My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Friday, March 1, 2013

Horse Trap Trail Hike

Tuesday morning we were ready to hike the Horse Trap Hike.  We drove to the Sauceda Headquarters,turned left and drove a short ways to the trail head.

I was surprised to find the trails wide and relatively flat.  There are several grades of trails in the park and many of then are open to hikers, bikers and horses.  This was one of the multi-use trails. We expected the trail to be about 4 miles but we decided at the end to walk a little longer to reach a water tank, and then we took a small detour on the way back to look at at a pond that had been dammed up, so we ended up walking a little over five miles. Some of the trails connect or require a short hike off trail to allow you to take a longer hike.

We found the pond was just a dry area with the remains of a pond bed and with a dry stream bed running through it. At some time back,  a big flood breached the dam and now the pond is dry.

The day was mostly overcast but we had a few minutes of brighter light.

Susan and Ken setting off

Rock feature
The main plant here is creosote bush, which has tiny, dark, olive-green leaves.  But there are lots of ocotillo,  several species of prickly pear and two clump-forming cacti.And there are many other species of cacti , but they are not as commonly seen. Other woody (and of course, thorny) plants were still dormant.  The cottonwoods, which marked places were the water was close to the surface of the land, were just starting to put out their new leaves. There were also several kinds of dormant grasses. Most of the yuccas were Spanish daggers and some of them were blooming or showing the huge bloom stalk bud.

Don't know these cacti - do you know?

I think this is strawberry cactus

Some of our group

This is a water-stressed Chisos prickly pear - note the white spines
A lot of the prickly pears had some or all reddish pads due to stress from the two year drought. Many were completely dead.  I carefully kicked dead plant the pads which clacked together with the sound of little wooden boxes colliding.
A group of bikers shared our trail

The spring was dry

Weathering rock

Pila de Gato ( A big water collecting tank that sent water to smaller tanks downhill) via pipes

Natural garden

Lunch stop - this is a stock watering tank.
Robert  roaming off trail
Our leader, Louis

Grass green volcanic ash with other colors of weathered rocks mixed in

Spainish dagger in bloom

Cottonwoods at Horse Trap Spring

Cottonwoods along dry stream bed
Dogs are not allowed on the trails at Big Bend Ranch State Park so Natalie and Zootie walked the main road and the 4-wheel drive roads while we were hiking.

We saw almost no wildlife, including birds, except for a few turkey vultures. Since we found no surface water,  I think this area currently supports little wildlife. But there are many signs of life here.  We found pieces of chert, some formed into cutting tools by Indians,  old tin cans, signs of cattle pens and watering tanks. And there were many interesting grass seedheads and blooming wildflowers waiting to be discovered within the large, apparently homogeneous landscape. It was a great place to explore at a leisurely pace.