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.
I was glad to run across some grouse and hope that they continue to have a presence throughout the sageland of the West.
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.
With the third band, I finally had some closer horses.
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.
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.
The fourth group from Adobe Town was a small band of 3 that was the first I reached of this larger gathering.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Driving back out I found four that I had not seen before.
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.
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.