Our trip started out a little rough before we could even get down the driveway, I had misplaced my wallet (something that has never happened), the doorknob to the 'little red roan' decided to malfunction and not lock, and one of my cats, a special needs cat, had to have a bath to remove the knee deep cat litter off his legs twice before we closed the door to leave. Needless to say we were about an hour and a half behind schedule by the time we found my wallet. It was in my songwriting bag, why? Who knows, but at least it was found. And of course a stop to the hardware store for a new doorknob, and install the new one, and gas and ice. But finally, we pulled out of Las Vegas NM and hit the interstate towards Santa Fe in route to Sedona Arizona.
We made a stop at the 'La Posadada' Hotel for a quick walk thru, it is a sprawling historic hotel just off the railroad in Winslow Arizona. Between the Art, decor and the gardens it was captivating to the eye, and I hope to spend a night there in the future sometime. If you pass through Winslow, it's definitely worth the stop over! We never did find that girl in a flatbed Ford.
We chose to stay overnight at a little RV park in Joseph Arizona, it was quiet, cheap, clean and easy in and out for a quick stopover for the night before heading to Sedona for the Equus Film Festival by noon the next morning. I always love staying in 'the little red roan' with its cozy warm colors. This vintage RV has had a lot of renovations to make it comfortable and efficient for travel, as well as a nice piece of eye candy rolling down the highway with its exterior full of wild mustangs and diverse terrain and dramatic horizons. We always get a few honks and thumbs up while were rolling down the road ways.
As we got closer to Sedona, I was amazed at how green everything was! The desert was alive and blooming everywhere. We took Hwy 89A into Sedona through steep mountain terrain. The drive was beautiful and the little red roan handled the steep winding roads like a charm! The red and orange
butes and mesas were incredible. Its amazing to see how the terrain enabled any sense of community living, it's a flourishing community with homes and businesses scattered everywhere. Tourism is the main push in Sedona, and the streets were just full of people walking and shopping and enjoying the beautiful views and weather.
The Equus Film Festival was hosted for its 2nd year at the Mary D Fisher Theater. Located in the heart of Sedona and surrounded by beautiful vistas all around. We pulled in and set up for the weekend as a full weekend of equine related films were on the docket for the duration of our time there. I had a full selection of 'wild' Fine Art on display including well known 'Picasso' and 'Cobra'. We performed music on and off all weekend before each block of films began. I managed to put to music a new song Karl and I had been pickling with the last couple of months, that's always fun when the creativity flows while doing events. I finally got to see the full documentary film I participated in with the organization I have been a support to over the last 6 years, Thundering Hooves. 'Their Last Ride' was on the film list along with a host of other films, as well as meeting Gareth Lafferly and him joining with his flute on one of my songs, 'My Spirit Runs wild and Free', he has written and recorded the soundtrack for 'Their Last Ride', it was a pleasure meeting him as well as a host of others!
We left 'the little red roan' in the parking lot to attract folks to the Equus Film festival all weekend and were fortunate enough to stay for a few nights with a facebook friend that I hadn't met 'face to face' yet. Thats always a special part of traveling, meeting people that you know online, but never really met. We were hosted with a generous heart and I got to meet a mustang that I had done a portrait of earlier that winter. So a huge thanks to 'Pattie' for putting up with us for 3 days! I got up one morning to make coffee with her french press, not realizing it was plastic and her way of use was by adding boiling water to it...well, needless to say, I stuck it on the stovetop one morning with one eye open. Within about 10 minutes I smelled this horrible smell and smoke began gathering in the kitchen...to my surprise...I had melted her coffee press pot. I felt like an idiot, lol...but she was gracious and I am still on the hunt for a replacement for her. Hopefully she'll have us visit again in the future! Lol.
We left after the film festival for the Salt River. Located about two plus hours south of where we were staying, I had made RV overnight at Apache Lake in Arizona. Not knowing much about the Salt River area. It's amazing how fast you can learn things once you start getting into an area, talking and meeting folks. The drive to the lake was incredible. Forests of Saguaro cactus lined the roadsides and horizons, we made our way to the Roosevelt Dam to find ourselves on a 13 mile stretch of dirt road that was steep and winding, it was a bit unnerving at first, but after driving in and out a few times it didn't seem so bad, haha! The Lake was gorgeous, and we pretty much had the place to ourselves outside of some day use boaters as we managed to travel just before the big opening season just a couple of weeks away. The sunset was incredible, and sipping on our wine in the evening just made for a good rest and reprieve before the rest of our trip began. It's a good thing we had taken the road thru an area called 'Fish Creek' without the RV first. Its some of the roughest terrain I have ever seen. It reminded me of the old John Wayne western films with the stagecoaches rolling down these crazy mountain sides! Narrow one lane dirt roads climbing up with switchbacks and boulders cut into the road. With no side rails, shoulder and drop offs that took my breath away. I have been on some crazy roads before, but this one beat them all! After we drove it with the truck, we were thankful we decided not to haul the RV that morning over the canyon. We left Apache Lake with the tincan, the way we came in, lol!
Once in Apache Junction, we stayed at a scenic and off road convenient park, Usery National Park, they had hookups for water and electric for RV's, tent camping as well full of a variety of wild cacti, birds and shrubs. The mountain views were great and the park was just a really nice park with lots of privacy for campers. Price was right, and location just a few miles from the Salt River. We were set to go! We saw mustangs on the ridgeline as we pulled into the Salt River that afternoon, it was an encouraging sight to see in hopes of finding more the following day. I was amazed at the diverse mountain terrain and water that runs through this state. I know that it has its flat desert areas, but we drove for days through Arizona seeing Saguaros in full bloom, wildflowers, rich green growth and great horizon sunsets while there. It has been a wet year for Arizona as well as many states in the west, and it's evident as you see all the green and growth.
For the next two days we hiked the Salt River and outer layer areas and found lots of mustangs. Because of the amount of tourism on the water, these horses are very comfortable being around people. Those with foals were a bit more guarded, but still very much at ease with people nearby. A bit of stretch for me as I am used to seeing mustangs on open range. The mustangs are small in stature, it's a bit of controversy around their history on the Salt River, though the advocates are doing their homework to show they have resided on the river for generations as far back as the late 1800's. The river was low, but the water from the dams will be opened up with summer tourism coming, bringing the river to higher levels for tubing and water sports over the summer.
There was one stallion that I just fell in love with, You know how I love the roans! He was a strawberry roan with small band we first noticed across the river. He was stout and strong with a beautiful eye and build. We sat on the river in the mornings and the evenings watching the bands making their way down to the river before crossing and moving back into the cedar and saguaro forests. We could hear stallions in the forest fighting, we hiked out a bit but never could find them, all we seemed to do was chase their dust! Things were settled on the most part with the bands as most of the foals have arrived, though we did see several mares that had yet to foal.
We discovered that the 'Heber' mustangs were only a couple of hours away and on our way home. So we decided we would make the trip and stay an extra night in hopes to find some of them. The drive from the Salt River to the Sitgreaves National Forest was breathtaking. We were hit with hail and rain on the peaks as we made our way to the forest. We stopped at the Forest Service Office to inquire about the mustangs. I feel its important when we visit various rangelands, that we make a stop at the BLM and Forest Service offices, it's important they know that we have an interest in preserving our wild mustangs, and enjoying them on the range. We were given some good input by the Forest Service and made our way out with the little red roan to boondock in the forest for the night. One of the reasons to make this stop as well is the mustangs have been getting shot and killed in the forest. There has been no discovery of whom is doing this. But up to 19 have been killed to date over the last several months. This is a herd like the Salt River that was unprotected by the government and 1971 Wild Horse and Burro Act. Only because of a group of general public has there been legislation to protect these herds.
We found our first band after we set up camp just a mile down the road. They were flighty and the band stallion was very leary watching our every move. The forest is thick with pines and lush floor of grasses. It's a gorgeous forest, but because of the terrain, and the flightyness of the mustangs they can be hard to find. We did find a few bands that were a little kinder to be seen, but still very cautious of humans. I appreciate when 'wild is wild'. From what we have learned, the mustangs at Heber are primarily from old calvary stock. We saw more buckskins and sooty buckskins than I think I have ever seen before. Beautiful stallions, mares and several foals. The ratio of foals is low as there are many predators that keep the numbers low. Lots of Blacks, Bays, Palominos, Buckskins, a few cremello and sorrels. You could drive for days through the forest and see only a few. Again, we were lucky enough to be in the forest before the campers all hit the region driving the mustangs farther down the mountains.
We stayed our last night unexpectantly to avoid the summer snowfall at home. We found a great RV park in Clay Springs just outside the forest. The park owners were mustang enthusiasts and gave us a great deal to park the roan for the night. Next morning we were up early and packed up and headed home. Just south of Albuquerque we came across the Malapias State Park, miles of beautiful rock formations with a native history. It was beautiful to see by surprise as we ventured on back roads rather than the interstates. While photographing and enjoying the beauty of the rock outcroppings with the plains below, I was saddened to know that the buffalo and wild mustangs that once lived there, were no more. As beautiful as the land was to see, its missing a huge part of its legacy and history. Its why I love to travel, why I have kept my gypsy shoes handy, to imagine what things must have been before, before us, before our intrusion, before our invasion, and before the removal of the wild remnants that were there long before us. A great sadness along with soaking in such beauty all around.
Overall, the trip was a great trip, I was able to gather some great photos for future paintings of our wild mustangs and learn about some new range areas and the challenges that the mustangs face. I was able to meet new faces, connect with old faces. I always love the opportunity to share my talent of art and music bringing awareness to the public of the issues that surround our wild mustangs, as well as the sharing their beauty! I was able see about 110 mustangs along with the incredible vast territory that spans our west. We live in a gorgeous nation, but all aside the beauty, without the wild mustangs and other wildlife on the landscape, it holds a lesser intrigue. It's essential that we preserve these lands for them first, for us second, to enjoy their wild presence.
As always, I consider myself fortunate to have the ability to travel and see the region of land across our nation. To share with you, to inspire you. If you are traveling, take time and be an active voice to assure its sustainability for all. Enjoy the slideshow below!
I am looking into another range trip very soon this summer. Nevada or Utah...still deciding on that one.
As always I appreciate Your support, and you know you can find me....
Running with the Horses!
Enjoy the slideshows below, the first is our travels, and the second is the wildies! Enjoy!!!