Friday, September 9, 2016

To the Headwaters of Camp Creek

Last weekend we trailed cows and calves to the head of Camp Creek on the Nature Conservancy. We're leasing range there for a few months before we head to the canyons for the winter.

Dave, Andi, Mike starting the day

We were lucky to have Dave and Andi's help getting the cows gathered and started. Mike and Dave sorted off the bulls and Mike hauled them to the valley, while Andi and I trailed the cows down the road, for many many hours.  The 46 road is pretty popular and we had bow hunter and tourist traffic off and on all day.
South on the 46 road

Andi took the time to talk to people who stopped with their windows rolled down, usually to ask, "What kind of cows are these?" With their long and varied types of horns and their spotted and striped coats in various shades of white/red/brown/black/tan our cattle are a colorful bunch. Andi recognizes the opportunity to connect people to agriculture and pastoralism. Even if it is only one brief conversation, they will leave with a story of a friendly rider and a herd of beautiful cattle.
Andi doesn't want her picture taken

I didn't interact with folks much. I was usually too busy keeping hold of my horse and three energetic dogs who thought that a stopped vehicle was tantalizing, especially if there was another dog in it.
Chester, Sara, Ruby on first day

We overnighted the cows near Findley Buttes and Mike and I picked them up in the morning and trailed them the rest of the way to the new pasture.  I think the cows wondered if we were actually going to the canyon already, taking some kind of new route. Hopefully they will enjoy a few more months on the prairie before leaving for the winter range.

Weston's cow Clarabelle with her nice calf

It only took a few hours to reach the pasture, although there were many gates along the way. At the head of Camp Creek we rode past the old ranch house and the enormous barn and corrals, where Mike and I lived and worked when the kids were little. So many memories and stories of our life in this place.

Looking at the Seven Devils over in Idaho, Mike and Bird

It  was a little strange, experiencing our old home as now-tenants of an international non-profit organization, but we had a friendly greeting from the volunteer caretakers. Retired professionals with a hankering for open space, they encouraged us to stop for coffee on our way back.

Down time while fencing

There was plenty of feed and plenty of water in the pond at the new pasture, but the fence needed attention. Mike spent a few hours repairing the four gates, and tightening up the low top wire in hopes our athletic cattle don't decide to head for the canyons on their own.

A storm was building to the south over the mountains and I lazily admired the cloud formations while Mike worked.  At different times they looked like poodles, racing horses, bears, and old men with hairy eyebrows and long chins.

Lunch time sandwich from the saddle bag

We finally finished up and headed for the ranch house to load our horses in the trailer and drive home to the valley. The dark clouds were gathering and a welcome rain wasn't far off. As we rode down the hill I felt the old stirrings of a familiar road underfoot, a familiar trail behind me. And I felt the differences, like discovering a family photograph left behind on the shelf in a house where other people now live, and I realized I was looking forward to that cup of coffee.

Summer headquarters at the Buttes

From Sara at Magpie Ranch, home of Bunchgrass Beef