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An American Serengeti

8-19-14, Valley Falls, OR - During the past few weeks I’ve continued to have a great time. At least twice a week Monty and I are moving cattle from grazed over sections of the forest to fresh pasture.  The remainder of the time has been spent on home projects, fishing and enjoying the beautiful weather.

Now that I have the horse trailer, it’s easy to saddle a couple of mounts, put them in the trailer and head out for some fun places. Unfortunately, I’ve been a little remiss at bringing along the camera, so I don’t have pictures of some of the great places I’ve rode.  Among them are; riding through the Gearhart Wilderness to Blue Lake, riding the Mill Trail to the top of the Abert Rim, rides in Moss Pass and a trip up the connecting meadows alongside Mill Flat Creek.

Monty continues to improve.  He now walks into the horse trailer by himself, stands and goes when I want him to and enjoys chasing cows. He’s not bad, but he still needs a lot of work. 

On the other hand, Jacquie’s new mare Brandy, is close to being a “pushbutton” horse.  She has a very light mouth and responds very well to voice, neck or leg pressure. I took her out one day herding cattle and she did great. Her only problem is that she doesn’t like mud and enjoys flying over it. Ex-Steeplejack Jockey and good friend Bernie Harberts would be proud of some of  the jumps we’ve taken recently,

Monty and I out for a stroll in the woods.

Yesterday, we drove to the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge, a very large tabletop mountain that has been set aside as a wildlife refuge. The refuge is unique to this area in that it is largely grass lands that exist at 6000 to 8000 feet above sea level. Normally, Oregon land at this altitude is covered with pine forest. 

The vista looking east across the refuge.  The mountain in the background is Steens Mnt, in the Steens Mountain Wilderness Area.

A very nice (free) hot springs on the refuge.  With a 4 foot high privacy wall, crystal clear, 95 degree water, and no one around, there was no excuse for not peeling off the clothes and taking a dip.

Pronghorn antelope are everywhere on the refuge. We saw several hundred though out the day. However, for an many as we saw, a friend and former area rancher said that there used to be several times as many antelope on the refuge.  When cattle were allowed to graze alongside the antelope, they kept the grass trimmed down and growing thicker and healthier.  I observed this to be true, as all of the grass was virtually ungrazed and thick with dead thatch from previous years, which inhibited new growth.. 

We had lunch alongside Guano Creek, a beautiful little stretch of green, that winds though the open grasslands.

One of the main attractions of the refuge is the large amount of pronghorn antelope that call it home. It’s hard to drive more than a mile without seeing several, often within feet of the car.

This pair of nice bucks were sauntering past, about 50 feet off the road.

A herd of about 30 antelope lying on the cool lake bottom of the nearly dried out Petroglyph Lake. Another 30 to 40 head were also laying on the cool mud of the lake, but were out of view of this camera shot.

A doe and two half-grown fawn about 20 feet from the car.  Antelope usually have twins, but predators like coyotes and golden eagles usually take at least one of the two fawns.

The next few shots I took of the way home, after leaving the refuge.

There are several freshwater lakes at the base of heart mountain, mostly dried out now from the extreme drought in south-central Oregon. This family of geese appeared to miss the water as they walked across a muddy lake bottom.

In this picture, two groups of pronghorns are bracketing some angus on the same lake bottom as shown in the previous photo.

There are twin cowboy towns, Plush and Adel at the base of Hart Mountain.  These are small ranching communities that have nice feel to them. This picture shows the inside of the Adel Bar. The local brands are all burned into the bar with hot irons.  Wildlife mounts hung on all the walls and old saddles from the ceiling.

In springtime, Dixon Creek is a raging cataract as water pours down these 20 feet high falls.  Currently, the water is just trickling down.  I didn’t try my luck, but the pool below the falls must be full of large trout.

In two more weeks, I have to have to leave this wonderful place to work for a couple of months in Nebraska.  I’m scheduled to work at the Cooper Nuclear plant, south of Omaha, NE from September 10, to the end of October.

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