#4: Dead Horse Pass
It’s been a busy summer of horseback riding in the Grand Tetons, from fabulous sunny days with clear views of crags and peaks, and lush candy-colored wildflower meadows, to three days of thunder showers. You can’t have sunshine every day, but when it rains there is something magical about riding in the clouds, and above the clouds.
With a day at home drying out tents, I want to tell you about another of our favorite extended day rides, Dead Horse Pass.
is as good as mine,
whose dead horse
the pass was named after!
Dead Horse Pass is one of our favorite Grand Teton horseback riding trails because we travel a variety of terrain, from wildflower meadows along our favorite mountain stream, Badger Creek, to a rolling mountain ridge, and a steep and rocky trail to the pass. Once we tie up, a short hike takes us to a point overlooking Lake 1031, not so mysteriously named for its elevation. The lake is at the head of Bitch Creek and this alpine perch is the perfect spot for a picnic. In that clear high mountain air we sometimes see a bald eagle lazily soaring on thermals.
The return trip is along the same trail, but remember the views are always different as we head home, and you never know when you might see a cow moose and her calf lunching in a willow bottom, or a black bear busily eating huckleberries, or a Dipper standing on a rock doing its dipping dance. So join us for an extended day ride to Dead Horse Pass.
Previous riding experience is recommended. Riding time: Approx. 6 hour
Natural History On Horseback
If you hear a sharp chirp when you are riding or hiking near a rock slide or talus slope in alpine regions above timberline, it’s likely an American Pika, Ochotona princeps. The short calls are uttered as an alarm. The pika is a small member of the rabbit family, with short, stout bodies and big round ears. They have no visible tail. Their fur is buffy brown, to brown and black so they easily blend into their rocky habitat. Look in the direction of the chirping vocalization and you may see one perched on a boulder. Pikas are herbivores; they feed on grasses and wildflowers. Their grass-lined dens are hidden in rock crevices.
Pikas do not hibernate. They remain active throughout winter. During summer months, they dry grass and wildflowers in the sun and then cache the dried forage in piles under rocks. During lean years, these caches become an essential food source.
Pikas live in colonies, and will alert each other with a warning call when a predator is near. Even though they live in colonies, each has its own territory and will defend their den and the surrounding area from neighboring pikas.
Click on this link to see video and slideshows of the American Pika.