Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Search For Bighorn Sheep

I'm always searching for bighorn sheep and so far I had only managed to see some scrawny ewes up close just outside of Ouray earlier this year. The ewes are not that attractive and I really just wanted to see a ram up close enough to take pictures. On our way to Oklahoma for the week of Thanksgiving, I finally had my chance! We took highway 114, North Cochetopa Pass heading south just east of Gunnison. Driving through the rocky walled canyon, I said, "These are cool rocks. Why don't bighorn sheep like these rocks? Where are they?!" Then immediately Jay said, "Right there!" and whipped the car off the road scaring me half to death. Just on the other side of the street on the other side of the river there were 8 bighorn sheep, 4 ewes and 4 rams. The largest of the rams was huge and muscular and Jay thinks he could weigh 500 pounds! The sheep watched us and hopped around some, climbing the slick rock walls as if it were nothing. They blended in with their surroundings so much that my pictures didn't turn out spectacular, but they mean a lot to me. Click on the photos to see them larger.
When I looked up a website confirming the spelling of Cochetopa, one site said that the pass is not impressive by Colorado standards and only reaches an elevation of 10.149 feet, but I was very impressed with the wildlife we saw. A golden eagle was in the road a few miles from where we saw the sheep, and when he took off to fly I think his wingspan was wider than our Jeep. I couldn't grab my camera fast enough to get a picture of him.
I took a few more pictures from the Jeep as we traveled through the rest of Colorado. Way in the distance here is the Great Sand Dunes National Park, one of my favorite places to visit when I was growing up and still a favorite today. Of course, back then it was just a National Monument.
This is Blanca Peak, the fourth highest mountain in Colorado, elevation 14,345. Blanca has one of the most difficult 4-wheel drive roads that almost guarantees some major damage to your vehicle and isn't one that we plan on trying.
From Interstate 25 between Walsenburg and Trinidad there is a really nice view of the Spanish Peaks. They had a lot more snow on them when we drove back home a week later than when I took this photo.
The bighorn sheep look tiny in my video, but I couldn't resist sharing it.
video

1 comment:

julie said...

Wonderful Big Horn pictures! 114 is a great road! We traveled it last Summer and before & I would like to explore off it it more next time. Great rock formations there, too. You traveled via the road we take to and from the San Luis Valley to Walsenburg.