Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Raven Love Ride

Wednesday June 13 2007

It's 95* in Oreana. The dogs are passed out on the porch. The horses have all fallen over in the paddock. While keeping in mind it is not as hot as Malaysia, it is sweltering and I am moving about as fast as the dogs. A nighthawk – they just showed up about 2 weeks ago - is busy looking for bugs, but it's sticking to the shade of the locust trees. It's too hot even to nap. The thought of riding, the thought of doing anything, is unappetizing.

When we go out for a ride, it's not till after 7 PM. It's still warm, but it will cool down a bit as we head out of the Pickett Creek drainage for the Rim Trail for a sunset ride. Jose is always ready for a ride; he's usually the first one to come up and stick his head over the fence looking for his halter (or is it the bucket of oats he'll get while he's being saddled?) Steph takes her new Rushcreek gelding Mac and John rides his black horse, which I've renamed Hoss, after Hoss the Raven.

Instead of the usual route to the Rim Trail, we approach it from the bottom of the mesa, which starts as a thin line of rolling hills, and climbs up onto, and spreads out into, a mesa that eventually runs into the foothills of the Owyhee Front range.

There's a great temporary trail marker where we turn onto this trail: Hoss the Raven and his girlfriend, sitting on a little rock outcrop. They are doing Raven Love things: sitting together, preening each other, rawking and garbling to each other. We figure it's Hoss, because the two ravens sit there unbothered by the close proximity of 3 humans on three horses.

The trail whoops up and down, and we trot and canter up and down these, till Jose gets whiplash – to keep up he starts running down the hill, into the bottom dip and back up – and wants to start bucking. We slow down a bit for me and Jose, and because we want to linger up on top for the sunset, which looks like it will be spectacular, as there are remnant thunderstorm clouds lingering over and around Hayden Peak and War Eagle.

Jose is a bit of a gawker, always looking right and left as we go along the trail, and as we ride along the rim, which gets up to a hundred or two hundred feet above the Hart Creek valley floor, Jose seems to appreciate the view. He gets close to the edge several times and looks over it and down into the basin. We ride by where a hawk nest had for the last few years been used; it had been perched maybe 20 feet below the rim. Now it's tumbled down the slope, but whether it was from a windstorm or rainstorm or disuse, or whether it had even been occupied this year, we don't know. We do see a few hawks on our ride, either red tails or Swainson's. Red tails are always easy to identify when they're flying, because they have the dark shoulder patches, which no other hawks have. These hawks are either too far away, or they blend against the terrain so well that I can't tell if they have these dark patches.

The sun in the west has been hidden behind clouds, but as it bursts out of a hole in the dark clouds low to the horizon, it is an orange blaze hurling fantastic golden light over the golden desert, darkening the deepening blue shadows of the folded golden hills trickling down from the far mesa. We squint as the trail turns directly into the sunset, which blasts off a final yellow fireball before it sinks behind the mountains. We cross the sage flats to the northwest side of the mesa, which follows along Pickett Creek, back towards the house. Jose is looking off this rim too, walking closer to the edge for a better view, down into the drainage where he and his herd hang out.

We get back home just as it's getting close to dark. Austin the dog (picked up in Nevada as an abandoned puppy on Steph and John's Pony Express ride in 2000) comes out to meet us and Quincy barks a greeting from the house, while screech owls hoot along the creek, coyotes howl down the creek, and the rest of the horse herd whinnies and waits by the barn for their returning buddies.

It's cooled down now, time for a late dinner after another great Owyhee ride.

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