Christmas/Winter @ Piceance Creek HMA
January 19, 2016
Our first Christmas without my Mom. It just couldn’t be the same. We did our best to be festive (it was Mom’s favorite time of year and she would spend several days with us during the holidays), but Tom and I knew it would be tough. We decided to do something different and made plans to go to the Piceance Creek/East Douglas HMA for a few days while we had the time off.
Departure day was cold, overcast and the roads were not in the best of shape. The Jeep was loaded and we were packed and ready, so we thought we’d just see how it went. Once we got through Eisenhower Tunnel, the roads got better, but it was still slow going. The sun came out on Vail Pass and I took some pics through the windshield. I love how the snow looks on the trees when it’s so cold outside.
Our drive took about 2 hours longer than normal, so we knew we wouldn’t have much time in the range before we lost daylight. We drove straight there (via winding County Rd 5 off State Hwy 13 that follows Piceance Creek) instead of unloading things in Meeker first.
We didn’t know how good the roads would be once inside the HMA, so we opted for the main road across Pinto Mesa first since it’s generally the most well traveled. The Piceance Creek/East Douglas HMA has a lot of oil and gas activity so we figured people would still be needing to get to the well pads and the roads would be passable. (Note: to travel dirt roads in the winter, they must be frozen!). We knew the temperatures were expected to be cold, but we got more than we bargained for in that respect.
We went over Pinto Mesa without a single horse sighting, so we headed for 24X Rd in hopes we might find some in the 84 Mesa location. Once on 24X, we decided to let the dogs out for a little play time. The snow was deep where the road wasn’t plowed, so they opted to run on the groomed road. 🙂
We didn’t see any horses on 84 Mesa either. We decided to try another road – Duck Creek. The grader had not touched this road, but there were tracks to follow, so we figured we’d try it. (The snow is deeper than it looks).
Finally, we spot our first horses of the day.
We’ve seen this band before along Duck Creek, so we figured they’d be used to seeing us.
But they start to move away. I do my best not to make horses feel uneasy, especially in the winter when they need to conserve calories. I stood in place as they first go left (above), then turn around and head to the right.
I got back in the vehicle and we watched, then slowly drove down to where they settled down. We didn’t stay long before continuing down the road to Yellow Creek (also not plowed). We were losing light and we needed to start heading out of the HMA.
As we buck the snow and ruts down Yellow Creek, we come upon some deer making their own way through the snow.
And we watched this cute little guy nibbling on some branches alongside the road as the light was fading away.
We hadn’t seen as many horses as we’d hoped, but we’d only had a few hours. It felt really good to be outdoors enjoying the scenery and critters. This was definitely just what we’d needed and we knew the next day would be even better as we called it an evening.
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