Continuing with our vacation highlights – we had a little hitch once we hit Wolf Creek Pass after leaving Creede. The little truck started cutting out and coughing. You can probably relate to the feeling we got at this point – kinda sick and a little dazed when we looked at each other and wondered “what the heck?!” Well, after getting the check engine light code read in Pagosa Springs, we limped into Durango where we spent the next 2 days enjoying (sarcasm) the big screen in the dealership lobby waiting on the parts that would get us on our way again.

Wish we could have taken in more of the town (even though we’ve been there before), but without wheels or any idea when the parts might arrive, we were kind of stuck. Lucky for us, our friend TJ Holmes (Spring Creek Basin Mustangs Blog) was in Durango one evening and took us to dinner where we talked about all things horsey and caught up a bit. Thanks TJ! Our plans had included spending a couple of days in the Basin with her, but with our little “issue,” we just weren’t sure how things would play out.

Finally at the end of day two at the dealership, the little truck was ready to go and so were we! It was already late afternoon, but heck, there was still some time if we hurried to see part of Mesa Verde before sundown.

Click on the photos for larger/sharper views

The scenery along Far View road

After the fires…

Blooming cholla cactus at the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum. We spent some time at the museum learning about the history and the various inhabitants of the area and viewing the displays. Pretty fascinating.

Spruce Tree House

Turkey vultures were plentiful above the cliffs

I called this little guy Stumpy since he was missing part of his tail. We found him sunning at one of the stops along the Mesa Top Loop Road.

House of Many Windows

Cliff Palace

Hemenway House - tucked up there in the top left corner of the photo

Navajo Canyon

And there was a surprise as we were leaving the Loop Road. A lone wild horse. I’m told they wander in from the Ute Indian reservation. Apparently, there are a few bands near the Far View Lodge.

Less than a mile from where we’d seen the horse, we spotted this nice buck (in velvet).

Well, it was a lot less time than we would have liked to have spent there, but we enjoyed what we had managed to see and we had to push on if we were going to have any time with TJ and the wild horses of Spring Creek Basin.

We left Cortez the next morning and rolled into the Basin around 9:30. Just after entering, we came upon our first band.

The band stallion, Chrome

We weren’t with the horses long before I was distracted by something Tom found – and of course, I just had to photograph it. 🙂

Colorful Collared lizard

This young stallion (Hayden) kind of snuck up on me as I was photographing the lizard and when I turned around, he had this great, "whatch doing?" look that made me laugh. Don't you just love his little heart-shaped star?

The foal's dam, Two Boots. Whatcha got there girl?

Bachelors playing

Momma Luna with Varoujan (quite the name!)

Bachelor boys

Foal in Bounce's band

We finally ran into TJ and we hung out for a couple of hours before the weather started to turn and we decided it might be a good idea to head out before the possible downpour (which was badly needed – it’s dry in this part of Colorado). Again, not nearly enough time, but a nice visit with TJ and the horses.

We were off to Nick’s B&B in Whitewater, CO (that’s what we call my father-in-law’s place). With the unexpected expense and loss of two days, we had to change our vacation plans a bit and start home a little earlier. Still, we were going to have the opportunity to spend time with family and I managed to get hold of some folks I’ve always wanted to visit. Sometimes things work out the way they’re supposed to. 🙂

While Tom stayed home with his Dad the next day, I took the truck and drove south. First stop, Delta, Colorado and the Stirrup Cup Farm. I was going to be meeting fellow photographer Barb Young just outside of town – she would lead the way to the farm since she had been there before.

A couple of years back, I posted about a Sand Wash Basin mare and foal that I hoped to follow only to find out that the foal had been removed during the 2008 roundup.

Sand Wash Basin HMA mare and foal - photographed in 2008 just before the roundup.

I wrapped up my post by saying that I hoped he’d found a good home. Well, he certainly had and in 2009, I posted a follow-up story after hearing from the adopter of that little guy…and a few more of our wild ones:

Mary and I have stayed in touch and I’ve wanted to go over the mountain many times to visit all their adopted Mustangs, but it’s never worked out – until this trip. Mary had just sent me photos of Nobody’s (the Sand Wash foal) third (third!) birthday. Wow, how quickly the time had passed. Well, this was my chance – I was finally going to meet Mary and Dusty and their “herd.”

The handsome Nobody from Sand Wash Basin

Sister Hazel (also from Sand Wash and another one I had photographed before her removal) with Nobody.

Mary with Sister Hazel.

They’re so beautiful with their unique markings so characteristic of many of the Sand Wash Basin horses. But there were more yet to meet. My tour was just beginning. We were off to the indoor arena.

This is Cassi (pronounced Kacey) riding Mac, a Mustang from the McCullough Peaks HMA in Wyoming.

Mac and Cassi

And this is A Boy Named Sue from Sand Wash Basin. A great story. Mary and Dusty took a chance on a 6 year-old stallion and he's been an absolutely wonderful horse!

Barb, Dusty and Mary. All three have rescued and/or adopted, promoted and given wonderful homes to some of our wild horses.

I can't remember all of their names, but I believe this Mustang was from Nevada. He wants to get pretty chummy with Barb. 🙂

Playing with Barb's hat

I believe this is another Sand Wash Basin boy. He's a big 'un.

And this is Petey - he's also from Sand Wash Basin.

Me, Mary and Petey.

Petey’s sire is the black stallion Jet. He is still out in the Sand Wash Basin HMA.

Jet on the far right leading his band last summer.

Band stallion Jet

And one more - this is Sheepcamp. He's gorgeous isn't he?

Sheepcamp is also from Sand Wash Basin.

And Sheepcamp's sire is the unmistakable Palomino band stallion, Corona.

Band stallion Corona from Sand Wash Basin.


Sheepcamp's dam is Cheyenne. She is still living free at Sand Wash Basin.

Wow, what a morning we had there at Stirrup Cup Farm. Great folks and beautiful horses. I was so glad to have finally had the opportunity to spend a little time there. I look forward to going back. Thanks Mary and Dusty for sharing part of your day!

Until I can make it back myself, I’m trying to talk Mary into being a periodic guest poster on my Blog so we can follow the progress of the horses. She’s very busy with the farm, but I hope she’ll consider it.

The day wasn’t over yet. Over the years, I’ve seen photos that Barb has posted of her Rainbow Farm and I’ve always wanted to see where the beautiful pictures were taken. Well, and there was another, more personal motivation for wanting to visit Barb’s farm too.

In 2009, I became involved with an animal cruelty seizure case through the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and volunteered my photography to help advertise and promote the rehabilitated horses (some Mustangs) when they were ready for adoption into new homes.

The adoption went quite well, but my favorite little black Mustang mare (from Piceance Creek) didn’t find a home. Fourteen years old with little handling – her options were pretty limited. In a last ditch effort, I posted her information on Facebook and within just a few minutes, Barb had responded that she’d take the little mare and give her a home at Rainbow Farm. Woo Hoo! That’s when I posted another story: “Gypsy Goes Home” about the day Barb came over, loaded up Gypsy and took her over the mountain to her new life. I just love a happy ending! 🙂

Gypsy in the middle flanked by horsey friends that share her habitat. Romeo (a Welsh Cob) on the left and Ruby (another rescued Mustang) on the right.

Forgive me (I met many horses that day), but I think Barb told me that this boy was going to be available for adoption at some point in case anyone is interested. Is that right Barb?

A boarded horse - isn't she beautiful?

Another 4-legged member of the family. An Aussie/Golden Retriever cross. Cute, cute, cute. 🙂

Go girl!

I just fell in love with this face. How could you not? Meet Cleo!

Barb and Cleo.

Cleo even has her own Facebook page! Feel free to stop by and say hello.!/pages/Cleo/232078220148575

What a wonderful location and some lucky horses. Driving down Barb’s long driveway, I started to reflect on our days away. Even though it was shorter than expected, I’d say our vacation turned out pretty darn well all around. Maybe not exactly what we had planned, still, some really good memories were made. 🙂

Part One of our vacation highlights:

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While not exclusively horses, I thought I’d share some images from the southwestern area of Colorado where Tom and I just spent 10 days.

Our first stops were the Monte Vista and Alamosa National Wildlife Refuges.

Click on the photos for larger/sharper views

The brightly colored Yellow Headed Blackbird

Ruddy Duck

A Coot youngster

An American Avocet

Ain't I something? 🙂

First thing next morning, we were on our way to spend the day on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad – America’s highest and longest coal fired, steam operated, narrow-gauge railroad. Cool! I’ve been on the Durango Silverton and the Georgetown Loop, but this was my first time on this train. Our adventure began in Antonito, CO and ended in Chama, NM with a lunch stop in Osier, CO. Loved it and what a wonderful fall trip this would be!

Our mighty little engine

Making last checks before heading out

Blow out!

Known as the Speeder, this little car hangs back and follows the train to put out any cinders that may hit the ground thus preventing a fire.

Indian pictograph along the route - gotta be quick to catch this. The train doesn't slow down! 🙂

Los Pinos River valley

During our ride, we met a young family from Ohio; Ryan, Carrie and Aiden. Ryan is a railroad buff and had been on a section of the route once before. He explained quite a bit about the mechanics, history, etc. of trains and when he remembered a particularly scenic or dramatic scene along the way, he always alerted me. Thanks Ryan! 🙂

Hi Ryan!

Aiden spent most of the day on the observation car (as did I - I have cinders in my camera sensor to prove it). The red booster step was his constant companion.

Our lunch stop - Osier, CO. The train from Chama, NM (going the opposite direction) is already there.

The Chama train departing Osier and heading towards Antonito, CO

At the Cumbres Pass Summit (10,022 ft), we are greeted by a guy and his dog on an ATV. Hi!

Last blow out before coming into the Chama station

End of the line - Chama, NM (we rode the bus back to Antonito).

What a great day – a bit sunburned and windburned (but not bad) with a few cinders in the teeth and eyes (trophies – HA!), but so worth the incredible views. I’ll be back!

I’ll also be going back to Stunner Pass just to the SW of Antonito, CO. A bit high, but very doable (especially if you come from the southern side – you’re up against mountain the majority of the time) and absolutely gorgeous scenery. We camped one night just below the summit. Just a perfect trip. And did I mention something about it being GORGEOUS?! 🙂

The pass follows the Conejos River for quite a ways.

We ran into these guys on the road in the little town of Platoro, CO along our route. My kind of place!

Looking back on Platoro

Summitville, CO

This was both a gold and silver mining location

Something old, something new

Lots of really pretty runoff streams along the way

Approaching the summit

So peaceful

And there's still snow up there! 🙂

At the end of the drive, we found ourselves just west of South Fork. We weren’t sure where we’d end up, but this worked out well since our next destination was Creede, CO.

Downtown Creede

There's a loop you can follow just north of town that takes you to some of the old mines and buildings.

More streams...

We took a road we'd never been on and ended up at the Last Chance Mine. It's location is not for the faint of heart. It sits on a cliff edge and it's about a 2000 foot drop. Gulp!

It’s a very intesting setup and history however. You can find out more about it on their website: Last Chance Mine

They rent cabins for donations (again, cliffy, high locations), there’s a museum and it’s the home of Creede’s Amethyst Vein (my favorite stone). If we’d had more time, maybe I would have tried my hand at “mining” (also part of the activities available).

Some of the items attached to the outside of one of the cabins.

This sits out over the cliff - I will never have to go that bad!

And so does this deck. Sitting out there is one brave individual.

You can see this as you leave the Last Chance Mine.

Looking down at Creede

We stayed just west of Creede at Freemon’s Ranch and enjoyed a horseback ride along the river and into the foothills. The folks there are very nice and next door is their little store that they claim has the best burgers and ice cream around. We tried both and they may be on to something. 🙂

Hi cowboy! 🙂

We spent another day just driving around enjoying the sights and critters around Creede and Spring Creek Pass.

North Clear Creek Falls

Cow moose and calf

Chippy with his face stuffed in a dandelion (see all the seeds spread all over?). I have a whole series of images with this little guy. He was too much fun to watch.

Our state flower - the Columbine.

I just love these colors.

And, a very curious marmot shared his home with me for a bit.

My follow-up post to this trip (Part Two) will include some more incredible Colorado locations as well as many horses. 🙂

Photos are for viewing purposes only. 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.

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