Early in July, on the 1st actually, the dogs and I drove to the top of Green Mountain, in Wyoming, to spend a week or so in that very special place.
I had stumbled upon Green Mountain in 1970 when on my way to the Grand Tetons and then the Pacific coast. I went back for the first time last year, forty-four years later. A few things had changed — like a rudimentary BLM campground about half way up that hadn’t been there on my first trip — but for the most part not much had changed. Many of the larger trees had been logged off and had been replaced by second-growth, now thirty or so feet high.
Last year we had camped at the edge of a flat meadow, at the very top of the mountain at slightly over 9100-feet. The Green Mountains are home to 300-400 wild horses, mustangs, that have been there for a very long time. One band of them would come out onto the meadow almost every day, graze for an hour or so, and then go off to wherever they had come from in the first place.
This year we camped on the opposite side of that same meadow, and saw the same band of horses, plus a couple of colts. As if they were ‘used to’ us they came closer to our camp and stayed longer this time. Emma, Miss Bossy Boots, reminded them several times that they were to keep their distance. Jack was indifferent to them. He thought they were interesting to watch, for a while, but he quickly got bored with them and found something more exciting to do. Eventually I shooed them away as with horses come flies, and these flies seemed to think our camp was a bonanza of fresh meat.
In addition to the mustangs, Green Mountain is home to elk, whitetail and mule deer, black bear, lions, moose, and — courtesy of the government — a wolf pack introduced there a few years back. None of the meat-eaters showed up. Something I was not disappointed about.
This was the first away-from-home outing for the moto-pony and it did yeoman service. It amply vindicated my judgment that it was the tool I need for exploration and access to back-country places— with cameras and tripod, too. Jack and I made 4-5 mile runs almost every day, sometimes more than one. He reveled in it.
The ‘peak’ of Green Mountain is actually a five mile long plateau, with a slightly higher eastern bump. All along this plateau are wonderful views of the Great Divide Basin. The Oregon Trail and the Pony Express route run close by on the north side. Landmarks eighty miles away could be clearly seen on a day without haze.
On the south side of the mountain the ground falls off steeply. There are jeep and ATV-trails down that side, but they are steep, rocky, often deeply rutted, and in many places even jeeps are warned off them. On two separate occasions I made the journey down and back with Wyoming friends who are experienced back-country ATVers and motorcyclists. I managed to dump the bike three times on one expedition, but all were low-speed wrecks with no damage to me or the bike. I did learn that this was not a place to ride alone. Much too dangerous. One of my friends, much younger than I, had broken ribs back there and had to be carted out. If it could happen to him, it could happen to me much more easily. (The sign, courtesy of a nameless BLM wag, says "Main Road.")
We stayed two weeks on this trip and we’re hoping to get back to Green Mountain in September.
A few days ago I was on my motorbike going to a distant pasture and I ran over this fellow. I saw him too late and all I could do was avoid putting on the brakes. I stopped and went back. He seemed unhurt, and very angry at me. I was glad I hadn't hurt or killed him as he is a bull snake and an excellent mouser. Some folks value them because they believe they kill poisonous snakes. We have no rattlers here so that's not really a reason for me to protect them.
I called Jack over to see the snake and was very pleased to see that he didn't want any part of it, staying very close to me in the proper heel position and just looking on with mild interest and, I imagined, some distaste. I can smell a large snake myself so I can imagine what it must be like for dogs. Some dogs have to be conditioned to avoid snakes, but Jack has been blessed with some aversion towards them since puppyhood— something I have been happy to encourage.
And darned if the very next day I didn't run over another one on the road, also on the moto-pony. Again he was uninjured and again he was very disappointed in my treatment of him. In both cases the heavy lugs on the tires and the soft ground kept them from being injured. Of which I am glad.
I am working on cleaning out and rearranging my shop building. This deceased citizen was in the bottom of one of the boxes I am triaging and discarding. There was a kind of macabre beauty to him and so I had to photograph the corpus. Few small corpses survive so well. There were evidently no flies available to give him the last rites so I assume he perished during the winter. He will have no sarcophagus, and no tomb, but he has been memorialized, in a way.
On Friday I went to a roundup and branding that I have attended for almost a decade now. It's always a good event, attended by a fine group of riders and ropers. And of course the BBQ at the end is worth the trip alone!
These events are the 'social events of the season' and I get a chance to see neighbors I haven't seen since the last one. It's a time of good fellowship, gentle ribbing, and hard work. Two batches of 250 calves each were handled between about 7 in the morning and noon. It went very smoothly and no one got hurt. That is how a rancher evaluates his branding: if no one got hurt, it was a good 'un.
I am very happy to report-- ecstatic would be more like it!-- that Jack is doing fine. The vet prescribed a one-month of antibiotics and at the end of that, late last week, his x-rays showed no signs of the spots that had appeared on the first set. That means that what we saw on the films was not cancer, but rather some unidentified infection that the drugs knocked in the head.
Since we don't know what the infection was I will have to keep a close eye on him in the weeks ahead. But for now 'all is well' and I couldn't be more pleased.
Rain, rain, and more rain. Not the insistent downpours my friends in Texas are getting, but a steady, day by day rain that keeps you inside while the grass grows, and grows, and grows. It may be good for ranchers (who are, after all, grass farmers) but it can be unnerving for those who would like to be outside. Like my dawgz. We've gotten over 6" so far in May, and that's about half of our annual rainfall.
Yesterday, though, we got the first weather window in a couple of weeks: a lovely Sunday afternoon with warm sun and balmy breezes. It allowed me to get out and do some jungle-hacking with a weed-eater as well as a few more outdoor chores. But then, as the day waned, the sky 'stormed up' and it looked like a return to the days of gloom and rainfall. And, sure enough, it rained again over-night.
The forecast is for another week, at least, of the same. Going to town for me involves about seventeen miles of tarred two-track and then another seventeen miles of dirt. Given even two days of rain, or a sudden soaking downpour, the dirt becomes gumbo and virtually impassable, even for a 4WD vehicle.
We'll be needing dogfood toward the end of the week, rain or no rain.
He developed a cough on our trip. Not extreme, but intermittent. At a recent routine exam/vaccination visit to my vet, he thought some x-rays might be in order. The radiographs revealed spots on his lymph nodes.
Since we had been in the desert Southwest, and since Jack had been digging in pursuit of the elusive marmot, Desert Fever of course reared its ugly head. A serum sample was sent off to the vet school clinic at Fort Collins. A week of tenterhooks, for me, followed.
The report came back negative for VF. That's good news, in itself, but opens up the specter of lymphoma. My vet, in whom I have great confidence, felt that Jack was not presenting as had most of the dogs he had seen who had turned out to have a lymphoma condition. So a 21-day course of antibiotics was launched, to combat some other, unknown, infection. Jack is on day three. At the end of the 21-days a new set of x-rays will be made. If there is no improvement it will mean a trip to Fort Collins and an aspirant biopsy.
I am so afraid of lymphoma. My last three males died of some sort of cancer before their time.
Fortunately, Jack shows no sign of illness except for an occasional gagging cough. Today a bit of that, y'day none at all. I do so hope that is a good sign. He is active, appetite good, spirits normal. I would give a finger or two to keep it that way.
Later we camped for a few weeks in the Prescott National Forest. The urge to explore and reach out into the countryside got even stronger. There were miles and miles of NF roads and trails and ranch roads that begged to be ridden, explored, photographed. I did the best I could with the fine little bike, and got a lot done, but realized that there had to be a better way for an ol' guy to get around in such country and not be deprived of any Go-See compulsions.
When I got home I made the decision:
There were weight considerations, since I intended carrying the moto-pony in a special carrier on the back of the trailer. I figured that less than two-hundred pounds was the limit. Reliability was also a serious issue. Getting ten miles out in the desert is great; getting back is even greater. The 100cc Honda fit the bill on both counts. Only 10HP and 170-pounds but it's a peppy little cayuse and will take me where I want to go and get me back to camp without a lot of stress. I also appreciate that Honda says it has a "bullet-proof power plant." I don't take that literally, but I know about Honda reliability from other equipment I own and it is very reassuring. I have several months to get used to it here on the place and on a couple of summer trips before we get back to the Southwest next winter. I'm looking forward to it.
Sunrise from our camp west of Quartzsite. Quartzsite is a very strange place indeed. It has the air of a carnival, and the overall feeling is that you will come back in the morning to find everything, and everyone gone, nothing left but a few tent pegs and some discarded beer bottles. We camped about seven miles west of the town itself and thus avoided much of the sleaze.
I found myself wanting to explore more of the desert than I could manage on foot, so I decided to buy a bicycle. I made the trip down to Yuma and came back with a nice hybrid mountain bike.
The bike worked a treat, but I found the going (i.e., pedaling) pretty hard work on most of the desert terrain. As much as I liked the bike I realized that if I were to have real access to the desert I would need something that catered a little more to this Ol' Guy's abilities. The story continues...
Where we stayed for that month in New Mexico was surrounded by desert flatland-- at the foot of the Chiricahuas to the west and the Peloncillos on the east. My Shorthairs, Jack and Emma, loved to take long, rambling walks in the desert. There were plenty of doves and occasionally quail for them to sniff out, point, and wonder at why I did not have the Browning.
They have different hunting styles, those two. Em stays erect and moves gracefully from thicket to thicket, head up and alert. Jack, on the other hand, 'does the lowdown.' When he gets birdy he crouches as low as he can get and glides across the ground. When he's really on the prod he scrapes his chest.