Thursday, June 28, 2012


Thursday June 28 2012

Colorado is Burning.

It's a firestorm of epic proportions, said the incident commander. It's an act of God, said another exhausted official. Some wildfire veterans say they've never seen anything like this one.

The Waldo Canyon fire line rages along the western side of Colorado Springs, flames engorging the skyline over the city, filling the front range with smoke up to 20,000 feet in the sky. The flames are 1 1/2 miles from my brother's house. They evacuated 2 days ago and are staying with friends, anxiously listening, watching, hoping, and praying.

I've heard and read about and glanced at pictures of wildfires over the last couple of years, big fires, burning tens of thousands of acres, and I thought, bummer. But now it really hits home.

As of Thursday morning - 5 days after the fire started - over 18,500 acres (29 square miles) had burned with 5% containment. The cause is still under investigation. 32,000 people have been evacuated. Hundreds of homes have been destroyed. So far, no one has died or been injured, which is a miracle.

Today, mercifully, the weather is cooperating somewhat, without the 60 mph multi-directional gusty winds that have made the fire so unpredictable and out of control, although there is still wind, and record heat (in the low 90's) and low humidity, and the chance of thunderstorms, increasing the possibility of more fires started by lightning. Firefighters from around the country and across multiple agencies are now in place on all edges of the fire, and expect to contain a larger portion of the fire today with the better weather.

Not to underestimate the danger to people, the danger to large animals is also real. This photo has been posted on Facebook and several news websites:

Volunteers are hauling away horses and cattle from the danger zones. reports 200 horses have been evacuated from near Manitou Springs and are being cared for.

Stolen Horse International (
offers free listings to any owners who are missing horses from the fires (as well as other major disasters).

Horse Evacuations East ( connects people who need evacuation assistance and shelter for horses during a natural disaster to those who can provide it.

Consider donating to Stolen Horse International, or to the Humane Society of Pikes Peak Region online at

(As always, when donating to any cause, do your homework and make sure it is not a scam - the Good People come out in an emergency, and so too, unfortunately, do the Scammers.)

Two weeks ago we had a fire in Owyhee County along the Snake River 20 miles from here as the Raven flies, over the trails we'd just ridden 2 weeks earlier on the Owyhee Fandango endurance ride. The winds kept it moving away from us. A month ago, a small fire started about 10 miles from here, closer to the mountains. A thunderstorm may have started it, but another convenient thunderstorm kindly put it out.

But if we had a closer fire? It's not like we'd be told to evacuate - we'd just have to keep an eye on things and decide for ourselves.

It makes me think - what would I do?

Get the horses out of here first of all - trailer them if there's time, drive them, chase them, cut fences...

And then? If I had a day… or a couple of hours, obviously I'd have time to load my car, or a horse trailer with stuff.

But if I had 30 minutes... or 5 minutes… what would I grab? Computer, cameras, Raven, passport…?

If you had 5 minutes, what would you grab before fleeing?

P.S. Thursday night update - my brother's neighborhood so far survived, and the southern part of it has been downgraded to a pre-evacuation notice. (But it's not out of danger yet - his northern area is still under evacuation notice.) Fire size is down to 16,750 acres at 15% containment, 346 homes destroyed. One person has been found dead so far. Tremendous progress today by the firefighters and cooperative weather.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

City of Rocks: Circle Creek High Trail Video

Wednesday June 27 2012

Here's one more look at one of the prettiest trails we'll be riding on the City of Rocks Pioneer Trails Endurance Ride next month.

And this video rocks! Gaelic Storm sings the song "Beggarman."

I dare you not to tap your feet!
[video here]

(or link)

Monday, June 25, 2012


Sunday June 24 2012

'Twas not a dark and stormy night, but a late afternoon for a mare weeks overdue.

In all my years around horses, I've never witnessed a foal being born. Carol called me this evening, "Mirage is having her baby now!"

Judy and I rushed over, and…. waited.

The mare laid down and got up, laid down, rolled, got up, paced, laid down and strained and rested and strained and rolled… I started getting a little nervous. Was she supposed to be rolling?? (yes) How long was this supposed to take? What if something went wrong? We live out in the boonies - it's not like a vet can get out here short of a few hours.

When the mare's water broke, we knew it shouldn't be long now. But we waited… and waited… She'd lay there, strain, lay there, sit and look at her belly, lay some more, get up, go right back down, lay there, sit and look at her belly… for HOURS it seemed.

Finally, we could see the foal sack starting to emerge, but that stage seemed to take forever, too, with the mare getting up and down a more few times.

Eventually we could make out a hoof inside the sack, then another slightly behind the first (the correct presentation), but even that stage seemed to take forever, with the mare getting up and down a few more times again.

Then she laid down, and then came the final heaving, but not much more of the foal progressed into the world… and then the foal sack broke. Not good.

Carol was already there, had her hands on the one leg… but she could no longer find the other leg. The clock was ticking - if the foal didn't get out soon, he'd suffocate. Finally she found the leg and started pulling when the mare contracted… but the foal still wasn't moving, and now it was getting a little more urgent. Judy and I jumped in, each of us grabbing a foal leg, while Carol pulled the sack off the baby's nose, and when the mare pushed, we three humans pulled for all we were worth... and out slid the first 3/4 (the widest part) of the baby.

His tongue was hanging out of his mouth, and he looked… limp… well, dead...

and then he blinked an eye.

LJ Owyhee Quartzite was one Big-A** live foal. When I say he was big, I mean he was born with giraffe legs! I don't see how that thing fit in the mare much less came out of her.

No time to waste in this new world - within five minutes he was working on standing up.

That was enough horse birthing for me - too stressful!

check out the bottom of the foal feet when they're born!

The night report from Carol was that he made it up and nursed, and the mare passed the afterbirth.

Carol's photo of The Big Q on his first day on earth.

And all is well on the crick in Owyhee.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Friday June 22 2012

from around the country 

they rosin up that bow and step into the spotlight

champions, virtuosos, sensations, prodigies

fantastical fiddlers, masterful musicians

fast and furious fingers fly

waltzing down the neck

reeling across the strings

toes up hoe down

polka, mazurka, bluegrass

just spectacular!

If you've never been to the Weiser, Idaho's National Oldtime Fiddlers' Contest, you're missing something phenomenal.

The way the fingers fly across the frets and strings - that just ain't right. It's beyond incredible. Dang it's good!

(this gal was my pick of the Young Adults - I think she finished 3rd)

(or link)

last year's Grand National Champion Katrina Nicolayeff warming up

Thursday, June 21, 2012

City of Rocks: Salt Lake Cutoff/Emigrant Trail

Friday June 15 2012

I made a fun video of Friday's 20-mile ride at City of Rocks, on the historic Salt Lake Cutoff trail up Emigrant Canyon, onto the California Trail through City of Rocks National Reserve.

[video here]

(or link)

You can see more of my photos and stories from City of Rocks, (especially scenic on Jose in the fall!) and info on the upcoming endurance ride at

Monday, June 18, 2012

City of Rocks: Circle Creek Trail

Sunday June 17 2012

Sunday we did the most spectacular trail in City of Rocks National Reserve - the loop up one side of Circle Creek, past Elephant Rock, along Rat Poop Trail, past the Bread Loaves (very popular climbing rock), way up into the aspen and fir forests to Indian Grove, and down the other side of Circle Creek. We'll probably do this trail on Day 1 and Day 4 of the July 11-14 endurance ride.

Jose and I are passing through where one of the vet checks will be.

Judy and Milan 

Just a spectacular view of the Circle Creek valley

Steph and Rhett pointing out something else spectacular

You can see my previous stories, and more photos and information on the ride at

And… videos to come!

Friday, June 15, 2012

City of Rocks: The Emigrant Trail

Friday June 15 2012

We followed the Emigrant Trail into City of Rocks, in the footsteps of over a quarter of a million people in the mid-1800's. This trail will be part of the 4-day City of Rocks Pioneer Trails Endurance Ride in July. Here are a few photos from today's 20 mile loop that we did.

an old stage stop on the Emigrant Trail, with the famous Twin Sisters peaks in City of Rocks in the background

Judy and Steph on the Emigrant Trail

Jose and me! Coming up the Emigrant Trail

Jose and me! Twin Sisters in the background

Jose and me! Circle Creek valley

Jose and me, Judy and Malaysia, at Camp Rock. Emigrants used to camp around this rock in the central part of the park (it wasn't a park then, but a very popular stopping point) and park a wagon or two in this cubbyhole of this granite monster

Many more photos and stories (and videos to come!), and plenty of info on next month's ride, if you're planning to come! at:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

City of Rocks Adventure

Thursday June 14 2012

We're off to City of Rocks, to finalize the details for Steph's upcoming City of Rocks Pioneer Trails Endurance Ride coming up in July.

Camping out with the horses, riding Jose, exploring, taking photos, making some videos... stay tuned!

Monday, June 11, 2012


Monday June 11 2012

What is it about internet discussion groups that occasionally bring out the worst in some people? Typing somewhat anonymously behind a computer screen sometimes gives license to certain people to lapse into the 'You Stupid Idiot' syndrome when they are typing their superior answers to someone's perceived stupid question, when they would never have the balls to say it to someone's face. It turns into a bickerfest, a virtual game of whackamole on the computer screen, the arguing and petty squabbling more important than the original subject, which has become long forgotten and unanswered.

That's one reason I've never joined one particular professional photography organization, whose chat group I found bursting with condescension by some experts to those wanting to learn. It is possible to be helpful without those extra hurtful words, but sometimes it seems one can get drunk on power when you peck the words out on a keyboard.

On some days, Ridecamp on, full of passionate endurance riders, has experienced this YSI syndrome. Most days, most years, it's filled with good questions and answers and information exchange about all subjects endurance, from beginning riders to veterans with tens of thousands of miles.

On one particularly, um, passionate day, I came up with another 'Camp some people might want to join:

But the more I thought about it, the more categories I realized we needed, to be politically correct and all, and not get mobbed by those who didn't quite fit in either 'Camp.

And so, I came up with a number of spinoffs for different folks:

Rudecamp for the Rude People

'Toodcamp for the Religiously Right (and I'm not talking religion, I'm talking I'M RIGHT and YOU'RE WRONG)

Snidecamp for the Disparaging

Dudecamp for the Stoners

Stewedcamp for those Far Beyond Help

Moodcamp for the Manics

Broodcamp for the Deep Thinkers

Nudecamp… well, better not, because of young riders

Prudecamp for the Prim and Proper

Pridecamp for the Holier Than Thou

Winecamp, either Red or White

Whinecamp for those who just want to whine, about their fellow riders, their horses, the weather, and fellow 'Campers

Rantcamp (thanks Keith Kibler, for this one!) so you can just let it all out

Runtcamp for the Little People

Spiedcamp for those who left Ridecamp but need to do a little espionage on other people in other 'Camps.

Friedcamp for those who just can't take the other 'Camps anymore

Bridecamp for those in, or about to be in, a select group

Shiedcamp for those who are too timid to try any other 'Camps

Criedcamp for those brought to tears

Diedcamp, for those who have passed on but still like to keep up with the other 'Campers

Please pick your proper groups and sign up. Some cross posting might be allowed for humorous purposes. If you post in the wrong group, John will design an algorithm program to sort your replies into the right category.

In all seriousness, Ridecamp is a great source for endurance information and advice, in the current discussions and the archives. It's just that once in a while, in a sport with such passionate people as endurance riders, Some People wake up on the wrong side of the bed and don't get their coffee for the morning, or for whatever reason need to feel better about themselves on a given day and pontificate in a special way that only finger punching on a keyboard can produce. It's not personal.

And if it is - and this works for any internet group - just have a laugh, take the best away from it and do 3 simple things: Delete, Delete, Delete.

We can all laugh about the online stuff, because you can see from the photos out on the trails what a completely serious sport this is.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Owyhee Secrets

Saturday June 9 2012

While out pulling ribbons from the Owyhee Fandango endurance ride, I came across this young gopher snake digging a hole. I didn't want to get too close because while they aren't poisonous, I hear they can give a painful bite, and I didn't want to bother him at the task at which he was very intent, so absorbed that he ignored this beetle who didn't seem to realize he was in mortal danger. (But then, maybe beetles taste bad to snakes.) I couldn't see anything through my camera screen so I was guessing at what I was shooting, and I was holding my arm out as far as possible, but in this video you can still see the excavating skills of this snake.
[video here]

In addition to the Raven cliff nest I stumbled across with 4 noisy fledged Ravens, I discovered a new hidden little canyon and cave as I cut back to my starting point across country. 

Sometimes when you're out in the boonies and you stumble across something really cool, you fantasize that maybe you're the only person to have found it (not counting the Native Americans who lived here before the whites took over, because in 'our discoveries' we never count the Native Americans - but of course they always knew these places first). I'm unlikely to have been the first white person to find this cave, since not far downstream is the Rock Corral and the sentinel caves surrounding it.

But it is likely few modern people have stumbled upon this place, where the cave overlooks an intermittent creek which, by the looks of the thick trees and vines in the middle of it, runs permanently in this little canyon.

I approached the cave somewhat warily (always looking out for cougars!), and while finding it empty of large mammals, found it large and roomy and accommodating - to rats and mice and perhaps bats. The ubiquitous packrat nest occupied the far end of the cave which dissolved up into a notch in the rock wall, and little nests were stuffed in little pockets in the ceiling. 

No old archeological signs, no obsidian, and no mammal footprints or recent bed impressions in the cave, in which I could have comfortably stretched out or sat tall in, but there was a trail (not used recently) which ran from the mouth of the cave down to the creek. Something larger than a rat has used this cave at some point.

The red cliff walls were a miniature rendering of the deep rhyolite canyons that run on this parallel across the base of the mountains - maybe a million years ago it was one of these deep canyons, or more likely, in a million years, it will be one of these deep canyons. And maybe in a million years, some New Age person will stumbled upon this 'Cave Canyon', and wonder who 'discovered' it, long ago.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Rambunctious Ravens

Friday June 8 2012

From a mile away, I hear them Raising Cain: rowdy raucous ravens rambunctiously renting the air with their Rawking and hollering.

I cross the sagebrush flats and head directly for the noise echoing off the red cliff wall. Bright whitewash dribbles down from a black hole indicating where the Raven nest was.

These 4 siblings have already fledged, bright black and brashly bold, commanding the red cliffs and lone juniper tree 
and in fact the whole Owyhee world. Perhaps it's not a wise strategy, attracting attention to their young, vulnerable, delectable selves from miles away - but then any predator might well be intimidated by the damage these 4 birds can inflict by sheer brashness and by volume alone.

Irreverently, they yell their emphatic opinions as I approach closer: Intruder! Predator! What the hell is that! Danger! Go away! Dare you to come closer! What the HELL is that!

And when I speak: "Hi Ravens!" - the Ravens shush. We stare at each other in a face-off. They study me, heads tilting and eyes blinking to size me up better, and they begin to whisper amongst themselves, What the hell IS that!, and then pretend to ignore me, picking up sticks and carrying them around, scratching their ears, turning their backs to me (while eyeing me over their shoulders), deliberating my intentions, muttering back and forth under their breaths.

As I climb the hill closer to the Raven Tree, one undaunted bird flies onto a boulder above me and yells Intruder!
"Hi Raven!" I say. He stares imperiously down on me from his safe perch. 
My boulder! 
"Hi pretty Ravens!" 
Our canyon! 
"You Ravens are noisy!" 
Very noisy! 
"And beautiful!" 
"And bold!" 
The siblings get vocal again.
Our canyon!
Rawk! Shriek! Yell!

Boldest Raven dares to leave his boulder and fly low in a circle over my head, staring down at me, before flying off to another perch.

"Bye Ravens!" I say, as I continue climbing up the hill, away from their Raven Tree, but already they are ignoring me, picking up their Raven conversations where they left off: 
My canyon! My tree! Look at my stick! Get that bug! I'm hungry! Where's mom and dad! My Kingdom! I'm beautiful! I'm bold!

They are rulers of their roost, these beautiful Ravens, ready to take on the world, but hanging around the home castle, just in case Mom and Dad might come back and feed them some more. 

Fat chance of that, with these brazen boisterous youths. Mom and Dad fled the coop to be rid of them!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Owyhee Fandango Recap

Nick and his beloved Don at a 100-mile vet check!

Tuesday June 5 2012

It didn't turn out quite as it was planned… but what ever does?

The "F" Team, the Tres Fabulosas, started as me, Connie, and Carol, riding Jose, Finneas and August in the 100 miler, ultimately ended with Connie and Finneas, Carol and August, and Nance and Jasbo successfully crossing the 100-mile finish line around 1 AM Monday morning.

But, as were all Fabulously Flexible Fabulosas, it all turned out good.

I ended up riding Jose on a 50 on Day 2. On Day 3, Steph started out as a Fabulosa with Connie and Carol; she entered Batman in the 80 miler (which started at the same time, 6 AM), and would decide after 80 miles if she wanted to elevate to the 100 miler and continue onward with Connie and Carol.

She decided Batman had done enough at 80 miles, so it was down to Dos Fabulosas Connie and Carol to finish the 100, until Nance and Jasbo joined the group leaving camp at 10 PM or so in the dark, following glowsticks that John had just put out by ATV.
Connie and Finneas at a 100-mile vet check

13 of 17 riders completed the 100, including Kathleen Edman, riding a beautiful Rocky Mountain horse Pierce the Veil, who elevated from the 80 to the 100. At the Awards Monday morning, Connie, still in her pajamas, gave a speech (kinda like the Oscars) about the completion of her and Finneas' first 100-mile ride. She promises to write a story about it for this blog, which should be as hugely entertaining as her speech, for which Steph threatened to have her dragged off stage for its length.

That was it for another year of the Owyhee Fandango - rather poorly attended this year, but great fun for all involved.

Here's the video I took and made of Day 2 on Jose:

You can watch all 6 videos I made of the ride, including Sunday's Fabulosa 100-mile ride (camera worn by Steph on Batman! - it's a bit wobbly because of the helmet cam harness Steph wore… hence a lot of still shots in the video!) on the Owyhee Fandango ride page on

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Snake River Ferruginous Hawks

Saturday June 2 2012

It was more ridiculous cuteness - a hawk banding day with the BLM on the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, just like the screech owls in May.

In addition to nest boxes, now-retired BLM biologist John Doremus also put up nesting platforms on the grass prairies above the Snake River, which the ferruginous hawks favor. Here a baby is standing up on the nest as Jessica climbs the ladder. 

BSU students and raptor banders Jessica and Patrick had the honors of retrieving the babies from the platform nests and banding them while regaling us with Ferruginous Facts.

Here Jessica is removing babies from the nest. She uses one hand to distract their attention, then puts her other hand on the back of their neck, in effect pinning them down so they can't open their wings. Once she reached underneath to grab the feet, they didn't struggle.  

The female usually lays 2-4 eggs, sometimes up to 6. The first nest we visited had 5 young and the second nest had 2 young. Both adults incubate the eggs for 28-33 days, and then tend to the young; the young will fledge at 44-48 days.

Adults are white and rust colored - hence the name ferruginous, which derives from the Latin ferrugo, meaning rust. The legs are feathered down to the toes, but not underneath, which makes sense, so that the feathers don't get soiled.

They're a little larger than a red-tailed hawk; females are larger than males. You can see the difference here - female is on the right, male on the left (Patrick said this male is a little older than the female).

Main prey is the jackrabbit and ground squirrels, both of which are abundant in this area. The hawks also eat gophers, birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects. We found remains of ground squirrels in both nests.

The adults left the nest long before we got anywhere near it. The pair at the first nest were quite vocal and made some half-hearted dives at the first 3 people at the nest, though when the rest of us approached after the babies were down on the ground, the enraged pair flew high above screaming their contempt. At the second nest the adults were not so vocal nor aggressive.

These nestlings are panting because of the heat and stress, though once you get a hold of them out of the nest, they really relax and tend not to struggle, because they don't have those instincts yet - their instinct is to sit still and hunker down at this age. 

When we handled the birds we kept them shaded and handled them gently, just keeping hold of the feet. They aren't able to use their wings to flap or struggle yet, and they don't use their feet as weapons yet - and good thing, because look at the size of those claws and talons!

Here Patrick fits a silver band with a federal number on the baby's leg. All but one of the babies was banded, he was deemed a little too young (about 24 days), and his legs would probably grow a little larger. The other babies' (ranging from roughly 28-34 days) legs were already adult-size.

Notice this circular path in the cheat grass around this nest - it must be predators - coyotes? - circling the nest, eyeing the contents - it's a dog eat bird world out there, and chances of survival for the young are against them. With luck they will successfully fledge and learn to hunt and survive in the big world.

More ridiculously cute Ferruginous Hawk baby pictures.

I tried to slip one in my pocket to take home but those darn banders know how to count.