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.

DSC_0381-sVail Pass

DSC_0383-sVail Pass

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.

DSC_0387-sThe scenery along Piceance Creek Road (County Rd 5) was beautiful too.

DSC_0390-sPiceance Creek Road.

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. πŸ™‚

DSC_0395-sLittle Sage sprinting towards me.

DSC_0398-sMalakai’s turn.

DSC_0403a-sMalakai thinking twice about jumping into the drift.

DSC_0402-sLooking east in the 84 Mesa area.


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.



DSC_1654-s copy

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.

Photos are for viewing purposes only. Most images are available online at: Images by Pam Nickoles Photography, along with all site content are copyright protected and owned solely by Pam Nickoles Photography. Photos and/or text may not be used, downloaded or reproduced in any form without express written permission from Pam Nickoles Photography. Feel free to share, but please respect my copyright.

17 Responses to “Christmas/Winter @ Piceance Creek HMA”

  1. Maggie Frazier Says:

    Beautiful pictures! Nature – on its own – is so wonderful. Too bad so few horses, but I cant imagine there are a lot of bands left there. Looks like this one has been made very cautious about humans – with good reason. I’m glad you celebrated Christmas this way – your mom would be too.

  2. barbarakski Says:

    So sorry about the loss of your mom. Your pictures continue to be amazing. Blessings your way. bk

  3. Kathy Wharton Says:

    Pam, i cant believe your new dog looks just like my Aussie Indy too!

    Kathy Wharton❄️


  4. Mrs Shoes Says:

    Sorry about your Mom.
    Your talent behind the lens shows me scenery of places I will never see in person; the wildlife is a close second to my favourite of your subjects, the Wildies.

  5. Maxine Linney Says:

    Pam, your pictures are beautiful, as always. Thank you so much for sending them.
    I have never seen a dog like Malakai, what unusual coloring, he looks like someone painted him!
    Always good hearing from you.

  6. Lovely story and very festive looking pictures. Here’s to protecting this herd in 2016! Your mother is with you in spirit.

  7. Madelena Says:

    What beautiful photos! Would love to spend Christmas experiencing the peace and amazement of something like that. So glad to receive your posts once again Pam! I sure have missed them.

  8. Says:

    Hi Pam and Tom that is beautiful , we send LOL

  9. pnickoles Says:

    Thanks Maggie. There are horses out there. I just don’t know where they winter…yet. πŸ˜‰ I hope to get out there more often to find out.

  10. pnickoles Says:

    Thank you so much barbarakski. πŸ™‚

  11. pnickoles Says:

    I saw the picture of your Indy Kathy. We really do have look-alike pups in our lives. πŸ™‚

  12. pnickoles Says:

    Thank you Mrs Shoes – I’m happy you like the images.

  13. pnickoles Says:

    I like that description Max – like someone painted him. He’s called a red merle and yes, it’s crazy coloring. πŸ™‚ Always nice to hear from you too!!

  14. pnickoles Says:

    Thanks Ginger. Hoping 2016 is a good year for these guys and the rest of the wild horses!

  15. pnickoles Says:

    It was a great way to spend Christmas for sure Madelena. May just be a new tradition. πŸ™‚ Glad you’re getting the posts again. Pet all the horses for me!

  16. pnickoles Says:

    Thanks Uncle Gerry! We miss you and love you!

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