“The good and the beautiful is not forgotten; it lives in legend and in song.”
~Hans Christian Andersen
The day my husband met Blaze for the first time was on December 30th, 2014 at 4:00 in the afternoon, and he was quite a distance from anywhere close, but smack dab in the middle of that rugged area I would later discover was Blaze’s usual stomping grounds. It was my first trip to the park to begin the Fly Without Wings body of work, and the very first time my husband, Michael, had been to that amazing landscape and his first time to encounter wild horses. The only time we can get away together is the week of Christmas and I convinced Michael it would be well worth the trip to the park.
Because the loop road was closed and after chatting with one of the rangers, we drove out to Fryburg and parked at the handling facility and hiked to the rim looking into the badlands below. We sat there for sometime slowly glassing around and if I remember correctly, Michael was the first to spot tiny specs. Determining that they were truly horses, getting our bearings, we headed off the rim to the badlands below.
December in the badlands of North Dakota is cold, windy and generally not much fun, but we both love a challenge and winter and we were prepared to spend a few hours, or as long as it took to get to the horses below.
As we worked our way toward them I had no idea who we were going to find and when we came around the bottom of a butte and saw them across a classic Blaze abyss (another trait I would later discover Blaze was good at), my heart stopped and Michael said “Ooooo”. But Blaze….not having any of it! Off he went with his girls in tow. Circled around, came back and stopped….striking his classic pose and waited for us to make a move. He was a long 200 yards away and we did not have the wind in our favor. I like to approach with the wind so they can hear us and smell us and have plenty of warning but unfortunately that’s what had him on edge because he was baffled by what we were. So off they went again….this time not circling back.
The abyss I mentioned above…..20 feet deep, just as wide, and no easy way to get across. In fact he was surrounded on three sides by a deep gully, making it impossible to get closer. So we opted to wait until Blaze moved far enough away before attempting to cross. (I discovered, over the next three years, Blaze would often place his harem in that type of position.)
After moving into a place where Blaze could finally wind us, he and the girls settled in. As the sun was working her way down, I was reluctant to leave, but we had a 45 minute hike back out. I said to Michael, “If we climb up this butte it will be easier to walk back along the top of the rim.” To this day, Michael will never let me forget the impossible task of climbing up loose scoria, covered in snow and ice. Not one of my most brilliant moments! “Oh it’s just up there honey, not much further!” Yep he will tell you often, if you’re willing to listen, about the many ‘death’ marches I have taken him on!
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