Sunday, September 25, 2011

Five (million)-star accommodations

Jim and I decided we were ready for a night out, so on Saturday evening we took a bottle of wine, our sleeping bags, and dogs, and headed for our sheep pasture. Jim built a small bonfire and we relaxed, eventually crawling into our sleeping bags to sleep under the stars alongside the New Fork River. Click on photos for enlargements.

The sheep herd, along with their guardian burros and dogs, met us when we entered the pasture, but didn’t join us at our campsite. We had two herding dogs and Rena the Akbash guardian with us, so we were sure to be alerted to any critters roaming about during the night.

Not long after we settled in around the campfire, Hud the herding dog let us know there was a bull moose just down the river from us. You can just make out the moose crossing the river in the photo below (those are our sleeping bags and pillows in the right side of the photo also).

Darkness crept in and the moose came up the river just opposite from our camp. It’s rut (breeding season) so this bull was walking along emitting soft grunts and calls. We could see the moonlight reflecting off his paddles even in the darkness. He eventually walked upriver from our camp and crossed back onto our side, but was met by the guardian dogs when he tried to walk back toward our camp. We could hear the bull as he thrashed around, rubbing his paddles against the willows and brush, and crossing back across the river again.

We let the fire burn down and went to our sleeping bags to watch the light show. There were millions of stars filling the night sky, and we saw several stars slowly falling, while others seemed to shoot across the sky. I closed my eyes and started to drift off to sleep when the screech owl arrived in the trees nearby. They are definitely named appropriately. Fortunately the owl only screeched about four times before moving away from us.

Things were fairly quiet for a while, but another moose tried to approach our camp from downriver a few hours later. Rena put the moose in the river, giving us peace once again as the bigger animal retreated.

We had a series of visitors during the night, including our guardian dogs that were in charge of the sheep herd. They never came together to our camp, but stopped in on individual patrols during the night. Luv’s Girl was thrilled to see us, and tried to bulldoze her way into our sleeping bags, but Rant seemed irritated that we were there. He ran around outside the perimeter of our camp, huffing into the darkness and marking all the brush. Apparently we were just another burden of his, more critters to be guarded. We heard the soft hoots from owls off and on during the night, and the occasional howl of a coyote, always met with a ruckus of sound from our guardians from various points throughout the pasture.

The sheep and burros arrived at our camp at sunrise Sunday morning, nibbling on the frost-covered vegetation.

Jim started us a pot of coffee, and a few ewes came forward to share a bag of pumpkin seeds.

We drank our coffee while enjoying the view, soon realizing that any effort at getting acquainted with a trout would have strong interference (see photo below). We threw our gear and dogs back in the truck and headed back to the house.


Gil said...

A star-studded evening well told.

Lucile said...

Wonderful story.