Saturday, August 29, 2009

Desert Storm

Saturday August 29 2009

Evening: a storm comes to the desert. Heavy blue clouds over the northwest flats. Thunder rumbles. A gray veil descends over the Owyhee mountains - rain is falling, working its way down Pickett Creek. Sun rays pierce the clouds, tinting them gold to the west and an eye-aching steel blue to the north.

The lightning flashes, so bright it eclipses the golden light. The thunder booms. I'm out walking in it. It's too beautiful not to. I'm not afraid this time... but then I'm not riding a horse in it, and I am sticking to the drainage, not up on the flats.

The rain arrives from up the canyon. Gentle at first, then big desert drops. It kicks up millions of miniature dust storms. It wets, then quickly soaks my hair, my shoulders, runs down my back, pours down my face. The rain releases the sharp incense of the desert - the sage, the rabbit brush, greasewood, the sand.

Lightning whirls in the sky, a bolt making a circle above the northwest bluffs. Two circles. Thunder chases the bolts around. I stare transfixed, pelted by rain, dripping now, like the desert. I'm part of the desert, looking skyward, soaking up the rain.

The heavy rain keeps on moving down Bates Creek, cleansing everything in its wake, taking the lightning storm with it. It finishes up with little sprinkles, just like it started.

The storm leaves in its wake the fiery sunset, storm clouds and rainbow: the visual orchestral finale of another Owyhee summer storm.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Owyhee: Wind Caves Trail

Thursday August 29 2009

Riding in the desert invariably makes you think of water: either you crave it, or you can imagine craving it; and you can always see the artistic handiwork and the results of great forces behind water - scare as it may be - after it has been there.

After reading Craig Childs' The Secret Knowledge of Water, I've never looked at the desert the same way again.

It was another day of exploring the Owyhee desert, another day of wandering about, and wondering about the secrets of water in the desert.

Three weeks ago some heavy summer rains in the Owyhee desert brought some flash floods through some drainages around here, and scoured some of the washes and canyons, uprooting sagebush and even some trees, and ironing out this particular wash that we rode up into a smooth, firm, sand highway.

Side washes left miniature alluvial fans that poured into the big wash. New rocks and roots were exposed; patterns were still left in the now-dry sand from swirling water, gouging water, pools of water. Channels of water - forces of weight and gravity and whimsy - sculpted extra-miniature carvings in the sand: shelves, bluffs, gorges, hills, cliffs, grooves - mirroring the desert landscape all around. One deep, winding wash revealed a 4-foot high shelf over a mini-amphitheatre - an awesome waterfall during the rains - now dry, waiting for the next gully washer.

Over the eons, water and wind have carved some of the rock/sandstone/rhyolite (I am coming back in one of my other lives as a geologist!) into Wind Caves or Gnome Homes... use your imagination.

At another place, water has tunneled a route through the rhyolite rocks to make a high-walled canyon. Right now it's overgrown with weeds - which naturally sprung up from the heavy rains a few weeks ago. Jose was obsessed with the tall clover-grasses (in another life, I'm coming back as a botanist!) - eating his way along as we bulled our way through the mile or two of narrow canyon. We crossed running water in the creek in some places; the water disappeared in other spots - and consequently, the weeds weren't so obnoxious there.

If you drove by this desert on the highway, you'd think it was mostly flat with a few hills.

You wouldn't have a clue how much is out here.

Maybe it's a good thing to keep these treasures a secret, keep these secret places hidden except for special occasions.

Come ride the 5-day Owyhee Canyonlands in September-October, or the 2-day Hallowed Weenies ride October 31-November 1, and maybe we'll show you the Wind Caves trail and some of the secrets of the desert.

More photos from this ride at

Dudley Speaks

Friday August 28 2009

Dudley would like to issue the following statement from the Owyhee Spa Jail where he's currently incarcerated:

"I would like to apologize for causing such a ruckus (again).

I apologize for scaring some of you from Owyhee County (the "Owyhee Thief" and all) and the upcoming Owyhee Canyonlands endurance ride.

I can understand how my latest escape and escapades led some of you to think there is a thief loose in Owyhee County.

Truly, this is blasphemy. It is slander. I am not a thief. I am hungry.

Therefore I can not help it that a saddle got stuck to my foot (I mean - who makes stirrup sizes just slightly smaller than my front foot, honestly!) while I was following my nose for apple-flavored horse treats after I escaped. I mean - who the heck left treats in the saddlebag anyway??? Oh - wait - I was apologizing.

I meant to say, I really am sorry for all the trouble I got into and caused. (But dang, that alfalfa and those treats sure were good!)

Because of my Good Behavior and Signs of Remorse (I have that look perfected! See above picture), I got released from the smaller Round Pen Jail and put back in the Big Pen Jail. Of course I went straight back to the spot in the fence where I escaped Thursday night and started to let myself out again. I got a nasty shock this time. Are you happy? Don't you feel sorry for me?

If any of you feel, like me, that I have suffered enough by being banished to jail, and put behind an electrocuted fence, and if you feel sorry enough for poor little me (I am little, really, just depends on from which angle or through which lens you view me) and all the trouble I have been in and caused, please come turn off my electricity so I can try to escape again without getting shocked, and get out and eat some more alfalfa and treats because I am so hungry (I promise I will try not to drag somebody's saddle around in the dirt and gravel again).

Or, please when you do come to the Owyhee Canyonlands (your goods are safe, I swear... well, unless you leave them out with treats), show me how sorry you feel for me and come give me big hugs and big treats.


Escape Artist Extraordinaire,

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Owyhee Thief

Thursday August 27 2009

Wake up this morning - I feel it - something's wrong. Things are amiss. Run outside.

Tack room door - taken off the hinges. Rug askew, equipment strewn - girth, saddle pad on floor. Saddle missing.

Something else out of place.

A big round brown horse. Outside the tackroom. Indulging where he shouldn't be. With a stirrup - and attached saddle - stuck through his foot.

The thief is Dudley. He escaped from his big pen. I knew it was coming - the night before, he'd ripped the white tape down that made part of his fence. It used to be electrified, but we had to move the electricity to the other pen, because Jose figured out how to step right over his fence. Dudley figured out now he could take down his white tape fence. I tied the tape back up, (Dudley watched me) but it was only a matter of time before Dudley got out.

Which he did last night. He must have first cleaned up all the hay laying out between the tackroom and the penned-up Canadian horses. Then he must have gone into the tackroom (not Dudley's fault - the door's been removed long ago, because it broke off its hinges). The bugger must have gone straight for my saddle, which had treats in the Raven bag. Dudley's got a one-track nose - dictated by his obsessed belly!

He pulled the saddle off its rack, and while opening and emptying the Raven bag of treats (I'll give him credit - he did not rip the bag in any way), somehow got his foot stuck in the stirrup, and left the tackroom dragging the saddle (with attached girth, and breast collar) back outside, where he went back to dining on hay by the Canadians (ooh, we are hoping it wasn't alfalfa, that could mean trouble). That's where he was when I saw him this morning.

I was startled to see him out there, shocked to see him with the stirrup (and therefore saddle) stuck around his foot, shocked that he wasn't panicking. I yelled for help, but Dudley still didn't panic (heck, he'd been wearing and dragging the saddle for a while, what's the big deal?), and Steph came out and worked the stirrup off his foot.

Now Dudley's in jail.

He's in the round pen until we can get the electricity back on his pen.

Not that the Escape Artist Extraordinaire hasn't escaped from the round pen once already, (and from everywhere else) and I'm not convinced electricity will keep him in his big pen... which he's escaped from several times anyway, though through different means than the white tape.

What to do with DUDLEY!

Guess I'll be hotwiring some fence this morning.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Who's Watching the Kid

Tuesday August 25 2009

The setting was just about perfect this evening - sun angle just right, light perfect gold for August - when I heard Finneas whinnying toward up-canyon from his pen. The two visiting Canadian horses were looking up-canyon.

Oh - looked like everything was set up for a Sprint-In - time to run out with my camera!

I was 30 seconds too late - I was halfway out in the yard when Princess skidded to a stop at the pens in a cloud of dust. Here came Stormy after her - dang! I was in the wrong spot, and he was sprinting like a racehorse. Missed him! He came to a stop with Princess in the settling dust.

Wait - where's the baby??

I started walking out into the pasture... nothing! Princess was acting like she never had a baby, but Uncle Stormy was hollering toward the canyon.

Where's the baby!?

Finally, I see a cloud of dust - somebody is coming....

Kazam, running with his tail in the air...

one or two more horses, I didn't even notice who it was, because I was yelling,


Then over the hill she came, last, whinnying, sprinting, long legs spinning like daddy long legs, trying to keep up with her babysitters. Smokey ran through clouds of dust after her uncles, whinnying, Wait for meeeeeee!

She caught up to the whirling pile of snorting horseflesh by the pens, kicked up her heels at somebody, whinnied again, went up and sniffed Dudley and Kazam, then headed straight for mom (who never made a noise) and started nursing.

I guess the uncles took over the babysitting duties today and took the kid out for a spin.