Close, But No Cigar

We owned our AZ house a good five or six years before I ever learned that a herd (or maybe herds?) of wild horses romped and grazed and procreated a mere 15 miles from our back yard. And since learning about the existence of these wild horses, I have wanted to see them for myself.

With this in mind, yesterday morning I asked Bill if he had any interest in driving the 15 miles or so to the area near Saguaro Lake where the wild horses reside. It will require a bit of a hike, I warned him. He found that fact not the least bit daunting, and we set off on our adventure. I didn’t have a doubt in my mind that we would spot the wild animals because everyone who had talked to me about them had seen them. We knew exactly where to go.

The area where the horses live is a straight shot north of us, where the Salt River meets the Verde River. When we drive between Denver and our AZ home, we get on back highways that not only are quicker, but are amazingly beautiful. When heading to Mesa from Denver, just outside Payson, AZ, we take Hwy 87 – the Beeline Highway – until we exit on to the Bush Highway which takes us through the gorgeous Tonto National Forest, home to Saguaro Lake and the wild horses.

We parked at the base of the trail and set off in search of the horses…..

The Salt River is where the herds come to refresh themselves, and the tourists come to enjoy the beautiful scenery.

The scenery was stunning, and we saw amazing birdlife almost immediately. An egret was not the least bit disturbed by our company…..

After 25 years of marriage, you think it wouldn’t surprise me that hiking with Bill McLain and hunting for wild horses was like setting off with Lewis and Clark. He led the way, and would stop occasionally to study the footprints.

“You can see they were here because this is clearly a hoof print,” he said. And it was. I missed it for the simple reason that I was looking for horseshoe-clad prints.  Wild horses = no horseshoes. I am neither Lewis nor Clark. Hey! Mom wouldn’t let me join Girl Scouts, so haters, don’t hate.

He stopped again to point out the existence of fresh horse dung…..

It was true that we walked through more horse dung than is collected during the entire National Western Stock Show, but much of it was old and dried. Fresh dung = horses nearby.

Except they weren’t. We saw a lot of birds, many different kinds of cacti, a hole in the wall that looked to be a cave (though I wouldn’t let Bill get any nearer than this)…..

…..egrets, enormous bumblebees, and picnic tables buried under sand from a long-ago haboob…..

….. but unfortunately, no wild horses.

As far as I was concerned, the day wasn’t a waste of time because we spent the morning enjoying the desert scenery in an area we hadn’t explored.

As far as Bill was concerned, the day wasn’t a waste of time because, while we didn’t see a single horse, we did see a naked sunbather.

In case you’re wondering, here is what the horses look like, from a photo taken by someone named Brian Curtice, who apparently DID actually see the horses……

We will try again, with better luck we hope.

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