October 24, 2016

Bison Roundup

On Saturday; we joined about 200 riders in the 30th Annual Bison Roundup on Antelope Island.
Bison are not like cattle.  For one thing, they're a lot bigger and stronger.  For another, they're a lot more likely to turn back on the rounder-uppers if they don't like where they're headed.
Yee Haw!
The riders in red vests were our "shooters"  They're armed with pellet guns, aiming to head off any crazy bulls who go after an unlucky rider with insufficient room to escape a charge. Those in blue vests are team leaders.  We were supposed to stay in teams, but the groups got mixed up pretty quickly, and most folks lost track of their leaders.  We just listened for the shouted instructions from those in blue who had radios and knew when and where to go.
Bull whip cracker on left
The rider coming behind the herd at full gallop is swinging a bull whip.  There were a half dozen or so of these guys, all excellent riders.  Whips snapping.  Riders shouting, whistling, waving arms and hats.  Bison grunting. Horse and bison hooves thundering.  Horses whinnying, We felt like we were living in a "Rawhide" episode, except with bigger and noisier animals to herd.
restless bulls
We witnessed several bulls sparring with each other, sometimes looking back at us with disdain and perhaps more than a hint of threat. We all kept an eye out for bulls that got huffy and turned with angry snorts.
Well, most of us kept an eye out.   Others got a little carried away taking photos...
Some entertained themselves by chasing the half dozen coyotes that roamed beside the herd.  A group of antelope raced ahead, trying to escape the confusion.
We herded for a couple of hours, covering close to 8 miles and joining several small herds together as we went.
When we had about 400 head gathered in a grass-covered valley, the trail bosses called for a lunch break.
I ate a sandwich, sharing my PBJ with Mischief.
Steve and Coco took a nap.
A neighboring rider took our photo just before we mounted up for the last big push to the corrals.
We rode hard up the last hill.  Some of the bison broke away and ran off onto the salt flats.  Just as the rest of the herd was reaching the top of a hill, we looked back to see about 75 bison thundering up the hill toward us!  Fortunately, we had enough time to escape.
Steve surveyed the corrals after the animals were all penned.  A few minutes later, a couple of accidentally penned antelope came running back to the gate.  The gate-keeper opened up and let them out to run free once more.
Not all of the bison were captured.  Many of the larger lone bulls keep to themselves and will continue to graze, unharrassed.  The penned animals will be vaccinated and examined next weekend.  About 200 will be sold.  The island could easily become overgrazed if the herd grew unchecked.  A yearly thinning is necessary for the health of the animals and the ecological health of the island.
If you look carefully, you can see a long chain of vehicles along the road.  Many people came to observe the excitement and semi-chaos as we pushed the herd over the hills.  At the end of the line, near the pens, more observers waited to snap photos and cheer us on.  Before the ride even started, a couple of Chinese ladies asked Steve and Coco to pose for a photo with them.  They claimed the Bison Roundup is "world famous."  Maybe.  It's certainly unique and an amazing adrenaline high.
Luckily, we didn't get stampeded, gored, or thrown off our excited mounts, who danced and pranced most of the way.  Of all the experiences we've had riding horses in Utah, this has to be at the top of the list.
We're already looking forward to next year's roundup.
The "Rawhide" song was a childhood favorite.  I finally lived the dream!


September 3, 2016

City Slickers

Our new country/city home provides an astonishing number of riding opportunities.  We're only a 30 minute drive from downtown Salt Lake City, yet we can access many miles of great riding nearby.
Dimple Dell
Dimple Dell is a Salt Lake County park with a series of barked and sandy trails traveling the length of gulch.  We can access this area from our barn door, no trailering required.  Riding down into the gulch and up the other side provides good exercise for the horses.  We usually take an 8 mile route with 1000 feet of altitude gain, but one could easily double that distance without traveling the same trails twice.  Hawks, owls, grouse, quail, deer and squirrels keep the ride interesting.  We often see other horsemen, as well as bikers and hikers.  In winter, we share the trails with sledders and cross country skiers.  The horses have gotten used to a little bit of everything in Dimple Dell.
Lone Peak
By trailering for about ten minutes, we can access the Corner Canyon trail system, from which there are several routes up Lone Peak.
Lone Peak Trail, looking south toward Utah Lake
 We can ride 10-15 miles and gain up to 3500 feet of altitude on these trails and be home in time for lunch.   Some of the trails see frequent biker/hiker use.  Golden eagles and other raptors soar above.  We see hummingbirds, deer, and the occasional snake (yep, rattlesnakes could be out on the trails, but they tend to get out of the way when they hear the pounding of large hooves.) In summer, the wildflowers are spectacular. 
Wildflower bouquet
Blazing Star Mentzelia
A 40 minute trailer ride takes us to Yellow Fork trailhead, across the valley in Herriman.  Many shaded trails along the creek are great for hot summer days.
Looking west from one of the many Yellow Fork trails
 We have explored several loop options.  One route travels up into the mountains for a distance of up to 20 miles, gaining about 2500 feet. 
 These are the closest rides, but the mountains surrounding Salt Lake Valley provide plenty of exploration opportunities for the days when we have time to travel a little farther from home.  

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