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Opt outside – there may be bighorns

November 27, 2015

Inspired by the #optoutside movement, which encourages people to get outdoors and be active on the day after Thanksgiving instead of buying ever-more stuff, Bugman and I headed for the (Wildcat) Hills. After all, studies show that experiences bring people more happiness than stuff.

We drove to Cedar Canyon Wildlife Management Area 20 minutes south of our house, and, boy oh boy, did this experience make me happy!

For years I’ve wanted to see the bighorn sheep herd in the Wildcat Hills, but I was never able to go on one of the guided tours with the radio telemetry folks (some of the sheep have collars), and I had no luck on hikes . . . until now.

As we were carefully negotiating the snowy curves to the WMA parking lot, WHAT THE . . .? I could hardly believe my eyes as a bighorn sheep appeared alongside the road ahead of us. Then another bighorn crossed the road. And another! And another!

Wow! Really? How did we get so lucky? We could not have timed things better!

sheep on road

The ram started walking back up onto the road, towards us. Was he going to come investigate our car??

ram on road

A few moments later, the bighorns scattered at the approach of a vehicle from the other direction. They joined up with a herd of about 40 animals on the west side of the road. (The people in the other car stopped for awhile to watch the bighorns, too.)

wandering off

One of the ewes wandered away from the herd back towards the road and looked up at us sharply when Bugman shifted in the car and the rustle of his jacket transmitted out the open window and through the still, cold air. You can hear for miles out there on a day like this.

sheep looking

If it wasn’t so cold and if I wasn’t wearing jeans, I would’ve liked to have laid down there in the snow, my face to the sun, and listened to the silence and the sheep moving about, pawing at the snow and chewing.

Later, as we hiked, we saw two more sheep off on their own, away from the main herd. They were very leery of humans on foot.

another couple of sheep

We found an area where the sheep appeared to have stayed awhile – the snow had disappeared and exposed the remnants of summer’s tender green flora, which was bedecked with brown piles of, um . . . sheep pebbles . . .

bedding area

Aside from the joy of the bighorn sheep encounter, there was the wonderment of walking through still-upright late-fall grasses frothy with delicately clumped snowflakes still cold enough to hold their shape and reflect the sunlight in a thousand twinkles, the air moving oh-so-gently, enabling the grasses to sway without unburdening themselves of their white coats. My pictures simply do not do the scenery justice.

snowy yuccasnow caterpillarsnow coral

Winter, when the seas of prairie grasses freeze mid-wave.

frozen prairie wave

Wow! What a day! So glad Bugman went along with my crazy scheme to go walk in the snow on a 20-something-degree day. He got some great photos, too, and some slo-mo cellphone video of the iced grasses’ dance (which he’s capturing in the photo below).

taking pictures

One final note, regarding hiking at this time of year and Bugman’s colorful chapeau: it’s hunting season, and the WMA is open to hunters. If you head out to hike, it’s best to stick out like a sore thumb in blaze orange, and mid-day is the best time to be out, since prime hunting hours are closer to sunrise and sunset.

So go ahead – #optoutside, people! You’ll have memories to treasure for years to come.

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

5 Comments leave one →
  1. AJ Legault permalink
    November 28, 2015 8:21 am

    I have enjoyed your written and verbal musings since moving here six years ago. Thanks for taking us along on all of your adventures.

  2. Kathi Manville permalink
    November 28, 2015 8:35 am

    Great post! I had to read this description (Aside from the joy of the bighorn sheep encounter, there was the wonderment of walking through still-upright late-fall grasses frothy with delicately clumped snowflakes still cold enough to hold their shape and reflect the sunlight in a thousand twinkles, the air moving oh-so-gently, enabling the grasses to sway without unburdening themselves of their white coats. My pictures simply do not do the scenery justice.) twice because it was so beautifully written.

    Even though your pictures do not do justice, I could close my eyes and be there with you since I have experienced the prairie’s wonderment many times. Missing NE and your guys after reading this.

    • November 28, 2015 9:25 pm

      I’m enjoying thinking of you closing your eyes and transporting yourself to the WENE prairie, so you’re RIGHT HERE with us! Miss you guys too! We need to come visit again!

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