August 17, 2008

The Hunters are Here

We had no hunter orange, and it was the first day of some kind of hunting season.
We realized both points immediately when we saw all the trucks, trailers, and 4 wheelers at our trailhead. On this cooler than usual Saturday, we had trailered our horses to the Pigeon Water Spring road, parking at same spot we used last week to approach Dry Ridge. Of course, then, no one was around. And now… well, lets just say we were glad we weren’t elk and sure hoped no one thought we were.
After scrounging around in the trailer tack room, we came up with one orange vest and an orange hat for Steve to wear since he would lead, a red sleeping bag stuff sack to tie around Boss’s elk-colored hide, pieces of red mechanic rag to tie to Daisy’s collar, , and a poncho made from a part of a horse blanket for me. Better than nothing.
Thus, we braved what we figured were the elk bow hunters and set out. Steve had also forgotten his saddle bags, so he had to carry a backpack with his gear. Hmm, we really hadn’t prepared very well. Maybe that was because we’d been on so many other trips on Steve’s week off that our minds were running at least seven days behind? Instead of riding up the eastern ridge as we did last week, we followed the road this time and came to a narrow, steep, rocky path’s descent into Dry Creek’s valley. From there, we rode along an alluvial two- track lined with sage, ripe serviceberry (when really ripe, these black berries have a hint of sweetness, but are otherwise pretty bland), and birch leaf mahogany until we reached a Forest Service sign pointing up the western hills toward Dry Canyon Ridge.
Again, the path was narrow, steep and rocky, but not difficult to follow. On top of the ridge, the going was easier, again turning into a faint 2 track.
When we started at 11 AM, temperature 55 degrees at 8200 feet, the sky was mostly blue. As we began our trek along the ridge, dark clouds moved in. Since we had no tree cover or anything to hide beneath up there, we went back down to the valley from which we’d come. On the way down, we ran across a couple of cowboys with a pack horse and an extra saddle horse. One of the guys said he had cows up that road in the high country. He planned to move them down lower in the next couple of weeks. The cowboys didn’t seem worried about lightning or rain.
We descended again to Dry Creek (no water, just a shallow gulch) and watched the sky. Lo and behold, a bit of blue broke out. After some consideration, we decided to try it again.
Up we went, much to our mounts’ dismay. They weren’t real happy about climbing those rocks again. The weather held out. We followed the ridge for about 5 miles. Out in the open on the ridge, the views were amazing. The terrain was dry, with sage, native grasses and a few wildflowers: lupine, bouquets of pearly everlasting, and yellow broom snakeweed. We also saw this pretty pink flower, unknown to us. Our flower books haven't helped in ID. Anyone know what it is?
After a mile or so on the open ridge, the trail led in and out of aspen groves. Note Daisy seeking shade or comfort under Boss's tail.
As we were weaving through aspens, we again met the cowboys. Another guy had joined them (now riding the extra saddle horse) with a compound bow and arrows in hand. Obviously, he’d been hunting. I was glad for my red poncho, for what little good it might have done.
Ranchers with forest service grazing leases have run a pipe down from a high spring to a series of water troughs. A drink came in very handy for Daisy Mae and the horses, who were ready for refreshment by the time we reached the first trough. Daisy stood on her hind legs and drank out of the trough instead of slurping the muddy runoff on the ground. That was the first time she’d tried that. I didn’t get a picture then, but here she is lapping it up from the next trough we came to, where she could drink while standing on all fours.
We turned back at about 3PM, figuring all of us would be tired by the time we got home. The total ride was 13 miles with 3600 feet elevation gain, in 5 hours of actual riding time. That made a good day’s work for the boys. Even Daisy was tired. Briefly.
She’s back to herself this morning, ready to go again. After all that running on rocks, you’d think her paws would be worn through, but she’s incredibly tough. Her nails are worn down, but her footpads look perfect! What a tough little lady she is.


  1. Steve really knows how to make a fashion statement, that's for sure.

    Can't believe it's some kind of hunting season already.....

  2. Cute picture of Daisy. Impressive amount of red/orange stuff you happened to have on hand!



Blog Widget by LinkWithin