Sunday, January 31, 2010


Sunday January 31 2010

Blessed by the evening snow, kissed by the morning sun, the whole of Owyhee basks in the warmth.

Saturday, January 30, 2010


Saturday January 30 2010

Soft and silent, the snow moved down from the Owyhee mountains this afternoon.

Tiny ice balls at first, then tentative flakes fell, introducing the storm. Unequivocal big wet snowballs followed, dropping thick and heavy, quickly blanketing the ground and the horses in a crisp white.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Wild West

Friday January 29 2010

We'll look at more original Owyhee Wild West trails and stories, but this time, think the Wild West Bakery and Espresso in downtown Eagle.

Endurance rider Naomi Preston has reopened Eagle's first espresso cafe that she started in 1994 and operated until 2006. She now owns it again, and kindly created a room for my The Equestrian Vagabond photography! She refers to it as the EMMMA - the 'Eagle Metropolitan Museum of Merri's Art.'

We are happy to be participating in the First Friday Art in Eagle - a gallery walk in downtown Eagle on Friday February 5 from 4:30 - 8:30 PM, featuring my photography and barbed wire art (original rascally Owyhee barbed wire!), Naomi and Michelle (her manager)'s home baked goods and espresso, and wine tasting by local Woodriver Cellars.

The party doesn't end there: the next Friday, February 12, we're having a Horsemen and Women's Open House, from 6-9 PM. Wine tasting again by Woodriver Cellars, featuring "Gold Buckle Champion" ICHA wines.

If you have horses, ride horses, love horses, or want horses, stop by to see us and tell us a tall horse tale of your own, if you can get Naomi and me to shut up. If you don't love horses, stop by anyway, and we will try to persuade you that you should.

The address is:
83 East State Street
Eagle, Idaho

We hope to see you there!

Note: The Raven will be present at both special openings - I don't think he's signing autographs, but he will be available for photos!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Tuesday January 26 2010

Mother Nature made an attempt to pacify my clamoring for snow. She left an inch and a half of wet snow on the crick last night.

It wasn't particularly impressive, since it's already started melting, but, it was a noble, admirable effort!

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Sunday January 24 2010

Lest you think it's all play and Equi-Pilates here, the Owyhee herd is serious about their snooze time, too.

A siesta in the morning or afternoon Owyhee sunshine is the best tonic for a hard-working herd.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Owyhee Hors d'oeuvres

Saturday January 23 2010

Hay is the main repast here, of course, but the horses like - and need - a variety to their meals besides hay, hay, and more hay.

You might think there's nothing out here in the desert, but they find things. The herd makes their rounds several times a day

getting their buffet of greens (or browns, this time of year).

They snack on the dry cheat grass, and they nibble at the tumbleweeds - Russian thistle. I can't imagine how they chew on this nasty prickly stuff.

They eat the greasewood. It's mainly forage for jackrabbits and California quail (both numerous here) and pronghorn antelope (you'll see an occasional one). It's prickly enough to where you can't imagine a horse chewing on this, either, but they use their teeth to strip the branches,

and they carefully chew it.

The seeds and leaves are supposed to taste salty, but I can't taste anything but wood in these dead-looking winter branches.

Rice grass is a treat, and already the green grass and weeds are starting to sprout in this near spring-like weather. They have to work to get tiny bites of them, but work at it they do.

Salt blocks seem to be used more now than in the summer.

An occasional bite of alfalfa is a nice delicious treat; and if you have a carrot within fifty miles - forgetaboutem!

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Wight Stuff

Friday January 22 2010

That's what I'm talking about: snow, for real, here!

However, it's only minimal ground cover, and it's wet: instead of your footsteps rubber-squeaking in the snow, they squish and slop. The horses look like wet chickens.

It's quite slick: when Jose chases Mac, there's no stopping short. Jose locks his legs and skis forward a few feet like a pro skier, down to the SWISH sound that skis on wet snow make. But it's great for romping

and rolling in.

Gray horses get nice and dirty in this mess.

And it feeds my obsession just enough to keep me going till the next snowfall.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Off the Beaten Path

Thursday January 21 2010

You could live here for a lifetime and not see all this Owyhee country. You could live here for years and not know what's in your back yard. I sort of have an excuse - I've been here only almost 3 years; Carol has no excuse; she's been here almost ten.

"You know," she said as we made our way on Jose and Suz, on another ridiculously mild winter day, up the Hart Creek drainage on our usual trail, "I've never ridden along the base of those bluffs."

Well? What were we waiting for? We're always riding either down by the creek and crossing it, or up on the rim looking down into it. Why not explore something new?

"Let's follow this little wash up to the bluffs."

The rim rises ultimately about 400 feet above the wide drainage of Hart Creek. The closer we got to the bottom of the bluffs, the more they became cliffs, and the more amazing it got.

"This isn't a wimpy version of the Badlands of South Dakota, this is the Real Badlands of Owhyee!" We rounded the side of a hill, where a surprising big box canyon opened up in front of us.

Boulders fallen from the rim over time littered the ground like shrapnel from a volcano. We topped a little rise

in this canyon to see a deep little wash

lined with rye grass and a patch of quail bush, which could mean only one thing - a spring! There wasn't any standing water by the grass (the quail bush was too thick to see underneath), but the wash was quite muddy.

All these years, and we never knew this was here.

We thought we might be the only humans on the planet to know about this spot, but we did ride past an old (or maybe not so old) wine or moonshine jug.
There is an old Homestead near here.

And of course it's fun to ride a horse who seems to enjoy exploring, and who definitely likes to stop and look at and appreciate the beautiful scenery.

Jose especially likes to take in the sweeping views from the tops of hills.

We rode up a narrow ridge to look down into the box canyon, then turned around and climbed back down, and rode on to the Homestead. On the way, there's a dirt road that goes off to the south by some old corrals; Carol said, "I've never taken this road either - let's see where it goes!" It wound up the hill a ways then stopped at a lookout over Hart Creek - the REAL Hart Creek. Up until last year, we always thought (sadly) we were riding up to the Hart Creek Notch in the cliffs on our regular trail. But no, after consulting a map, we realized that was Little Hart Creek. This narrow cleft in the cliffs we were now looking at is Hart Creek.
The notches are about a mile apart. Too narrow to ride a horse in, but I must come back on foot one day. There is supposed to be a historic golden eagle nest in this Hart Creek notch anyway, more than enough excuse to hike into it.

And all these years, we'd just ridden through and past the old Homestead on our Hart Creek trail. I've never stopped to explore around it. (The main structure washed away into Oreana in a flood in the 1960's.)

I didn't get off to go in this structure today,

but, crossing the creek, I wanted to look at the old corral we always turned at and rode away from.

Carol said "There must be something over there, because there's a locust tree. It didn't get there by itself." The homesteaders always planted locust trees, because they grew quickly and provided good shade and windbreaks.

Carol held Jose while I climbed the little rise and crossed the fence - old wooden boards lay in the middle of the pen - probably part of a barn. Further on: "an old wagon!
And a plow!"

And a little further on, "Another dugout house!"

This one still has a stovepipe in it, well-preserved stonework, and there are still pieces of willow branches on the roof that were used for thatching. These partial underground homes were an excellent idea for this area - to stay cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

We then followed our usual path, past the Little Hart Creek notch,
up the Knife Edge trail back onto the rim. The same view of the Owyhees as they emerge above the ridge never fails to impress;

and the same question always pops in my head, about the lone juniper tree that lives on the steep side of the hill between the ridge and Hart Creek. How the heck did it get there? Where the heck does it get its water from? There must be some sort of water source reaching it at this odd spot, or, maybe, as Carol suggested, "A Raven planted the tree there, and Ravens come and water it." You do see a lot of Ravens cavorting in the updrafts along this whole rim.

Who really knows?

All the trails here are great, but sometimes it pays to leave the beaten path and follow your whims in this fabulous country. There are mysteries and surprises waiting to be discovered.

More photos of the Hart Creek Hidden Spring Box Canyon ride