#410, a six-year-old ram, was eluding us. There were beeps coming across the receiver on Tuesday as we spent the day criss-crossing the mesa tops looking for signals on Bill’s radio-collared bighorn sheep, but he couldn’t pin this one down. It gave confusing location clues, and if it were across the canyon we had no choice but to drive many miles on rocky ledgy roads AROUND the head of the canyon to try to get to the other side and pinpoint it. Then it would fall silent. No sheep sightings on Tuesday; we’d look again Wednesday.
Tracking bighorns isn’t easy, and it is time-intensive. They are excellent at hiding out, tucking under ledges where the line-of-sight signal won’t be picked up, meandering into another drainage. Ultimately, they’ll all get found, sometimes later rather than sooner.
We started Wednesday gazing through binoculars at a pictograph panel that Bill had found only because one of his sheep had bedded down right below it. While waiting for the collars to turn on (only eight hours per day of signal, to save battery power) we drove to another that my Prius would never be able to access — both of these from centuries or millennia B.C. Rock art moves my soul; I sense a connection with whomever painted or pecked it. It is found everywhere down here.
As we went from canyon rim to canyon rim, holding up the antenna and receiver and hoping to hear beeps, Bill spied a new arch in a remote section of BLM land. It was hardly taller than me, and maybe ten feet wide; we took pics and left it Unnamed.
Storm clouds were thickening to the south and west. Lightning is not your friend on any mesa, but least of all when carrying a lightning rod, so we hurried to find this ram. Bill finally homed in on it in a side drainage off of Spring Canyon, just as the electrical storm began in earnest. Back to the truck we hastened; at least we knew where he was. Wind, dust, and rain swirled all around us for the next hour.
As the remaining gruff rumbles of thunder moved off to the northeast, we took up positions on the cliff top with our binocs. It was now time to locate the needle in the haystack. Check this photograph of the boulder field. Now imagine it is your job to find a perfectly-camouflaged animal, sitting statue-like, not wanting to be sighted. Bill can do it — sometimes from just a horn poking out from behind a rock. I sure can’t. You can guess who sighted ram #410.
Good day, a good day. Ancient artwork, monsoon, subsequent waterfalls, a ram… and wilderness. A very good day.