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