Up to the Task

line back dunHe’s been enjoying the faux spring of Wyoming: day time temperatures in the 50’s, the grass is turning  green, and the robins are singing. He’s feeling the sun on his hide. He’s feeling the green grass. A renewed, jaunty zing in his step. A renewed sense of energy and power.

He’s no “dead head.” He’s “touchy” by nature, but I can’t resist. You couldn’t knock him off his feet if you tried. His hooves are black hard and up to any rocky terrain.  His legs are straight and strong. He’s quick and confident. He’s aloof, but curious.

He’s full of himself, and he’s got me a little worried.

It’s not that he doesn’t like humans, it’s just that he’s not sure he can trust me.

“I’m not the bad guy who made you distrust humans. Really. I’m for you, not against you.”

He doesn’t believe me, yet. If he let’s me in, if I can prove myself to him, it will be a forever bond. I’ve had that bond in the past. It was a partnership in the truest sense. I want that again.

I hope I’m up to the task.

Adventure Reading List

I’m always looking for recommendations for good reads about early explorers, outdoor adventures, survival tales, naturalists and pioneers which have an authentic voice. I stumbled onto this list compiled by National Geographic in 2004.  Top 100 Greatest Adventure Books of All Times. 

I’m pleasantly surprised at how many I have already read, and looking forward to referring to the list to expand my library.

A Cow Horse I Once Knew

Here’s a good video from the Wyoming Office of Tourism highlighting some of the uniqueness of Wyoming and the west. There is a tall, lanky, pale palomino in that horse herd, reminding me of a horse I once knew. The story follows below.

We were working on a very large cattle ranch. The lanky palomino was in my husband’s string of ranch horses. We called him High Yeller. He was a veteran of cow horse work. He was getting up in years, long rides were too hard on him, so he found is way into my string of one.

I was new to cow work and I learned a lot from High Yeller, not the least of which is that even old horses can buck. High Yeller seemed to think it was part of his big-sky-cow-horse persona to buck; even at his ripe old age of 26. You could almost see him smile a smart aleck’s smile when he pitched and bucked.

I learned how to ride through a bunch of expectant heifers on that yellow horse. Anyone who does a respectable job riding the drop pen knows you have two goals in mind: One, get the heifer to the calving shed before she starts calving, and second, don’t get her riled up. Get her there at a walk if you can.

Reaching those two goals simultaneously is a practice in patience, perseverance, and skill.

I was mostly lacking that third quality, but High Yeller had it in spades. If you watched closely you’d see High Yeller never made eye contact with the heifers as we slowly walked through the herd looking for the tell tale signs a heifer was soon to give birth, but the instant I let him know I had one I wanted to take, he was on that soon-to-be mama like glue.

From the second High Yeller put his eye on a cow, she was his. I swear he was dominating her by the look he gave her. If she looked left she saw High Yeller, if she looked right, he was there! I never had to do anything more as we took the heifer to the shed. I just sat there and watched Yeller do his thing. The heifer never thought about running or darting off. She knew it was pointless. So there we were, taking her to the shed at a nice slow walk.

High Yeller made it look like I knew what I was doing. I’ll always thank him for that.

 

Gear: Columbia Omni Heat Outer Shell

This outer shell is part of an interchangeable system that includes an inner fleece liner. I only have the outer shell. I found it on a clearance rack, and since I knew it would spend most of its life at the bottom of my backpack, its compressibility was the key selling point. Since I bought the jacket. It’s become one of my favorite things.

The coat has Columbia’s OmniHeat inner liner: a shiny material meant to reflect body heat back onto the wearer. I admit, I thought it sounded like a gimmick.

It works. I happily eat humble pie.

The shell I own is so old I can’t find a photo, but it looks most like the current Lhotse Mountain jacket (the outer shell only), which also has OmniHeat and OmniTech, a waterproof, yet breathable material, and underarm vents.

Now on to why it makes my favorites list. My opinion is that if you’re going to carry an extra layer, it should serve many purposes while being packable and light. This shell can be compressed and stuffed into its own zipper compartment of 8 by 8 inches.

For that extra layer in an emergency situation or unexpected change in weather I want three main things: Wind resistance, water resistance, and a hood. This shell has all three. It’s also longer than a jacket- finger tip length, which is important when trying to stay warm. There’s nothing worse than a jacket that rides up when bending over to light that life saving fire, letting the below zero wind blow up your back.

In my experience a good hood can keep you from losing body heat better than a million scarves, gators and hats. The hood can be cinched down around the face, providing lots of protection, and keeping wind from going down the neck. I believe Columbia calls this a storm hood.

Added bonus features make this shell great for use during outdoor activities where you want a little wind or sleet protection but still need ventilation. The zippers along the ribcage open up to allow ventilation. Zippered pockets are sleek, (no flaps) and secure. Final bonus: the material, while wind and water resistant, is quiet.

Rookie Photographer

After having my DSLR camera for more than a year, I’ve decided it’s time to delve into its finer capabilities, ie, quit using all the auto features. I used to do a pretty ok job back in the day before digital, setting my own aperture and shutter speed, but it’s been awhile and digital has its own idiosyncrasies compared to film.

One of the scenarios where I get consistently mediocre results are shots in the snow. The colors are just never quite right. So, while fooling around with setting and such I shot these images of our horses running through the snow (my nemesis: action AND high glare snow). While the results were not what I hoped for, I ended up liking the effect of the blurry movement.

I’ll keep trying. It sure beats worrying about how much film I’m gobbling up.

wyoming horseshorses wyoming snowwyoming winter horses

Gear: A Few of My Favorite Things

Have you ever been using a piece of gear doing a job, or recreating, or traveling and thought, “I love this thing.” Well, I wanted to share a few of my favorite things. These aren’t paid product reviews, (Not that I’m apposed to the idea. Ahem.) these are items I have used over the years and they do what they are supposed to do in a simple, strait forward manner. Which, to me, is all the better.

My Dakine Heli Pro Backpack

HeliPro Backpack, Back country pack

Let me just say upfront; Dakine stuff is well made. Simple. Who doesn’t love something well made? No buyer’s remorse.

The Heli Pro was designed for kick-ass skiers/snowboarders who get dropped out of helicopters onto mountain tops. The life of my Heli Pro is decidedly more tame. I picked this up at Wind River Gear in Dubois, Wyoming.  Other than the excellent materials, what I love about this pack is the way it FITS. With a volume capacity of 18 liters, this pack is on the small side. It’s not meant for overnight outings, but it’s narrow contours are perfect for nordic or back country skiing. Your arms swing free without brushing against the pack, and the pack does not shift on your back. A padded layer against the back makes for all day comfort. The waist strap is wide with some padding without being overkill. There is a version specifically designed for women. I’m not sure if I have the women’s version, but the shoulder straps curve in and fit snug over my shoulders.

Even with its compact size, there’s enough room for a water bottle, the requisite fire starter/first aid packet, an extra pair of gloves, a light outer layer, snacks, and even a few tea bags and backpacker stove. What more does one need?

Oh, did you say you’d like to strap your skis or snowboard to your pack?  Check.

Did you say you’d like to strap an ice pick or avi shovel on your pack? Check.

Hydration system compatible? Check.

There’s even a fleece lined pocket for your sunglasses or snow goggles or small camera. Smile. Check.

P.S. I don’t think they make this exact model anymore, but there’s plenty to choose from at dakine.com

 

Winter Treasures

I thought I needed a new look for the blog now that winter is here. Winter in Wyoming has a beauty all its own. We’ve had some bitter cold temps over the last week, but the cold creates a kind of light unmatched on warmer days. Every morning and every evening there is a rosy glow on the snow set against a greyish blue sky. It’s the color scheme particular to arctic-cold winter days.

Tracks in the snow are another unique feature of our winters. Wildlife unseen in the daylight hours leave their mark.  As I look across the snow, I can see the evidence of their existence and I am thankful this landscape is healthy with birds, mammals, and predators large and small.

I’m always struck by how some animals seem unphased by the cold. Life goes on much the way it does in any other season. An example of this was the Sharp Shinned hawk right outside our living room window, lucky enough to have caught a small bird. The meal would go a long way to surviving the cold. The hawk was perched on a limb facing away from us, and thus confounding my already meager bird indentification skills. I know there is a Cooper’s Hawk in the area, but something about this hawk didn’t look the same. After checking a bird ID book, I settled on a juvenile Sharp Shinned hawk. As you can see in the photos below,  the Sharp Shinned and Coopers can look very similar. I wish I had a photo of my own I could share, but I knew if I tried to go out and get a photo, the hawk would be gone. I had to settle for watching him/her through the windowpane with the field glasses. What a beauty!

Sharp Shinned Hawk

Juvenile Sharp Shinned Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These photos are from the Cornell site “All About Birds.” I couldn’t find their photo sharing policy, but I think I have it right that these photos are attributed to John Rowe (Sharp Shinned) and William Jobes (Coopers).

Arctic Blast

A temperature drop of 80 degrees in less than 48 hours: That’s what most of Wyoming experienced early this week. It was a balmy 60 degrees late Sunday night, and a klondike-like 16 degrees below zero Tuesday morning. I can’t help but wonder how the local flora and fauna survive these extremes. The range plants that have a fall green up were literally flash-frozen. Perfectly green plants could be seen  encased in ice beneath the snow like you might freeze herbs in an ice cube tray for later use.

It looked like this last week.

Autumn_lvs_1

And  like this today…..

winter wyoming cattle

Western Blue Flag

Iris
Iris missouriensis forms a rhizomatous clump and can exist in large colonies. Its range extends from BC to Baja California and east to Minnesota.

The beautiful purple flower is actually composed of three sepals, three petals and three petal-like styles. Also called Wild Iris and Missouri Iris, the leaves, stems and roots are poisonous if ingested. However, some native Americans used the mashed root as a pain reliever when applied to toothaches.