August 31, 2010

Into the Wild

Last week, we took our son Eric on his first horse pack trip.  He's done plenty of hiking, both in Utah and in the Seattle area where he lives, but 3 days on horseback was a new element. 
Steve rode Coco, and Eric rode Boss, our calmest mount.  (The orange wear is because it's bow hunting season.) All of the horses were loaded with overnight packs, which included light backpacking-type overnight gear and food for the humans, plus hobbles and highlines for the horses.
Mischief and I were ready to go, too.
Signs were a bit confusing in places (note the crossed-out direction).
The trail wound through a spruce forest:
and past serene lakes.
The meadows and even the steep, rocky slopes delighted us with end of summer wildflowers:
(bog gentian),
We ascended from the 10,200 ft trailhead to the rocky Fox Queant Pass (11,400 ft/ about 3400 m):
where we entered the Uinta Wilderness Area. 
Don't worry, the horses had boots on, and the humans got off and walked wherever the going was especially tough.
Join us in tomorrow's post, as we continue our "survival" adventure!

August 23, 2010

Trail Boss

The Boss is back. 
This was our first ride with Boss and Coco.  They got along fine. 
We rode up an Indian Canyon trail for some excellent mountain views.
On a windy, rocky ridgetop, we stopped at a small grove of Great Basin bristlecone pines. 
If you enlarge, you can see the bristles on the cones that give the tree its name:
Bristlecone pines grow very slowly and can live over 4000 years. 
We'll be gone the rest of this week. With luck, we'll have some fun adventures to share when we return. 

August 21, 2010


On our last ride, Coco experienced a lot of varied terrain. 
Here he is, walking over a little ravine with panache:
He's getting a lot of practice crossing water.  He takes a careful look:
eases in:
and trots up the other side:
Getting his feet wet doesn't seem so bad any more.

August 19, 2010

Big Country

Huge open spaces and vast quantities of public land are great advantages of living out West.  We feel like explorers of 100 years ago when we ride into the mountains.  Above, Coco and Steve trek through a meadow at 11,000 feet. 
Mischief and I make our way through tall grass near a high country lake:
Daisy follows where Coco and Steve lead:
We rode about 17 miles and returned to the trailer hungry and tired:
but never too weary to enjoy a magnificent mountain sunset:

August 14, 2010

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

We rode north of Strawberry Reservoir in Goldilocks (just right!) weather today:
A neighbor came along with his big quarter horse, and we all had a most successful outing.  (On a ride, "successful" generally means no one got hurt.  In this case, though, the ride was successful in every way.) 
Coco made a friend:
The views were outstanding from the ridges, as always:
Coco performed well.  He did much better on stream crossings.  He didn't even need Mischief to coach him, although Mischief was ready and willing.
One surprise was seeing this:
We were riding past a camping spot near a road when one of the horses jumped at the strange sight.  We went closer and talked to the chain saw artist for awhile.  His carving was unfinished, so he gave us a little demonstration of his working style:
It was fun to watch, and fortunately, the horses didn't seem upset by the noise.  They just grazed, enjoying the break. 

August 12, 2010

An Arab Gentleman

We've been busy finding and acquiring a new horse.  Here is Coco, a half Arabian beauty: 
He's also a gentleman.  We went on a ride today with Steve on board Coco.  We traveled to the top of Mill Hollow (located off of Indian Canyon).  He did everything Steve asked.  
Coco had only been ridden English before, so he had to learn about carrying a bigger saddle and saddlebags, and come to terms with the new signals from a different rider. 
Mischief, the old man of 20, taught the young whippersnapper a few things.  Coco wasn't sure about strange cattle troughs, but Mischief demonstrated how to approach.  A downed tree seemed a little scary, but Mischief coached the younger horse on that, too.  And when Coco was reluctant to get his feet wet in a small stream, Mischief showed him how. 
Coco has a funny way of immersing his entire nose when he takes a drink.  While drinking out of the stream he actually blew bubbles!  (Wish I'd gotten a photo.  I'll work on that on our next ride.)
Here's Professor Mischief, back at the trailer. 
He had fun being the leader for a change. 
We still have Boss, who hated to be left behind.  Now that we have 3, we'll be able to rotate the stock on weeks when we're lucky enough to ride often.

August 7, 2010

A Potpourri of the Weird

We've had some unusual sightings on Uinta trails this summer.  Here is a naked broom-rape Orobanche uniflora.  It's a parasitic plant containing no leaves or chlorophyl.
It gets its nutrients from other plants such as lanceleaf stonecrop Sedum lanceolatum, which were plentiful in the area.
The stonecrop doesn't look that tasty to me, but Wikipedia says the leaves of all stonecrops store water and are edible.  Hmm, I learn something new every day.
 On the same hike, we ran across this carving on an aspen tree:
1844?  Is that possible?  A mountain man might have been here then.  That's about it.  The other question is whether an aspen tree could live that long.  I read that they can live about 150 years, so the date is a little bit of a stretch, tree-wise.
Assuming the carver wasn't being purposefully deceptive, maybe it's 1944, distorted by time.  Yes, that's more likely. But who the heck is K.B.? 
Now, consider this trough:
It seems to have been carved out of a tree trunk, a long, long time ago.  Someone put tar on the inside to make it waterproof.  Could this be the work of the mysterious K.B.?
We saw these fossils on a hike in Albion Basin near Alta Ski Resort, at 11,000 feet: 
They look like sea shells.  So, how did organisms from the sea get to the top of a mountain?  Seas dry up, mountains rise, and voila, we have fossils that seem incredibly out of place.
Sometimes the natural world is stranger than fiction, if we take the trouble to look closely and examine what we find.

August 5, 2010

Limit Testing

On a recent hike near Brighton Ski Resort, we hiked to Catherine Pass and enjoyed a view of Superior Peak, part of the Wasatch Range.
My daughter and family were with us on this hike.  She blogged about it here.  And she used this same photo!  I feel justified in re-using it, since it came out of MY camera!
Isn't this tree is an amazing survivor, growing in such inhospitable terrain?  We were too far away to be sure, but we think it's a limber pine, which often fills the ecological niche on high, windswept rocky cliffs:
No one paid any attention to the sign:
Is that a skull in the lower right corner? Whoa, that's harsh.
The sign rises high above the trail.  In winter, skiers standing on many feet of snow will see it at eye level.
Speaking of warnings, and rebels, look at these guys:
They had toes over the line.  No wonder Father Sky is looking angry:
For more skies, angry or glad, click here.

August 2, 2010

A Midsummer Day's Dream

The area north of Strawberry Reservoir is a wildflower heaven in its summer glory. Above, you can see pink geraniums, purple penstemon, a paler purple lupine, and scarlet gilia, to name a few.
The views are spectacular any way you look.  To the south, toward Strawberry Reservoir:
To the east, toward Mt. Timpanogas:
Or to the west, toward miles and miles of river valleys, most of which is public land:
To the north are the High Uintas, also magnificent, although I don't have a photo to share of that sight. 
We rode down old two tracks some of the time,
or just cross country:
Daisy makes her own tracks, chasing after whatever catches her interest. 
Elk are always exciting. We saw a huge herd on a ridgetop: 
Daisy ran in their direction but quickly realized catching up with them would require a long climb and a lot of distance.  Good thing she saved her energy, because we rode over 15 miles that day and 3500 feet of elevation gain and loss.  With her extracurricular excursions, Daisy must have run at least 30 miles - plenty of exercise, even for an exuberant, hi-lee gifted yellow lab. 


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