past the interpretive site with 3 grulla girls.  I wasn’t sure if it was him or Merlin at first from the long distance, but I was able to get a picture with his right sock.

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I never got too close and wanted to leave him alone with his harem he had somehow obtained. I talked with a couple at the parking spot and they showed me a picture of Blizzard and said he had one “grey” mare with him, so he is ok.

The second piece of news comes from the first band I saw near the top.  It was Cappucino’s band.  I think they were all there when I first saw them.  I don’t have a picture of them all so now I have some doubts, but considering I didn’t even take one of Capp the first time, I think I saw them all but didn’t have good shots of everyone.

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Filling in the band from Friday night pictures, there is a muddy Capp. and Mariah

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That’s it. McKheanie was no longer with them.

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I did see McKheanie this morning as I was leaving the top. He was by himself. With the way the light was he turned out pretty dark.  I darkened it a bit more to enhance the clouds and remove the grass, so you will have to trust me it was him and he was doing fine.

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After a small adventure on the way down that you will hear about later, I drove to lower sykes prepared to hike and find Bristol’s band, but was able to catch them and Sitting Bull’s heading back from watering.

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I didn’t take many of SB’s today, because I had pictures of them from when I left the range Tuesday to run down to Fifteenmile.

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I was really in that area Tuesday deciding if I should walk out to the end of Turkey Flats because I had seen 2 horses from the BT road. A quick downpour had moved through with lightning while I had watched them, so I was wondering if it would be muddy or if more was coming.  My guess from the colors at the time was that it might be Inniq and Johan.  Image

Who it turned out to be was these two.

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I’m sure that had some of you thinking, but these were actually 2 horses I saw at McCullough on my way down.  I am not sure who it was out on the flats, but most of the bachelors had been out at Mustang Flats the day before, so I don’t think it was any of them.  After something I saw today, I really hope I was wrong and it was actually Starman and Two Boots, but I still think Inniq and Johan make the most sense.

The third piece of news from the trip has been covered by Nancy on the PryorWild blog, and I had posted an update right around noon when I saw it.  While going out the dryhead before coming home, I saw Fool’s Crow with Jewel and Mercuria.  I walked out a little ways and Malaki and I sat by a tree.  The two girls kept coming and checked us out, allowing me to get some decent scenic-type pictures of them.

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Only seeing some bachelors up top on the flats, we hiked out and down to the lower area past them.  Don’t feel bad for Hidalgo, he is still doing pretty well for himself.

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In going out to see him, we got the added bonus of seeing this little male lizard, I believe a Western Fence.

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Hickok, Seneca and Hightail, I apologize for not stopping to see you more and ignoring you again like most times through the range.  Maybe next time.