May 27, 2008

Bad Land Cliffs and the Antelope Rodeo

Today we rode in the Bookcliffs through Chokecherry Canyon and up to the Bad Land Cliffs. To reach the area, go south at the Bridgeland turnoff west of Myton, then east at the Antelope Canyon sign, then take the left fork of Antelope Canyon to Chokecherry Canyon (not marked.) The road becomes a narrow two track but is good all the way. We were able to easily park the trailer at an old drilling site. Beyond the last drilling site, the road is unused and eventually becomes a game trail.
The day was partly sunny, about 55 up high. Chokecherry Spring has year round water, enough for horses and dog, but not enough to support many cows, which probably explains why there is little grazing impact. The land appears to be virtually untouched, with native grasses and plants intact. When we reached the Bad Land Cliffs, we rode along a dirt road, which appears to be lightly used. The view up there is spectacular, a panorama of the snow-covered Uintas, the snow covered highlands of the Books, and the rolling hills and plains below. The only truck we saw turned out to be a government vehicle, BLM. The occupants were two botanists, one of whom wrote a scholarly book we own on the plants in Uinta County. Steve actually recognized him from a lecture we attended in Vernal years ago. The botanists have been conducting a study of plants in the area, which they assured us were entirely native as far as they could tell. Up top, there was a type of bluegrass, mutton grass, and black sage, with a sprinkling of blooming purple milkvetch and daisy-like fleabane.
We were busy taking pictures of each other when a herd of antelope came over a rise, saw us, and scattered. They were close, giving Daisy Mae a chance to chase them for a while, but they soon escaped her. We continued down the road perhaps a quarter of a mile and saw another antelope. Daisy chased this one, too, but it’s behavior was a little strange. It would run away for awhile, until we called Daisy and she was finally tired enough to obey and turn back. Then the antelope would turn back, too, approaching us again and again. We concluded that she was a mother with a newborn calf nearby, hidden in the bushes near us.
At one point, Daisy chased the antelope, turned around to come back to us, and the antelope began chasing her! The antelope approached closely, almost as if she meant to attack Daisy. Daisy realized the antelope had come up beside her, and she lunged at it. The antelope then picked up speed and easily outran her. Steve managed to get this scene on a video, which was a pretty amazing catch.
After that, we went up to a ridge top, tied up Daisy (so she’d take a break and give the mother a chance to return to her young) and ate some lunch while the horses snatched a few blades of grass. From a distance, we observed the mother cautiously approach the area where we’d first seen her. We couldn’t tell for sure if she approached her young, but we assume so. By the time we made our way back through that area, she had moved a distance away.
We returned by a slightly different route, going down a different canyon that connected to the one we’d come from. Again, the land was largely untouched.
We were looking for a place to cross a deep creek bed and chose a crossing that was less than ideal. We got off for the descent, fortunately. It was sketchy, to say the least. Steve went down first, through mud, fallen trees, and some snow. Boss followed, locking up all fours and glissading a good three feet of the way, stopping precariously on top of a fallen log, right beside Steve, who was also precariously balanced. They jumped down, and I sent Mischief after them. (I can't walk fast enough to keep up with him on a steep slope, and he's always willing to follow Boss without me leading him, so letting him go on his own is the safest method. He, too, skidded. He caught his back feet on a downed tree trunk and nearly fell, but managed to keep his feet and continue with fair grace. (Mischief is light on his feet, almost always graceful.) I slippy-slided on down to join the group. Luckily, no one was hurt, but we'd certainly choose a different route next time.
The whole ride, including a side trip up a steep road that made for a nice lope, was about 12 miles, 2000 feet altitude gain, 4 hours in the saddle.
Conclusion: The destination we reached on the Bad Land Cliffs has one of the better 360 views in the area. Definitely a semi-annual must-do for spring and fall.

1 comment:

  1. That is funny that you actaully ran into someone you knew (well, could identify anyway) in such a remote area. Also, intersting antelope behavior. Boss looks so noble in the top picture.



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