For Steve’s birthday ride, we returned to the end of the Pigeon Water Spring Road, followed the trail to Dry Canyon Ridge and then up toward Tworoose Pass.
The cows have been brought down to the water troughs between nine and ten thousand feet. Daisy tried to play with the calves, as usual, but the mama cows weren’t cooperative.
As we continued up through the aspen groves, we noted that some aspen leaves were changing beginning about 9800 feet. Won’t be long before fall arrives at that altitude.
Between aspen groves, Daisy routed a baby elk out of the sage. (photo from internet. I didn't have the presence of mind to pull out my camera) As it ran off bleating, we thought Mom would surely appear and chase Daisy away, possibly to our dog’s peril. But Mom didn’t show up and Daisy gave up the chase within a couple of minutes. The poor little elk calf couldn’t have been more than 3 months old. It still had spots and seemed terrified. Since it was all alone, we assumed it was somehow orphaned, maybe by antlerless hunting season, which started last week. Or perhaps it had become separated from the herd somehow.
Its pitiful cries made us wish we could gather it up and take it home. Of course, even if we could have done that, we couldn’t keep a grown elk in the pasture, and once it was used to people, it wouldn’t last through the hunting season in the wild. Still, we felt for the scared, lost baby.
Up higher, we reached tundra-like expanses with low grasses and wildflowers such as lupine and Whipple's penstemon:
We climbed to the top of Duck Mountain, where a communication tower is located at 11, 500 feet.
During the climb, we looked down into the lakes of Duck Basin: From up top, we could see the ridgeline of the High Uintas. Just below the communication tower was a grouping of dwarf firs that Steve says is called the Krumholtz. Note the resin-covered, upright cones on the firs. The weather was perfect. Temp was about 65 degrees when we started out at 9:30AM at around 8000 feet, and 77 degrees when we returned to the truck at 5:30 PM. Up high, of course, the temp probably never rose above the sixties. A stiff breeze (maybe 20mph) kept us and the horses cool. Some of the high meadows are gently sloping and ideal for trotting and cantering. The aspen forests will be even more beautiful in a couple of weeks when the leaves change. With the trailhead located only 45 minutes from our home base in Roosevelt, this is one to remember and repeat often. The views are spectacular.
Overall, the ride was 21 miles, 5200 feet elevation gain. Although we were out for about 8 hours, much of that was gawking and taking photos. Actual riding time was just over 6 hours.