Journey to the Pine Nuts!

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know I can never turn down an opportunity to see wild horses. Which is why I started looking up HMAs as soon as I found out I was headed to NV for a 6-month position. NV has over half the amount of wild horses; so it did not take me long to find ones that were only a few hours away. Step two in my research was seeing if any had advocacy groups, and doing more research about conditions.
Since I knew I’d likely only have weekends I wanted to find the a herd that wouldn’t take all day to get to, even though I knew far was relative when you’re from MN or any other eastern state with no mustangs. Coincidentally, I had recently found the Pine Nut Wild Horse Advocates facebook page, and it happened to be the closest HMA to Reno.
Before I visit any HMA, I am careful about where I get information. I want to make sure I eliminate as many risks as I can so I am as safe as possible, so I try to learn from as many sources as possible. I want to make sure the sources are creditable, so I began perusing the Pine Nut page.
It didn’t take me long to become impressed with the page. I think all advocacy groups have a place, but I personally have an easier time following smaller ones. Maybe it’s the introvert in me, but when there are fewer admins, and followers I think it is easier to educate in a well-researched manor. Despite litigation from an animal rights group, the Pine Nut advocates seemed eager to work with the BLM. They seemed ready to respectfully respond to and educate their followers, interested in opinions different than their own, and as far as I could tell proactive in their management techniques. It felt a lot like the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center’s page, so I knew I had found a good source.
I knew that a lot of western United States had experienced heavy snowfall, so I began reaching out to the advocacy group prior to moving. But it’s hard to picture what above average snowfall looks like in a state I’ve never been to. It wasn’t until reaching Laramie, WY, that I started seeing the affects of winter in March. According to locals, Elk Mountain Pass is always windy, but gusts, and snow made it a particularly stressful experience. I have to give credit where it’s due, and say my mom was the one driving.
We decided to keep on truckin’ to Rock Springs, WY, and stop by White Mountain HMA for a few hours. The snow was deep, looked like there might be ice on it, and the horses looked lean. I enjoyed seeing mustangs dig through snow for the first time, but was a little concerned about how hard winter had seemed on them. I hoped spring came to them quickly.
When I got to NV it was confirmed that not only had there been high snow accumulation, it was turning out to be a wet spring. The snow didn’t seem to be melting where I work at Galena Creek Visitor Center, but I was hoping the rain shadow effect would be on my side.
As optimistic as I wanted to be about conditions, I am also a realist, so I checked in with the advocacy group again. They confirmed that the conditions were poor, so it was another few weeks before I could make my first visit to the range. I was eager to see mustangs, but Reno also has a lot to offer. I was willing to be patient in favor of being safer, and learning my way around places closer to home.
After completing the pre-trip checklist to make sure I had everything I needed (and hopefully some things I wouldn’t need) I was ready to see some horses. The roads into the range are admittedly a little intimidating. One to the left is full of ruts, and the one going straight is up a fairly long, fairly steep hill. On a scale of driving through the highway in the Dryhead, and Teddy Roosevelt National Park or Sykes Ridge Road (Pryor Mountain Wild horse Range) I’d rate parts of the range a little closer to Sykes. Sykes still takes the cake as the worst road I’ve ever been on through a horse range with a hefty lead, but if anyone is familiar with those areas you’ll have an idea of the road conditions.


I don’t have photos of the roads leading into the range, but here’s one from a hike to give people an idea of the terrain.

The barriers to the road weren’t mud like predicted, but rocks. But the road soon leveled, and I was starting to see the scenery featured on the facebook page. I saw my first stud pile and did my best to run over it. I didn’t have to get out of my car to know it was partially dry, but at least I’d know if there were horses nearby when I passed it if there was fresh poop covering my tire mark.

Zorro's band

One of my favorite photos of Zorro, Jaci, and Brandy.

I kept on going. Eventually reaching more of an open valley, and finally my first horses. I was starting to recognize some of the bands, but even seeing horses in the distance would have exceeded my expectations. I gave Zorro’s band lots of space, and they still had a hard time settling. Letting them pass, I left and drove on only to find more bands. Samson’s large band was easy to spot, and past them another smaller band.

Samson's band

Here’s my first sighting of Samson’s band against their stunning landscape.

I’m slow to learn the names of all the horses I’ve seen, but that doesn’t make them any less endearing. All wild horses are social, and form bonds, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen horses that nuzzle each other more than the Pine Nut Ponies. I learn more of the range the more I visit, and have yet to make a trip and not see horses. I’ve only talked to a few members of the Pine Nut community, but they’re incredibly kind, and helpful.
I don’t have Internet where I live, so I can’t guarantee I’ll make timely posts, but I can guarantee I’ll visit the range as much as I can. Each horse has a story to tell, and I love telling the stories. I may not be the best photographer that follows the Pine Nut page, but I’m enjoying getting to know the horses, range, and community.

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