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.

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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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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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Lost Creek, Crooks Mountain and ..wherever

I decided to try a new route home from Adobe Town, and took the Wamsutter-Crooks haul road.  I was not sure what I would find for the road, but it was in excellent condition.  Even with a thunderstorm toward the northeast, I was not worried.  It had a good base and was practically a highway by Wyoming backroads standards.  I camped near the Mineral X road intersection and continued North in the morning.

I am not sure where any of the boundaries for HMA’s are in this area.  The map on the BLM site is a very broad map which doesn’t show details.  Several of the HMA’s border each other and the horses can travel between them.  I am hoping that one day they release a map with detailed borders, but until then I may place horses in some of the wrong HMA’s.  The first bands I saw were right near the intersection of Hadsell Road, which I am pretty sure puts them in Lost Creek HMA.  With the clouds, the light was still low when I began but picked up by the later pictures.  Most of this post will be horse pictures, with only a litle commentary after this to introduce where each set was taken.

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A little further up the road I came across a band being dogged by a bachelor.  I can’t remember now exactly where I was, but I am pretty sure I was north of Lost Creek, but not to Crooks yet and east of Antelope Hills.  I am not even sure this group was inside an HMA boundary, but they were wild.  The bachelor that was following is the beautiful tobiano.

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As I approached Crooks, there were some horses to the East side of the road.  There is fence there and I believe it may be private, but some of the horses look like the may have been wild at one time, or maybe still are because the fence looked spotty and passable in places.

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While there were more horses a little further north and east on the hill, I decided to focus on the group west of the road inside the fence that I believe marks the boundary for Crooks Mountain.  I walked down the ridge and took some pictures of Romeo and everyone else down below unnoticed.  I normally would have stayed on the ridge and observed for a long time, but I could see a rainbow to the West.  This prompted me to move for two reasons.  One, if I could quietly get down the hill and east of Romeo and the other horses, then I could get pictures of them with the rainbow behind.  Second, a rainbow to the west meant rain was coming my way, and I knew I would have to try and get back to the FJ before it reached or got bad so my camera didn’t get wet.  Of course the horses saw me, so I only got a pair of pictures with the edge of the rainbow and Romeo and the horses all moved away.  Maybe I should have waited on the ridge, but sometimes you have to make a decision and it doesn’t always work like you planned.

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I did run to the top of Green Mountain before running home, but it was covered in fog too thick to get any pictures.  Coming down on the West loop I did see 6 horses, 3 on the left of a fence and 3 to the right.  I do not know if either or both sets were wild.

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Adobe Town

While I had a grand plan of visiting every Wyoming HMA in 2 weeks last summer, it never happened. This June, I finally made it down to Adobe Town for the first time.  It was evening by the time I arrived in Baggs.  I had light as I started in, but lost it before actually reaching the HMA.  While the town of Baggs has very spotty cell service for anyone but Union Cellular subscribers, with my booster I actually had a good signal out in the desert and was able to do my navigating on this trip using google maps .

One side  thought that came to me on this trip was the debate on roads and energy exploration/exploitation, and how it is more complex than many make it out to be.  There are some that would contend that areas such as the one surrounding Adobe Town should be left alone with no energy exploration or gas wells.  There is a part of me that agrees with this and hates seeing gas wells and pipes.  I like “humanless” landscape and actually enjoy empty looking deserts more than most might.  At the same time, there are benefits to the energy industry and what they are doing there.  First, there is the obvious use of the energy they are harnessing that all of us use.  I have gas heat at my house, drive quite a bit to get to where I photograph and we all use electricity.  People can badmouth the energy industry and its “destruction” of the land, but don’t seem to mind what it provides.  What struck me more though was the access the gas roads provided to these places that otherwise wouldn’t be present.  Both in the Adobe Town area and my trip from Wamsutter to Jeffrey City on a haul road, energy industry roads took me to HMA’s that would not be accessible without them- roads that would be passable even with rain.  Even with these roads, I think I saw 1 vehicle that wasn’t a working vehicle, and only about 6 working vehicles in my backroad travels.  These are places that very few visit WITH roads.  If people aren’t even driving in to these places often now, what are the odds that they would hike in through the desert heat dozens of miles if the roads weren’t present.  This isn’t a “drill, baby, drill” blog,  just a sidebar on looking at things from multiple angles.

I camped on a road called “Apache Tears Trail” so that I could be out of the way from the “main” road.  As I made my way back to the road in the morning I saw my first small band of Adobe horses on the other side of the fence.  I am going to try and group most of the pictures by band and then include some individual shots.  Adobe Town is fairly famous, so I am hoping that someone out there knows the names of some of the horses and can help me out.  I have Pryors, quite a few of the McCullough down and Romeo’s band in Crooks, but don’t know even where to find names for most of the Wyoming HMA horses, so any help on any posts would be great.

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I  was glad to run across some grouse and hope that they continue to have a presence throughout the sageland of the West.

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The second group I saw was also a ways off, which is too bad because there were some beautiful horses in it.  Of course I could probably say that for every band I see.

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With the third band, I finally had some closer horses.

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I was beginning to think that all of the Adobe Town horses were scattered throughout the HMA in individual bands when I finally came across a larger group with a few bands in close proximity.  They were a little ways out and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get close, but as they often do a bachelor stallion came running in to check me out.

 

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This brought in a second stallion that I could never determine if he was another lone stallion or a loose part of one of the other bands.

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The fourth group from Adobe Town was a small band of 3 that was the first I reached of this larger gathering.

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While it is hard to place all of the horses that were in each band looking back now, I know the next 3 were another trio.

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From here it gets less sure as I saw some bands and then got more pictures of them later as they moved around.  The ones that are together are more obvious, but the individual or small group shots  aren’t.

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A lot of my shots that I post have the horses looking at me, but most of the time I watch the horses they are eating and ignoring me.  I jus personally tend to select out the shots with them looking because it usually gives a better view of any facial features for identification and the eating shots obstruct full view of them.  While there are a few herds that are very approachable, many of the HMA’s contain horses that my long (500 mm max) lens is needed.   With all of the horses, what works best is setting up and letting them move by you when they are comfortable.  Sometimes they will even lie down in front of you, which would seem to indicate they aren’t bothered by you and trust you.  This takes time and requires the repression of the first impulse to quickly move out and grab pictures.  I was watching these groups long enough that two antelope, which are usually very wary, even moved in.  One slept while the other ate closer and closer to me.  When it finally did notice me i made sure not to make any sudden movements or scare it and it slowly worked its way back to my right, allowing me to photograph it with the horses.

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I never made it to the heart of Adobe Town for the geology.  Most of what I saw was not that different than the badlands areas of fifteenmile.  Part of what blocked me from getting further in towards the roadless area is that once I left  the main gas routes I hit roads that did not seem very safe to travel either due to the washouts, or the sand.

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In a great surprise, I found some burrowing owls.  I grabbed a quick shot or two before the adults moved further away and watched me.  While checking the local holes for the burrow they were using I found what appears to be a piece of petrified wood that may have agatized, but don’t know for sure yet.  There definitely appeared to be other pieces of petrified wood in the area.  I set up in the FJ and wiated, and waited, and waited…and finally the young owletes peeked out at me over the burrow edge.  I counted three, but there may have been more I could not see as they never fully came out before I decided to leave them alone.

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Driving back out I found four that I had not seen before.

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Far away from the rest of the horses, when I had figured I wouldn’t see an more, I came across a group of 2 and 3 (bachelors, I think).  They didn’t seem to mind me there, but the prairie dog did.

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While I did not take the route in that would have brought me to the main “Adobe Town” area for hiking and geology, I am glad that I went the way I did and saw the horses I was able to.  It was a good Birthday, with enough time to drive up to Wamsutter-Crooks Gap road to camp for the night.

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