Salt Wells, WY Wild Horses – July 2010
August 14, 2010
I didn’t know quite what to expect when we decided to go out to this HMA. A year or so ago, I was advised (by a BLM employee) that this area was extremely rough and remote and I’d better be very well prepared to spend a night or two in the event of a vehicle breakdown or rain (roads would be impassable) as it wasn’t a well travelled area. Well, that pretty much discouraged us from planning an immediate trip until I heard that these horses were to be rounded up this Fall. I hated the thought that these horses would disappear and few would know that they had even been a beautiful part of the environment since certainly the ruggedness would be a factor in how many people would have actually seen them.
So imagine my surprise when we arrived to find wide, graded roads within a lush, expansive landscape shared by all kinds of animals with abundant water sources and lots of forage. It was incredible and I felt cheated that I wouldn’t know these horses longer and better through what I can only interpret as misinformation designed to keep me from doing just that. Grrr.
Click on the images for larger/sharper views.
Some of the abundant wildlife we saw.
While I was absolutley elated by the conditions of the range and the animals, there was a disturbing aspect as well. These signs were posted throughout and they made me cringe – they were in several locations where we stopped to photograph horses.
Though the area is rarely visited (sarcasm), we stopped one of the natural gas guys on the road and asked him about the signs. He explained that everything was shut down at the moment since the processing plant didn’t have the capability of separating natural gas from the H2S (hydrogen sulfide). This is also known as “sour gas.” I asked what would happen in the event of a leak and was told that most of the gas would just dissipate into the atmosphere. And if someone or something was standing close by? It’s only a problem if you’re in a direct stream was the response. Though I wanted to continue, I quit asking questions at that point since the answer had created some obvious uneasiness. I decided I’d Google it when I got home. (This HMA is utilized by oil and gas developers as well as livestock interests. It is also checkerboarded with private land.) To break the tension, I mentioned that we were there looking for wild horses. I could tell he was relieved by my new line of questioning and he was more than happy to tell us where we could find some.
In this post, I’m going to highlight just one area of horses that we came across. I call them the big meadow horses (just as a reference to their location).
They’re a ways off so I decide to find a place to cross and make my way to them. As I jump a shallow area, I notice something scurry off to my right. I’m a bit uncomfortable now (Tom is back at the Jeep) as I recognize the slinking, wave-like movement – it belongs to the very aggressive badger. I saw at least two. Didn’t like my odds much, but decided to give them a wide berth in hopes they’d let me pass without feeling threatened.
Take a look at those claws!!
Maybe they think I’m just a very strange looking horse. In any case, I’m allowed to go by without incident and I’m grateful. I’ve heard stories about the damage an angry badger can inflict. No personal experience required!
I continue to work my way towards the horses when suddenly the band stallion pushes his mares in my direction. They kind of scatter out in front of me in confusion (which I share).
The horses move off and I start back for the Jeep. I have to trespass on badger turf again, but I’m not as worried. If you just leave things alone, they’ll generally do the same.
The badger resides by this platform. Not a great location – I don’t like its proximity to the water source…
We’re run out of the area by a very nasty storm that closes in on us quickly. Despite the approaching thunder and lightning, I can’t resist taking just a couple more shots as Tom turns the Jeep around.
More horses coming from the west and we’re forced to leave!
The roads are graded, but they’re still made up of clay and that stuff is miserable when it rains. We don’t know the area, but we know we need to head east…and fast. We just barely make it to a paved road when the downpour hits. It rained so hard, we just pulled over onto a side road and took a nap. Hey, we’re not old (well, not too). The hours are long – up early and out late – so some forced shut-eye can be welcome. Of course I couldn’t get the horses that we’d missed out of my mind.
The rain never really let up so we ended up driving back into Rock Springs for a snack and I jotted down notes in my wild horse journal. I still had hopes that we could get back to the HMA later that day – and we did.
It was still overcast, but I like that light and was excited about going back to where we’d seen the big meadow horses. The new horses had been coming from the west. What was over there? I just had to see.
I’m barely out of the vehicle when I take this picture.
I don’t even realize until it’s too late, that there is a ridge and another valley below the one I can see. I startle some horses.
A stallion comes to check me out.
The horses stop and watch intently. Stallions coming from different directions are about to “discuss” boundaries.
I wish I was able to handle a still camera and a video camera simultaneously. There was so much activity and so many beautiful horses. It was big meadow magic. I wish I could’ve recorded it. What luck that we were able to make it back to this location.
A beautifully peaceful parting shot…
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