Spring Break 3 – The Hidden Valley

I was pretty sure I would not be able to drive up Sykes Ridge, so my choices Wednesday were to head back over to Burnt Timber to try and find the horses I didn’t see the day before, or to go over Sykes from the park side.  While drving through the park, looking for horses and weighing my options, I decided it might be worth trying the pass just across from the Devils overlook road.  I am not sure if this is what is called “Bad Pass”, or if that is the next one down, but I decided to try it.  There was a nice place to park from when they did the powerline work, and the pass entrance isn’t too far from the road.  The entrance starts out narrow, but opens up and runs a long ways up to the area the guzzler is in.

Image

It took a while to get up to the open area where the upper loop of Sykes Ridge Road goes around the coulee, but once I was there I started to see horses on some of the ridges above me.  The closest looked like Fools Crow’s band, and I was sure Jemez was part of the higher group.  I made my way to Fools Crow, Icara and Morgana first.

Image

Image

Image

From them I was able to get on an older, unused road that led up the ridge next to the one where I saw Jemez.  Johnston was with him, as I suspected.  The other horses I had not been able to tell for sure fromt he bottom, but it turned out to be Hidalgo’s band, with Fresia and Montana.

Image

Image

Image

When mapping my route on google earth, I noticed a picture of “sykes arch” that I hadn’t noticed while hiking. Looking at my pictures, I think that is it right behind Johnston.

Image

I also noticed that there were more horses behind the 5 I was watching, higher up on the ridge. You can see the black dots in between Jemez and Hidalgo, just over their ridge.

Image

Image

Zoomed in shot of the far horses, that I now believe are Jewel (for sure), Halo and Hawk. More about them later.

The rest of my time up on the ridge, I shifted focus between the near groups and the far group.  I tried to set Hidalgo’s group up to get some shots with good backgrounds. I was on the wrong side for the light to cooperate with this task.

Image

Image

Image

There are 2 shots that make me think Hawk was the lead stallion up higher, but I am less familiar with the dryhead horses and could be wrong.  I almost think I can see some of his disconnected strip in the first, zoomed in.

Image

Image

Notice there is no sock, so this is not another of Jewel.

Jewel and Mercuria were there.

Image

I think Belle Star may have been the furthest up horse, more to herself.

Image

I did move one ridge closer, on the one above Jemez, Johnston and Hidalgo’s, but I didn’t see a good way to get over to the far horses with the snow being more solid and the steepness between us.  I had a decent handle on at least some of them, so I decided to make my way back down the ridge I was on.Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

As I continued down the ridge, I saw Medicine Bow in the bottom.

Image

Image

I saw Fools Crow’s band one last time.

Image

I had not seen Hidatsa when I had come through the bottom, but I saw Jerad taking pictures of him from higher up and he was still in the area when I got down.

Image

Image

Not seeing any other horses, I made my way back through the pass, toward the light rock just past the dark ridge.  Notice how much more snow remains on the North facing slope than the South facing slope.

Image

I did stop in one large cave/eroded area near the bottom to look at the icicles and weeping wall.  There are so many neat little geological areas on the range.

Image

Image

Image

Advertisements

Spring Break 2 – There and back again

After being delayed a day due to the hub going out on my FJ ( see spring break 1), I did not get to leave for the Pryors until Monday afternoon.  Sheridan had a storm warning forecast for 3-6 inches, so when I got over the mountain without any snow I felt lucky.  As usual, I was the lone camper at Horseshoe Bend.

The snow on the basin side of the Bighorns wasn’t too bad, and the wind had packed most of what did fall into cracks and behind brush, leaving the road fairly clear.  I started by going through the park, hoping to see some of the horses before I had to hike.  Even though it hadn’t been a lot fo snow, things already looked pretty wet and muddy, so I didn’t know if I would be able to get up burnt timber or our into lower sykes.

While I didn’t see anyone going up through the park and glassing with binoculars, in the time it took to get back from the end of the range at Layout Creek to the new interpretive walkway, Fiero had come out.

Image

Image

Between the Devil Canyon overlook turn-off and the Ranger’s Delight trail, I found Hickok, Seneca and Hightail near the road- together.

Image

Image

Image

I decided to check how Burnt Timbver Road looked next, but figured it would be too muddy to get far.  Checking from the gravel, I could see a band out in the bottom past Turkey Flats.  I believed it was Galaxy’s due the number of black horses and one light that looked like Ireland.  When I got to the dirt turn-off to BT you could already see ruts that people had made in the mud.  It was cold so it may have been passable, but I knew as the day warmed it would be a mess.  I parked right at the BT sign and started hiking toward Turkey Flats along a line I have taken before.  It takes me across the “administative pasture”, I believe, that I would really love to see horses utilizing in the winter time.

It was Galaxy’s band I had seen.

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

I went to the top of the benches and could see some horses back toward lower Sykes.  It turned out to be my favorite family!

Image

Image

Image

DSC_9280 DSC_9275 DSC_9273 DSC_9264 DSC_9258 DSC_9242

I backtracked to where Galaxy was, and decided to hike up through the badlands area to where the horses often hang out near the big red hill, first guzzler on the right and big mineral lick.  It was my first time hiking through this area, although I had scanned it many time.  It is to the left of this picture of Galaxy’s band.

DSC_9291

Along the way, Malaki got stuck in a mini-slot and looked up at me as if to ask “How am I supposed to get up there?”

DSC_9301

I had to walk back to where he could get up to convince him that sometimes backtracking is better.  We continued up to the area above the guzzler and couldn’t see any horses in the area.  After scanning for a long time, I eventually spotted some waaaayy out past Burnt Timber Canyon on a flat.  I had already hiked a lot and still had the hike back to the car, but I often feel that if you see them, you can hike ot them.  There are of course exceptions and times that I see them and there are enough closer horses I choose not to hike, but with no other horses around and enough time left in the day, I made my way down into the big canyon and then over to the edge of Burtn Timber Canyon.  Part of what drew me over to them was that there was a smaller horse with them, not really a foal but not as large as most of the yearlings.  I never got to see Washakie’s foal last fall, so I was hoping this might be my chance.  Here is a case where I did settle for a view across the canyon.  It was getting later and I was starting to get tired.  The cliff on that side of the canyon was not going to be fun.  So what you get are zoomed in crops from across the canyon.

DSC_9308 DSC_9332 DSC_9338 DSC_9352

Knowing I still had Wednesday and Thursday to hike, and with the time, I made my way back “Two Boots’ trail” to the sign at the entrance to Burnt Timber, and then back to the FJ.  We saw a few deer along the way, but not further horses.

DSC_9363

I covered a lot of ground to only see 3 bands.  I wish I had seen more bands on the BT side, but it was an enjoyable time with the ones I did see.  Plus, there is a sense of accomplishment when you both explore new areas and cover that much ground.  Here is a picture from google of the rough trip for the day.  The red G’s are guzzlers, to help with orientation.

march 11b

According to the lines I plotted, it was about a 10.8 mile day, although the map doesn’t account for all of the curves through canyons or the up and down on hills, so it was probably a little longer.  What this does do is give me confidence that I could hike from the entrance through the bottom and up the lower arms of Sykes if needed or up to Cheyenne Flats if I went straight there instead of out to the flats.  Of course, if spring will just come and dry things out so I can drive, that will be much preferred.
Another interesting thing about the google map is that I can do a “tour” of my hike.  Maybe one day I can add the pictures and instead of just a blog, people with google earth could “tour” my hikes and see the horses where I saw them.

Spring Break 1 – Surprise!

The beginning of spring break this year definitely did not go according to plan.  My daughter and I left a little after school on Thursday with the plan of watching the boys first round basketball game at 9 in Casper and then camping somewhere in the area and doing something fun on Friday until the played again at 9 Friday night.  While I hadn’t expeced it, they had won the regional championship and it wasn’t until late Thursday that I heard the team they played that night had beat them twice.

Image

 

After a third defeat to Rocky Mountain (Surprise 1- I think we had better athletes/players, but they had a better team), I wasn’t sure if we would watch the game Friday or not.  We went to camp for the night in Stewart Creek.  I don’t know why I think of it as near Casper, because it is a lot closer to Rawlins, but it seemed better than going up Casper Mountain with a chance of snow.

When we awoke Friday there was some snow, but it wasn’t too bad.  It was a little worse when we started back Mineral Exploration Road, so we decided to go back along 287 and to Casper.  We did locate a few horses and hiked out to see them briefly.  The pictures did not turn out great with the conditions, but it is good enough to recognize who they are if anyone knows the Stewart Creek names.

Image

 

Image

 

Image

 

After a stop at Martin’s Cove where Ahnya got a necklace after going through the LDS run historic site, I asked her if she wanted to go to the game, go see more horses at Green Mountain or go to Fort Laramie and get a junior ranger badge.  She chose Fort Laramie, so we made our way back past Casper (with a short stop to fish the Platte) and south-east.  We didn’t arrive at Fort Laramie until around 3:30. Surprise 2 is that it wasn’t a single fort like I had often imagined, but there were over 20 buildings or foundations there.  There was a picture of the original log-style fort that I had imagined, but there was a lot more to see and do than we had planned.  You could go inside almost all of the rebuilt structures and look at displays through plexiglass doorways. We toured the buildings until after 5, and then had dinner at the picnic area.  

Image

 

Image

 

Image

 

Image

 

Image

Image

 

Image

Image

Since the visitor’s center closed at 4:30 and Ahnya couldn’t get her badge until Saturday,we decided to camp at Guernsey State Park.  Except for the geese that lived in that area (10,000 or so the ranger said), we had the place to ourselves.

Image

Image

 

Saturday began with more unpleansant surprises.  First, as we left Guernsey State Park and headed toward Guernsey, I uncharacteristically didn’t pay attention to the signs.  I always stay at the speed limit and think it is not ok to chose which laws you think are “ok” to break and which should be followed.  Yes there was sun in my eyes, etc; and I didn’t see the sign to slow down, but that is my fault for not paying closer attention.  On top of that, I couldn’t find my new insurance card in my glove compartment.  Fortunately, I was given a warning, but I still don’t like the fact that I hadn’t been going the speed limit to begn with.  I can already see one day when Ahnya is 16, “Remember when you got pulled over…”.  Of course, my little angel won’t ever be one to talk back, but I’ve heard stories…

It was still a little before the Fort opened, so we stopped by a historic bridge.

Image

 

Ahnya not only got her bad at the Fort, but since we had stayed at Guernsey the ranger gave us a coin that they offer between the Fort and the State Park.

Image

 

Our next stop before heading home Saturday night was to be Scotts Bluff.  We turned East and around Torrington started to hear a weird noise.  We knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t find anything.  There isn’t much in Torrington, and the noise was infrequent, so we decided to try and get to the larger town of Scotts Bluff where there were more mechanics listed.  We didn’t make it.  The noise got worse and I could tell it was something with the left front tire, which felt a little hot and loose.  I thought maybe the brake was catching.  We made short limps into the town of Morrill, where I saw a tire shop open.  The mechanic wasn’t in, but after driving it just 10 yards for one of th workers he knew the hub was out.  We tried calling a bunhc of places in Scotts Bluff, but none of them had mechanics in on Saturday.  They said Monday would be the earliest.

Fortunately, the mechanic at Horse Creek Tire was coming in to work on getting a tractor out.  He normally wouldn’t have been, but I was really lucky.  He was going to Scotts Bluff that evening and could get the part I needed from NAPA, and said he would fix it Sunday morning for me because he hoped someone would do the same for him if he was stuck.  If you are even near Morrill, Nebraska, give Horse Creek Tire your business if you need anything, because not everyone would do that for someone.  Also, if you need to stay in the area consider Oak Tree Inn.  They gave me a manager’s rate and wouldn’t even charge me the pet fee for Malaki.  While the surprise of the hub going out wasn’t nice, finding people that would be so nice to a stranger in need was such a pleasant surprise.  It makes me change my whole view on Nebraska, which before was limited to how long it took to get across and the clouds of manure.  I don’t know about the rest of the state, but Morrill has a nice little community.

After realizing that Sunday was the day to change the clocks (surprise), we got showered and waited.  He had my FJ done at 9:30, new time.  That was much earlier than I expected.  Ahnya and I still had time to go to Scotts Bluff. It was a fun little monument, especially since we are discussing erosion in my class when we resume after break.  Malaki was even allowed on one of the trails we did on the top.  We didn’t do the long one from the bottom because of time.

Image

 

Image

 

Image

 

We left Scotts Bluff around lunch, and decided we had time to swing by Agate Fossil Beds National Monument on the way home and get a third junior ranger badge.  I enjoy fossils and considered being an archeologist as a kid.  While there were a lot of fossils of Moropus (early Miocene horses), beardogs, dinohyus and a display of gifts from Red Cloud (with neat winter count drawings), the most interesting to me was the paleocaster fossils.  They looked like long spirals that originally were thought to be tap roots.  Eventually, a skeleton of a small mammal simlar to a beaver was found in one and the realized they were not roots but fossilized tunnels.  I always try to get across to my students that scientist make the best sense they can, but you always have to open to change as new facts are discovered.

Image

 

Image

 

Image

 

Image

 

The water was no longer across the road near Lusk by the time we got there, so the rest of the trip was pleasantly uneventful.