Oct 242014

By Patty Wilber

This was probably our last Back Country Horsemen project of the season–paint a bridge.  We were big on painting bridges this year.  This one was right down from our staging site, so we didn’t even get to ride to get there!

We rode later.


Before painting!


After! Keith, Mary Ann, Erin and Siri.

We were very tidy painters. Or not.

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Oct 172014

By Patty Wilber

The sun was just suffusing the sky with light when two cow elk stepped out of the golden-leaved aspen grove into the meadow above the East Tank.  They were 300 yards away and didn’t hear us.  The little herd of cattle did.  They skittered and plowed across the landscape with no grace and lots of noise.  For some reason the elk glanced up and then ignored the cows.

Those two elk moseyed across the meadow: graze, pause, look, walk, out of our range.

As we watched, two more appeared from the forest, but instead of heading across, they stopped to snack.  We crept one step at time, from tree to tree, until Richard, who had the only cow elk tag, moved ahead. Jim and I breathed slowly and held still.  The aspens we were in were sparse enough that we still had a good view.

The first two elk melted away into the trees on the far side of the meadow and the newest two, wary now, heads up and looking away from our position, circled in a high trot.  We thought they were going to leave, but they settled and went back to breakfast.  Richard sighted in.

Only one elk disappeared into the trees.

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Oct 102014

By Patty Wilber

Jim’s elk hunt was last week and we went to Camp Kingsbury in the Cruces Basin in Northern New Mexico.

Cruces Basin trail head and camping area. Twenty-three miles on dirt road, three on 4-wheel drive road. Bring your own water.

Penny reading the Cruces Basin trail head and camping area sign. To get here we drove twenty-three miles on dirt road and three on a 4-wheel drive road. Bring your own water.

The camp itself was three miles in on a trail and all the gear (and water) was carried in (and out) by equine. There was a lot of gear!

Two wall tents, with wood stoves, people food, animal feed, and a guided hunt were all provided.

The Camp. Two wall tents, with wood stoves, people food, animal feed, and a guided hunt: all provided!

We took Penny, Lacey and Cometa and they joined nine other  four-leggeds that had come in a few days earlier.

Lacey: "i am really good at this."

Lacey: “check me out! i am really good at this!” Cometa:”yeah yeah. just wait til u r my age u young whipper snapper!”

Elk hunting at Camp Kingsbury means up at O dark thirty, a quick hot breakfast of oatmeal and coffee in the yellow beams of the propane lanterns, and then heading off in the white light of the LED head lamps (until you can see just enough to avoid major catastrophe–then the lights go off) to where you hope the elk are going to be.

On day one, we loaded Molly mule with a wheel chair and Dave (Richard’s brother to whom said chair belongs) rode Milford (also a mule). Richard claimed I would not need a chain to lead Molly, but as soon as we got her untied, she rolled her eyes at my head lamp and bolted.  Very few items fell out of her panniers–at least not any of the important wheel chair parts...not that we could really see much as it was dark anyway.

Molly came back.  “ok. over that.  i’m good.”

We headed out.

Being able to hunt with people that know that land means being able to hike in the dark without getting lost, getting oriented more quickly and finding elk more easily.

We went directly to Dave’s spot and set him up as the sun appeared on the horizon.

Ok, this was about noon, but you would not be able to see the set up when we first did it.

Ok, this was about noon, but you would not be able to see much when we first did it at dawn.

View at Dave’s place at dawn.

We moved the mules off  a ways,  gave them black feed bags full of alfalfa pellets and wrapped their dark leads ropes around the white bark of  two aspens.  I craftily let Richard do the tying.   Two hours later, the mules were spotted, feed bags and all, hightailing it straight back to camp. (Plausible deniability for me!)

Meanwhile, while the mules were plotting their escape, we stalked up on a bull in the yellow leaved aspen (we hit the  fall colors  just perfectly).  We were as still as the trees for a while and then, we moved a little too fast and spooked the bull and the two cows.

Regroup and a snack.





While were were camo’d in a shady glen eating string cheese, Hershey’s chocolate and sweet and salty granola bars, a herd bolted into the grove just a few yards away and hesitated.  We leapt up (a calculating stealthy bunch aren’t we?) and went for the guns. This convinced the herd to…

re-bolt! At once.

I was beat, from the altitude I guess, so I didn’t go with the hunting party  in the afternoon.  Instead I helped Amber get some supplies back at the trail head (I rode Lacey), and when we returned to camp, we cut dead branches to fuel the wood stoves. Having a heated bedroom (even if you are sleeping on the floor) was great. Even better if one of your mates does all of the stoking through the night!

Heated living quarters.  Wow!

Heated living quarters. Wow!

We still had to feed and water the stock.

We had everyone (equidly speaking) high-lined –not to be confused with zip-lined–and feed bagged. (Thanks Mom and Dad for the high line kit!)

High lined and feedbagged!

High-lined and feed bagged!

Then they needed drinks.  (No beer for them, but we people did go for a little whiskey.)  To get the the whole cavalcade to the water, we kept the two lead mares (Penny and Belle) and two geldings on line and let the other eight free.  As soon as we started to the tank (about a 1/4 mile away), Cometa and Lacey broke and ran, NOT toward the water, but off into the gathering gloom.  Gathering gloom pretty much described my reaction to those shenanigans.  Fingers crossed the on-line lead mares will call them home.

The by the time we had our seven-strong homebody-herd at the tank, the five mavericks were happily finishing and Cometa and Lacey high-stepped to the tank’s berm.  Cometa was the ring leader. Messing with my head.

It was dark now and hard to see much in the moon light except shadows, but as we got close to the camp, Penny started calling and within moments I heard galloping hooves on the edge of the herd and Cometa and Lacey unmelted from the dark into their solid selves!

It is amazing that they know she is the lead mare even though at home they are never penned together or even nose to nose across a fence line.  Four hours in the trailer can be a bonding experience!.

Once we got back, and they were all hooked to the high-lines, we brushed our teeth and hit the nice warm sack to dream…yeah ok I dreamed but I also tossed and turned a lot.  I am sorry, but a thermarest is NOT as comfortable as my bed at home.


Tune in next week for the riveting conclusion to Camp Kingsbury.  Do we actually get any elk? What have bears got to do with it? Can Lacey pack meat? (if we got any elk that is) and What got into Ben?

Sep 122014

By Patty Wilber

Last weekend we flew to Seattle and drove to Eastern Washington for my brother’s wedding. A side bennie was that Jim’s sister lives in Eastern Washington, too, so we also got to visit with Joanie and Tim!

We spent our time time gabbing and eating and apparently little time on pictures, so we will just have to go with words. Gasp. Or…

Yes!  That’s it!  Internet pictures!

chelan butte

Joanie and Tim live in Chelan, across the Columbia River Gorge from the Butte. Click this to go to the geocaching link.

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Sep 052014

By Patty Wilber

Over Labor Day weekend 2013, the Back Country Horsemen of New Mexico, Pecos Chapter did repair and refurbishing of a bridge near Beatty’s Cabin in the Pecos Wilderness.  For Labor Day 2014, almost the exact same crew (- Cathy, + Laurie) completed two more!

We, being back country HORSEmen  rode in and packed our gear and supplies.  I did not get a picture of Belle packing 2 x 12 boards! That was the most challenging load for sure.

Lacey carried two 50 pound sacks of feed, four cans of paint and a propane canister.  One hundred and sixty four pounds.  No problem.

Penny was my lead horse.  She did a lot of back country work as a three-year-old, but most recently, she has spent two seasons as a Show Girl with Sydney.  Penny did not miss a beat heading back to the back woods!

Penny (in the back, June 2010, age three)

Penny, (in the back), June 2010, age three. Risa in the front.

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Aug 292014

By Patty Wilber

We have had the best monsoon season in years.  There is greenery that requires once-a-week mowing around our house because those darn weeds try to bolt into seed as soon as we whack ‘em back!  I didn’t whack this one though.

Volunteer Datura near our front door.

Volunteer Datura near our front door.

 I confess I have poisoned, as well as whacked, but as soon as I cause withering and death with some toxic product, the clouds boil up, lightening strikes, thunder rolls, and a whole new set of weedlings make their debut!

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Aug 222014

By Patty Wilber

Some Appaloosa coat patterns change color dramatically over time.  Dilute colors like buckskins tend to vary seasonally.

Here is a set of photos for three horses.  I am kind of sad to say, after all these months snapping, the camera did not do a great job of capturing the changes.  Or it might be *gasp* the photographer’s fault. I should have used the same location and the same  approximate lighting.  Since I really don’t want to wait another year to post this blog, I am going with what I’ve got.

The changes were was more obvious to me in person. But there you go.

Oh and I sold one horse in the middle…! Continue reading »

Aug 152014

By Patty Wilber

So this week we separated bulls at the Red Cliff Ranch and put them in a bull pen (a big pasture) to rest up for next breeding season. Or maybe we were just getting them out of the cow’s hair… Either way.

I wonder why it is called the Red Cliff Ranch?

I wonder why it is called the Red Cliff Ranch?

There were  six bulls. Two mature four-year-old bulls and two yearling bulls in with the cow herd (108 cow-calf pairs, about); two yearling bulls in with the 58 heifers (yearling females).

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