On the Road Again: Big Horn Basin, Wild Horses, Cooney State Park

She said…

We were the first ones out of the campsite at Circle J where we had been working for the last three weeks. After we said our goodbyes to all of our new friends, we stopped for breakfast at the lodge, about two hundred feet into our journey! At this rate, we won’t make much progress!

Farewell, Circle J

Our second stop of the day was in Lovell, Wyoming, home of the visitor’s center for the big Horn Basin National Wildlife Refuge and the Prior Mountain Wild Horse Reserve. We dropped the rig off in the parking lot under the supervision of Elsie the Cat, and took off in the car with Maybe the Dog on a quest for the elusive wild horses. We drove the whole length of the reserve and the closest thing we got to evidence of wild horse existence was poo on the ground; we nearly took a picture of horse poo to prove that we had been here! We were wondering if the National Park Service planted it to lure seekers to the park! We did see beautiful scenery and the Devil’s Canyon overlook, totally making the trip worthwhile.

Then, at the far end of the reserve, Shannon suddenly stopped the car. I was looking off to the distance to see why and nearly missed the beautiful young stallion grazing 20 feet from my window. He was traveling with a small band of young bachelors, and as we watched, another horse approached. There was a little posturing and squealing before they continued in their opposite directions.

After we turned around at the end, we saw another small group of four. This time of year the family groups, a stallion, his mares and young foals, are living farther away from the roads. The young fillies and bachelors are exiled from the herd and travel in small bands until they are either culled or form their own family groups. The BLM keeps a close watch on the numbers in the herds so that they can’t over graze the range.

Our home for the next four days is the Red Lodge Campground at Cooney Reservoir State Park near Roberts, Montana. We realized at a late date that we would be leaving Ten Sleep on a Friday and so would need accommodations over the weekend. Cooney Reservoir had good recommendations and so far we have had excellent experiences with state parks. Plus it was a good day’s travel on our way to our next long term stop. With the exception of the 5-8 miles of rough gravel road to get here (depending on what information you give Garmin), the park and the lake are beautiful. It is full for the weekend and there are lots of kids here, but it is quiet at night and is remote enough to have truly dark skies. They have an astronomy program both nights this weekend, after our bedtime. The spaces are huge and nicely spaced with lots of green in front and back.

The downside is that there is no cell or internet, and it is the end of the semester, so we need to jump through some hoops to keep Shannon connected with his students. Mostly, that has involved setting up remote offices at the Coffee Roaster n Red Lodge, bummer, at the city park in Red Lodge, total bummer, and at this turn off to the park in Boyd, Montana, a horrible place to sit and watch the sunset!

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