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Counting Sheep


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7/29/10, S. Fork of the Conejos River - Today I got to take part in the Forrest Service’s Annual Bighorn Sheep Count.  There are few things as enjoyable as spending a day on horseback in the high country.

Melissa works managing grazing permits for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  The BLM and the National Forrest Service run a combined office out of La Jara, CO. Every year, the two agencies combine in an effort to count the number of Bighorn Sheep in the Rio Grande National Forrest.  This year, Melissa was assigned to find sheep on the lower half of the South Fork of the Conejos River. For an extra set of eyes, and the fun of it all, I was invited along.

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The South Fork of the Conejos River. Our horseback ride began at 9,500 feet and led up the canyon from there.

The trek was made on two of Melissa’s saddle horses. She rode ‘Little Man’, while I was up on ‘Pete’.  After picking up the BLM truck and horse trailer, we loaded up our steeds and headed for the high country.  We hit the trail about 8 AM.  After crossing the Conejos River, we moved up the trail along the South Fork.  Bighorn Sheep are really difficult to spot.  Every few hundred yards, we broke out the binoculars and scanned the mountains on the sides of the canyon.

After moving upward for several miles, we tied the horses in a meadow and broke out some lunch.  All morning long we scanned the hillsides but didn’t spy a thing.  But, all in all you couldn’t beat the morning. Beautiful countryside, a nice horseback ride and some great company - definitely a winning combination!

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Hard at work in God’s Country. We never did find any Bighorns, but I think we spotted half a dozen ‘Serta Mattress Counting Sheep’ and some leftover ‘Extras’ from the movie ‘Brokeback Mountain’.

At a really nice spot along the river, we stopped to take a break and put our feet in the mountain stream.  The river was so clear, you could have seen the bottom if it had been a hundred foot deep.

A mile further up the canyon, we came to the gate that marked the high point of our search area. The clouds were starting to gather and there was a thunderstorm just over the mountain, so we figured it was a good time to head for home.

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Lunch break in a mountain meadow.  From the look on my face, you can tell that I’ve had a hard day at the office!

We made it back to the truck and trailer just ahead of the rainstorm.  After loading up our mounts we reluctantly headed back to civilization.

It was a tough way to spend a day at work; but, someone has to do it!  To relieve the stress of a hard day at the office, the next morning, Melissa and I were taking her two girls on a three day, wagon and horseback trip into the mountains.


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A mountain stream, with water so clear it was like looking through the cleanest glass window you could imagine.

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Soaking you feet in a mountain stream is an effective way of reducing stress and tension at the office.