Wednesday, August 9, 2017

21st Birthday Trip

My family has a special tradition where our dad takes us on a trip, just the 2 of us, on our 21st birthday. He pays up to a certain limit and we pay anything over that amount. We plan our trip to go wherever we want and do whatever we want (within reason of course). Being the avid horse person that I am, I decided to take a break from horses for a while to go camping in the middle of nowhere and observe wild horses in the beautiful state of CO in the BLM’s HMA - Sand Wash Basin! We cooked our own dinners over open fires the whole time we were camping! We added a few other fun things in as well, and the best part was that we were on our own time schedule completely. We did end up changing our plans while out there, but more on that later.
We spent all the first day driving up there, then stayed in a small town at over 10,000 feet elevation for the next 2 days and went white water rafting & mountain top zipping. Quite the fun experience! We rafted in 9, level 4 rapids, in a 7 mile section of the Arkansas River. Then we headed a little bit further north and did some lake kayaking.

White water rafting the Arkansas River

After we finished, we drove another 4 hours to the NW corner to camp in Dinosaur National Monument, which was our base for the next week. We went to church in Maybell on Sunday and made friends with the locals who gave us some helpful tips to accomplish what we’d really come to do. Find the wild mustangs! For those of you who don’t speak my language, here’s a word key:
 BLM refers to Bureau of Land Management; they are responsible for maintaining the horses and land. HMA refers to a Herd Management Area, the area in which wild mustangs live. Sand Wash Basin, AKA the basin is the name of this HMA. A band is a group of 3 or more horses with at least 1 mare and 1 stallion (remember, there are no geldings in the wild). A pair is 1 stallion & his mare. A band stallion is the family stallion that controls that band of horses. The band is known by the stallion’s name. A satellite stallion is a stallion that lives with a band, but is not the band stallion and does not control it. He does help defend the band against rival stallions, but the band stallion determines how much contact he actually has with the band. A bachelor stallion is a stallion without a mare. Most of the time they live in pairs, but sometimes there is a group of them or they live solo. They tend to go around dogging bands a lot in hopes of getting a mare for themselves or taking over a whole herd.
Kayaking Lake Dillon

Map of Dino Monument - we camped in Deerlodge Park

Our campsite

We spent all day Monday in the basin, driving 65 miles just in the basin looking for horses. With almost 700 horses on this HMA, you would think they’d be easier to find. But the space combined with the user friendly, but guest resistant terrain and their broken or dark coat colors, made them extremely difficult to spot. We found the best place was within a 2 mile radius of the water holes, which there are about 5 during the summer. We did manage to find these bands that day, along with Storm’s band. He had the newest baby in the basin at less then a week old at the time, and didn’t want us getting close enough to get a good picture.

Storm band - has the newest baby, look on left side

Mateo band

Half Moon band

Buck, Mystic Wind & Whisp - Buck band

WildHeart, WildOne, Honey & Rainman - Rainman band

WildSoul - bachelor dogging Rainman band

Corsandra, Cortez, Katarina, Cachina, Asha & Joy - Cortez band

Asha & Joy - Cortez band

Flame, Refuge & Tecumseh - Flame band

Tuesday, we got back up and in the basin bright and early. We saw several bands; some wouldn't let us get very close and some were impossible to hike out to because of the terrain.

Chief & Brave bands

Buddy band

Eagle band

Tecate, Hopscotch & Streaker - Tecate band

JJ - bachelor

About 2:30pm, we heard a hissing sound and realized we had a flat tire. At this point, we’re 12 miles in the basin and then 17 miles from the nearest town that didn’t even have a school! We headed out and called one of the locals we had met Sunday, so just in case we got stranded, someone would know. He told us they had a tire guy that could patch it in the town, and he’d send someone out to check on us. What d’ya know! You only have a signal on the hilltops out there. We made it 14 miles and decided the tire could go no further so stopped at a ranch 2 miles outside the BLM land to ask for air. Three very nice gentlemen there, who barely spoke English, gave us the air and, after noticing our spare, insisted on changing it for us! Turns out it was a piece of greasewood. The tire guy in Maybell, Sid, then patched it for us and we headed back to the basin at 4pm. Got 1 mile in and realized we had another flat, same tire, but MUCH worse than the last one. Barely made it back to the ranch to change the tire again. Then back to Sid’s to patch another tire. This time it was a 3/8” blunt end bolt! Needless to say, at 5:30, we decided to just go back to camp, as tomorrow was another big day anyway.

Wednesday, we got up bright and early and headed out on an all day road trip to hit some nearby states we’d never been to. We also went to the Olympic Park in Park City, UT and went tubing down the 64km and 95km ski slopes!

Tubing down the 95km slope

Driving back to camp at night, through the mountains in WY was not fun. They have open range there. You cross a cattle guard and now you’re driving through the pasture! Here we are, driving in the mountains, with cattle, pronghorn, deer, and elk standing on the road. Thankfully, we made it back safely and did not hit any animals.

Thursday, we headed back out in the basin. We found a few scattered bands and bachelors here and there, then came across a large group of about 50 horses.  There were about 8 different bands and several bachelors hanging out together. We also got a third flat about 2:00. This time, it was a rock. Back to Sid’s it was, to get it all fixed up (after we stopped at the same ranch again for air).
Maggie & Thunder - Thunder band

Flynnigan Joe, Solitare & Straight Arrow - Thunder band

Twiggy - Thunder band

Large group

Cosmo band

Eclipse band - Brayley, Checker, Spirit Dancer, Eclipse & Mimi

Prince band - Prince, Moonlight, Sunshine, Twinkle Star & Stardust

Snowman band - Heidi, Snowman & Mayday

Mayday - Snowman band

Star band - Meteor, Riddler & Star

Meteor - Star band and the only palomino pinto in the basin

Haze band - White Sage, Acacia, Juniper, Haze, Shock Top & Cheveyo

Shock Top - Haze band

Dancer - bachelor
Hoot - bachelor

Bachelors Outlaw & Milagro

Femur - stallion  & Sand Shadow - mare

This time, we just headed back to the campsite to prepare for breaking camp in the morning. Originally, we were going to go back out in the basin Friday morning, spend half a day, drive to Colorado Springs to camp 1 night, and go to Pikes Peak on Saturday morning. With all the flats, we decided that wasn’t the best idea, so instead, we decided to break camp very early Friday morning, drive to Colorado Springs and visit Pikes Peak and Focus on the Family headquarters. Then camp 1 night and head home early Saturday which would put us home 3 hours early. So we left Maybell at 6am and drove 6 hours to Colorado Springs.
Pikes Peak

The road up

At the summit

We finished a lot earlier then we thought we would, so we decided to head out into Kansas and camp there. We got to our campsite at about 11:30pm and decided that since we were only 5 hours from home, we’d just push on through. So, instead of getting home at 11pm Saturday night, we got home at 5am Saturday morning. Meaning we drove over a thousand miles, plus stopping at a bookstore and going up a mountain, in just under 23 hours! We had a wonderful time, but are very glad to be home.

For those of you that know me, and know that I’m not a photographer at all, I took over 700 pictures! Mostly horses, of course! Special thanks to Victoria for letting me borrow her camera and take it on such an adventurous trip so I could get some good pictures. Even though Sarah wouldn’t let me take hers!!😜 

Posted by Abby

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