GRMA Day 33: Typical Day at the Ranch
You never know what’s going to happen at Linda’s Ranch.
Linda had intended to buy a welder last night but other developments postponed that trip until first thing this morning when we drove 20 miles to pick up a used portable gas welder on a specially made trailer that can be taken to the fields when something breaks (and something always breaks out there). If she doesn’t exactly know how to use a gas welder, she’ll figure it out.
Haying operations are ahead of schedule at the ranch because of a very dry last three weeks, which meant Linda could mow, rake and bale her small square bales destined for horse stalls throughout Colorado and Wyoming more quickly than in the past. So all she needed to do today was mow part of one small meadow.
In the meantime, her friend Brad and I took off in Brad’s truck to deliver salt blocks to the 600 pairs of cattle currently grazing in a 5,000 acre pasture on the ranch. The pasture starts near the river that runs behind Linda’s house and goes to the top of the mountain where her property boundary is. And there were no real roads, just a barely discernible two-track trail across the rocky plains and up the mountain side. But Brad knew the way (they’re his cattle, mostly), so off we went, bouncing along and keeping an eye out for wildlife.
In addition to the cattle occupying the pasture, dozens of white-rumped pronghorn antelope also graze there and, fleet-footed trespassers that they are, quickly run off when we approached them in the truck. But I managed to get a few shots, mostly of their rapidly diminishing backsides.
We spotted a red-tailed hawk, but I had to shoot from a pretty good distance because they’re skittish and take to the air quickly when anything moves toward them. I had hoped to spot a pair of bald eagles that call the area home and while we did see them later in the afternoon on the wing, I never had a chance to shoot their portraits on a perch.
We did, however, spot part of the 150-member elk herd that is the bane of Linda’s haying ops, and I was able to get a couple long-distance shots before they moved on to trample her neighbor’s meadow. He will no doubt chase them back to her land. In one more week, elk hunting season begins and the herd will head to the mountains and hope for safety from the hunters, ending Linda’s elk problem for the year.
With the mowing done and the cattle taken care of, Brad asked if I wanted to go fishing. I jumped at the chance and while Linda cleaned up from her morning mowing, Brad and I headed to a neighbor’s small lake to try our luck. I hooked a 7 lb rainbow trout after only about 20 minutes and, following a quick photo, the fish was back where he had come from. The wind was blowing hard across the lake and we weren’t have much luck where we were so we went to the other side of the water where Brad quickly landed another 7-8 pounder, which was also returned to his fishy friends.
I hooked another nice one–probably 7-8 pound range, but he unhooked himself just before I was about to land him. Brad said if you try to land them too aggressively they can sometimes rip their mouths and escape. I had learned my lesson. About 15 minutes later a third big trout had attached himself to the end of the line attached to the rod I was holding. I wasn’t going to lose this one. So I reeled him slowly, letting the drag play out as the fish tore off in the opposite direction I was trying to coax him to go. Slowly, I brought him closer and he started to go parallel to the rocky shore. I began to walk his direction to reduce the tension on the line. And then the real adventure began.
I tripped on a rock while I was watching the fish. I caught my balance, lost my balance, caught my balance and lost it again in what must have looked like a very awkward ballet. Backwards I fell, splitting my head open on the rocks and dropping the rod in the water. Slightly rattled and feeling no small amount of pain from my throbbing head, I stood up and saw blood dripping on the rocks. But I also saw that the rod (Brad’s rod) was in the water with the fish still attached. I reached into the water and probed until I had a firm grasp on the Zebco 33. Brad said he’d take the rod if I wanted to take care of my head, but I was determined to land the fish that, aside from my own clumsiness, had caused my current embarrassment. A few minutes later, as my Coumadin-thinned blood ran down my head, behind my ear and into my beard, the fish was on the rocks with me; the epic battle had ended and I was the woozy victor. Bloodied but not beaten. Fishing is a tough sport.
After the obligatory picture of me and my defeated foe, the fish was returned to to the cold water of Rex Lake. I needed to stop the flow that was now getting on my clothes as well as my beard. I found an old paper towel in the truck, blotted my wound a couple times, folded the paper towel to form a small square, then cinched my CSX camouflage hat a notch or two tighter to press the paper towel to my head to attempt to staunch the stream of blood and I commenced fishing again. By now it was late afternoon. Brad caught one more and I went scoreless for the rest of the day, even though I think I was still casting into the water.
I knew yesterday that a day on Linda’s Ranch would bring adventure. I was right.
With my make-shift pressure bandage squeezing the flow to a mere trickle, we finished our day at one of the best Mexican restaurants in Laramie, a favorite place we always go and where we always honor our tradition of downing tequila shots while drinking very large Coronas. It was a convivial end to an adventuresome day.
Tomorrow I leave one of my favorite stops on this trip and head for Pike’s Peak and Pueblo where I will complete my 6,000+ mile loop of the Rocky Mountains.
Other shots I liked today: