Sunday, April 12, 2015

Antelope Island Endurance Ride

We arrived on Thursday for a the Antelope Island 55 endurance mile event on Friday morning.  Ride camp was already a busy place, with 30 to 40 trailers parked near the Garr Ranch.
By the next morning, the count was at least 50 trailers.  Over 40 riders were signed up for the 55 mile ride, and probably about as many for the 30 mile.
This black stallion caught our eye.  He was a beauty and reminded me of Walter Farley's Black Stallion series, which I read numerous times as a child.
The ride manager checked off the riders. Horses milled about, whinnying and dancing.
And they're off.  The black stallion led us out for a "controlled start."  Control is relative at one of these events, since all the horses know they're out for an adventure, and they're eager to get going.  Every horse there would take off at a gallop if it were up to them.
The scenery was beautiful.  We rode across the island on a trail that isn't usually open this time of year because of bison calving.  Island management decided to make an exception for the endurance ride.  Hopefully we didn't cause any undue problems.
A bison herd grazed along the shore on the west side of the island.  They seemed unperturbed by our presence, if they even noticed.  In a few places, we left the trail to go around groups of bison.  Many of the cows already had calves at their sides.  We also saw antelope, deer, and one lonely coyote trotting along the beach.  Chukkar and meadowlarks are abundant, as well as plenty of seabirds.  As we headed for the homestretch, the sun was getting low and gulls were flying and shrieking above us.  By that time, we were getting a bit fatigued, but we could still appreciate the beautiful scene.
We clocked in at 7PM, having traveled a little over 60 miles, with 4500 feet of elevation gain and loss. We arrived about the middle of the pack.  Riders continued to trickle in for the next couple of hours.
It was quite a day.  The horses looked good and the vet gave them a thumbs up. All was well - another fine (albeit very long) day in the saddle.   

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Exploring Antelope Island

Antelope Island is located in the Great Salt Lake.  It's a state park, accessible by a causeway.  Artifacts show that the island was occupied by native people as long as 6000 years ago.
In 1845, John Fremont and Kit Carson, the first non-native explorers, reported seeing "antelope" - technically pronghorn - grazing on the island range.
Garr Ranch house - dates from 1848
In 1848, a year after the Mormon settlers arrived in the valley, Fielding Garr moved to the island and built a ranch. His first house, updated and expanded over the years, still remains on its original foundation.
Garr ranch buildings
The ranch raised sheep at first, and later had a cattle herd.  It continued operating under a series of owners until 1981.
Buffalo grazing near Garr Ranch, with Wasatch range in background
In 1893, 12 bison were brought to the island.  At that time, less than 1000 bison remained of the vast herds that once roamed the plains.  Although Today, bison on the island number from 500 to 700, with an annual bison roundup held each fall.
The island is 28,000 acres, with about 30 miles of non-motorized trails. Beautiful scenery and plenty of open space make it a great place to horseback ride, bike ride, or hike.

We heard the calls of meadowlarks, canyon wrens, and chukkars.
The banded and contorted rock shown in the photo above is gneiss, said to be about 1.7 billion years old. This is the oldest rock found in Utah, and is the same age as rocks found at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.


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