Friday, December 30, 2016

Death Valley - December 2016 - Part Three

please remember you can click on a photo to see a larger version

Could we help make Mom Spider's dreams come true? We hoped so. Joining us on several trips to Death Valley now, she had yet to see a bighorn sheep in the wild. Mom wanted to see a bighorn sheep. It didn't help much when one of the first things she heard from us was, "A bighorn ram just went by, right up the big wash! You just missed it!"

We would return to the land of the tinajas this day and see if we could encounter bighorn. "See the containers" as the Lady would put it, or, "The Lady and her bighorn buddies," as I would put it.

We were all ready to go......................when Jon walked down from his truck. "My battery's dead," he said. "Could I get a jump? I've got cables."

It was a clear morning, no wind, so we just moved items out to the ground so we could lower the top.

"I tried to roll the truck down here so you wouldn't have to move," Jon explained. "But that didn't work."

"No worries," I said. "I've been looking for an excuse to raise the front tires a couple of inches."

Barking and Jon walked up to Jon's truck as I backed the truck off the rocks. The mission was soon accomplished and we said our goodbyes to Jon, now on his way to Pahrump for a new battery.

We headed out, the Lady and her little buddy led the way.

We had a wonderful morning exploring canyons, wandering about. The geology was grand. We climbed to a high ridge for the view. A higher knob was just to the west and the Lady - you do remember that preferred direction of travel thing - worked her way to the top.

"Sheep!" she cried. She had booed out a large ram. The ram moved only about 25 yards, turned and watched us, and then began browsing.

"He's not too concerned about us." I said. Barking and Mom Spider were thrilled. This is how we met "Broke Horn." The tip of his right horn was missing.

The Lady stood on the top of her rocky point. She has a wonderful little girl like enthusiasm, honed by years of encouraging school children. She chattered constantly to the large ram. "It's okay. We're sorry to disturb you. You are beautiful! Thank you for letting us see you! You're okay!" She looked below her on the opposite side of the point. Her reaction was priceless. She instantly crouched. She pointed below her. She put her two hands together and then lay her head against her hands, a head on pillow sign. I interpreted for the Spiders. "She has sheep in beds on the other side of the point."

I stayed back as the Lady gave directions for the Spiders and then me to move up with her. Broke Horn is hard to see, but he is in the picture quietly watching this drama unfold.

The Spider's reactions were complete surprise as they stood beside the Lady. I moved up to join them expecting to see a group of ewes on the slope below. This was not the case.

Ten feet from us was a large ram. His head was on his outstretched front legs. He was sound asleep.

It was hard to suppress our surprise and excitement. And we knew this moment would not last for long. When the big old guy became aware of our presence, he easily outran my shutter speed.

Broke Horn moved over to join his partner.

Ram Van Winkle quickly slowed to a walk and moved across the mountain side.

Broke Horn followed behind, maybe a bit afraid of getting a butt chewing for not waking him up. I suspect Broke Horn thought this was a great trick to play on his old mentor.

We were all laughing out loud now, relaxed and letting down. Ram Van Winkle and Broke Horn continued across the slope to the tinajas.

They disappeared around the corner. Broke Horn made one last appearance and looked back, as if to say thanks for the fun.

We moved to a point below us and took a long break. Hardly nothing could top this day. We took in the view and the Lady continued to watch for her bighorn buddies.

We were in awe of traveling through this wondrous terrain.

It was time to work our way down and back to our comfortable and cozy camp.

Watching the quiet shadows move back across the land seemed like the finest occupation known to man.

All was not completely idyllic at our remote high perch this night. We cleaned up, ate our evening meals, and then relaxed under the desert stars. We could see from Furnace Creek to Ashford Mill, an incredible panorama spread out before us. We watched the occasional headlights move along Badwater Road. Suddenly we were blinded by a set of lights on the Westside Road near the Eagle Borax Works. It was a single vehicle moving south with an obscene set of driving lights. We were over nine miles away and could not look anywhere close to the direction of the lights. It caused pain. Our hands were instantly up in front of our faces. The spray of light swept all the way down death valley. Everyone in the entire valley was assaulted by this one moron's thoughtlessness. We were prisoners to this pollution as the vehicle worked its way south. As the vehicle neared Johnson Canyon Road I was reduced to prayer. "Dear god do not let this vehicle drive up toward us. Please! Please!" It would have been 45 minutes to an hour of utter complete misery. My prayers were answered and we all breathed a big sign of the relief when far too many minutes later the blinding light finally disappeared. This person was quickly awarded "Butt Head of December 2016" and was further awarded an Honorable Mention in the "Butt Head of 2016" category. 

The beautiful morning erased memories of the previous night and renewed the sense of solitude and peace.

This was a different day. The clouds built and lowered. We wandered up canyon, a relaxing day. No destination.

We were surprised to see it warmed enough that this creature was out and about.

It rained and we watched it snow at the higher elevations. The astounding  geology of the area was all around us.

We returned to camp and relaxed. We shared chips and salsa and other snacks. The cloud cover was another turn of the page of our Death Valley experience.

We all woke during a short rain squall overnight but were content, yet anxious to find what our next day in this wonderful place called Death Valley would bring.

Our adventure continues in Part Four. Please Click Here.

1 comment:

  1. I wonder how many photos have ever been taken with the shadow of the photographer falling on a sleeping bighorn. Very, very few, if any. Astonishing!