What happens when you mix a BLM meeting in Craig, CO with the Sand Wash Basin Wild Horses near Maybell, CO, winter weather in February and 4 gals who love wild mustangs? You find strength you didn’t know you had, friendships that will last forever and adventures you have to experience yourself to appreciate.
Since I was able to finally share the meeting notes regarding the Sand Wash Basin horses recently I thought I would also add in some details about the trip out to Craig, CO. You honestly didn’t think we would drive all that way and not attempt to see the horses did you? Snow? What snow? We had a couple of weeks back to back before the 2/2/2013 meeting that dumped a few feet of snow. I was contacting friends that lived out there or who were already there right up to the moment we were leaving. They reported that roads weren’t too bad all the way to Craig, CO but that wasn’t what I cared about……………….what about the roads to the horses? Every report that came in wasn’t good but there was a chance on our way out there Saturday that it would warm up and melt a bit. Would it be too much to ask for 2 feet or more of melt in 8 hours?
Deb met at my house, she doesn’t have horses but she has worked in the animal industry her whole life and loves all animals, especially the horses. We picked up Megan who is proudly owned by a mustang she adopted a couple years ago and from Megan’s place we picked up Kriszta who has owned mustangs and horses and actually spends weeks in the back country re-enacting buffalo camps; like the cowboy and Indian days. They spend weeks in the back country with no phone service, no internet and no bathroom. Just so we are clear – that’s too much uncivilization for me and I’ll be staying home on her next trip out there wishing her well and much fun! I’m happy to live that excitement through her eyes.
What I didn’t mention yet is that we didn’t all know each other very well; I’ve known Deb for years from a distance. I met Megan about 8 months ago from a distance and Kriszta I had just met at a meeting about mustangs a few weeks before. Megan knew Kriszta but they didn’t know Deb. Four women in a rented 4 wheel drive, driving 5 hours one way on icy roads to a BLM meeting – what could possibly happen? The things we do for the animals that we love. Although Megan and Kriszta owned wild horses, none of my friends had ever seen the Sand Wash horses and two had never seen wild horses in the wild.
Our trip to Craig went well, we made it with about an hour to spare and although the roads were icy they weren’t too bad. We went to the BLM meeting at 1pm and the first question we asked was how much snow was still out where the horses are and has anyone been out there? Oh yes, we did ask how some of our other friends were doing, but after we asked about the road conditions. The news wasn’t great, almost everyone refused to attempt getting out there. The meeting was a couple hours long which gave us a couple hours left of daylight to get out to Sand Wash Basin to check the roads. You honestly didn’t think we’d give up and head home with our tails between our legs did you?
We rushed out to the horses, as a matter of fact I think the highway patrol officer said I was rushing too much but we made it safe and sound anyway. Our spirits lifted a bit when we saw tire tracks and the vehicle we were in fit almost perfectly in those tracks. Did I forget to mention that I only recently moved to Colorado in July and this was technically my first off road adventure in snow? Well, that’s okay, it really isn’t important; the girls had given me great instructions on how to make this happen more than once on the way out to Craig. I did pretty well not allowing it to fish tail and slide and we made it in about 3 miles, up around the hill you zig and zag up but we hadn’t seen any horses yet and we were starting to worry. When we topped the hill I noticed there wasn’t much snow there, as a matter of fact you could see the dirt and my heart raced……………..we can go further!
We sat on the hill scanning the land below us and still, no horses, so I asked if we should continue on. The three of them have done this all their lives pretty much and if anyone knows about this stuff it is them. They all agreed and said we should keep going. I looked down the road, picked my track and gave the car gas and away we went. It was amazing!! I think we went another 50 feet and the car suddenly slid to a stop. We all sat in the car and looked at each other for a few seconds and then Megan and Kriszta jumped out to see what had stopped us. Deb and I tried to jump out with them too however our doors kept bumping into the snow that was over two feet up the side of the doors. I think that was when I realized how we got stuck and what stopped us. I looked to see where the sun was, we had maybe two hours of light left. Deb and I had thrown a camping shovel in the car at the last minute and they went to digging. After the first 30 minutes it was pretty obvious that unless a flash heat wave were to occur, we weren’t going to budge.
At the meeting Megan had spoken with a lady who gives wild horse tours out at Sand Wash Basin all year long and the lady gave Megan a business card. Megan wanted to talk to her more about riding a captive wild mustang out with the wild horses and how safe that was. I don’t think we intended to use that phone number so soon, but that was the only person we knew or could call at the moment, if you have cell service of course. Four cell phones and only one had service, we’d take it. A little over an hour later this wonderful lady and her husband showed up to rescue us! His Dodge pulled this 4 wheel drive right out of the snow with the parking brake still on and made it seem easy! They had us follow them back out to the paved road and once there we asked them to let us take them to a big steak dinner or pay for fuel – they refused. They mentioned that it would be best to stay out of Sand Wash until after spring when the snow melted and the mud dried and we agreed they were right. We followed them back to town, dodging deer, elk and two domestic cats along the way.
We went to dinner and when we got back to the hotel Megan and I tried to find a way home that was safe where we might be able to see other wild horse herds. Sadly the roads through Wyoming were horrible or closed and going home along the I70 with weekend ski traffic didn’t sound like much fun. We were resigned to simply heading home in the morning.
Kriszta’s husband called late that night and his comments about why we would go so far, why would we give up, we can do this – was what she relayed to us that morning. We all looked at each other, loaded up the car, grabbed something to eat and drink and headed right back out to Sand Wash Basin! We knew we could safely get in for at least 3 miles and from there we would walk till we found horses. The day before I had learned a very valuable lesson; do not ask three very experienced Colorado girls how far you should go UNLESS they are actually looking at the road! So as we left the safety of the solid pavement, I made them promise not to look for horses but to watch the road to tell me when to stop while I looked for the horses! Far safer.
About a mile in we passed some teenagers in a Dodge pickup exploring along the road which made me feel better, worse case they could help us out. In another mile I was looking at all the snow and sage brush where the hills came into the flat land and in the middle of all that white, about a mile out, I saw grey horses nearly blending perfectly with the snow. I yelled “horses” and slid the car to a stop. I carefully checked all my mirrors for traffic and since there wasn’t much we left the car right in the middle of the road, changed clothes, grabbed the camera gear and started walking.
As we got closer to the horses I was able to see that it was Cosmo’s band and on the other side of a gully was Hoot, Kiowa, Juniper and another young stallion. We stopped about 200 yards away as Vogue and Cowgirl watched us and as we were standing there the expressions on my friend’s faces made the whole trip worthwhile, tears of happiness at just being in the presence of these horses were on everyone’s cheeks. We discussed the horse’s personal comfort zones and how each horse is different and that same horse might be comfortable with you being so close today and it might change tomorrow. Cowgirl was a bit more concerned than the others but she did allow us in pretty close to the herd. I scanned the hillside for any other horses that I may have missed and was stunned to see two other warmly dressed creatures with cameras on the opposite side of the gully! We hadn’t passed any other vehicles coming in but the kids with the Dodge. I finally spotted Robin’s truck on the top of the hill where we had gotten stuck the night before.
Kriszta headed across the gully to get closer to the four horses on the other side while Megan, Deb and I stayed with Cosmo’s herd. We discussed the dynamics of the herds; the lead mares, who appeared to be very much in foal, how healthy they all looked and we watched as Rounder provoked Cosmo into proving who the official band stallion was here. We marveled about how even though sorrels are not our first choice on the color list, how Milagro didn’t just have wonderful conformation but he had a wonderful disposition as well and if not able to remain free would make some lucky person an amazing horse.
Megan quickly filled an 8GB card with images as we watched Kiowa curiously approach first Robin and then Kriszta on the other side of the gully. Hoot had his hooves full trying to prove he was the main stallion over Juniper and we watched him snake her around and spar with the other young stallion that followed behind them.
Three hours never goes by as quickly as it does when you’re standing in the middle of nowhere, in God’s country with God’s wonderful animals. When you see wild horses that have been adopted and are now living safely with new owners you can’t help but notice the wildness about them and wonder what their lives were like. Being out here with them, seeing them how they are meant to be, living free and watching over each other can bring you so much more joy than you can ever imagine. It was difficult to pry ourselves away knowing we wanted to be close to home when the roads started to become icy again. We still had to make it back to the main road which after seeing Cosmo’s band seemed so far away.
Our tires hadn’t even hit the pavement leaving Sand Wash Basin when we were all already planning on when we could return. Of course it should be after the snow melted and the spring rains dried up and it would be safer when the deer and elk headed back to the high country. How does next week sound?!
To my friends; Deb, Megan and Kriszta – thank you for sharing this adventure with me! I couldn’t imagine anyone else I’d have as much fun doing this with as you guys! I look forward to our next adventures and can’t wait!