Alejandro’s yearling ewes
leaving the Forest
The sheep are making our annual trek from wintering ground on the Red Desert to the Badwater Pasture, where we will shear the sheep before heading on to the Cottonwood lambing grounds.
Today, the third band of sheep crossed over the UP line and under I80 at Creston Junction. They are trailing north to winter pastures on the Cyclone Rim and Chain Lakes allotments in the Red Desert. This is a long walk from the summer pastures on the Routt and Medicine Bow National Forests.
October 1st is the off-date for our National Forest grazing permits–Medicine Bow and Routt; sheep and cattle. Since several herds are involved, we have to stage the trailing, in coordination with our Range Conservationists and neighbors, who are also trailing. Here is one band of ewes and lambs heading down from summer grazing on the Routt. We dodged a couple of fires, and had to change our rotation, but all in all, it was a good summer. Thanks to all our crew and the federal folks who work with us.
Today, the first band of ewes headed south, under Interstate 80 at Creston Junction, and over the Union Pacific line on Wyoming Highway 789. After a hard winter on the Red Desert, they are going to greening pastures. The other two bands which wintered on the Red Desert will follow in a couple of weeks as they travel to Badwater for shearing and Cottonwood for lambing.
Every year at this time, we are almost there with the final leg of our 150 mile trek as the sheep trail from their summer country in the Medicine Bow and Routt National Forests to winter pasture in Wyoming’s Red Desert. Each way, spring and fall, we must cross the overpass across the Union Pacific line, and the underpass below Interstate 80–both coast to coast trails of a different sort. We make this part of the trail on WY Highway 789. For several miles, we share the highway with cars, pickup trucks and trailers, motor homes, and semi trucks hauling everything from livestock to oilfield supplies. We flag the road, ‘fore and aft, to warn traffic that the sheep are on the highway. We’ve only had a few near wrecks over the years, due mostly to inattentive or inexperienced drivers, and sometimes bad weather. Mostly we see our neighbors, who wait and wave, fellow travelers, and folks who stop and take photos and ask questions. I always send up a prayer of thanks when sheep, dogs, horses and humans have safely threaded the needle, and are on their way to the Red Desert. Then I pray for a good winter, good feed and a good living for all.
It’s that time of year. Pat asked, “Are we going to post ‘Trailing over the UP line and under I80 ‘ pics again?”…because, except for the weather, it looks pretty much the same every year, and I am grateful for that. I have said on this blog before, and I say again, this stretch of our long trail from summer to winter country, and back again, is one of the most dangerous things we do all year. The scariest part is heading up the railroad overpass. Even though we are flagging, fore and aft, sometimes it is hard to convince folks to slow down, especially before they can see the sheep on the road. So when the sheep are safely through the gate north of Interstate 80, I breathe a sigh of relief, and send thanks to the Lord. We trail three bunches, a day apart, so the crossing takes place three consecutive mornings. A difference I see this year, with the sudden drop in oil and gas prices, is the reduction in oil field traffic through the sheep as they thread their way through this needle. Soon we will be settled on our wintering grounds on the Red Desert. Next we will pray for a “just right” winter–not too much snow, not too little–not too much cold, not too much wind, and lots of good grass.