Big Horns Redux

on the road again . . . .

on the road again . . . .

The lure of the mountains and a break in the rainy weather seemed like the combination we were waiting for to head back up to the Big Horns.  The prairie here along the Willow Creek Ranch road is lush with late summer grass which creates a beautiful contrast to the red sandstone ridges.

cormorant convention . . . .

cormorant convention . . . .

This dead tree jutting up behind a reservoir dam was full of cormorants catching the morning sun.  These birds are aquatic and aren’t commonly seen in Wyoming, where large bodies of water aren’t that plentiful.

a fabulous foursome . . . .

a fabulous foursome . . . .

These bull elk were drinking at a reservoir where we surprised them as we drove around a bend in the road.  They took off, but not before I was able to snap a photo of them.  In another month, they will be hanging out with “the girls” and fighting with each other for female favors, but for now, they enjoy their band of brothers.

a lonesome boy . . . .

a lonely boy . . . .

A young spike bull ran up the ridge across the road.  He did not appear to have been with the other four males, and I could not help but speculate that he was a fresh, cheeky kid who had been challenged for some infraction.

a very large bird . . . .

it’s a bird? . . . .it’s a plane . . . .??

A large lens captured this bald eagle having lunch.  Just as I adjusted to get a better shot, it flew into the sky.

hey, come back! . . . .

hey, over here please! . . . .

As majestic and grand as the mountains they frequent in summer,  these raptors can be viewed floating over the landscape in search of rabbits, squirrels, prairie dogs, mice and other little critters that make for a nice meal.

a little creature comfort along the trail . . . .

a little creature comfort along the trail . . . .

This was our first trial with a “three man” tent.  Perhaps three midgets!  An optical illusion made it appear the tent was square and we sited it so our feet would be downhill on a gentle slope.  Unfortunately, when it came time to go to bed, neither of us could “unfurl” in our sleeping bags as there was not enough leg room!  With much ado, we were able to realign our beds to go the opposite direction, which meant we both sort of rolled “downhill” all night.

bring on the marshmallows . . . .

bring on the marshmallows . . . .

The temperature was 45 degrees next morning, but a warm fire and a pot of coffee made life worth living.  The aches and pains of sleeping on the ground went away almost immediately!  Almost.

there must be a story . . . .

there must be a story . . . .

This wreck of a pickup has been sitting alongside the road for a long time.  It makes for some interesting target practice, and I couldn’t help wonder what happened to the bed behind the cab??  I also wonder why it appears to be such fun to blast it full of holes.  And what calamity caused the driver to abandon it on the spot?  It’s a long way from nowhere up here!  A stone marker in the upper left also remains a mystery.

prairie chickens . . . .

prairie chickens . . . .

Not far from where we camped we came upon a flock of sage grouse strolling through the grass. We speculate they were hunting grasshoppers, as we saw quite a few wings glinting in the sun and could hear them buzzing around.  No sagebrush in sight.

a valley full of beef on the hoof . . . .

beef on the hoof . . . .

A large herd of Angus was gathered at the Middle Fork crossing, likely in preparation for the trail drive down the mountain to their home range.  They were sleek and fat from their summer in the high country.

a lovely stream, and no fishing pole! . . . .

a lovely stream, and no fishing pole! . . . .

The Middle Fork of Powder River heads down the canyon, carving a path down the east slope of the Big Horns, across the prairie and on into Montana.

IMG_4998

The sky seems endless . . . .

The sheep seemed endless as well, as a huge band of them gathered on the mountain top.  Perhaps they are headed home as well, before the first snow catches them on the trail.The clouds continued to build and grow dark, threatening a storm.

the view to the west . . . .

the view to the west . . . .

Looking down from the west side of the Big Horn mountain range, the valley before us part of the Big Horn Basin and beyond in the distance are the Rocky Mountains.

range horses doing what comes naturally . . . .

range horses doing what comes naturally . . . .

This little band of horses included a wise looking old mule who dropped out of the photo to take a roll in the sagebrush, creating quite a dust up.  He remained out of sight until we had traveled on.  Darn!  I really wanted a shot of him.

lonely outpost . . . .

lonely outpost . . . .

This ancient cabin appears to have a new metal roof, which indicates someone still loves on it from time to time.  The little outbuilding on the right is a considerable distance to be an outhouse in this rough terrain.

home sweet home . . . .

home sweet home . . . .

A common sight in years gone by, this ancient sheep wagon served as home to a herder who would keep an eye on the sheep left in his care.  Along with a couple of sheep dogs, commonly Border Collies, the herders summered in the mountain until autumn snows drove them down to range land below.  A few wagons are still in use, but the thousands of sheep that once summered in the area are mostly gone, replaced largely by beef cattle.

dogs on an outing . . . .

dogs on an outing . . . .

These Border Collies are enjoying the ride from their perch in the back.  A thunder storm has been brewing and it is starting to rain.  Doesn’t look like there is room inside this buggy for two wet dogs.

after the rain . . . .

after the rain . . . .

This view from the Slip Road which switchbacks down the eastern face of the Big Horns was breathtaking after the thunder storm that swept the area.  The rainbow that arcs across the center largely disappears in this shot, which was disappointing.  This descent is a good distance north of where we entered the southern Big Horns, and the red rock formations reappear as we find our way home.

 

 

 

 

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