Monday, June 14, 2010

Searching for Wild Mustangs

This past Sunday we decided to go searching for the Band of Mustangs living in the Ochocos east of Prineville. Our party included Scott and I, Luci and Teddy, and my parents. We met at Safeway and loaded up on the essentials. Hot dogs, fruit, chips, drinks, and donuts. I called my friend Jerry on the phone as we drove east. With my Oregon topo on my lap, and Scott driving he detailed where we may find the horses. I could hear in his voice he was not optimistic about our chances. He indicated we should be out there early, and it was already 11:00. Oh well, we'd look for the mustangs near water, and under trees in the shade.

Jerry told us to turn right off of highway 26 about 12 miles east of Prineville onto hwy. 23. This area is kind of familiar to me due to camping trips at Big Summit Prairie and day trips to Walton Lake. I love this topography with huge ponderosa trees and grassy meadow under brush. We found the ranger station Jerry referred to, but missed the turn and headed up hwy 22 to Walton Lake. It didn't take me long to see we had missed Coyle Creek and needed to turn around. We found our single lane gravel road just past the ranger station and drove a mile or so down the road with the windows down looking for about 90 horses in an area of 1,000's of acres. Did I really think I was just going to go on a Sunday drive with two rigs, 6 people and a golden doodle and find these wily Mustangs?

We parked at an elk camp. It was flat and grassy with Coyle Creek running by, a huge firepit and a pole between two trees to hang and dress a deer or elk. We packed our back packs with provisions and headed up stream along an unimproved logging road. An old car body caught our attention and we veered onto an animal trail to check it out. We saw sign of horses everywhere. Prints, dung, and trampled grasses. Not far up the trail we did spot a horse. Only this one was ridden by a woman and two black shepards were on each side.

My mom went down to talk to her and ask if she had seen the band that day. One of the first things she said was "are you the owner, of Cowgirl Cash?". My mom was shocked and soon realized she was wearing a Cowgirl Cash t-shirt. The woman then said she was part of the Wild Horse Coalition, and that the recent donation by Cowgirl Cash was unexpected and very much appreciated. This was the perfect moment to find the inside scoop of where to find these horses. We wanted to see the new foals we had heard about. The woman told us they had moved higher up Round Mountain to avoid the recent ATV activity in the area. We were disappointed, but we're a family of hunters and we don't give up that easily. After a lunch of hot dogs on the mini grill, we got back in our rig...aka "the red wagon" and took hwy 22 toward Walton lake and the logging road she told us to drive....050. The drive was gorgeous, steep, and the road was filled with what we termed "group poop". These piles hit the undercarriage! It was nearly 4:00, and we had an hours drive home so we abandoned our quest to see mustang foals for the day. We know they are there, we love the country they live in, and we will be back. Thank you to the Wild Horse Coalition and the work they do to keep these gorgeous wild creatures alive and healthy and stealthy.

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